Twenty years ago the car buying public were encouraged to buy diesel vehicles to help save our embattled environment. How naive we were back then; how innocent. Why, we even voted Labour if you can imagine it! It won’t be news to anyone that this was not the greatest idea after all as it has caused an increase in diseases from asthma to cancer, allegedly driven vast numbers of folk to an early grave and sent up air pollution in our cities to levels even higher than the hot air that emanates from Parliament. Which is to say a lot.
Diesel engines, once considered the saviour of the environment, are now losing popularity thanks to the revelations about NOx emissions and the like. In 2016 buyer intentions indicated a drop of 5% for diesel preference since 2014 and this trend is increasing. This is backed up by a drop in new diesel vehicle registrations, we are told.
Cities of Europe and globally are considering banning or otherwise penalising diesel-powered cars. Environmental concerns coupled with the increased range and low emissions of full-hybrid, mild-hybrid and electric vehicles and the slowly growing availability of public charging points has seen a rise in popularity of new technology vehicles.
Already Paris, Mexico City, Madrid and Athens say they plan to implement a diesel vehicle ban by 2025 to improve air quality, offering instead incentives for alternative vehicle use and promoting walking and cycling.
Indeed, Oslo has already banned diesel cars from the centre of the Norwegian capital between 6am and 10pm every day until the air pollution has cleared. This demonstrates a hardening of attitudes across the world to diesel because of poor air quality. It seems likely that in time many European cities will follow suit and it is certainly a bandwagon that chap in London is jumping on.
This is hardly surprising. According to the European Environment Agency, air pollution is causing around 467,000 premature deaths in Europe every year with urban dwellers most at risk. Unlike the protective ozone layer in the stratosphere, ground-level ozone is harmful, formed when emissions, such as those from diesel vehicles, react with other pollutants and cook in heat or sunlight until they are at their most noxious at which point the population sucks them up like poisoned soup.
The writing is on the wall for the once-favoured fuel of yore. Renault have said that they expect diesel engines to disappear from most of its European cars after the French car manufacturer reviewed the costs of meeting tighter emissions standards following the Volkswagen scandal.
If it is not the end then it must be the beginning of the end for this fuel. With all that’s happening in the automotive industry (Brexit notwithstanding) buyers are going to swiftly change their car-buying preferences as the penalties for diesel car ownership increase and the move to alternative propulsion continues apace. The last diesel I bought was an Alfa Romeo. No seriously, don’t mock; we all make mistakes. For other reasons too upsetting to reveal here, it was quickly moved on. That’s the last diesel-powered car I will ever buy. Geoff Maxted