Diesel cars on UK roads are down for first time in a quarter of a century
There were 111,000 fewer diesel cars in the UK in 2019 than the year before as people switched from polluting vehicles to greener ones.
The UK has reached a motoring milestone, passing ‘peak diesel’ as the number of diesel cars on the roads fell for the first time in at least 25 years.
There were 111,000 fewer diesel cars in the UK in 2019 than the year before as people switched from polluting vehicles to greener, electric ones, according to government figures.
Although sales of diesel vehicles have been falling for a while this is the first time that the total number on the roads has declined, according to data from the Department for Transport.
“These figures hint at a motoring milestone – the possibility that we have hit or even passed ‘peak diesel’,” said Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation.
Collapse in diesel sales
“This was due to the collapse in sales of new diesel cars together with the scrapping of older diesels, which have either come to the end of their useful lives or whose owners fear increasing restrictions on their use because of air quality concerns,” he said.
The Government has said the ban on sales of new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars could be brought forward from 2040 to as early as 2032 to help meet carbon reduction targets.
There were 12.29 million diesel cars on the road last year, compared to 12.4 million in 2018.
The proportion of diesel cars on Britain’s roads has now fallen for the past two years. After holding a record share of 39.6 per cent in 2017, it fell to 39.3 per cent in 2018 and 38.5 per cent, last year.
First decline in 25 years
It is the first decline in diesel numbers since records began in 1994, when there were just 1.58 million diesel cars licensed.
There were 18.82 million petrol cars on Britain’s roads in 2019, an increase of 319,000 vehicles on the 18.5 million cars licensed the previous year.
Meanwhile, there were 89,000 pure battery-electric vehicles, a significant increase on the 55,300 licensed in 2018.Full hybrid electric-petrol cars increased to 145,000, from 115,500 the previous year.
The number of mild hybrid cars increased by about a fifth to 514,000. Like full hybrids, these use an electric motor alongside a combustion engine but they are different because these two power sources can’t be used independently.
Instead, the smaller electric motor is used solely to assist the engine.
“The steady decline of polluting diesel cars is welcome news, but we need much tougher government action to properly tackle toxic traffic fumes,” said Greenpeace UK chief scientist Doug Parr.
“Banning the sale of all new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030 is one critical step to achieving this.”
“Lockdown has resulted in a dramatic drop in air pollution right across the country – we must bring in measures now to prevent a bounce-back in toxic fumes as restrictions are eased. The government may have announced plans to boost cycling and walking, but it must buttress this with clean air zones and a steer to sustain public transport through the covid crisis. And until it scraps the £27 billion road programme and redirects this money towards clean travel, these plans will remain incoherent.”