The drive away from diesel

Diesel pumpIn the not too distant past diesel vehicles were the face of green motoring. More miles per gallon meant fewer emissions and a gentler carbon footprint. Not only were diesel engines cleaner, but they were cheaper to run and had a longer lifespan. Buying a diesel was a ‘no brainer’ and the government even bribed motorists with cheaper road tax which drove sales from 14% to 36%.

Fast forward a decade and everything has changed. Diesel drivers are now seen as ecological savages pumping out carcinogenic chemicals while major manufacturers fiddle emissions data just to boost their bottom line. To make matters worse the price of diesel has hit a two-year high (£1.22 a litre) and with a weakened pound costs could continue to climb. In other words diesel drivers have got a bumpy road ahead.

Science has moved on and now there’s an overwhelming consensus that the nitrogen oxide (NOx) particulates produced by diesel engines are far more damaging to public health than the CO2 emissions produced by petrol engines. In fact, one study by Kings College London suggested that diesel could be responsible for a quarter of all deaths due to air pollution.

Having worked hard to convince motorists to drive diesels the government has performed a sharp U-turn. The Mayor of London has already upped the congestion charge to discourage diesel vehicles and ‘clean air congestion charges’ are planned for a number of major cities across the country. The government has also hinted at introducing tax hikes to drive diesels off the road. Of course there’s nothing wrong with the establishment admitting that they got it wrong, quite the opposite, but where does that leave diesel drivers?

Fortunately the government is proposing a plan than should help sweeten the medicine. In a bid to remove the most polluting vehicles from the roads the Department for Transport is working with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on a scrappage scheme that could come into effect in the coming months.

At present the details are sketchy, but based on the previous scrappage scheme, it’s likely to offer discounts or cashback for trading in high polluting vehicles for low emission models. The government has shown plenty of interest in the French scrappage scheme which offers up-to £3,000 to trade-in diesel vehicles over 10 years old, and up-to £5,000 off a new car depending on its eco credentials.

Rumour has it that official news of the diesel scrappage scheme could be announced in the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s Budget on 22nd March.


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