Alarming words from Professor David Bailey of Aston University this morning, as he reveals diesel's "slow death" is being driven by "environmental pressures and consumer confusion" .
He predicts that by 2025 just 15% of new car sales will be diesel, down from more than 50% to levels below even the figure that they sat at prior to the government incentivising its purchase (15 years ago, back in 2002 just 19.8% of sales were diesels).
It’s ironic, of course, that Bailey’s words have been seized on by the national press and thrust forward as yet another example why people shouldn’t buy a diesel. The very “confusion” that Bailey has identified is now being fed - unintentionally - by his words.
The trouble is, the general perception is that all diesels are the same. And who can blame the layman, when any explanation has to take you deep into the inner workings of Euro 4 regulations versus Euro 6? It takes dedication not to glaze over at that point. Far easier, to stick with the snappy ‘dirty diesel’ moniker and vow to never buy another one.
But I really do believe it’s worth knowing better, and hopefully as an Autocar reader so too do you - because there are economic and environmental reasons to give the black pump a second chance, especially if you are a high-mileage or large car driver. You can read more from Steve Cropley on that here.
The point is that personal transport comes at an environmental cost - be it CO2 or NOx driven. All engines produce both, with petrol creating more of the former and diesel more of the latter. Arguing over which is worse is like comparing apples with pears, albeit with darker overtones.
To my mind, the most important thing is that drivers choose what is best for their circumstances. That might be an electric car, it might be electrified or it might be a petrol or diesel one.
I certainly hope that people don’t feel urged into panic buying a petrol and then having to live with the fuel bills of a large seven-seater that does 20,000 miles a year. Commonsense simply cannot allow a blanket ‘diesels are bad’ attitude to pervade, although the fear must be that it is.
Certainly, by the 2025 date signposted by Professor Bailey I would imagine and hope that the pendulum for fully electric vehicles (13,500 sales of 2.5m last year in the UK) has swung somewhat. But even then the same fair-minded response must be to interrogate the true environmental impact of a vehicle using so many rare metals and powered by energy that isn’t always generated from clean sources.
That we live in times of change is not in doubt. That we must throw out what has gone before without recourse to the facts should not be a given. The question is, will anyone in authority dare stick their head above the parapet and say as much, before the damage is done?