On 16 May 2017, the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) published an analysis showing a receding share of newly registered diesel-fuelled vehicles. Furthermore, according to ICCT, the primary driver of this trend is public policy in Europe’s cities, coupled with the sway in public opinion following the ‘Dieselgate’ scandal.
According to the report, in the four biggest markets for diesel cars (Germany, UK, Spain, and France), the share of diesel-fuelled vehicles has been decreasing since the breakout of the ‘Dieselgate’ scandal. In the four countries, the biggest decline of diesel-fuelled vehicles was recorded in cities, which, through various initiatives. Targeting diesel-fuelled vehicles is particularly driven by the concerns over excessive NOx emissions. The report also states that more and more cities, such as Paris, London, Barcelona, Berlin, Stockholm, and Athens, are gradually moving towards reducing the share of diesel vehicles in urban areas to 0% within the next few years.
European governments have strong incentives to discourage diesel technology. In February 2017, the European Commission issued a final warning to five member states–the four listed above plus Italy–for failing to meet ambient air quality standards for nitrogen dioxide. National governments could face fines for these transgressions, which could in turn trickle down to cities. As a result, cities in these countries are now moving fast to phase out diesel vehicles, which account for 80% of all nitrogen oxide emissions from vehicles in Europe.
Meanwhile, a study of the latest diesel cars by the International Council for Clean Transportation (ICCT) says real-world emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) are, on average, seven times higher than safety limits allow. A separate ICCT study showed that latest diesel cars produce 10 times the NOx of heavy trucks or buses, which are more strictly regulated than cars.
While national governments wring their hands, it is cities that are taking the lead. In Germany, Berlin has already banned the oldest, highest-polluting diesel cars from its centre, while Munich is developing a clean air ban that will bring in some form of diesel ban in 2018. The Spanish capital, Madrid, has now introduced a system to halve the number of cars on the roads during smog outbreaks, based on odd or even number plates on alternate days; various other cities have experimented with similar trials.
In January, Oslo city council introduced a ban on diesel cars for the first time, halting their use completely for one day (during a high pollution alert). The city also plans to raise the road toll for diesel cars entering the city centre from 33 Krone (£3) to 58 Krone (£5.50) in rush hour. Stockholm is considering introducing low emission zones that would only allow electric cars or modern (gasoline Euro 5 and Diesel Euro 6) cars to enter the city centre.
Although nearly three-quarters of all the world’s Diesel cars are driven on European roads, bold moves are being made elsewhere, too. Hong Kong has introduced subsidies to help phase out older Diesel vehicles. Later this year Seoul will ban all Diesels made before 2006 from a city-centre low emission zone.
But it is in Mexico City, where mountains surrounding the metropolis help trap a semi-permanent blanket of smog over the city, that mayor Miguel Ángel Mancera has decided to ban Diesel completely by 2025.