Fifty years ago diesel power accounted for less than one per cent of the total British new passenger car market. With the exception of a few London black cabs, panel vans and HGVs, mid-1960s drivers dreaming of DERV were limited to a choice of the expensive Mercedes-Benz 200D, Peugeot 404 or BMC’s more affordable, but less desirable, Morris Oxford.
Half a century on, today diesel-powered motors make up 50 per cent of the total UK new car market, with even DERV late-comers Jaguar, Porsche, Maserati and Subaru, finally enjoying significant diesel penetration. This leaves just a few specialists marques, such as Lotus, Ferrari, Abarth and Rolls-Royce, missing an oil burner in their range, and it’s probably only a matter of time before this situation changes.
The on-going diesel emissions scandal has recently brought these once hated, noisy and unrefined oil burning engines back into sharp focus, just as the long-held stigma of driving one had finally disappeared. Indeed, now many of us have become used to enjoying the new-found performance, refinement, sophistication, reliability and economy of running a diesel-engined car.
Now that diesels have finally found favour with us consumers though, it is somewhat ironic that the motor industry itself is falling out of love with DERV, and is now investing its considerable R&D budgets in more economical and environmentally efficient petrol engines – usually turbo-charged – and/or hybrids and alternative fuelled passenger cars. Government’s are also starting to turn on diesels too, with the French, for example, proposing major taxation hikes on DERV passenger cars.
Recent petrol motors such as the Fiat Group’s Twin Air engine and PSA’s new 3-cylinder unit show that you don’t need a diesel to enjoy the benefits of strong torque combined with low emissions and a frugal thirst for fuel. The choice of alternative fuels is also increasing and improving all the time, as evidenced by the latest electric BMW, Teslas and expanded Toyota hybrid model range, not to mention the pending introduction of the fuel cell Toyota Mirai and Honda FCX.
Interestingly, within the EU, sales of diesel cars are beginning to decline, albeit slowly. For example, in 2014, 53 percent of all new cars sold with the EU were diesel powered, a marginal fall from 55.2 percent in 2011. Conversely, alternative fuels accounted for 2.7 percent of overall EU sales last year, versus just 1.3 percent in 2011, so a degree of change is certainly in the air. Oh, and talking of air, you may be intrigued to know that in 2014 the average C02 emission levels across the EU were 123.4, down 2.6 percent on the previous year. The average Co2 levels in the UK are marginally higher than the EU average at 124.6, with The Netherlands enjoying the lowest (107.3) and Estonia the highest (140.9).
Us Brits have another disincentive for buying a new diesel car too, as according to the ACEA Tax Guide, we pay the highest duties on diesel fuel of any country within the EU at 674 Euros/1,000 litres. This is considerably higher than the next highest taxed diesel country (Italy at 617), and more than double the lowest (Greece and Bulgaria at 330). For petrol, we also are also taxed at 674 Euros/1,000 litres, the fourth highest within the EU, after The Netherlands, Italy, and Finland. Suddenly that shiny new diesel doesn’t seem quite so tempting now, does it…?
FCX photography courtesy of ‘Heck’ licensed under Creative Commons via Wikimedia