The new Fuel Crisis

Are Diesel cars doomed?

In case you haven't read my 'New Car Itch' article:- - I have been thinking about getting a new chariot lately.

However, there's another problem with choosing a new car which I neglected to mention. That is - what fuel do you go for?

Now if it was 1973 and I was wearing a brown suit, with flared trousers, double breasted lapels and a kipper tie, it'd be obvious. I'd be off to the dealership, stroking my mustache and 7" long side burns, to buy a petrol powered car. Probably a Ford Cortina, or possibly a Cavalier.

Fast forward thirty years and the fuel choice has changed as much as the fashion. Come 2003 it was starting to look increasingly sensible to go for a low emissions, high economy diesel. BMW were really the first to start putting desirable diesel engines together. Jaguar and Audi followed suit and soon diesel were starting to look like they'd outsell petrols.

Yes! I accept diesels were around before. When I worked in Alsager we had an ancient Vauxhall Corsa 1.8 Diesel. It went like stink, but it handled like an office swivel chair on castors and it was about as refined as a Massey Ferguson with no roof or windows. It was basically horrible. Driving it was about as enjoyable as going to the dentist for a filling. (No offence to the young female dentist who tends to do the honour. If I have to be tortured, I'd honestly rather be tortured by her, than anyone else and really - there was only ONE occasion when she didn't quite inject enough anesthetic and ended up basically submitting me, briefly to dental torture.)

Driving the old Corsa was very much like that. A necessary evil. You knew you had to drive it, because someone else had taken the Saab 9000 and the Audi A4, but you weren't going to enjoy it. It wasn't an experience you'd look forward to!

These days, diesels are actually pretty good. With the 8 speed seamless shift box you can get decent performance and incredible economy from a 2 litre diesel engine. You even pay low tax!

However there's a problem looming. I'm not sure the automotive industry has really seen it coming either. Jaguar Land Rover are convinced diesel is the way forward:-

I'm not though! "Paris, Madrid, Athens and Mexico City will ban the most polluting cars and vans by 2025 to tackle air pollution"

Diesels MAY be low CO2, but they are the cause of other aspects of pollution and the world is beginning to realize this. There will come a time when diesel cars are banned from entering major cities. There's no point in denying this, it's happening now. What is that going to do to diesel car used prices? It's going to hammer them.

So what's the alternative? Go to Toyota and get a plug in hybrid or rent your battery and go all electric? Buy a Tesla?

Personally I DON'T like that solution. The mining and transport of Lithium is an environmental catastrophe and the batteries all have a limited lifespan. Unless you do a very specific kind of driving, they just don't make sense. They are all also rather soulless. Yes, the Tesla is an incredibly capable car. It's impressive on a new level - both the original model AND the new cross-over with Falcon-wing doors, but there's still something about them. Even with the superchargers and the home high-speed charging station, I can see issues. Even if you accept the Tesla and everything that goes with it, they are horrendously expensive. You could get yourself a BMW 335d Touring for motorway work and still have enough change for a little petrol car to go into the city. I think there's a reason you don't see many on the roads. The new VED system coming in 2017 will NOT help matters.

Then there's the issue of silent cars. Driving through a busy town in my all-electric, with pedestrians bouncing off the bonnet and screaming isn't something I look forward to. Cars SHOULD make a noise! Purely for safety!

How about hydrogen? Could I get a Toyota Mirai? Yes, the technology is interesting, and the car is probably perfectly serviceable. But it's still a little uninspiring to me. If you don't care about cars, then would you really pay £67,000 for a car you can only fill up at one of four hydrogen stations in Swansea? I wouldn't.

So what? We stick with petrol? It might be fine for now, but one day we WILL run out of petrol. When it does, where do we go then?

I honestly think our best hope for a sensible new fuel system is that being developed by Nano Flow Cell. It uses two electrolytic fluids in tanks to give you a battery that can be filled in much the same way as you fuel a diesel or petrol.

The Nano Flow Cell Quant FE

The Nano Flow Cell Quant FE

Personally I think the cars look amazing. I can see how filling stations could easily be retrofitted to dispense the electrolyte fluids. The company has now tested a Quantino prototype on a 14 hour non-stop run. Range anxiety shouldn't be a problem. (There's still the problem of silent cars of course - speaker under the bonnet playing engine noises a solution?)

See:- for more information.

Whatever you buy, diesel, petrol or hybrid - you are buying today's or yesterday's technology. Things are going to change soon, and drastically. The life of the Petrol Head may be limited. If the global assault on fossil fueled cars doesn't kill us, the driverless revolution might.:-

So enjoy your ability to drive while you can, and be prepared to fight for your right to drive your oil burning car around. It may still be over the horizon for now, but motorists who are passionate about their cars are going face great challenges in the years to come.

Martyn Stanley

[ICT] Irreverant Car Talk


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Comments (11)

  • @Mark : The only thing my wife really gets excited about in a car is what colour it is. People who actually care about how they drive and how they make you fee are a dying breed. I think cars have become too expensive and difficult to repair yourself. Young people are too engaged with technology to foster an interest in cars. It may actually be young people's attitudes to cars that is fueling the drive towards driverless zero emissions cars. A noble ambition I'm sure, but a soul-less one. I think a lot of people pick their monthly spend, then shop for whatever falls in the £X a month bracket. That would explain why you see all the "Only £99 a month!" and "Only £299 a month" stickers on them. :(

      4 years ago
  • @martyn it has get so much car for little money nowadays, shame! Don't get me started on the tabbers it's a real joke!! I find all the pcp and Moran customers to be the worst they hate cars there a means to an end, and don't want to pay for anything and it should just work they care more about Bluetooth than the engine! This kind of consumer sway is why new cars are boring too!! Eugh! Sad times! A real environmental disaster I agree

      4 years ago
  • I think it's really hammered used car prices too! Some dealers don't even want to tell you the actual price or balloon payment, they just want to shout about how much a month it is. We're living in strange times... I find it odd, that the jobless alchy from the council flats down at the arse-end of town has a new car... It turns out of course it's his invalid grandad's car on mobility, even though grandad has never actually seen it and has Alzheimers so advanced he can barely remember what a car is, let alone drive one. The current drive to artificially inflate the economy by flooding the roads with new cars constantly is an environmental disaster.

      4 years ago
  • @martyn yes, as somebody who works at a new car franchise it's silly how it's gone 😢

      4 years ago
  • @Mark - You mean repairing and maintaining older cars rather than flooding the market with ex-PCP deal hand ins all the time?

      4 years ago