Evidence suggests that a rise in petrol registrations is contributing to global warming
Diesel-powered vehicles have been in the news a lot over their environmental performance, or lack thereof. Conversely, industry experts have warned that a clampdown on diesel vehicles could result in the UK actually missing European environmental targets.
Mike Hawes, Chief Executive at SMMT warned that demonising diesel conversley will have an adverse effect on the environment. “Customers are not moving straight from diesel to electric. They’re moving to petrol or staying put in older cars” he said when speaking at the Society’s annual dinner in December. “So we’re seeing a falling market, declining revenues, rising costs, rising CO2. And, yes, this will have an effect on climate change goals. This is not a policy without consequences”.
Data firm CAP HPI has authored a report which concludes that the EU’s 2021 environmental targets could be missed if the percentage of diesel vehicles continues to decline on UK roads.
The report points out that some of the environmental criticism of diesel vehicles is misguided.
All the countries in the report achieved the 2015 CO2 emission target for cars registered in that year. While France and Italy were comfortably below the 130g/km line, the UK is closer, and Germany only cleared the hurdle by 1.4g/km.
Matt Freeman, Managing Consultant at CAP HPI and the report’s author, commented that without continuing sales of diesel engine cars, this target reduction is unachievable: “Hitting the 2021 environmental targets for CO2 reduction would be a significant challenge without the likely decline in diesel. Therefore it is imperative that diesels continue to command a substantial share of the new car marketplace.
“If consumers, with no option of transitioning to hybrid or EVs, switch to petrol the environmental impact is clear – their CO2 emissions would likely rise between three percent and 23 percent according to model.”
The report argues consumer education is key as there is an apparent risk that consumers are being led to believe that ‘all diesel is bad’ and that any suggestion that there is a good diesel option is due to the automotive industry seeking to resist change and preserve the status quo. This level of miscommunication needs to be countered if diesel is to have a short- to medium-term future.
However, the media coverage on diesel is, to say the least, skewed against the fuel no matter what the improvements and consumers are confused. At the aforementioned SMMT dinner, Greenpeace crashed the stage to hand VW boss Paul Willis a faux ‘award’ for ‘toxic air’ and coverage in the mainstream press has been hardly less hostile. This has resulted in drop in demand (by about a fifth) in new registrations for diesel powered cars and new registrations for light vehicles as a whole are down 5.7 percent compared with last year. This has lead to several analysts making doom-laden predictions about the future of new car retail through franchises coming to an end entirely. These might be a little wide of the mark, but it does seem that for a private motorist wanting to upgrade to the latest technology, the idea of a conventional powertrain must seem a bit old fashioned.
Most people reading this might wonder why they should care, after all, surely this is a hole that the VMs have dug for themselves? It doesn’t affect the aftermarket… Unfortunately, it does. Tens, if not hundreds of thousands of vehicles won’t go through trade auctions and back into the aftermarket as the VMs are holding their own versions of scrappage schemes. As far as I know, no-one has made a serious attempt to retrofit otherwise efficient Euro- 3 onwards common rail diesel engines with devices to clean up their carcinogenic soot, meaning that they are replaced with petrol vehicles that are only marginally less toxic, but will emit greater quantities of greenhouse gas. Meanwhile, the face of the retail motor industry as a whole is besmirched by the failure of the VMs to get a grip on this situation which is a real pity for all involved.