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Anti-diesel messages causes first carbon rise in two decades.

Posted on February 28, 2018

Despite cars being more efficient than ever before, carbon tailpipe emissions of newly registered cars rose for the first time in two decades in 2017 due to anti-diesel fuel messages.


While modern, updated petrol models emit on average 12.6% less CO2 than previous models, this has not been enough to weigh against a 17.1% decline in diesel vehicle registrations which has caused a sudden rise in carbon emissions by 0.8% last year.


Carbon emissions in new cars have been steadily falling in the UK since 2000 falling from 200 CO2 g/km, to 120 CO2 g/km in 15 years, meeting the EU target of below 130 CO2 g/KM. However, due to this slight upward trend, SMMT are warning that we could potentially begin to veer away from the proposed standard of 95 CO2 g/km set by the EU to be met by 2021.

There are many things that can contribute to this, one of the chief suggestions is the slow uptake of electric vehicles in the UK, as the technology and logistics are still being refined for widespread usage. However, about half of last year’s overall CO2 rise can be attributed to the overall decline in diesel demand. Diesel cars typically consume less fuel than petrol combustion engines, and because of this they will on average emit 15-20% less CO2.


These anti-diesel messages can be traced back to the Volkswagen emissions scandal, which revealed that tests in car models from 2009-2015 had systematically ‘cheated’ on emissions tests. This revealed that in laboratory conditions, the tests were being manipulated to show that the NOx output of these cars met standards, when in fact they were emitting 40 times more of the toxic particulate which is linked to lung damage and cancers.


As a result, clean air sanctions in major cities have become much tighter. Some seeking to impose higher costs for high-emitting diesel engines, such as older cars and commercial vehicles, and some going as far as looking to ban these vehicles altogether during peak times.


With the combustion engine market still controlling 99.5% of the new car market, how will our continued efforts to reduce carbon emissions cope when anti-diesel impositions like scrappage schemes and government positions reduce their registrations?