Documenting the demise of the dirty diesel

People everywhere are currently speculating on the demise of diesel vehicles in the UK. Sales have slumped, pump prices are soaring and the Government has hinted that things are about to get a whole lot worse for those with older diesel vehicles.

I’ve got mixed feelings on the topic – I mean, as much as I cannot see diesels disappearing all that quickly, I can easily imagine the prices on the black pumps getting stupid. If tax on older diesel cars increases, as so many people are saying it will, then their values will landslide and those pump prices will further inflate.

Mentions of a scrappage scheme similar to that introduced by the UK government in 2009 will no doubt lure thousands out of their faithful sootwagons, though I bet it’ll also leave a sea of perfectly roadworthy, serviceable motors needlessly going to scrap.

The fact they’ll likely be replaced with hybrids or electric vehicles is almost salt to my wounds, as deep below the marketing speak and eco image is a shit ton of batteries and electronics that’ll probably never be able to be properly recycled.

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Image: Peter Dean/Flickr

On the other hand, speaking as a cyclist and someone who generally appreciates the outdoors, there’s very little worse than being stuck behind a chugging diesel. I’m confident that anyone who is used to taking these fumes in during exercise will be sure that they’re detrimental to their health, I find it almost impossible to believe otherwise.

According to cycling website Road.cc, Transport For London recently commissioned a test which saw 13 cars and 4 lorries replicate driving through London at night, during rush hour and at midday.

The findings were quite remarkable, although probably not a massive surprise to people that geek out on this topic. It found that small cars emitted far more toxic nitrogen dioxide (NO2) than larger cars and in some cases considerably more than even fully laden lorries.

“The worst-performing car [in the tests] was a VW Polo with a 1.4-litre turbodiesel engine with NO2 emissions 13 times higher than EU regulations allow,” James Tate of Leeds University’s Institute for Transport Studies, who analysed the test results, told the Sunday Times.

In some ways you have to feel sorry for the car manufacturers though. Tax breaks for diesel vehicles were introduced based on data from CO2 output, which went on to classify the vehicles VED. Perhaps the cost of these low CO2 figures are the horribly high NO2 levels and other particulates that we are seeing today.

Think back to before today’s ultra-refined diesels with their variable geometry turbos, common rail injection and troublesome DPFs. When knocking was the norm and switching to vegetable oil was simply the case of having the correct fuel pump. Where exactly did it all go wrong?

Article main image: Ingmar Zahorsky/Flickr