Changes in Habits
December 2018 marked the 21st consecutive month of decline for new diesel engine car registrations, dropping to 750,165 in 2018; making the overall market percentage sit at only 31.7%. Overall, UK car sales have also fallen by 7%, yet despite these figures, CO2 emissions have increased by 3% (to 124.5g/km) according to SMMT (The Society of Motoring Manufacturers and Traders). SMMT and the new WLTP (Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test) emissions test state that diesel engines actually run 15-20% more efficiently than petrol. Petrol registrations practically doubled diesel figures at almost 1.5 million, increasing their market share to 62.3%.
Favouring Petrol over Diesel Engines
These figures show consumers are leaning towards the petrol engine. It’s been suggested that the rise in popularity in SUVs over the more traditional family car could also be having an effect on emissions figures. Due to the fact that SUVs are larger, less aerodynamic and heavier meaning they emitted more CO2. There are several reasons motorists might be opting for petrol over diesel engines; including becoming more aware of the type of driver they are. Diesel’s are better designed for longer journeys and run the risk of a blocked DPF (diesel particulate filter) when just used for shorter commutes. This decline could be the increasing price gap between the cost of a litre of petrol and diesel in the UK, as well as worries over air quality. Contrary to popular believe, the automotive industry are insistent that the very newest diesel vehicles have got significantly reduced nitrogen oxide and particulate emissions.
Why, why, why?
So why are diesel engines demonised in the first place? It could be argued that diesel have never fully recovered after Volkswagen’s emissions scandal in 2015. VW were caught when a piece of software was found on-board that could detect when they were being tested and changed the performance to improve results. Diesel engines have been proven to be more efficient than petrol in terms of MPG (when driven appropriately). However, due to the rising fuel prices, consumers might be valuing the ‘instant’ savings associated with petrol more. Higher emissions figures have also contributed to the high road tax associated with driving a diesel car. As well as the hefty price tag attached to any new car with a diesel engine.
SMMT have warned that the rise in emissions not only causes irreversible damage to the environment, but also hugely attributes to countries failing to hit emission cuts targets. But all is not lost, alternatively fuelled vehicles are also on the rise. 140K new alternative fuel vehicles were registered last year, making 6% of the market. Motorists are becoming more environmentally aware and are seeing the long-term benefits, both financially and environmentally, of owning an electric or hybrid car.