Drivers have always had a rocky relationship with diesel cars. Favoured for their fuel efficiency, the diesel car became popular in Europe during the mid-1900’s. With concern for climate change growing, manufacturers were pressured into adjusting their vehicles, making efforts towards a quieter, cleaner production.
However, these alterations did not address the crux of the problem. Dubbed the ‘diesel dupe’ in 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) caught German giant Volkswagen lying about how much carbon dioxide their vehicles were emitting. By equipping 11 million of their vehicles worldwide (8 million of which were in Europe) with a ‘defeat device’, cars were able to detect when their fuel emissions were being tested. If the emissions were too high, they could then change the results accordingly to improve results
While this scandal is not typical, diesel cars have repeatedly failed to deliver on the emissions savings expected. Despite this, government has continued to incentivise consumers towards them.
This development led to a re-evaluation of our affinity with diesel.
Even taking Carbon Dioxide out of the equation, with its notorious contribution to greenhouse gas emission, diesel is dangerous. Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) and the Particulate Matter (PM) cause or aggravate both heart and lung disease, are carcinogenic, and may lead to adverse birth defects and respiratory illnesses. In fact, recent research has shown that 3 million premature deaths are attributed to dirty air every year, with the illnesses caused particularly affecting children.
The European Environment Agency has labelled air pollution as the top environmental risk factor for premature deaths in Europe. It’s time for diesel to take note, with its related health problems costing the NHS ten times more than problems caused from petrol fumes.
Leaders of some of the largest European cities have already taken action, with the Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, leading an incentive for a total ban of diesel cars in the city by 2025. She has been quickly supported by mayors of Madrid, Athens and Mexico City.
Boris Johnson was forced to address the issue, after Oxford St. was found to have the highest levels of NO2 in the world. £330 million was then spent on hybrid buses, zero-emission taxis and 10,000 street trees. Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has upped the ante by introducing Ultra Low Emission Zones (ULEZ), and is planning a £10 daily toxicity charge on the oldest and most polluting cars in the city centre. This will be introduced in October and is in addition to the existing £11.50 congestion charge if your vehicle falls below the pollution standards.
In addition to these charges, Chancellor Philip Hammond has warned heavily polluting cars will face a higher road tax and diesel fuel is likely to increase.
Following these developments, interest in diesel cars has been widely declining over recent years. This past January, the amount of diesel cars registered had fallen by 4.3%, while petrol car registration increased by 8.9%. Older, dirtier cars are falling in value, selling for far less than they would have done ten years ago.
The Green Light on Green Driving
Yet, it may not be all doom and gloom for diesel drivers. Incentives are being implemented to aid drivers in the transition to more environmentally friendly cars. Currently, diesel drivers can be eligible for £4,500 to contribute towards the cost of an electric car, however, they may soon be able to claim greater financial assistance.
Following the hugely successful French model, whereby drivers can receive up to €10,000 off a low emission replacement, UK drivers may soon be able to claim £3,300 for handing in their old diesel car. Then, they will be eligible to claim up to £5,200 purchase bonus to put towards a brand new environmentally clean car.
With climate change and public health deteriorating simultaneously, the time is now to consider your driving options. With diesel no longer the most cost-efficient choice, we may be in for a new, environmentally friendly nation-favourite.