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To Diesel or Not to Diesel? Part One: Dieselgate Explained

To Diesel or Not to Diesel? Part One: Dieselgate Explained

There was a time when diesel was heralded as the more economical alternative to petrol, promising reduced CO2 emissions, fewer exhaust emissions and higher fuel economy. However, the VW Dieselgate scandal has rocked the world’s confidence in diesel and has left many people confused about what really is the best option.

The Volkswagen Dieselgate scandal involved one of the world’s most trusted car producers being exposed in the emissions tests so that the NOx (Nitrogen Oxide) emissions recorded in emissions testing were actually up to 9 times less than those actually produced by vehicles during normal driving. Although the massive disparity in recorded and actual levels of NOx only applied to vehicles with larger engines, diesel went from being the greener option to being public enemy #1 almost overnight.

But surely every vehicle manufacturer can’t have been wrong or, even worse, in on Dieselgate? Is it possible that the kick back on diesel was a kneejerk reaction and that, for some drivers, diesel is still a better alternative to unleaded petrol? In this series, we first take a closer look at Dieselgate, before objectively weighing up whether diesel may be best.

What is Dieselgate?

The so-called Dieselgate scandal started in 2015, when it was discovered that VW had been cheating US and European emissions tests. The “cheat” was via the installation of a device that allowed vehicles to detect whether they were on the road or in a lab. For lab conditions, the device controlled emissions so that the vehicle would score better on tests. The impact of Dieselgate rocked the industry. The Chair, Martin Winterkorn stepped down from his role in September of the same year and the UK’s board appeared in front of MPs where they acknowledged that nearly half a million British VWs would need to be modified in order to fix the offending software.

The scandal didn’t just cost diesel, VW and its group brands, Audi, Seat and Skoda, their reputations, VW paid dearly in resources, including over £26bn in legal fees and a £12bn settlement in the USA as well as £193m in settlements to over 91,000 legal claims in the UK. Although VW paid settlements, they didn’t acknowledge any wrongdoing; their reasoning was that it would be more prudent to settle quickly rather than endure a long trial and possible appeals.

Diesel in the UK

Unsurprisingly, diesel has gone from being the sensible option to being the scourge of the roads almost overnight. Tax hikes mean that consumers are paying to own diesel, and London’s ULEZ zones penalise diesels that don’t comply with Euro 6 regulations. There is a pledge from the UK government to ban the production of new diesel and petrol cars from 2030. So what does that mean for people looking to buy (or sell) a vehicle now? Follow us on Facebook or Twitter to find out more.


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