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Diesel running costs set to rise

Unless you’ve been enjoying a long holiday on Pluto for the past few months it won’t have escaped your attention that diesel-engined cars are not flavour of the month. They’ve been singled out as pariahs for their part in poisoning our air, and is it any wonder when you see old buses and high-mileage (or badly maintained) family hatchbacks spewing out clouds of noxious soot as they accelerate away from the lights?
For years, diesel cars were set to save the planet. They produce less CO2 than petrol-engined vehicles because diesel contains more energy than petrol. However, while CO2 emissions are lower, diesels produce far more particulates and it’s these that cause air quality problems – they get trapped in our lungs and cause breathing difficulties.
It’s this air quality issue that has led to lots of headlines about thousands of premature deaths each year. However, that number varies wildly and nobody knows what it is because we’re not talking about healthy people being struck down in their prime. Generally those who are dying are already very ill, and their deaths are being brought forward by as little as a few days. But nobody knows how many days; no wonder the figure is impossible to pinpoint.

Regardless of this, we don’t want our air to be poisoned, which is why for the past half a century or so there have been limits on what can come out of your car’s exhaust. When your car goes through its MoT a sensor is put up the exhaust pipe to ensure that a whole range of gases are within tolerances – carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides and more. But not CO2.
These standards have been steadily tightened to the point where some pollutants have been cut by 96% compared with the 1992 thresholds; this is when catalytic converters became compulsory in the UK. This is also when the Euro 1 emissions standards were introduced and we’re now on Euro 6.
So, with an ever greater level of exhaust clean-up tech now incorporated into the modern diesel car, and despite buyers having been encouraged into diesels because of their lower CO2 emissions, things have changed radically. Diesel engines are now bad news and those who have them must be penalised, which is why a raft of extra charges are set to be introduced over the coming years.
In London the Congestion Charge area has been turned into an Ultra-Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ), and cars that breach the strict air quality limits will be penalised. That means petrol-engined cars registered before January 2006 (Euro 4) and diesels registered before September 2015 (Euro 6). These will have to pay a £10 ‘T-Charge’ from 23 October 2017 – on top of the £11.50 daily Congestion Charge.
From April 2019, non-compliant vehicles entering this zone might have to pay a £12.50 charge – a 25% increase on the T-Charge that comes in this year. At this stage the exercise is being billed as a consultation, but Transport for London has a strong record of ‘consulting’ on initiatives, with the outcome already decided.
Unlike the Congestion Charge, the T-Charge will apply 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year and while residents will be exempt from the new charge for the first three years, after this period they would have to buy a compliant car or they’d have to start paying the fees.
The introduction of these charges will affect a relatively small number of people, many of whom will have the option of using a good public transport system instead of using their cars. But outside London, where the public transport may not be so good, things are not quite so rosy. That’s because drivers could soon have to pay a daily fee to drive in the UK’s 10 most polluted cities.
The charges would apply to older cars, which could be banned altogether during peak times. At the moment (and nothing is yet certain), the assumption is that cities such as Birmingham, Leeds, Derby, Southampton and Nottingham will introduce a £20 daily levy on cars in a bid to price them off the road in a bid to clean up the air.
Meanwhile, this week Westminster City Council became the first UK authority to penalise diesel car owners by charging them increased parking charges. The extra charges apply to visitors only (so not residents), who have to pay an extra £2.40 per hour if their car runs on diesel – that’s a 50% premium over an equivalent petrol-engined car. Whether or not it’ll make any difference to air quality in London remains to be seen, but it’s doubtful.
So far it’s clear that things are going only one way. So if you really enjoy your driving and you love the roar of an internal combustion engine, lap it up while you can.
If you are wondering how these changes will affect what the car will be worth in the future, you can get the present and future value of your car here for FREE.
Richard Dredge