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Is Diesel on its Way Out?

Posted by: Fleet Licence Check - Friday, September 30, 2016

Is Diesel on its Way Out?

The UK Government is set to change the face of the fleet car market, as a new strategy outlines plans for nearly all UK fleet cars and vans to be zero emissions by 2050.

The new National Fleet Procurement Strategy, due for publication later this year, will contain minimum emissions standards for cars, fleets, trucks and buses. It looks to spell the end of diesel’s domination of the fleet car market in favour of alternatively fuelled vehicles, and many companies are already choosing to get ahead of the game by ceasing to purchase diesel models for their fleets.

Campaigns for Cleaner Air

UK plans come on the heels of a growing anti-diesel movement in France, where diesel drivers are being subject to tax rises as a precursor for a diesel scrappage incentive scheme for drivers who want to go electric. Parisian Mayor Anne Hidalgo wants to see Paris completely diesel-free by 2020 as a means of combating rising concerns about air pollution.

The UK scheme is largely driven by similar concerns surrounding air quality in London, where it is estimated that almost 10,000 people die each year due to air pollution. The rest of the UK doesn’t fare much better, with 38 out of 43 geographical zones currently failing EU air quality standards, largely due to the high levels of NOx, of which diesel is the main culprit.

Real-World Emissions

Following the Volkswagen scandal of 2015, which uncovered the fact that many car manufacturers were using software that faked their emissions figures in order to make them seem better than they were, many of the leading car makers are now choosing to concentrate more heavily on their development of hybrid and electric cars, rather than spending more money on trying to reduce diesel emissions to safer levels.

While modern diesel engines emit around 96 percent less NOx than they did 25 years ago, diesel vehicles are now at the bottom of the pile when it comes to emissions, having been overtaken by their once dirtier petrol rivals. In 2014, the average diesel car’s real-world emission level was 170g/km, with petrol emitting 168g/km.

The Changing Face of Fleets

Many companies in the UK are already choosing to abandon diesel purchasing in favour of more energy efficient alternatives, including the City of London Corporation, whose Head of Procurement, Chris Bell, said, “We are taking responsibility for the cleanliness of our fleet and encouraging the use of low and zero emission vehicles.”

While it is hoped that many more companies will quickly follow suit, diesel’s reign at the top of the fleet car market shows no sign of coming to an end. According to figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), diesel models have accounted for 59.4 percent of company car registrations so far in 2016. How long diesel can remain at the top, however, depends on how quickly attitudes, not to mention laws, change.

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