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The death of diesel....or is it?

Recently there have been a string of stories proclaiming the death of diesel. And, whilst it is something that has filled a lot of column inches, questions are now being asked about whether it’s actually a death or just a gradual decline.

First a bit of background. In 2015, diesel car manufacturers were caught deploying “cheat” devices to reduce the emissions reported during tests. Mix this with the growing focus on polluting nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and sooty particulates, especially in urban areas, and things have started to look pretty bleak for diesel drivers.

This is all quite a turnaround, as it is not so long ago that politicians were falling over themselves to encourage the take up of diesel cars as a greener alternative to petrol. On the face of it this was good advice. Although diesel engines technically emit more carbon, they are also more efficient when it comes to fuel usage and so the environmental impact is in fact less than for their petrol counterparts. There is also the added bonus that the additional fuel efficiency has a financial benefit, especially for drivers doing long motorway trips on a regular basis.

What’s the truth about diesels?

Diesels will be with us for many years to come and still make sense for some drivers. Having said this, it’s also true that the cost of ownership is likely to rise for anyone with a pre-Euro 6 model. If this doesn’t mean much to you, Euro 6 is an emissions standard which was introduced in September 2015 and since then all mass produced cars have needed to comply with stricter rules around Nitrogen oxide (NOx), carbon monoxide (CO), hydrocarbons (THC and NMHC) and particulate matter (PM).

Whether or not your diesel complies with Euro 6 standards or not affects more than just the environment. There is currently a rapid growth in Clean Air Zones (CAZ) or Ultra Low Emissions Zones (ULEZ) around the country and, in the main, Euro 6 vehicles are exempted from the charges associated with entering these zones, whereas older diesels are not.

If you drive a company car, or own a business that operates a fleet of vehicles, it is also worth remembering that the level of Benefit In Kind (BIK) paid by drivers of cars that fail to meet the new RDE2 standard was increased last year – meaning that the 3% diesel supplement has increased to 4%. This is, of course, on top of the standard emissions-based percentage charge. And from April 2020, Vehicle Excise Duty (that’s car tax to most of us) and Company Car Tax will both be directly linked to Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP) tests. This is likely to mean that official CO2 ratings will increase and with it the tax due by company car drivers on their BIK.

How have manufacturers reacted?

It’s an issue which affects all manufacturers to one degree or another, however some are reacting quicker than others. Mercedes already has a number of RDE2-compliant cars, including the Mercedes A200d, A220d, B200d, B220d, GLE 350d and GLE 400d. And from the Jaguar Land Rover stable there's the new Jaguar XF 2.0-litre diesel (163PS and 180PS rear-wheel drive), the Jaguar XE 163PS, 180PS diesel and 180PS XF Sportbrake models. Range Rover devotees will also be pleased to see a RDE2-compliant 150PS Evoque.

More models will of course follow and making a wise choice could save company car drivers thousands of pounds over the course of an average 3-year contract.

Should I get rid of my current diesel?

It all depends. If you are driving a newer Euro 6 diesel then certainly not yet. These are much cleaner than their predecessors and a Euro 7 standard is probably around 5 years away. Of course, it does depend on your driving patterns, i.e. shorter town trips or longer motorway journeys, and whether you live in an area where a CAZ is likely to get stricter – for example Oxford, where a Zero Emissions Zone is being considered for certain times of the day.

Depreciation could also be an issue, especially for older models. Whilst the current levels are holding up reasonably well, it is likely that the pace of depreciation will start increase for older cars. This will partly be driven by the increasing number of Euro 6 models on the road, but also the rapidly growing acceptance and adoption of ultra-green transport options, such as fully electric vehicles, meaning that older diesels become less and less desirable.

In other words, it’s worth giving it some thought, and when it’s time to change your vehicle you may want to consider whether even a Euro 6 diesel is right for you, but there is no need to panic just yet.

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Posted on 28th June 2019 at 11:43 AM

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