Will there really be a diesel car ban? It’s been a hot topic among drivers for the past couple of years and as time passes it seems to get ever hotter. At the end of 2016 it was revealed that by 2025 diesel cars would be forbidden from entering Paris, Madrid, Athens and Mexico City. There are rumours that London could follow suit and the capital’s Westminster Council has already revealed it will charge diesel drivers extra to park.
Later this year, there will be a change to the congestion charge. Owners of older, more polluting vehicles will pay a supplement of £10 to enter to congestion charge zone. Five other UK cities have been told they can create clean air zones. These would also permit local authorities to charge diesel drivers for coming into city centres. So what do these proposals mean for owners of diesel cars and drivers considering buying them?
Why are diesel cars being punished?
For a long time British drivers were encouraged to buy diesel cars. The current car tax system was designed to reward buyers of cars with low carbon dioxide emissions, one of the strengths of diesel engines. But diesel suffers in two ways. It has high emissions of nitrogen oxides, gases that are linked to respiratory disease. And diesel vehicles emit particulate matter (smoke) that gets into the lungs and causes cardiovascular problems. The World Health Organisation says that three million deaths a year worldwide are linked to outside air pollution. Campaigners have increasingly blamed diesel vehicles as a key contributor to this. The revelations that Volkswagen had been cheating emissions tests haven’t helped diesel’s cause.
What will the extra charges be?
From April 3, Marylebone in central London will charge owners of diesel cars an extra £2.45 an hour to park in its F-zone. The area includes Madame Tussauds, the University of Westminster and Baker Street. Diesel cars would be recognized using Automatic Number Plate Recognition. It’s done this because nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter levels regularly exceed what’s considered to be healthy.
What will happen to the value of diesels?
People who’ve already spent their hard-earned cash on a diesel car are right to worry. A diesel car ban could have a serious effect on their investment. A £10 daily tax on diesel cars would mean an extra £2500 a year in motoring costs for drivers commuting daily into city centres. It would be hardly surprising if people wanted to sell their diesel cars and buy petrol or petrol-electric hybrid without the extra tax. With more used diesel cars on the market and dwindling popularity, second-hand values would plummet.
What’s happening to diesel values at the moment?
Diesels are traditionally slightly more expensive to buy than an equivalent petrol car. And they frequently hold their value better than petrol cars. There’s no sign of a change in that. James Dower from CAP HPI said: “It seems that consumer and fleet appetite for diesel vehicles has held up. Values have moved broadly in line with petrol-engined equivalents through 2016, with little visible impact from negative headlines.”
Could authorities completely ban diesels?
In Paris, they’ve already transformed a road by the side of the River Seine from a two-lane motorway into a pedestrian zone. And London’s mayor Sadiq Khan is known to be sympathetic to the notion of increasing the city’s Ultra Low Emission Zone as a way of reducing pollution.
What would a diesel car ban mean for used car buyers?
It depends how far-ranging any diesel car ban was. If it was total, it would present a huge problem. Currently new car sales between petrol and diesel are pretty much evenly split. In 2016 it was 47.7 per cent diesel with 49 per cent petrol. The remaining 3.3 per cent were alternative fuel vehicles such as hybrids and electrics. That relative popularity of diesel hasn’t happened over night: it’s estimated 38 per cent of the cars on the road are diesel. This makes a total ban unfeasible at the moment.
What about in the future?
Emissions regulations for diesels aren’t going to get any less tough. Therefore car makers are having to work harder to make diesel engines clean enough to comply. That will make diesel cars more expensive as they will need more filters and more complex additives to reduce the pollutants in their exhaust gases. Toyota’s powertrain boss Koei Saga explained: “For diesel, the emission treatment is very difficult. You need a lot of technology for that and the regulations are getting harder and harder. And I think in the future diesels could cost double what we pay for a hybrid.”
Should you buy a diesel then?
It really does depend on the kind of mileage you do. If you use your car for commuting into a city centre, it might be safest to plump for petrol. If you rarely or never go near a city centre in your car, diesel currently still makes the most sense for high mileage drivers. However, if the current demonization of diesel continues as time goes by, petrol-electric hybrid and petrol engines are going to become increasingly attractive.