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Why diesel cars are disappearing

Kwik Fit | Wednesday 20th February 2019 4:20pm

Diesel car being refuelled

Diesel cars have long been loved by motorists for their fuel efficiency and impressive torque. However, it’s now known that these vehicles produce the majority of nitrogen oxide gases that come from roadside sources, and this is causing major problems when it comes to air quality. In many UK cities, nitrogen oxides now regularly breach safe levels, and poor air quality is thought to be linked to around link 40,000 premature deaths a year around the country.

Recent studies have linked air pollution to health issues such as lung problems and heart disease, and researchers have even identified a potential link between this type of pollution and dementia. On top of this, concerns are growing about the use of fossil fuels more generally as a result of their contribution to global warming.

Given all of this, it’s not hard to see why many governments and drivers around the world are starting to rethink their attitude towards diesel vehicles - and due to a recent legal ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ), more motorists may start to ditch diesel in favour of cars powered by alternative fuels.

Three major EU cities to proceed with bans to new diesel vehicles

In a bid to help them clean up their act, Madrid, Paris and Brussels took the European Commission to court over a decision it had made in 2016 to relax the rules concerning emissions of nitrogen dioxide from diesel vehicles. They argued that the European Commission had set “excessively high” allowable levels of emissions from new cars and commercial vehicles.

In a new development, the European Court of Justice has ruled in favour of the cities. Its justices said that an original limit of 80mg/km has to be maintained and the proposal in 2016 to allow a 168mg/km limit was illegal. This means that city authorities across the EU can now stop a new generation of so-called ‘cleaner’ diesel vehicles.

In a statement, the court said: “The commission did not have the power to amend the Euro 6 emission limits for the new real driving emission tests.”

As a result of the decision, Madrid, Paris and Brussels can now proceed with their plans to ban new diesel vehicles. Meanwhile, responding to these plans, clean air campaigner for Greenpeace UK Areeba Hamid said there is no reason why cities across Britain, including London, shouldn’t follow this example and adopt similar measures.

The UK's 'Road to Zero' plan

In light of the environmental concerns associated with diesel and petrol cars, the UK government is taking steps to reduce the number of these vehicles on the roads. As part of its ‘Road to Zero’ plan to lower emissions from vehicles, the government has pledged that half of all new cars sold in the country will be either hybrid or electric by 2030. It has stated that, by this date, at least 50 per cent of new cars and 40 per cent of new vans sold must be ultra-low emission. This is defined as emitting less than 50g of carbon per kilometre. Electric vehicles, hybrid plug-in models and vehicles that run on new fuel sources like hydrogen all fit into this category.

The goal is part of a wider target of ending sales of conventional diesel and petrol cars and vans by 2040. According to the government, by this time, all new cars will have zero emissions capability and the majority will be completely zero emissions.

Ministers have suggested that these moves are necessary because of the impact that poor air quality is having on people’s health. They stated that this issue poses the greatest environmental risk to public health in the UK, costing as much as £2.7 billion in lost productivity in one recent year.

Diesel car owners already making the switch

It seems many drivers in the UK are already making the switch away from diesel. In a recent study released by Kwik Fit, we revealed that half of diesel car owners intend to switch vehicle in the next two years. Of these people, only one in six (16 per cent) are planning to purchase a diesel. This compares to 42 per cent who intend to buy petrol and 19 per cent who want to opt for a hybrid. Nearly one in 10 (eight per cent) said they want to go for a fully electric model.

We also discovered that those who were considering diesel would want a significant discount on the price. Drivers revealed they would expect an average discount of over 18 per cent in order to consider purchasing a diesel car.

Divided Opinion

It seems that as a nation we’re split on the issue of whether or not the government will achieve its aim of eradicating sales of conventional diesel and petrol cars by 2040. Just under half of the people we polled (45 per cent) said that it is likely this goal will be met, while a similar number (42 per cent) believed it is unlikely.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, motorists who had experience of driving alternative fuel cars were most optimistic about the government reaching its target. Nearly three-quarters (74 per cent) of hybrid drivers and 81 per cent of electric car drivers believed the objective will be met.

When it comes to the future of diesel cars, as well as vehicles powered by other fuels, it’s a case of watch this space. Keep checking in with the Kwik Fit blog to stay up to date on the latest developments and trends.



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