Despite the Government’s relentless efforts to dissuade people from driving diesel cars, new statistics from the Department for Transport have shown that their attempts have failed miserably as there are now more diesel cars on the road than ever before.

The data shows that a record number of diesel cars were registered at the end of 2017 with a total of 12.4 million of them being driven on UK roads, which is 308,000 more than in 2016. This suggests that people are not scared by the forthcoming vehicle excise and MOT changes, the toxicity charges in London and are just not ready to give their diesel cars up because the benefits of keeping one outweighs the incentives to switch to lower emitting petrol, hybrid or electric cars.

A record number of diesel cars

The statistics show that 2 out of every 5 of the 31.2 million cars that are on the UK’s roads are diesel cars, which is up 0.5% on the previous year despite there being a 16% drop in new registrations.

This is certainly not a stat that the Government were hoping for as they have been desperately trying to reduce the number of diesel vehicles on the roads over the last 12 months by encouraging people to opt for hybrid or electric models instead.

However, just 45,400 new electric cars were on the road in the last quarter of 2017 which means that the UK roads are home to 272 diesels for every one electric vehicle, which is barely an increase on the number recorded the previous year.

Petrol ownership has also been decreasing, with numbers falling since 2004. The end of 2017 saw 0.3% less petrol cars on the roads than there were at the end of 2016, with 59% of the total number of cars being driven running on petrol.

Why the Government’s plan backfired

For months the Government have been implementing plans to encourage people to buy cleaner cars, such as the new Vehicle Excise Duty making low carbon dioxide producing vehicles more expensive to tax, and surcharges being introduced for driving and parking high polluting cars in Central London.

With so much effort being put into eliminating diesel cars by the Government it may be surprising that there are actually more diesels on the roads now than ever before, but there a number of potential reasons for why this has happened.

Jack Cousens, Head of Roads Policy for the AA, stated that changes made to Vehicle Excise Duty by the Government were counter-intuitive as they have just ended up forcing higher tax bills onto those who would have preferred to buy a cleaner car. Instead, people are keeping hold of their older, more polluting cars which is the complete opposite of what the Government was aiming for.

Another possible deterrent for motorists is that they want to avoid the surcharges that they would face if they bought a new model, so they would prefer to stick with the vehicle that they currently drive.

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, summed the situation up well by saying that the Government cannot eliminate diesel cars as quickly as they wanted to due to the fact that they are entrenched in our society, and that it will take years to significantly decrease the number of diesel vehicles on the UK’s roads.

What happens next?

It is argued by some motoring experts that the slump in new diesel car buying is only the beginning of the downward trend in diesel car use and that a small increase in diesel car use before the decline is logical, given the fact that more drivers are keeping hold of existing cars rather than trading up to a new one.

The Government are expected to launch a raft of new measures soon with their national Cleaner Air Initiative, which is likely to contain more limits and taxes on the use of older, high polluting vehicles to get them out of major cities. The measures implemented will start to have an effect and it will fall in 2018. Evidence of this is Jaguar Land Rover’s recent decision to lay off 1,000 staff, which they say is because of the fall in demand for new diesel cars.

Do you currently own a diesel car that you are keen to keep hold of and if so why are keeping it? Are you considering trading in your diesel car for a hybrid or electric alternative? Let us know in the comments below.

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