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Diesel engines have had a bad press in recent years, mainly concerning speed, pollution and the ability to react. But maybe now is the time to take a look at some diesel facts that may just change your perception of a powertrain that uses a fuel other than petrol; and may help answer the eternal question: Diesel or Petrol? 

  1. In March this year, British car buyers registered almost a quarter of a million new diesel cars – an all-time high. so, using some information supplied by The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), we can look at some facts about diesel engines  that show that they can help improve air quality in towns and cities, and inherently help to tackle climate change.
  2. In 2016, a record 1,285,160 million new diesel cars were registered in the UK. This is an increase of 0.6% on the previous year – and this increase looks likely to continue in 2017 if recent figures showing that, in March 2017, "more businesses and consumers chose a new diesel car than in any other month in history," with 244,263 new diesel cars being registered.
  3. When it comes to tackling climate change, a reduction in CO2 emissions is vitally important. And diesel cars emit, on average, 20% lower CO2 than petrol equivalents. Since 2002, diesel cars have saved 3.5 million tonnes of CO2 from going into the atmosphere.
  4. In the UK, nearly one in every two new cars registered is a diesel. Asked why, buyers state that they are more economical when it comes to fuel consumption (On average, diesels use 20% less fuel than like for like petrol models) and are valued as high performers. Both of these are important when you consider that an SMMT New Car CO2 report 2017 revealed that diesel drivers typically cover 60% more miles than petrol drivers. 
  5. Without diesel, life in the UK would be much harder as more than 99% of the UK’s 4.4 million commercial vehicles are powered by diesel - and that includes buses, lorries, coaches, and emergency vehicles - covering over 61 billion miles a year.
  6. When it comes to emissions, diesel cars are getting cleaner and cleaner with advanced diesel technology virtually eliminating emissions of particulate matter, via use of a DPF (diesel particulate filter) which helps to capture around 99% of these soot particulates in its special filters. It is estimated that just of half of the diesel vehicles on the UK's roads use a DPF, with all new diesels having had them fitted since 2011.
  7. As well as these special filters, the latest Euro 6 vehicles also feature "clever technology that converts most of the NOx (a generic term for the nitrogen oxides that are most relevant for air pollution) from the engine into harmless nitrogen and water before it reaches the exhaust", making these vehicles the cleanest in history. 
  8. Just to show that all this Euro 6 technology really works, it is estimated (following real world tests using a London bus route that showed a 95% drop in NOx compared with previous generation Euro 5 buses) that 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%, according to a Transport for London Bus Fleet Audit, January 2017; TfL Air Quality Consultation, October 2016.
  9. The latest Euro 6 cars fall into the low emission bracket when it comes to the London Ultra Low Emission Zone that will be in place in 2019, meaning drivers of these vehicles will be free to enter the zone free of charge.
  10. One of the biggest disinformation about diesel cars is that they are the main source of urban NOx. - and this is not true! In London, the biggest contributor with 16% is the gas heating used in homes and offices, with diesel cars producing around 11% (although road transport as a whole is responsible for around half of it). Although it should be noted that the amount of NOx produces differs depending on times of day and congestion, because emissions are lower the more traffic is moving.

And in September this year, the diesel engine will become even more effective as the world’s toughest-ever emissions standard official EU-wide emissions new testing system will come into force, involving, for the first time, on-road testing looking at real-world conditions like speed, congestion, road conditions and driving style. 

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive: "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."