Is it time for your company to ditch ‘dirty diesel’?

In this piece, we examine the reputation of diesel cars today and assess the factors that influence which vehicle to equip your staff with next.

It’s been a tough few years for diesel cars. In the space of 20 years they have gone from being environmental heroes to the most undesirable vehicle on the road. That leaves many businesses that supply company cars unsure about their next car choice.

Once upon a time, petrol engines were seen as enemies of the natural environment due to their high Co2 emissions that contribute toward global warming. So, diesel engines stepped in and saved the day with their lower Co2 emissions. Driving a diesel car was seen as the right thing to do, and was actively encouraged by the government at the time using a few little tax breaks.

Fast forward to 2018 and the story for diesel could not be more different. We have turned our attention from the natural environment and onto ourselves, with research having found that emissions from diesel cars are having a devastating effect on our health and could be responsible for up to 40,000 premature deaths in the UK every year. In response to the data, the government is now discouraging the use of diesel cars so instead of those tax breaks previously enjoyed, diesel drivers now find themselves being charged more for using their car.

Recent bad news for diesel drivers has included:

  • An increase in road tax
  • For those diesel cars which do not meet Euro 4 standards, the T-Charge must be paid in central London
  • From April 2019 any diesel car which does not meet Euro 6 standards will need to pay the ULEZ charge in central London, this will eventually include residents
  • Higher parking fees for diesel cars in what has been called the ‘D-Charge’ in many London boroughs
  • From April 2018 drivers of a company diesel cars will see their Benefit-in-Kind supplement increase by 1 per cent if the vehicle does not meet Real Driving Emissions tests which began in September 2017.

Diesel cars have gained a terrible reputation that isn’t always deserved. If we look at current Euro 6 emission standards the Nox limit for petrol cars is 0.06g/km, for diesel cars the limit is 0.08g/km, only a slightly higher figure. Yet diesel cars produce less Co2 and are more fuel efficient so achieve a higher mpg figure than their petrol equivalents.

Diesel cars are the cleanest they have ever been, in fact, the carbon monoxide limit for diesel cars is 0.50g/km, half that of the limit for petrol cars at 1.0g/km. These figures are not so impressive for older diesel engines and these are the ones releasing the biggest share of damaging Nox. It is these older cars that have tarnished the reputation of all diesel vehicles. Euro 6 compliant diesel engines are clean enough to escape the ULEZ charge, the toughest standard for a clean air zone in the UK yet, when it comes into force in 2019. When compared to Euro 5 standards set in 2009, the limit for Nox has been reduced by 55 per cent by Euro 6. Newer is most definitely cleaner.

‘Herded away’ from diesel

Despite this, we are now all being herded away from diesel cars leaving two other options available to us; an electric vehicle or a petrol vehicle. The number of electric vehicles being registered is increasing and this would be the choice the government would want us to make, so these are the vehicles with the lowest road tax and the ability to avoid any charges in London. However, for many drivers an electric vehicle will not be suitable at this time.

For those who live in flats, or do not have a garage, charging overnight at home is not an option. So, in a society where we are all time poor already, at least a spare 30 minutes will need to be found to charge up. As well as the charge time, you may need to travel to find a charging station. The electric charge point network is spreading out and getting better all the time, but for some a sizeable journey could be involved to find a place to plug in.

For those not yet ready to go electric, the petrol engine will be the only other option. Whether petrol or diesel, using a combustion engine will pollute the air. A big swing back to petrol cars could reduce the Co2 savings made within the transport sector over the past decade. We could find ourselves solving one problem only to impact another creating another.

In the modern arena, image is important and no business wants to be seen to be using ‘dirty diesel’ vehicles amid increasing concern within our cities and towns. This will lead, understandably, to uncertainty about which vehicle to equip your staff with next. The answer to this dilemma may depend on geographical factors.

  • If your drivers are regularly inside the M25, electric vehicles will save you a lot of money on the T-Charge and the upcoming ULEZ charge. If you needed to pay the ULEZ charge every working day for one car for one year, you are facing an annual bill of £3,162. If you have many vehicles in your fleet this could soon become a very large expenditure. Plus there are many government schemes running to provide contributions towards the cost of new electric vehicles and the setting up of charging points. It may be wise to take advantage of these before the demand outweighs the resources available.
  • If your drivers are occasionally inside the M25 and do not have high mileage, a petrol car would be a good option for you.
  • If your drivers have high mileage, a lot of motorway driving, and are rarely inside the M25, a diesel vehicle is likely to still offer you value for money due to the fuel efficiency it can provide and low Co2 values.
    When choosing your next company vehicles take the time to consider your options and ensure the frenzy of diesel distaste doesn’t place unnecessary cost on your business.

This article was written by Natalie Faughy at Rivervale Leasing.

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel was the editor of from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.

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