Extinction Rebellion uses dirty diesel for climate change protest

Extinction Rebellion fire engine

Turning up to protest about climate change in a dirty diesel is a little like going to thrash metal concert and complaining about the noise.

But as Extinction Rebellion arrived in Whitehall in a 21-year-old fire truck to paint the town red, it became abundantly clear that the protesters hadn’t considered the irony of their choice of transport. After all, an 8.3-litre diesel engine is about as welcome in central London as a fox in a henhouse.

From one drama to another

It would appear that Extinction Rebellion paid £5,000 for the former Derbyshire Fire & Rescue Service Dennis Sabre back in August. Cheaper than a Dacia Sandero, then, but not as good for the planet.

It’s not the first time the fire engine has been in the public eye: the eBay ad lists an appearance on Holby City as one of its selling points. You could say it’s gone from one drama to another.

The old Dennis diesel sat outside Treasury smoking like a 70s snooker player as the Extinction Rebellion protestors struggled to contain their hose. It turned the protest into something that wouldn’t have looked out of place on Top Gear, as the fake blood coated the steps and pavement outside the Grade One listed building.

Forget London’s Burning, this was more like London’s Turning… Red.

Clearly, climate change is a serious business. Only a chump with rubbish hair and a penchant for walls would deny that we need to do something to reverse the damage that’s being done to our planet. We can all play a part.

But buying an 8.3-litre diesel fire engine in Northampton and then driving it into central London isn’t going to save the world.

With a strong wind behind it and a clear road ahead, the Dennis Sabre could probably muster 8, maybe 9 miles per gallon. Fine if you’re putting out fires or starring alongside Tina Hobley, but not so great when you’re protesting against “the vast sums [the government] pours into fossil fuel exploration”.

Maybe they should have used a Green Goddess…

Nissan slammed by DVSA for failing to fix Qashqai diesel

Nissan criticised over dirty diesel response

Nissan has come under fire from the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) for its reluctance to tackle excessive exhaust emissions from Qashqai dCi diesel models.

Nitrogen oxide (NOX) emissions were found to be well above what prior testing had established in new WLTP tests – and beyond acceptable standards.

The WLTP fuel economy test was introduced last year and includes RDE (Real Driving Emissions) measurements. It replaces the old NEDC test, which was less realistic in ‘real world’ driving.

Nissan criticised over dirty diesel response

The DVSA’s findings have so far failed to prompt any action from Nissan. It says the Qashqai meets all current standards, and that its priority is future product – rather than re-calibration of existing diesel vehicles.

“All Nissan vehicles fully comply with today’s emissions legislation,” the company’s response reads. “We support the new RDE tests that have now been adopted and have introduced a range of drivetrains to meet them.

“We will continue to develop affordable and innovative solutions to reduce our impact on the environment, such as our Nissan Leaf and e-NV200 electric vehicles.”

Nissan criticised over dirty diesel response

Nissan’s sister company, Renault, has taken a more pro-active approach – something the DVSA highlights in its latest Vehicle Market Surveillance Unit report. Renault, which uses the same engine, has ‘issued a voluntary offer to customers visiting a Renault dealer to implement a NOx upgrade’.

The kicker is that if Renault offers it, then a diesel fix exists that could pertain to affected Nissan models.

The Nissan Qashqai is built at the marque’s Sunderland plant in the UK. It has been one of the UK’s best-selling cars for more than a decade.


How to find the cheapest petrol and diesel near you

Somewhere new? Need to find the cheapest fuel in your area? Here’s our guide to tracking down the cheapest petrol and diesel

European Court ruling could all but kill diesel in the EU next year

Diesel NOx EU

The sales of millions of diesel-powered cars could be disrupted next year, as their sale could be rendered illegal after February 2020.

It’s all thanks to a ruling by the European Court of Justice to bring forward mandatory compliance with hard 80 mg/km nitrogen oxide emissions limits under new ‘real world’ test conditions.

It was agreed in 2016 that manufacturers would have until 2023 to get automotive emissions down to such a standard, however, the European Court of Justice ruled that the measure had been incorrectly adopted and that a grace period of one year from now was appropriate.

The long and the short of it is that as many as 7.5 million cars due to be built, will be illegal to sell as of February next year.

Secretary-General of the European Automobile Manufacturers Association Erik Jonnaert warned that the impact on the industry “could indeed be enormous”, in an interview with the Financial Times.

Failing a successful appeal by the European Commission for the new deadline to not be upheld, a comprehensive re-engineering of many different diesel engines and models would have to take place. Given the time allotted, that seems unlikely, and that’s if re-engineering is enough to get them below the threshold.


Diesel NOx EU

Environmental groups continue to criticise the European motor industry for flouting legislation and cheating tests years ago and that they should have thought about the problems they’d face if caught.

That’s all well and good, but those responsible have been held accountable. To then threaten to gut the industry with a legislative knife and say ‘you should have thought about that’ is at best reductive and at worst, blissfully ignorant of the potential economic perils. The ripple effects in respective businesses are difficult to predict but are potentially severe.

On the other hand, as per a story we published earlier, should these limits inspire as much fear in manufacturers as they do? ADAC testing has proven that a selection of the very latest Euro6-d emissions standard cars are falling well below the 80mg/km NOx limits in the real world.

That is in spite, for the moment at least, of only needing to do so in lab conditions. These cars are ready-made for the worst case scenario, come February 2020.

All that said, such a change can’t not have some sort of detrimental effect. Whether it will be as severe as the Commission and these manufacturers say it will, remains to be seen. As ever these days, the industry remains stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Searches for used diesels at a record low

Diesel searches down autotrader

Searches for diesel cars are at an all-time low of 45 percent on Auto Trader, new data reveals. Meanwhile, searches for petrol-powered models are on the up, soaring to 48 percent.

Diesel – searches down, sales steady, values up

In spite of the low search numbers, prior sales figures remain strong. Used diesel sales actually increased by 0.3 percent over the course of 2018.

As for values, the rate of growth for used diesel values actually accelerated, up from 2.6 percent in January 2018 to 4.5 percent in January 2019. That leaves the average value of diesel cars at £14,514.

That doesn’t necessarily reflect any heightened appeal or value of diesel itself, perhaps rather the heightened value of a market flooded with younger and younger second-hand cars. 

Petrol and alternative fuel vehicles

Prices for petrol vehicles, in contrast to the diesel jump, actually eased. January 2018 saw petrol car prices grow 10.7 percent, while the same period this year saw just a 3.7 percent growth, to an average of £11,374.

Still, people are more curious about petrol than ever before. As above, searches are at a record high of 48 percent.

plug-in and self-charging hybrids

Alternative fuel vehicles (hybrids, electric cars) had an incredible increase in sales according to industry results, with an increase of 26.9 percent in 2018.

However, prices were, similar to petrol, staggered. January 2018’s AFV price growth was 8.4 percent, while January 2019’s was 4.6 percent, with an average price of £21,399.

Overall, the values of second-hand cars are up 4.1 percent on this time last year, to £13,025. Based on PCP run-off continuing to permeate the market, that ought only to increase.

In reality, searchers are less specific about what they want to fuel their cars than ever before.

“Fuel represents just one in five searches on our marketplace, so whilst the sustained decline in diesel is significant, it’s not representative of all consumers,” said Karolina Edwards-Smajda, Auto Trader’s commercial product director.

“Rather, with the percentage of fuel searches declining from 25 percent to 20 percent in just 18 months, it highlights that car buyers are becoming increasingly agnostic. Our research consistently shows that they’re not limiting their search to a type, but instead considering all as part of their next car journey; new, used, petrol, diesel, or electric. Retailers should be marketing to them accordingly.”

U-turn by EU lawmakers could mean a total ban on diesel cars

diesel European Commission

The European Commission and the General Court of the European Union have been locked in battle over diesel car emissions. And the Commission has lost the case, meaning certain European cities can elect to ban all diesel-powered cars. Yes, even modern diesels.

In summary, the Commission gave the nod to amend the latest Euro 6 diesel emissions limits – permitting higher nitrogen oxide limits – in response to new ‘real-world’ fuel economy tests. Put simply, they gave permission for diesels to be dirtier. The argument was that new tests would likely expose alarming figures anyway.

Where this becomes (apparently) illegal is that there was no alignment on the decision, be it with the General Court of the European Union, other senior regulatory bodies, or the public. As such, acting on behalf of city authorities such as Paris, Brussels and Madrid, the Court has held the Commission accountable for the unsanctioned amendment. 

A bit of background on the Euro 6 emissions regulations is needed, we think. They dictate that any car registered after September 2015 must not emit more than 80 mg/km of nitrogen oxides (NOx).

diesel European Commission

In defence of the car manufacturers, that target was set with reference to the testing procedures at the time. In the comparison between old (NEDC) and new (WLTP) testing methods, for instance, we know the latter is more representative of real-world driving. 

Unfortunately, more realistic testing means lower efficiency ratings and much higher emissions. That’s where the amendment comes in, sanctioned by the European Commission without further consultation, which stated cars could pass these new tests as long as emitted less than 168 milligrams per kilometre of NOx. 

The court has given the European Commission a year to set things straight, which will, in turn, give carmakers a year to revise their offerings.

diesel European Commission

Our take is as follows. Diesel is fundamentally difficult to clean. This could well be the biggest nail in the coffin of oil-burners yet. Nevertheless, legislators do conveniently ignore the categorical U-turn they’ve taken in this demonisation of diesel. And not two decades after it was lauded as the saviour of eco- and money-conscious motorists alike. Industry and technology simply cannot make overnight U-turns in response to unfavourable PR, as politicians can.

Coming back to the difficulty of engineering ‘clean’ diesels, our fear is that it’s simply not possible. Even with the thickest ad-blue concoction and the brawniest catalytic converters carmakers can muster. We hope we’re wrong.

Read more:

Fuel prices

A fuel price war could be coming, as oil costs slump

Fuel prices

Fuel prices have hit highs not seen since 2014, but the AA says relief is on the way. Relief, it says, that could amount to 3p a litre – or £1.50 a tank.

Of course, there’s always a possibility that any savings consumers can look forward to may be dented by the rumoured un-freezing of fuel duty in the Autumn budget. It’s been held at 58p a litre since 2011.

Nevertheless, the AA predicts a forthcoming decrease in prices due to the strengthening of the pound, allied with a cut in the wholesale cost of oil. Such drops have triggered penny-by-penny falls in competing forecourts’ prices in the past, resulting in price wars at the pumps.

How to find the cheapest petrol and diesel near you

“In the past, such a significant drop in wholesale prices would have triggered a pump-price battle among the supermarkets” said the AA’s fuel price spokesman, Luke Bordet.

“For the moment, drivers should keep an eye out for competitive oil company sites, taking the opportunity to undercut expensive supermarket sites”.

A drop in fuel prices would follow a full 11 consecutive weeks of price rises to date. In that time, the national average for a litre of petrol has reached £1.31 a litre. Diesel is even more expensive, at £1.35 a litre on average. Contrast to July 2018, when the average cost for petrol and diesel was £1.28 and £1.31 respectively.

Read more:

EV power

Will electric cars outsell diesel by 2020?

EV power

It will only be a matter of time before electric cars comprise a significant proportion of the new car marketplace. How long that would take has been very much up for debate… but one organisation has conducted a survey – and the surprising findings suggests the time may come sooner than you think.

Leasing company Leasing Options quizzed 2,000 people, who said they expect electric cars will outsell previously dominant diesel-powered cars by as soon as 2020. 

Yes, 2020, for EVs (full EVs, no less, rather than electrified plug-in hybrids) to outsell diesel cars. Seems remarkable, no?

Of course, the sudden fall from grace of diesel, rather than exponential growth in EVs, is a major factor in the predictions: SMMT new car registration data is, month after month, proving damning for oil-burners.

An overall new diesel car sales slump of 37.2 percent last year isn’t helped by the fact that manufacturers have been swift in slashing diesel-powered options, in some cases to nought.

Meanwhile, government policy and support of Alternative Fuel Vehicles, including buyer incentives, have supercharged AFV uptake in recent months and years. Pure EV sales increased 5.7 percent last year; AFV sales, including hybrids and plug-in hybrids, increased almost 35 percent.

The survey also quizzed drivers to find out where buyers’ faith and loyalties lie. Once again, it doesn’t look good for diesel. Around half said they believe diesel is actually a danger to the environment, while 56 percent said they were less likely to buy diesel than they were five years ago.

Diesel power

EVs still have some way to go in terms of public opinion, however, with over half of those surveyed suggesting they don’t know enough about them.

A whopping 63 percent fear EVs are too expensive for them, and good old range anxiety rears its head, with almost three in four worrying about the charging network.

Nevertheless, half of those surveyed still said they’d consider electric power if it was demonstrably as convenient and as cheap as fossil fuels. Over half suggested they’d buy into EVs as and when they became the norm.

Based on this survey, it seems that both the decline of diesel, and the rise of EVs, will be all but exponential going forward.

Read more: 

Diesel's decline

Diesel new car share could plummet to just 5% by 2030

Diesel's decline

Barely a week after we published news on a range of new clean diesel engines for the Hyundai Kona, are we solemnly reading more daunting predictions for the future of the fuel.

Consulting firm AlixPartners, which have been following the situation closely, reported that diesel would make up a mere 5 percent of the market share come 2030. For context, that’s an updated figure with a 4 percent reduction on the 9 percent market share prediction from a similar report in 2016.

Diesel has had more than its fair share of unwelcome time in the spotlight over the past couple of years, which is likely to have a negative impact on the battle to reduce CO2 figures (at a 4.6 percent rate of reduction up to 2021). The firm actually reports a 0.3 percent increase in g/km figures over the course of 2017.

While the high nitrogen oxide emissions are the headline offence for diesel, lower CO2 numbers were the crux of the movement in favour of the fuel in the years preceding the 2015 NOX emissions scandal.

Diesel's decline

Manufacturers face a  ‘technology choice’

While Alixpartners claims manufacturers are “facing a technology choice” between hybridisation and full EV applications to meet targets, other reports talk of a “pile-up of epic proportions” as manufacturers spend upwards of $200 billion developing EV models that won’t make money.

Regardless of their claims, the market appears to be going full steam ahead at the beginning of its wholesale transition to alternative power sources. You can read what we found at the reveal of the Advanced Propulsion Centre UK’s Roadmap Report Towards the 2040 fossil fuel sales ban here.

Last year saw a 17 percent drop in diesel car demand, with the month of May witnessing a year-on-year decrease of 23.6 percent according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

With questions over the validity of manufacturer’s emissions claims ongoing, that downward trend is likely to have continued throughout this year. Manufacturers like Hyundai and Mercedes-Benz insist that diesel isn’t dying, releasing clean diesel models with new technologies and even hybridisation in the case of Mercedes’ 300de models. Whether their investment will pay off remains to be seen.

Read more:

2018 Volvo S60

Volvo reveals its first diesel-free car in decades

2018 Volvo S60The new Volvo S60 has been revealed at the firm’s first U.S. manufacturing plant in Charleston, South Carolina – and it’s not only the first American-built Volvo, it’s also the firm’s first car in decades not to feature a diesel engine.

It’s a bold move by Volvo, because the S60 is competing in the same sector as the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. This is a marketplace dominated by diesel.

It’s also one dominated by sales to company car fleets, though, and Volvo will be hoping the ultra-low emissions of its S60 diesel alternative, the S60 Twin Engine plug-in hybrid, will easily sway them.

2018 Volvo S60

BMW has already seen demand exceed supply for its 330e iPerformance plug-in hybrid, suggesting the sector is primed to switch from diesel by reputation-conscious companies who want to be seen to do the right thing.

The diesel-free S60 range, which goes on sale in the UK from early 2019, is part of Volvo’s commitment to completely phase diesel out: it’s already said it will not develop another range of diesel engines, and from 2019, every new car it introduces will, like the S60, be electrified.

Exciting S60

2018 Volvo S60

“The new S60 is one of the most exciting Volvo cars we’ve ever made,” said Håkan Samuelsson, president and CEO of Volvo Cars. “It is a true driver’s car that gives us a strong position in the U.S. and China saloon markets, creating more growth opportunities for Volvo Cars.”

The saloon version of the new Volvo V60 estate, it will be offered with regular T5 and T6 petrol turbo engines, but the star powerplants will be the two turbocharged and supercharged plug-in hybrids. The T6 Twin Engine AWD produces 340hp, and the T8 Twin Engine AWD puts out 400hp – which can be tweaked further, to 415hp, by a Polestar Engineered engine upgrade.

Polestar will also do over the wheels, brakes and suspension to ensure the S60 can handle the extra power…

2018 Volvo S60

All S60s should drive well, though. The car uses Volvo’s acclaimed Scalable Product Architecture, or SPA, which helps make cars such as the V90, XC60 and XC90 so impressive.

Volvo R&D senior vice president Henrik Green reckons it will be “one of the best sports saloons on the market… the active chassis and drive modes deliver excellent control and an engaged performance that makes this a driver’s car”.

Needless to say, it will be one of the safest cars in its sector too – if not THE safest.

2018 Volvo S60

Volvo will even let you subscribe to it, if you don’t want to buy it. The Care by Volvo offer provides a car for no down payment, with the flat-fee monthly subscription taking care of everything apart from fuel. It “makes having a car as transparent, easy and hassle-free as having a phone,” reckons Volvo.