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Should you buy a diesel car?

BMW 335d

BMW 335d diesel car

The question that Green Car Guide gets asked more than any other at the moment is “Should I buy a diesel car?”. Most people assume the answer will be “No, you shouldn’t buy a diesel car”, but the correct answer is “It depends on your driving patterns.”

If your driving is mainly local, in urban areas, then an electric car is ideal, as there are no tailpipe emissions, which is essential to help improve levels of local air quality. If your driving is mainly local, with occasional longer journeys, then a plug-in hybrid or an extended-range electric vehicle is perfect. However if your driving is predominantly up and down motorways, and you do lots of miles each year, then in most cases nothing else will be as economical as a diesel vehicle – which is also likely to deliver lower levels of CO2 emissions in the real world compared to a petrol car. But the diesel engine should be as modern as possible, ideally the latest Euro 6 standard.

Here are the top 10 facts that you need to know about diesel, courtesy of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

In March 2017, British car buyers registered almost a quarter of a million new diesel cars – an all-time high. The SMMT reveals why they are so popular – and the important role they can play in helping improve air quality in towns and cities, and in tackling climate change.

  1. In 2016, a record 1.3 million new diesel cars were registered in the UK, up 0.6% on the previous year – a trend that’s continuing in 2017. In March, more businesses and consumers chose a new diesel car than in any other month in history, with almost quarter of a million leaving showrooms.
  2. Diesel is critical to reducing CO2 emissions, which in turn is tackling climate change – diesel cars emit, on average, 20% lower CO2 than petrol equivalents. In fact, since 2002, diesel cars have saved 3.5 million tonnes of CO2 from going into the atmosphere.
  3. Almost one in every two new cars registered in the UK is a diesel, with buyers valuing their high performance and low fuel consumption. On average, diesels use 20% less fuel than like for like petrol models, and with diesel drivers typically covering 60% more miles, lower fuel bills are essential.
  4. More than 99% of the UK’s 4.4 million commercial vehicles are powered by diesel and they transport people, essential goods and our emergency services over 61 billion miles every year. Without them, life would be much harder.
  5. Advanced diesel technology has virtually eliminated emissions of particulate matter, with 99% of these soot particulates captured by special filters fitted to all new diesel cars since 2011. Around half of diesels on the road now boast a DPF.
  6. The latest Euro 6 vehicles are the cleanest in history – and light years away from their older counterparts. As well as special filters, they also feature clever technology that converts most of the NOx from the engine into harmless nitrogen and water before it reaches the exhaust.
  7. Euro 6 technology works. Real world tests using a London bus route show a 95% drop in NOx compared with previous generation Euro 5 buses. In fact, if every older bus operating in the capital were replaced with a Euro 6 version, total NOx emissions in London would fall by 7.5%.
  8. The latest Euro 6 cars are classed as low emission for the purposes of the London Ultra Low Emission Zone due to come into force in 2019, meaning drivers of these vehicles will be free to enter the zone without charge.
  9. Contrary to recent reports, diesel cars are not the main source of urban NOx. In London, gas heating of homes and offices is the biggest contributor, responsible for 16%. While road transport as a whole is responsible for around half of London’s NOx, diesel cars produce just 11%, although concentrations will vary at different times depending on congestion. Keeping traffic moving is the key to keeping emissions low.
  10. In September this year, a new official EU-wide emissions testing system will come into force. This will involve, for the first time, on-road testing to better reflect the many and varied conditions involved in ‘real-world’ driving such as speed, congestion, road conditions and driving style. This will be the world’s toughest-ever emissions standard.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said, “Euro 6 diesel cars on sale today are the cleanest in history. Not only have they drastically reduced or banished particulates, sulphur and carbon monoxide but they also emit vastly lower NOx than their older counterparts – a fact recognised by London in their exemption from the Ultra Low Emission Zone that will come into force in 2019. Some recent reports have failed to differentiate between these much cleaner cars and vehicles of the past. This is unfair and dismissive of progress made. In addition to their important contribution to improving air quality, diesel cars are also a key part of action to tackle climate change while allowing millions of people, particularly those who regularly travel long distances, to do so as affordably as possible.”

Further resources about vehicle emissions and air quality:

VEHICLE EMISSIONS EXPLAINED – SHOULD YOU BUY A DIESEL OR PETROL CAR?

Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP)

HOW DOES THE NEW EUROPEAN DRIVING CYCLE (NEDC) FUEL ECONOMY TEST WORK?

NEDC FUEL ECONOMY TEST FOR PLUG-IN HYBRIDS

‘WHICH CAR IS MOST EFFICIENT FOR YOU?’ VIDEO

ELECTRIC CAR GUIDE VIDEO

ELECTRIC CAR REVIEWS

GREEN CAR GUIDE

View the economy and CO2 emissions of all cars, and compare car running costs

Car manufacturers generally don’t publish the local air quality emissions of their vehicles, however you can find all these emissions figures at:

http://carfueldata.direct.gov.uk

(Select a car and click the link for that car to view data including NOx emissions and particle emissions)

CLIMATE CHANGE AND AIR QUALITY AGENDAS