Are Petrol Cars Fighting Back?

Is Petrol Fighting Back In The Wake Of New Penalties On Diesel Cars? Shropshire’s Philip Paul Car Centre Discovers The Truth Behind The Headlines

Not that long ago, diesel cars were touted as the most economical and the lowest polluting engine type. The government actively encouraged the purchase and promotion of diesel cars over petrol, and we bought them by the thousand. Now, in something of a U-turn, diesel is being vilified and is getting a lot of bad press.

So far, in 2017, sales of diesel new and used cars are down while sales figures for petrol cars are up. Values of diesel cars are reducing and people who own them are panicking. But, as always, it pays to read behind the headlines to get at the real story.

Behind The Headlines

So what is all the fuss about? What is really behind this shift in policy and opinion?

At the heart of the matter is the government’s failure to meet EU air quality targets. They have until July 2017 to come up with a plan to achieve those targets despite trying to avoid them. One of the ways the government is looking to meet them quickly is by banning diesel cars in cities with particularly high air pollution levels.

This is at the heart of the bad press diesels have been receiving of late. There has been no new scientific findings, no new discoveries and no sudden worsening of diesel performance. It all seems to be about a government agenda.

The facts of the so-called diesel versus petrol car battle are this:

  1. It’s only older diesel cars that are being targeted right now.
  2. It’s only in cities with already high air pollution.
  3. As yet, no definite actions have been decided.

If you own a newer diesel car or are considering buying a used car that runs on diesel in the near future, you don’t really have anything to worry about.

Diesel Engines Are Not The Only Polluter

All fossil fuels produce pollution as a side effect of combustion. Petrol engines emit CO2, diesels emit nitrogen oxides (NOx), among other gases. Diesel cars are in the headlines right now as they are regarded as low hanging fruit. No mention has been made of all the diesel buses, taxis or trucks as it would involve huge amounts of expensive re-organisation to remove these from the road.

Instead, the government wants to introduce a scrappage scheme that pays us a fixed amount to scrap our old diesel cars. All the government has to do is arrange a payment scheme - the rest is left up to us, the car owner. Easy win for everyone, except diesel drivers.

What seem to have been forgotten is that the average diesel engine, if kept maintained, emits up to 20% less CO2 and benefits from up to 20% better fuel economy than a comparable petrol engine.

Why Newer Diesels Are Not All Bad

Diesel cars manufactured after September 2009 have to conform to the Euro 5 standard. This enforces an NOx level of less than 0.18g/km. Diesels manufactured after September 2014 have to meet Euro 6 standards which mandate emissions to less than 0.08g/km.

Compare that to the maximum 0.97g/km of NOx level of previous generations and you’ll see that quite a reduction in NOx pollution has already taken place. New diesel engines pollute less than ever before and are among the cleanest fuel-burning engines available right now.

The inclusion of diesel particulate filters (DPFs) has gone a long way to lowering NOx emissions from diesel cars. These scrub the NOx out of exhaust gases, drastically lowering the amounts that escape from the exhaust. Further improvements in DPF, plus gas conversion systems called Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) in new diesels that convert NOx to nitrogen and water, lowers emissions to their lowest level ever.

Buy The Right Tool For The Job

When making a buying decision for a new or used car, you need to look past the headlines and buy the right engine for the job.

Petrol Engines: Drive mainly shorter distances on the school run or around town? A petrol engine is most suited to this type of driving. It warms up faster, is more economical while cold and is eminently suited to shorter journeys.

There’s a lot to recommend petrol cars. Newer models pollute much less than before while also offering more miles per gallon. For example, the Peugeot 108 and Citroen C1 use the same three cylinder engine and achieve up to 69 mpg for less than 99g/km CO2. The Ford Fiesta 1.0 Zetec achieves around 66 mpg for around the same CO2. Those are some pretty impressive figures!

Diesel Engines: Commute longer distances or spend a long time each day on the road? A diesel is still the best engine type for longer distances. It offers better fuel economy and lower emissions (newer diesels). The added extra torque available at lower revs on a diesel car make them ideal engine for for towing cars or heavy vehicles such as vans and lorries.

Going on fuel efficiency and CO2 emissions alone, diesel engines outperform petrol. For example, the Peugeot 208 BlueHDi achieves around 94 mpg for 79g/km CO2 while the Ford Fiesta 1.5 TDCi achieves around 91 mpg for 82g/km CO2.

Low Emission Zones

From 2019, London will introduce an ultra low emission zone (ULEZ) which will charge drivers of older cars to drive in the city. This will include any driver of a diesel car that doesn’t meet Euro 6 standards and any driver of a petrol car that doesn’t meet Euro 4 standards.

Once restrictions are imposed, London will join the likes of Paris, Rome, Berlin and over 200 other ULEZs across Europe. More are likely to be introduced as time goes on.

The Heart Of The Matter

The media coverage of diesels is creating unnecessary panic and sensationalism. The real story is much simpler. If you own a diesel car manufactured before September 2009 and the introduction of Euro 5 standard, you really need to consider replacing your car.

If you own a diesel car manufactured after September 2014, you do not necessarily need to consider replacing your car but may benefit from doing so. Owners of petrol vehicles manufactured before January 2005 should also consider replacing their cars if driving in any of our major cities to avoid ULEZ.

Petrol cars are likely to see a rise in sales over the coming months as a result of this change in policy. However, given the undeniable strengths of diesel engines there is still lots of life in them yet!


Visit the Philip Paul Car Centre in Oswestry for great savings on a wide range of fuel efficient petrol and diesel cars. Browse our collection of quality used cars to suit all budgets, then book a test drive to find the right car (and fuel type) for you.  

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