Tuesday 22 September 2015

#Turbogate: the demise of Diesel?

Two weeks ago, Defra snuck out a report saying that Diesels were a key source of urban pollution, that aggressive action was going to be needed —despite the fact that Euro6 cars were significantly less polluting than their predecessors.

It was pushed out on a Saturday, while the labour party elections took the headlines, and primarily got coverage in the bike press. Some of the press coverage called out the fact that car manufacturers could ship cleaner cars in the US showed that they could do more.

It's interesting to wonder why Defra stuck it out on that Saturday. You'd think that this was a significant enough crisis that they'd want to highlight it, to create action. Yet they didn't. Assume there's been some power struggle between DfT "more roads are good", the Treasury, which also believe that more roads are good and clearly chose not to offer any mitigation funds, and the cabinet, who recognised that a crack down on diesels was going to be politically toxic. My delegating it to a local-government level, it's the councils that get the blame —not central government.

Since then, VW's Turbogate scandal has arrive, showing that

  1. Cheating on emissions tests is ingrained into the companies to the extent they deliberately program their cars to cheat.
  2. Claims Euro 6 diesels will reduce urban pollution are bollocks.
  3. European car manufacturers don't give a fuck about the health of European and US citizens —let alone those in other countries.
The final point shows that Diesel car manufacturers are the new cigarette companies: willing to let their customers die in exchange for short-term profits.

Well, turbogate is here, and VW will be in the "who knew what, when" phase. The higher up the company the decision to cheat has gone (or the current position of those who knew of the cheating), the more serious it will be.

The UK and the rest of Europe cannot ignore this. They cannot lie to themselves that diesel pollution will go away as the fleet of cars, vans and buses upgrades. The governments are going to have to rush to do real-world tests, to identify which cars really are the most polluting —and push those that most diverge from the rigged tests to get fixed. It's going to reduce fuel efficiency and performance, so reduce the merits of diesel —but that is fine, because there are alternatives. Petrol and petrol hybrid cars in particular.

This cannot be brushed under the carpet.

And VW? Fucked.

Do you know their  2011-2014 model was only available in the EU in a diesel form. In the US, alongside the rigged diesels, they were happy to sell a petrol version, but here in the UK, diesel only. Models that we now know to be 4-40X more polluting than the US standards. Anyone who owns one of those cars has just taken a hit on resale value. With warnings from Defra of likely restrictions on diesel cars to come, all modern diesel cars are equally at risk —especially while there is suspicion of other car manufacturers cheating. With the EU companies being the ones who embraced diesel the most: VW, BMW, Mercedes, Renault and Peugeot in particular, French and German cars just took a hit. People selling off their petrol cars, on the other hand, are probably going to see an increase in resale value —there's less of them nowadays, and they are about to become more popular.

Meanwhile: nobody in their right minds should be buying a diesel car.

As for cyclists, maybe its time to stage some protests outside VW shops, "stop killing us' would make a good slogan.

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