The imminent extinction of the diesel carDiesel car sales are falling: according to SMMT, diesel car registrations have fallen by more than 60% since 2020 , and Aston University predicts they will account for just 15% of the UK market by 2025 , down from a peak of 50%. .
There are many reasons for this decline, the main one being that consumers are using their money to vote green; The Volkswagen scandal in 2015, the implementation of the new ULEZs (Ultra Low Emission Zones) and increased awareness of environmental issues have armed all consumers to make more informed decisions about their vehicle purchases.
But what does it mean to make an informed vehicle purchase? Should we continue to buy diesel cars? Or is it an industry that we are happy to say goodbye to? e diesel.
Is diesel bad?
In itself, no. The problem occurs when it is used as a fuel in modern automobiles.
Although diesel cars use less fuel to operate, and diesel fuel actually contains less carbon dioxide than gasoline, it also releases toxic pollutants as a by-product.
A diesel car may be cheaper to operate and therefore very attractive, but it produces a variety of nitrogen oxide chemicals, harmful substances that have an immediate effect on humans, not just the environment. Nitrogen oxides are also considered greenhouse gases, so although diesel produces less carbon dioxide, the chemicals they release are far more dangerous than those from a gasoline car.
That’s why the Volkswagen scandal in 2015 hit so many people so hard. Not only had we been misled about the safety of our environment, we had been misled about our personal safety and stripped of our ability to make informed decisions as consumers. In fact, even in 2019, accounts were tweeting about the scandal and the effects it had on the broader marketplace.
Volkswagen had to recall 8.5 million cars from Europe alone, with 1.2 million in the UK alone. In normal use, the engines emitted far more pollution, including up to 40 times more nitrogen oxide , which contributes to asthma, bronchitis and emphysema.
Not surprisingly, confidence in diesel vehicles has plummeted since then; not only are the chemicals actually harmful to us and the environment, but we were lied to about how harmful they are.
What is ULEZ?
ULEZ stands for “Ultra Low Emission Zones”, which means that you are charged a fee of £12.50 per day to drive within these zones if you do not meet current emissions standards.
The UK government has stated that “generally” diesel cars comply if they were first registered after 2015, while gasoline cars “generally” comply if they were first registered after 2005; for consumers, that 10-year gap can really make a difference. If you’re buying a used vehicle under these new regulations, it’s a no-brainer to opt for a gasoline car.
With these areas under ULEZ getting larger by the year, the idea was that they would help reduce congestion and carbon emissions; however, more and more people are choosing to sell their diesel cars and take the opportunity to invest in new gasoline cars or even electric cars.
Are people buying more electric vehicles?
Even with people aware of the risks of a diesel car, when there are only two options to choose from, it’s hard not to pick the cheaper one. That’s why hybrid and electric vehicles are such a crucial aspect of the decline of diesel cars; it offers people a sustainable and affordable option.
Time and convenience are the main reasons people hesitate to use electric vehicles, but with fast chargers becoming more common, as well as slower home chargers becoming more affordable, it’s not as difficult as it used to be to keep your car running. You can simply plug your car in at the local supermarket and forget about it, or charge it in your garage overnight, making electric vehicles more accessible to a wider range of consumers; when green options are available, the evidence is there to show that people will choose them.
So what is the cause of the decline in diesel vehicles?
Simply put, consumers are voting green.
Even with diesel cars getting cheaper to both buy and operate, the risks to us and the environment outweigh the benefits. All the new and sustainable options available, combined with a gentle nudge from the government and access to information, allow consumers to make more informed choices; and their informed choice is that the environment matters.
Now that the government is implementing subsidies to further encourage the adoption of electric vehicles, it will be interesting to see where the diesel industry will be in a few years.