By on November 6, 2019

It’s not just the increased taxation on diesel fuel that’s prompting Europeans to throw in the towel on compression ignition. Look to local lawmakers for Reason Number One why diesel, which just a few years ago comprised the majority of new car sales in the UK, is suddenly less popular than this writer was in high school.

Following similar moves by select German cities and other jurisdictions, the UK city of Bristol has become the first municipality in that country to approve a diesel ban, with fines set to be levelled against anyone caught entering the city with a non-spark engine. Amazingly, this motley crew of second-class vehicles includes transit buses.

The decision by Bristol city council wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment thing, nor was it entirely its decision to make. With some of the highest nitrogen oxide levels in the country, Bristol had been ordered from on high to “do something” — and when you ask politicians to do something, and do it right now, they usually come down with a hammer.

As the quickest way to alleviate smog is to get rid of its sources, council approved a ban on diesel-powered vehicles in the city core (“central ban zone”) from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., with anyone caught violating the perimeter hit with a nine-pound fine, BBC reports. Pending federal approval (the UK government will require legislation to make the ban legal), the ban is expected to go into effect in 2021.

Other cities, including Birmingham and London, could soon follow Bristol’s lead.

Porsche cayenne diesel

A wider “clean air zone” surrounds the central ban zone, and it’s this wider perimeter that owners of diesel-powered cars and trucks will have to pay to cross, not just the central area. Operators of heavy trucks and buses will face a daily charge of 100 pounds ($129) per vehicle, should they cross this line. Taxis and private cars would pay $11.60 per day.

Ever-vigilant plate recognition cameras would ensure no one gets through untaxed.

Interestingly, but perhaps not surprisingly, little in the way of information was provided about how the city would mitigate the resulting increase in costs borne by its residents. Lip service was provided, though. Heavy trucks deliver goods, and fees imposed on the transportation of those goods are reflected in the final purchase price of the goods being delivered. Transit services would similarly have to impose a higher fare on bus riders, at least in the absence of some kind of government subsidy.

In Bristol’s defense, a number of issues relating to the plan have yet to be ironed out.

“Protecting the most vulnerable people from pollution is central to these plans and we have ensured that all impacts have been carefully considered. If approved, mitigation measures will support those most affected, especially those living in the most deprived communities,” said Mayor Marvin Reeves, without elaborating on what those measures would be.

Stating “It’s hard to overstate how significant a policy intervention this is,” BBC Radio Bristol politics reporter Pete Simson remarked, “This is a first, no other UK city is introducing an outright diesel ban, and it will require the government to introduce new legislation.”

Indeed, some feel the ban goes too far. Alan Peters of local bus company Abus called the move “excessive,” claiming his company would need to spend $1.25 million pounds to upgrade vehicles on routes entering the ban zone.

“They should be encouraging the use of buses rather than increasing the cost,” he said.

Industry groups weren’t pleased to hear of the move, either. As reported by Autocar, Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders CEO Mike Hawes said “this proposed blanket ban, which goes against government’s guidelines, fails to distinguish between modern vehicles and decades-old technologies and will only cause confusion for drivers while also undermining efforts to boost air quality.”

Automotive services company RAC, Britain’s equivalent of AAA, suggested drivers of diesel vehicles would find other non-targeted routes into the city, leading to congestion in otherwise traffic-sparse neighborhoods, offsetting the clean-air gains the city hopes to achieve. Not only that, owners of said vehicles might find themselves locked into a financing contract on a vehicle they can no longer get much use out of. Others might be unable to afford a new, non-diesel car.

With municipalities across Europe increasingly looking to diesel and even blanket internal combustion bans to reduce air pollution and lower greenhouse gasses, it’s no wonder diesel drivers are nervous.

According to the European Automobile Manufacturers Association, demand for diesel passenger vehicles fell by 16.4 percent, year over year, in the second quarter of 2019. Across the EU, diesel’s market share now stands at 31.3 percent.

[Image: Murilee Martin/TTAC, Porsche]

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26 Comments on “UK City Signs Off on Diesel Ban, Leaving Thousands With Second-class Cars...”


  • avatar
    Lokki

    Watch this space!

    Coming soon!

    “Electric cars banned from U.K. city for causing ozone pollution!”

  • avatar
    stuki

    Fines always have, always will be, a silly and corrupting way to “punish” violators. But aside from that, no matter how clean brand new, perfectly maintained and fueled German diesels test in lab conditions, dense European cities are at least as polluted as the worst part of LA on the worst day. Outside of cities, modern diesels are perfectly fine. Arguably even preferable to gassers, if you believe in planetary death by soda bubbles, which most Europeans still seem to do.

    The gold standard would be plug in, hybrid diesels, I suppose. With proper all-electric city range, and a diesel for once you are out on the open highway outside cities. At least for larger, more expensive vehicles, this would see to be the way to go.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      The smog severity of European cities is more like Beijing and New Delhi than LA.

      Wild fires are LA’s biggest air pollution problem, yet it’s still never bad enough to cancel/divert air travel, like in London, Paris, etc.

      Unfiltered diesels are wildly toxic and they were still being encouraged/promoted in Europe until recently, ignoring the cancer/asthma/birth defects/blood poising/heart decease/etc causing effects of dirty diesels that the rest of the world clearly understood. I don’t know if that’s a crime or not.

      But I wouldn’t take my dog to London/Paris/etc. That’s animal abuse!

  • avatar
    NeilM

    My casual barometer for things automotive in the UK is renting a Hertz car at the airport, something I do two or three times a year.

    Firstly, for the last two years or so it’s been very unlikely they’ll rent me an actual car. Now, no matter what I specify in the reservation, it’ll always turn out to be a CUV of some sort. Only in the high priced classes (Audi, Mercedes) are there actual sedans. In fact, even in the exotic category, Hertz at Heathrow was offering a bright yellow Lambo Urus monster SUV.

    Also for the last couple years they’ve been giving me gas-engined vehicles instead of the previously ubiquitous diesels.

    The car rental companies know which way the wind is blowing, and since they turn over much of the fleet annually it’s soon apparent to customers.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      I just got back from a week and a half in Stuttgart. My rental from National (shared with Enterprise) was a VW Toureg Diesel that was a great vehicle, allbeit a bit large for city driving there. Magnificent on the Autobahn though and drove like I remember older German cars driving.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “With some of the highest nitrogen oxide levels in the country”

    Unlike CO2, NO2 is a real health hazard. I’d like to see a study of all NO2 sources in the region to understand how diesel vehicles contribute to it, before banning them outright. Perhaps this has been done already.

  • avatar
    TR4

    Three Bronx cheers for the knuckleheads who attended a meeting in Paris and decided the holy grail was low carbon footprint. Encourage motorists to go DIEsel with subsidized fuel prices. See how well that worked?

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    “Amazingly, this motley crew of second-class vehicles includes transit buses.”
    “Ever-vigilant plate recognition cameras would ensure no one gets through untaxed.”

    Oops! Tyrants, next time re-check your work before you turn it in for grading.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I feel for those who bought a diesel in the last few years because their vehicles will plummet in value. Seems if they want to get rid of diesels it might make more sense to give diesel owners something like a Cash for Clunkers. This would not fully compensate owners but it gives them something.

  • avatar
    ravenuer

    Suppose your diesel car has no outside identification that it’s a diesel(either it never did, or you ripped it off), how they gonna know?
    Just curious.

    • 0 avatar
      ThomasSchiffer

      @Ravenuer,

      In the handful of German cities which have a ban on older diesels the ‘criminal diesel drivers’ are caught via random police checks or worse via CCTV footage, the latter which is essentially a breach of privacy if one were to follow the newly enacted extremist and frankly disgusting European GDPR laws. On the CCTV footage, the license plates are checked and as a result the owners and the type of vehicle are found out.

    • 0 avatar
      NeilM

      Automated license plate readers connected to the car registration database. Piece of cake to identify the diesels.

  • avatar
    ThomasSchiffer

    Typical idiot European politicians, of which we currently have a lot to deal with.

    The reason we bought diesels in the first place was because governments encouraged us to due to their lower CO2 emissions and better fuel economy. Now, these same politicians which hysterically encouraged us to buy diesel cars want them banned and are promoting EVs (while ignoring the environmental pollution and human misery they create in the countries in which the raw materials for their batteries are mined).

    All this talk about ‘clean air’ in cities does not make sense to me when Europeans are world champions in public cigarette smoking. In fact, when I am traveling through my city on foot I am not bothered by the smell of modern gasoline/diesel cars – which I can hardly smell at all. But I am bothered by the people who pass me on foot, on bicycles or on these new E-scooters who happen to be smoking. If hypocritical European politicians are serious about clean air in cities, then I expect a radical ban on public smoking and hefty fines for those who caught doing it. Because like unfiltered automobile exhaust, cigarette smoking is extremely damaging to human health.

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      I was wondering who was still buying the Tobacco being grown here in the US, I probably see 5% as many smokers today as I would have seen 25 years ago.

      • 0 avatar
        ThomasSchiffer

        Even though smoking rates have dropped here, Western Europeans are still heavy smokers. If I remember the figures, the worst offenders are the Spanish, the French and then the Germans.

      • 0 avatar
        TMA1

        For what it’s worth, Chinese and Koreans are heavy smokers as well. Going into a bar in China is like going back in time to the era prior to indoor smoking bans on the US. My clothes will reek of smoke for days.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      Their acting to correct a wrong isn’t the part that makes them idiots.

      Secondhand smoke isn’t nearly as bad, but it’s a different issue. If you seriously think that’s the bigger problem, those politicians aren’t looking so dumb.

      • 0 avatar
        ThomasSchiffer

        @DenverMike,

        Second hand smoke is bad. Period.

        The war against Diesel is part of a grand plan of the EU to force us into EV-misery. The current crop of modern EURO6d diesels are clean. NOx is not an issue anymore thanks to improved urea aftercare.

        The EU is already going after gasoline engines. Their goal is 100% emission-free mobility and a reduction in private car ownership (aka more ‘car sharing’ or two to three cars allowed to an apartment in which 300 people live and have to book/rent these cars when they need them). That is their grand plan. I am not a fan of it.

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          Then the bans make absolutely no sense. In reality, it’s the older diesel cars/trucks/buses that are the problem, exponentially.

          Why are they targeting all diesels? I can only guess. Perhaps newer diesels will get some sort of waiver, once they can prove there’s no cheating by the OEM (or registered owner).

          But European gasoline cars have been full emissions since 1993, so pre-emissions (or faulty) gas cars are dying off rapidly on their own.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            I realize it’s a political clusterfuk, and it’s going to take decades until the air is clean (enough) in major Euro cities. So only drastic measures can make that happen.

            I’m surprised Euro citizens aren’t more upset, taking it to the streets, etc. Except law makers have science on their side.

            It’s a gigantic catastrophe, with Europeans dying and suffering, and obviously the mega trillion Euro health care impact related to unfiltered diesel exhaust toxins to the human body and unborn.

            But by far the biggest surprise is that dirty, pre emissions diesels were still being promoted/encouraged long after the effects of NOx poisoning/gassing were clearly and widely known (for decades!)

  • avatar

    This ban is a Massive Attack by the city of Bristol against citizens rights. But that’s okay – continue to elect idiots to represent you.


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