This is the tale of conflicting opinions, misinformation, financial burden and innovation; no, not the plot from the latest blockbuster, but the demonisation of diesel. Or perhaps the non-demonisation, and therein lies the problem.

Diesel was hailed as the saviour of the planet once, only for it to be proven to be quite the opposite, that it was directly responsible for health problems, poor air quality and premature deaths. Environmental groups looked to discredit it at every opportunity, while other organisations told us that it wasn’t actually that bad.

A raft of legislation was introduced to combat the scourge, and as such, diesel vehicles are all but dead and buried. Except here we are in 2019, and another independent study tells us that the one thing diesels are known for (NOx emissions) may not be a ‘thing’.

Confusion reigns

Just last year, we wrote that the business secretary, Greg Clark, said that despite the ongoing saga of diesel fuel, there is still a place for diesel vehicles, but just a few months later, we’re also reporting that the Ultra-low Emission Zones are being introduced and widened to encompass more of the City of London, particularly targeting diesel, including extra parking charges. It seems that not everyone got the message.

If you’re looking at a new car for the March registration, it would be a brave choice to consider diesel right now.

And yet, a new study by ADAC, Germany’s equivalent of the AA, looked at NOx emissions for 13 of the latest diesel cars available, and their findings suggest that NOx emissions are not just complying with Euro 6 legislation, they’re virtually non-existent.

All thirteen cars were tested at the ADAC laboratory, where they test hundreds of cars each year, and all thirteen were found to be significantly less than the legislation demands, in some cases there were no trace elements of NOx measurable. A number of diesel vehicles all produced less NOx than their petrol equivalent.

It’s worth noting that we aren’t talking about asthmatic, 3-cylinder sub-1 litre engines either – the cleanest vehicle was the Mercedes-Benz C-Class 220d with a 2.0 litre turbodiesel engine (0mg/km), closely followed by the BMW 520d Touring and Vauxhall Astra 1.6D, both 1mg/km.

Real world

Currently, the legal limit is 80mg/km for diesel NOx, but thanks to the 2.1x ‘conformity factor’ the permissible limit is set at 168mg/km until 2020, it will then drop to 1.5x the limit, although there are some legal wrangling’s that could have an impact on that.

As to what this means in the real world … it’s difficult to say. Opinions on diesel fuel have swung like a pendulum over the years, and we’re still waiting to see where that pendulum stops. It’s the uncertainty throughout the industry and government that has led to a decline in sales; thanks to unreasonable taxation due to emission misinformation mainly.

Admittedly, the manufacturers haven’t helped the situation with their knack of extending ranges and minimising emissions. There also seems to be a leaning toward seeing the motorist as easy prey, and the murkier the water, the harder it is to prove a clear case for using diesel vehicles, or at least for not punishing anyone taking the incentivised deals when the government invited them to.

If this new breed of diesel engined vehicles proves to be as clean as ADAC say they are, what would this mean to the ever-increasing charges – T-Zone, congestion charge, ULEZ, VED, parking and fuel? Would there be a relaxation of the relentless pursuit?

Purchasing

Diesel car sales have fallen significantly in the last few years; industry experts say sales dropped by at least 25% in 2018; buyers are being scared off by the unknown, and the extra cost. But could a diesel still work for you?

It’s true that indirect costs are rising, but a modern diesel will be ULEZ safe, and thanks to the fall in sales numbers, they’ve never been cheaper to purchase. Of course, there is a shift away from not just diesel, but internal combustion, so electric vehicles are on the rise, but they don’t quite work for all situations, and that’s before we look at cost implications.

There’s no simple answer as to whether a diesel vehicle is the right choice for you, but there are some considerations to think of – are you a high mileage driver? Are you towing a caravan or trailer regularly? Prefer a big SUV rather than a sporty saloon? Then a diesel could still work for you.

While PetrolPrices.com is, of course, a pro-motoring site, we understand the value of being impartial, of reporting on stories that could have conflicting opinions (diesel especially). It’s for this reason that you’ll find a range of articles regarding diesel, be they pro or anti; purely in the interest of bringing you a balanced view.

Would you consider purchasing a new diesel vehicle in March? Can the manufacturers be trusted to bring us new technology without exaggerating the benefit? Let us know in the comments.

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