Why diesel is not dead (and isn't going anywhere soon either)

Some will say that 2017 was the death of diesel cars in the UK, but here are five reasons why oil-burners won’t be going anywhere for quite a while....

3y ago

The naysayers have given their unarguable verdict: diesel power is dead in the UK. After attracting more scandal than the average career politician, the final death blow was dealt in 2016 with the UK government losing a case against environmental campaigners ClientEarth over breaches of EU emissions standards across the UK.

This verdict comes after the UK car buying public caused a massive sales shift in the early 2000s buying diesel cars like never before as sales exploded.

The reasoning behind this dramatic shift is mainly credited to the UK Labour Government of the time, who in 2001, reduced vehicle tax for all cars with a low emissions rating as a controversial response to the 1997 Kyoto treaty, which made cutting greenhouse gases a priority.

At the time diesel cars were producing less CO2 than their petrol power counterparts making this incentive too tempting to pass up for a majority of car buyers.

Since 2010 though, the legacy of this historic decision has proven to be dangerously wrong. Now it’s known that diesel cars output dangerous levels of NOx and highly hazardous particulates that penetrate the lungs, heart and brain.

Modern diesel engines are cleaner than petrol engines (in some cases)

In late 2017, independent testing by Emission Analytics raised questions on the accuracy of the threat of diesel emissions.

These tests confirmed that a 2016 3.0-litre BMW 5-Series, one of the lowest polluting diesel cars you can buy, emits just 23 milligrams of NOx per kilometre, which is less than a third of the legal limit of 80mg/km. Whereas the 2016 petrol-powered Renault Kadjar 1.2-litre model was found to emit 130mg/km, which is six times greater than the BMW.

This may only be a tiny test pool, but it does prove that despite all the bad press, that diesel could still be viable in the years to come.

Furthermore, the tests found that the cleanest 10 percent of new diesel cars emit an average of 70mg of NOx per kilometre. By comparison, the dirtiest 10 percent of all petrol models emit an average of 129mg/km. And before you think that these tests were performed in a laboratory, they were actually done on the road therefore mimicking real-world driving.

These results have led to motoring groups calling on the UK Government to rethink the planned rises in road tax, from 2018 for diesel-powered models.

Sheer numbers still hitting the road

In mid-2017 the number of diesel cars on the roads of Britain has grown to over 10 million. This shows the massive shift towards diesel in the UK from 2000 when the number of oil-burners on our roads stood at a little over 3 million.

In 2017 UK car buyers bought a total of 1,065,879 new diesel cars. While this is a 17.1 percent decline on the previous year, it does mean that 42 percent of all new cars sold in the UK in 2017 were oil-burners.

The used diesel car market in the UK is still huge

This was an average purchase in the UK in the mid-2000's.......

This was an average purchase in the UK in the mid-2000's.......

If you want a petrol powered model from the early to mid-2000’s, then you could struggle, as a large majority of popular models sold at the time were oil-burners.

Thanks to the Labour government of the time, diesel cars make up a massive percentage of used cars available in 2018.

Picking a favourite model from the mid-noughties such as the BMW E60 for example, you only have to search through a few of the UK’s popular used car websites where a little over 87% of models available are oil-burners.

You can’t keep a good diesel down

This is the current miles on my own diesel - ignore the error messages.....

This is the current miles on my own diesel - ignore the error messages.....

One further reason that diesel cars won’t be going anywhere soon is plain and simple longevity. Diesel cars have a trend of clocking up many miles early on in their useful lives as a vast majority started out as company vehicles.

This cockroach style toughness means that a lot of diesel-powered cars have survived many thousands of miles with some exceeding more than 200,000 miles with relative ease, meaning they are going nowhere soon.

A large amount of drivers are not ready to be parted from diesel just yet

This is my Alfa Romeo 159 diesel - I don't want to get rid of it as I rather like it.......

This is my Alfa Romeo 159 diesel - I don't want to get rid of it as I rather like it.......

In a poll run by the Telegraph in July 2017, some 57 percent of voters confirmed a resounding “No, we should have the choice to buy whatever car we like” which tells its own story.

While the voting pool of a little over 14,000 people could be considered on the small side, it is no doubt an indication of how the driving public view being told they should be ditching diesel for a likely more expensive alternative.

Despite all of this, the likes of the Mayor of London and various local councils continue to use diesel as an easy target by imposing a series of unfair charges in the form of toxicity charging along with attempting to charge diesel drivers more to park in specific areas.

Here lies the biggest challenge facing diesel drivers in the UK. I predict that instead of strict emission regulations forcing cars from the road, it will most likely be local Government charging that forces owners to consider parting with their cars because the additional expense becomes unjustifiable.

Do you think that diesel-powered reign is coming to an end? Or will they long continue? Let us know in the comments.

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Comments (33)

  • Diesel will not come to an end! Especially if Audi succeeds to make diesel from thin air. As you mentioned above ie BMW 3.0, emits much lower nox per kilometre than an 1.2 petrol, and is so refined and efficient!

      3 years ago
  • When they make a petrol that'll do the same mileage and torque as a diesel, then maybe a switch is conceivable. But before then, not a hope in hell. And places like London can get stuffed!

      3 years ago
  • Diesel is good on very high torque application not for everybody dailycar. Just certain type of gas is for an application not another an use them as they better to do. Sorry for my english i'm french.

      3 years ago
  • Personally never liked diesels and recently had LR discovery sport Diesel and was dreadful (not just the engine) so had to change it. What needs highlighting more is the knee jerk reactions of governments making poorly informed decisions. Has massive financial impact on manufacturers trying to change their offer to suit. This impacts us all. I will never buy one but lots of people will so let them have the choice

      3 years ago
  • Fact: a Euro6 diesel is by far the cleanest ICE money can buy. But all the greennerts and environmental terrorrists can't be convinced otherways. They stick to the fairytale of the EV, pulling its electricity from coal OR nuclear fired powerplants, lol.

      3 years ago