The Decline Of Diesel

Posted by Christopher Starkie on Jun 9, 2017 9:50:00 AM
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"Diesel" is a hot topic within the global car industry.

Once seen as the environmental option of choice, incentives were introduced in 2001 to actively encourage the purchase of diesel cars. Diesel vehicle owners have since then enjoyed tax breaks because their cars produce lower levels of carbon dioxide and are more fuel efficient.


A fundamental factor driving the disparity in diesel is differing political attitudes towards the fuel across Europe, played out through varying legislative stances.   

Euro 6 directive on diesel vehicles is one such legislation. Euro emissions standards, as set out in the Euro 6 directive below, show the maximum amount of NOx emitted by diesel cars has been well behind that of petrol models in the past.

Under the latest standards, the acceptable level of NOx in diesel models is 80mg/km, compared to 60mg/km in petrol cars. In simple terms the level of nitrogen oxide that a diesel car can emit will have to reduce by 50% and this will require all new diesel cars to have a perfectly tuned exhaust-treatment system that includes a NOX storage catalytic converter.

Going beyond the Euro 6 legislation, four of the world’s biggest cities are set to ban diesel vehicles from their centres within the next decade, as a means of tackling air pollution, with campaigners urging other city leaders to follow suit.

The mayors of Paris, Madrid, Athens and Mexico City have pledged to ban diesel vehicles from their respective cities by 2025. The city of Oslo has also set out an initiative to ban diesel cars from the road for at least two days a week to combat rising air pollution.

London is another city where diesel cars found themselves in the spotlight, former London Mayor Boris Johnson calling for an Ultra- Low Emission Zone to be put in place by 2020. The current mayor, Sadiq Khan, has followed suit by recently starting a consultation on the possible introduction of an extra £10 charge for diesel vehicles entering the city. This consultation is based on the need to tackle the excessively high nitrogen dioxide levels in London boroughs, with all but two currently meeting EU limits. 

The political change against diesel in London has already been seen throughout a number of local councils, with boroughs such as Islington introducing a surcharge of £96 for anyone with a diesel car. It claims that the reasoning behind this is "to protect residents from the health risks associated with diesel emissions"


With the recent heightened concerns over public health, air pollution from vehicle emissions has been an increasing research topic. The UK government accepts that air pollution from all sources contributes to about 30,000 deaths a year with recent research concluding that diesel-related health problems cost the NHS more than 10 times as much as comparable problems caused by petrol fumes. 

The World Health Organization (WHO), has previously stated that "Diesel engine exhaust fumes cause cancer and belong in the same potentially deadly category as asbestos, arsenic and mustard gas". Their research has also found that around three million deaths every year are linked to exposure to outdoor air pollution.


The ‘dieselgate’ or as commonly known "diesel dupe" scandal has been one of the biggest automotive upsets of the 21st century. Volkswagen used modifying software to cheat emission systems results in order to make its cars appear far less polluting than their actual output would have suggested.

This was subsequently discovered by the US Environmental Protection Agency, who found that 482,000 VW diesel cars on American roads were emitting up to 40 times more toxic fumes than permitted - and VW has since admitted the cheat affects 11m cars worldwide.

The sheer mass of affected cars can be aligned some   what to a major push by VW to sell diesel cars in the US, which ironically was backed by a huge marketing campaign boasting the cars as ‘Low Emissions’

It has previously come to light that VW had found some "irregularities" in its test to measure carbon dioxide emissions levels. The original findings found that 800,000 cars in Europe could be affected, including petrol vehicles. However, in December 2016 it said that, following the investigation, it had ++++-established that this only affected about 36,000 of the cars it produces each year.

Volkswagen has subsequently admitted that there is a decline in demand for diesel, with their forecasts predicting diesel share of the UK car market will drop to as low as 30% as sales of alternative-fuelled cars strengthen.

VW Group UK boss Paul Willis was quoted confirming the decline of diesel at the Future of the Car Summit. He stated that:

 “The percentage of diesel will decline. It’s already happening. The first to be affected will be small cars.  

The outlook of diesel is looking bleak, With the international political sway and changing legalisation, it’s a fuel type in the decline. Recent scandals such as Dieselgate have swayed public option and contributed towards the decline in diesel sales. Can diesel rise again within the hybrid electric era?

Topics: Fuel

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