Motor industry defends diesel: Ten things you need to know about diesel

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Author: | Updated: 10 Apr 2017 10:28

It doesn’t seem five minutes ago that diesel was being hailed as the future thanks to its impressive economy stats and lower CO2 output. But diesel really has had it tough recently. It seems to be the favourite target of choice for mud-slinging politicians and media outlets the world over.

This is largely because the dangers of Nitrous Oxide (NOx – a gas that diesels emit) have recently come to light, and have been shown to contribute to harmful local pollution levels.

Amid the negativity, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has come out fighting, claiming the latest diesel cars  are “the cleanest in history” and can actually help to improve air quality.

Is it all bad news for diesel?

In the UK at least, the bad press doesn’t seem to have adversely affected diesel’s popularity just yet. The latest data from the SMMT shows that almost a quarter of a million new diesel cars were registered in March – an all-time high.

Older diesels have been proven to increase local pollution levels in cities.

Keen to spread information rather than scare stories, the SMMT has produced a list of facts that explain the benefits of diesel, and the important role it has played in actually reducing pollution (CO2 at least) over the last decade…

Did you know? Ten diesel facts

1. In 2016, a record 1.3 million new diesel cars were registered in the UK, up 0.6% on the previous year – a trend that’s continuing in 2017. In March, more businesses and consumers chose a new diesel car than in any other month in history, with almost quarter of a million leaving showrooms.

2. Diesel is critical to reducing CO2 emissions, which in turn is tackling climate change – diesel cars emit, on average, 20% lower CO2 than petrol equivalents. In fact, since 2002, diesel cars have saved 3.5 million tonnes of CO2 from going into the atmosphere.

3. Their high performance and low fuel consumption benefit high-mile drivers. On average, diesels use 20% less fuel than like for like petrol models, and with diesel drivers typically covering 60% more miles, lower fuel bills are essential.

4. More than 99% of the UK’s 4.4 million commercial vehicles are powered by diesel and they transport people, essential goods and our emergency services over 61 billion miles every year. Without them, life would be much harder.

5. Advanced diesel technology has virtually eliminated emissions of particulate matter, with 99% of these soot particulates captured by special filters fitted to all new diesel cars since 2011. Around half of diesels on the road now boast a diesel particulate filter (DPF).

6. The latest Euro 6 vehicles are the cleanest in history – and light years away from their older counterparts. As well as special filters, they also feature clever technology that converts most of the NOx from the engine into harmless nitrogen and water before it reaches the exhaust.

7. Euro 6 technology works. Real world tests using the London 159 bus route show a 95% drop in NOx compared with previous generation Euro 5 buses. In fact, if every older bus operating in the capital were replaced with a Euro 6 version, total NOx emissions in London would fall by 7.5%.

8. The latest Euro 6 cars are classed as low emission for the purposes of the London Ultra Low Emission Zone due to come into force in 2019, meaning drivers of these vehicles will be free to enter the zone without charge.

9. Contrary to recent reports, diesel cars are not the main source of urban NOx. In London, gas heating of homes and offices is the biggest contributor, responsible for 16%. While road transport as a whole is responsible for around half of London’s NOx, diesel cars produce just 11%, although concentrations will vary at different times depending on congestion. Keeping traffic moving is the key to keeping emissions low.

10. In September this year, a new official EU-wide emissions testing system will come into force. This will involve, for the first time, on-road testing to better reflect the many and varied conditions involved in ‘real-world’ driving such as speed, congestion, road conditions and driving style. This will be the world’s toughest-ever emissions standard.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes commented: “Euro 6 diesel cars on sale today are the cleanest in history. Not only have they drastically reduced or banished particulates, sulphur and carbon monoxide but they also emit vastly lower NOx than their older counterparts – a fact recognised by London in their exemption from the Ultra Low Emission Zone that will come into force in 2019.”

Diesel isn't running on empty just yet...

Commenting on diesel’s recent bad press, Hawes said: “Recent reports have failed to differentiate between these much cleaner cars and vehicles of the past. This is unfair and dismissive of progress made.

In addition to their important contribution to improving air quality, diesel cars are also a key part of action to tackle climate change while allowing millions of people, particularly those who regularly travel long distances, to do so as affordably as possible.”

Euro 6 diesels are the cleanest ever

So it would appear that diesel’s time isn’t over yet and, if you’re in the market for a new one at least, its rapidly gained reputation as a major cause of local pollution is largely unfair.

For more material on diesel’s fall from grace, you can check out our other articles here or, if you think diesel has had its day, here’s five low emission vehicles you can lease for less than £250 per month…

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