The tide has turned against diesel. What was once a promising fuel is now recognized as a dangerous carcinogen by the World Health Organization. Diesel is a major source of the pollutants nitrogen oxides and dioxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM), which major studies have found to be the cause of thousands of premature deaths a year.
Europe, specifically, is in a bind. Starting in the 1990s, drivers across Europe were encouraged by their governments to buy diesel cars, told diesel was an eco-friendly option, and teased with tax incentives. It was only in 2012 that scientists began to find cracks in the diesel dream. So it’s understandable that many drivers are upset at the sudden turnaround. Diesel passenger cars still make up nearly 50% of all new cars sold in Europe, compared with just 3% in the United States, making the transition particularly rough for those living in Europe. But sales are falling fast, and after ‘Dieselgate’ in 2015, when it was discovered that VW and other car manufacturers lied about emissions tests and claimed they were offering “clean diesel,” the industry is in a tailspin.
So what can diesel car owners do? In order to make things right, many governments and manufacturers are working on solutions — especially when forced by court orders and public outcry. It might be worth your while to take advantage of incentives in 2018 such as widespread scrappage schemes from the car makers themselves. To see how it might affect you and your region, here’s a quick look at what is happening in some of the countries with high diesel sales: Germany, Norway, Sweden, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, Spain, and Italy.
Please let us know in the comment section of any schemes we forgot or got wrong, and especially of anything that could explain how individual car owners can demand compensation from the manufacturers. We’re going to update this article with new information and developments with the aim of making sure our readers know how to protect themselves.
Germany has entered something of a cultural war having to address the diesel crisis. In a landmark decision, Germany’s highest administrative court in Leipzig ruled that it is legal for cities to enforce bans on heavily vehicles, such as the diesel bans planned in Stuttgart and Düsseldorf. Chancellor Angela Merkel commented that, “It’s really not about the entire country and all car owners.” That is an interesting statement, as while not being very obvious, it hints at a changing tide in which the car manufacturers should not expect support from the chancellor. Many German cities have taken it upon themselves to ban diesel cars and require upgrades. Berlin has already banned the oldest and most dangerous diesel vehicles, and Munich is developing a diesel ban for 2018. Additionally, the German government is working on a plan for free public transportation in several cities across the country as a way to cut back on pollution.
As for taking matters into your own hands, we’re seeing the appearance of specialized lawyers who help you to roll back the financing on your car and give it back (there is a short interview with FairOne in this earlier CleanTechnica article), which seems to become a very successful strategy.
An important article on the issue and nice overview from Handelsblatt looks at recent court decisions in cases of individual car buyers (mostly) winning in court and some of the statements judges made that are increasingly becoming harsher towards the car companies.
In January 2017, Oslo banned diesel cars for the first time, due to a high pollution alert, for a total of two days. Since this temporary city ban, Norway has announced that it will establish a “polluter tax system” to completely phase out petrol and diesel cars by 2025.
In the ten years leading up to Dieselgate, the percentage of diesel cars in Sweden had grown the most, rising from 5.2% in 2005 to almost 30% in 2015. Such an upward trend is difficult to turn around. In response, the Swedish government recently announced that towns will soon be allowed to implement bans on diesel engines that do not meet emissions standards. The decision to enforce diesel bans is being left up to individual cities and municipalities.
For the first time in 20 years, petrol car sales were greater than diesel in Belgium. According to the car importer federation, FEBIAC, the percentage of diesel car registrations dropped from 78.9% in 2008 to 52% in 2016, and less than 25% of private cars are diesel. The quick decline in diesel vehicles may have something to do with the rising excise duty in Belgium. This is an initiative to eliminate the price advantage that diesel fuel has previously had.
The Netherlands is ambitiously planning to ban not only diesel but also new petrol cars, and requiring all cars to be emission-free by 2030. This is providing a clear opportunity for electric vehicles to make their move. Hyundai has already jumped at the chance and is set to launch an EV car sharing service in Amsterdam.
While in Europe as a whole, diesel accounts for approximately 50% of vehicles, in Luxembourg the share of diesel was 65% in 2015. Since then, there’s been a noticeable decline in new diesel cars, with sales down to 53.9% in 2017.
Paris has introduced a complicated system using colored stickers to represent car types and emission levels, and banned diesel cars made before 2000. The mayor aims to completely phase diesel out by 2025. The whole of France is following suit, albeit more slowly, and will ban sales of petrol and diesel cars by 2040. Since January 1st, 2018, the French Domestic Consumption Tax on Energy Products (TICPE) for diesel has increased by almost 8 cents per liter.
In an attempt to help low income families with the transition away from diesel, French Environment and Energy Minister Nicolas Hulot has proposed a 500 to 1,000 euro incentive to switch to a less polluting vehicle. If implemented, the measure would also include a 2,500 euro incentive to switch to electric vehicles.
Madrid has already implemented a banning system of alternating odd and even plates, halving the number of polluting cars on the roads. Further, the city’s mayor, Manuela Carmena has pledged that by the end of her term all cars will be banned the city’s main street, Gran Via, allowing only public buses, taxis, cyclists, and pedestrians. City planners are underway with designs to make 24 of the busiest streets car-free. As for the whole of Spain, approximately 56% of cars in 2015 were diesel, making the transition difficult.
Just days after the aforementioned court ruling in Germany, the mayor of Rome announced that the city will take “strong measures” to ban diesel cars and will implement the plan by 2024.
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