Diesel is dead… very nearly

Very few people in Australia have realised that by 2025 you won’t be able to drive a diesel car in Paris, Athens, Madrid or Mexico City…

AND THAT MEANS diesel is dead only it hasn’t quite realised it. Diesel makes up about 50% of car purchases in Europe, so not being able to drive them in a bunch of Europe’s major cities in 2025, which isn’t that far away is a major issue. And, it’s widely expected that other key European cities, like London (although after Brexit it doesn’t see itself as European).

The decision to ban diesel cars from the cities mentioned in the intro was made by those city’s mayors at a meeting last week, with those mayors telling the press that any car maker that failed to adapt to this decision would soon find itself out of business. Wow.

Here in Australia, diesel fuel has long been considered the fuel of choice for farm vehicles and heavy machinery. But, once Australia finally got access to good quality diesel fuel then European car makers began sending their diesel models Down Under. And we fell in love.

Sure, there’s no 50/50 split between diesel and petrol here, but we started buying them in big numbers because of the benefits of mileage and because of the suggestion they were somehow better for the environment because they emitted less CO2 than petrol engines.

That last point is now being disputed by scientists in Europe many of who claim that car makers have misled buyers on the CO2 benefits of diesel fuel. We’re all aware of the health issues around diesel particulates and nitrogen oxides and this is the key reason that diesel is being banned in some of Europe’s key cities in 2025. Not even diesel particulate filters and improved emissions, or not, in Volkswagen’s case, can save the diesel.

It’s important to note that the city’s mayors didn’t suggest that petrol powered cars were less harmful although they kind of are as there are no nitrogen oxides or fine diesel soot being emitted. Rather, the mayors pointed at electric vehicles as the best way forward and suggested they would help fund the uptake of electric vehicles. Paris has already banned diesel cars built before 1997 and has diesel car free days.

Europe is the main development centre for diesel vehicles and with many of the major automakers now switching focus to electric and autonomous drive technology there’s no telling what the decision to ban diesel in Paris, Madrid, Athens and Mexico City might have on us in Australia. Indeed, the VW Group, Ford and BMW have announced a joint initiative to construct an electric vehicle filling network across Europe which will begin roll-out in the next couple of years. And there’s a US company, Nikola Motors that has committed to building more than 300 hydrogen filling stations across that country by 2020.

So, while it might not seem like it right now with Australians clamouring to get their hands on diesel-powered 4×4 utes and wagons we are in the last days of diesel. And don’t think I’m overplaying the decision by mayors in Paris, Madrid, Athens or Mexico City.

See, the World Health Organisation claims that around 3 million people each year die from air pollution related issues, and diesel powered cars and trucks are considered one of the main sources of air pollution in towns and citiies. Indeed, more than 400,000 people die each year in Europe because of air pollution.

Locally, Australia is way off the pace in terms of emissions laws. I mean, we’ve only just adopted Euro 5 emissions standards, whereas Europe is about to head into the much more stringent Euro 6. Regardless, by 2025 the automotive landscape will look very, very different. So, maybe we should start developing a battery-electric dual-cab 4×4 ute… anyone got a spare $100 million to fund a start-up?

Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober