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Industry battles ‘demon diesel’ slur

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The UK motor industry is launching a campaign to battle what it describes as “the increasing demonisation” of diesel-powered cars.

The move, which has seen industry body the Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders (SMMT) join forces with manufacturers including BMW, Ford, Jaguar and Land Rover, comes in response to a raft of negative publicity concerning diesel cars.

Such vehicles have long been championed as the most efficient in terms of fuel economy and CO2 emissions, with many now producing CO2 levels well below the government’s 100g/km marker that qualifies for free vehicle excise duty (road tax).

But now a growing anti-diesel movement is highlighting other particulates that cause respiratory-related health issues, such as nitrogen oxides (NOx). However only older diesel engines produce significant quantities of such particles, the figures having been vastly reduced in newer clean diesels.

Despite this diesel cars are increasingly being financially penalised, particularly by local councils in London.

The SMMT argues that there is widespread confusion amongst the public concerning diesel technology and, if uncorrected, this could limit adoption of the latest low emission vehicles and undermine the UK’s efforts to meet strict air quality and climate change obligations.

NOx emissions from different standards of diesel cars

Responding to a YouGov poll, 87 per cent of UK adults said they were unaware of the latest Euro-6 vehicle emission technology, while 54 per cent incorrectly blamed cars and commercial vehicles as the biggest cause of air pollution in the UK. Just under one in five (19 per cent) of those surveyed correctly identified power stations as the biggest contributors of nitrogen oxides (NOx).

In fact, it would take 42 million Euro-6 diesel cars (almost four times the number on the roads) to generate the same amount of NOx as one UK coal-fired power station.

Alongside manufacturers, the SMMT is urging policy makers and those considering imposing local measures to avoid confusing motorists by penalising one fuel technology over another.

Mike Hawes "Don't demonize diesel"...
Mike Hawes; “Don’t demonize diesel”…

SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes argues that today’s diesel engines are the cleanest ever, and the culmination of billions of pounds of investment by manufacturers to improve air quality.

“Bans and parking taxes on diesel vehicles therefore make no sense from an environmental point of view. We need to avoid penalising one vehicle technology over another and instead encourage the uptake of the latest low emission vehicles by consumers,” Hawes says.

“The allegations against diesel cars made in recent months threaten to misguide policy making and undermine public confidence in diesel – it’s time to put the record straight,” he adds.

The automotive industry’s commitment to reducing emissions is indisputable. Average CO2 emissions for new cars in the UK in 2013 were 128.3g/km, down 29 per cent since 2000 – beating the 2015 target of 130g/km by two years.

This progress has been matched by advances in technology to cut other pollutants, resulting in filters that capture more than 99 per cent of particulate matter (PM10) emissions.

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Andrew Charman
Andrew Charman
Andrew is a road test editor for The Car Expert. He is a member of the Guild of Motoring Writers, and has been testing and writing about new cars for more than 20 years. Today he is well known to senior personnel at the major car manufacturers and attends many new model launches each year.