The demise of the diesel engine

Why diesel cars are disappearing

Diesel engines were traditionally favoured for their efficiency and power. Recently, however, they’ve been slammed as highly polluting.

According to the World Health Organisation, air pollution now constitutes the greatest environmental risk to global health, contributing to a third of deaths from lung cancer, stroke and heart disease. While vehicle regulations first centred on the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions, nitrogen oxide is now the focus - and diesels are by far the worst cars for producing this poisonous substance.

A study by the University of Oxford last year found that around 10,000 people die prematurely in Europe each year due to pollution from diesel cars alone. On top of this, global warming, and the contribution made to it by the burning of fossil fuels, is becoming an ever more urgent problem.

Decisive action in Europe

Last year, Madrid, Paris and Brussels took the European Commission to court over a decision it made in 2016 to relax the rules on nitrogen dioxide emissions from diesel vehicles, after lobbying from the automotive industry. They argued that the levels of emissions the Commission was allowing from new cars and vans were excessively high. The European Court of Justice ruled in their favour, and the original limit was reinstated.

This makes it easier for the city authorities to take action against vehicles they consider too polluting. The mayors of Paris, Madrid and Athens all plan to ban diesel vehicles from their city centres by 2025, with Rome aiming for 2024 – the air quality there is so bad, there are concerns it will threaten the city's monuments.

In Milan, pre-2006 diesels are already banned on weekdays, and the ban is to be extended to pre-2009 diesels in October 2019, and further to pre-2011 diesels in 2024. Brussels, meanwhile, operates a low-emission zone, and its regional authority has approved a law that allows the city to offer free public transport on days of extreme air pollution. Amsterdam is going even further, aiming to only allow vehicles which are emissions-free at the point of use by 2030.

The UK government has pledged that half of all new cars and 40 per cent of new vans sold here will emit less than 50g of CO2 per kilometre by 2030 – which means they have to be hybrids, fully electric or powered by alternative fuels like hydrogen. It aims to end sales of diesel and petrol cars and vans altogether by 2040.

The effect on diesel manufacture

So is this putting drivers off diesel? In a study reported by Kwik Fit, half of diesel car owners said they intended to buy a new vehicle in the next two years; of these, 16 per cent said they were planning to buy another diesel, 42 per cent a petrol vehicle, 19 per cent a hybrid and eight per cent a fully electric model.

In the industry itself, many manufacturers are phasing out diesel models in favour of petrol and petrol-electric hybrid vehicles. This will, of course, affect consumers’ choices in the long term.

At Carwise Group, we have a wide range of petrol and hybrid used cars for sale. As a reputable used car dealer, we offer high quality models at great prices, many of which are backed by a comprehensive warranty. If you’d like to book a test drive, contact our Maidstoneor Harlow dealerships.