EU delivers a blow to diesel drivers

Are you one of the 10million motorists who made the switch from petrol to diesel during the last decade? If so, you could be about to see a significant increase in your car’s running costs as the European Union puts more pressure on Britain to cut air pollution levels.

UK to miss pollution deadlines

In 2008, the EU issued the New Air Quality Directive which set limits on the level of air-borne contaminates and gases produced from the burning of fossil fuels. And although EU member states were given until 2015 to meet these limits, the UK government believes most cities will need until 2020 and the air around London won’t meet the required standard until 2025. And because the UK has admitted defeat in its bid to cut air pollution levels to the required levels, the government will now be sued by the European Commission. The bad news if you’re a diesel driver is that, although you may believe your car to be a more eco-friendly option and cheaper in vehicle excise duty (VED or road tax to most of us) as a result of lower CO2 emissions, the higher levels of nitrogen oxide diesel engines produce mean they actually pose a greater health risk. And if you think this is nothing but more hot air from the EU, the emissions from diesel vehicles have been linked to tens of thousands of premature deaths each year, with nitrogen dioxide alone accountable for around 7,000 deaths a year. But this isn’t what we were being told at the turn of the millennium.

Diesel boom…

Back in 2001 the Labour government overhauled VED so that lower CO2 emissions meant lower road tax. This caused motorists to switch to diesel in their droves and sales went from 1.6million to 11million over the next ten years - the lower CO2 levels produced by diesel engines meant cheaper road tax, while their greater fuel efficiency lowered running costs even further. So diesels not just the more eco-friendly option, they were also the more wallet-friendly option – but all that is about to turn on its head.

…and bust

Although the Labour government was warned that diesel vehicles produce 10 times as many fine particles and  up to twice the nitrogen oxide of petrol vehicles, it still chose to plough on with its plans to base VED on CO2 emissions and, in effect, misled the public regarding the benefits of diesel engines. If you’re a diesel driver, you could be about to pay the price. Not only could you see the value of your car plummet, you could find your running costs rise through a combination of more expensive fuel and extra congestion charges, as the Mayor of London has already announced plans to charge diesel drivers an extra £10 to drive in the capital and this could be copied by as many as 18 other British cities. The only bit of good news for diesel drivers is that there are no plans to change the rules on VED, but conservative ministers are lobbying the government so it may only be a matter of time. The idea of low-emission zones is also being floated, which means you could find you’re not even allowed to drive your diesel in certain areas, a move that could affect everything from school buses, to taxis, to hearses – the diesel really could be dead. What do you think? Have we been conned by the previous government? Or is this just another way to hit the pockets of motorists? Tell us by commenting below…

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