Until very recently, diesel was the fuel of choice for many motorists and for all the right reasons. Diesel cars tend to be more efficient and economical than petrol equivalents. They produce less carbon dioxide, a gas that until quite recently was apparently responsible for much of the world’s pollution woes. And while diesels usually cost more than petrol cars, they hold their value better, so you get more back come resale time.
Of course the oily fuel’s suitability remains dependent on the number and type of miles you do. And the increased pump price of diesel allied to improvements in petrol technology is encouraging many drivers to abandon it anyway. Now the hysteria has died down about the news that London’s mayor Boris Johnson wants a new £10 tax for diesel cars to enter new Ultra Low Emission Zones, with cities such as Bristol, Birmingham and Leicester following suit, it’s worth examining what the revelations really mean.
For a start, the penalty will come into place in 2020. But from the start of 2015, every diesel car will have to meet Euro 6 emissions legislation. This caps nitrogen oxide levels – the gas Boris and his regional friends are getting het up about – at 80mg/km, more than 50 per cent down compared to the Euro 5 that cars have had to conform to since 2011.
The result, according to Boris Johnson’s office, is that Euro 6 vehicles will be exempt from any penalty. Nick Reid, head of transformation at Green Flag added: “Euro 6 emissions regulations were drafted to address the concerns over particulates from diesel cars, and the criteria to meet them are tough. So drivers who wish to drive the cleanest diesel possible should ask the manufacturer’s sales staff to confirm whether their potential purchases is Euro 6 compliant.”
With the penalty unlikely to apply to cars that will be five years old and newer, used car price experts agree that residual values are unlikely to be affected. CAP’s Mark Norman told me: “It could have an impact on used prices if other cities follow London but while the capital is big it’s not big enough to hit residual values.” Richard Parkin from Glass’s added: “We don’t think it’ll have an impact. The congestion charge is substantial as it is so if you can afford to pay that on a regular basis, it’s unlikely another £10 will put you off a diesel.”
So the message is clear. If you’ve decided a diesel car ticks your boxes, go for a Euro 6 compliant model and rest easy that Boris’s emissions tax is highly unlikely to affect your investment. And whether the Government will change the car tax structure to penalise the output of nitrogen oxides is a question for another day.
This article first appeared in the Daily Telegraph Cars