Are diesel fleets on borrowed time?

By Samantha Roff, Venson Automotive Solutions
Published: 14 July 2017

Samantha Roff of Venson Automotive Solutions discusses the future of diesel vehicles

In this year’s Spring Budget, the government confirmed its commitment to improving air quality. This was swiftly followed up with news of its £1 million grant to develop “pay as you pollute” tracking technology targeting diesel car drivers*. With plans for new parking charges, taxes and city driving bans being considered by cities up and down the UK, fleet managers need to future proof their fleet, as diesel vehicles become the target of government crackdowns on emissions and air quality.

Diesel company cars incur an additional 3% benefit-in-kind tax supplement up to a maximum of 37%, which the government has previously said would remain in place until April 2021. However, national and international pressure for governments to take action to cut demand for diesel vehicles could see tax rises announced as soon as the Autumn Budget.

However despite businesses being responsible for buying the vast majority of new vehicles sold in the UK, the motor industry and corporate voice has been little heard in defence of diesel. All diesel vehicles are being tarnished when the powers that be should be much more focused on removing the typically oldest and most polluting cars and commercial vehicles – and that also includes some petrol-engined models – from the roads. Those denigrating diesel as a fuel conveniently choose to ignore the huge technological strides motor manufacturers have made in recent years. Indeed, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders’ call today’s Euro6 emission compliant diesel engines “the cleanest in history – and light years away from their older counterparts”.

What is clear is that the government is directing fleets along the plug-in and ultra-low emission route, but that does not mean to say that diesel does not have its place when considering vehicle replacement programmes.

Ultimately, company vehicle selection comes down to whole life costs and fitness for purpose. Fleet decision-makers have a tightrope-like balancing act to perform that means future proofing their vehicle operating decisions against a changing landscape.

There is no definitive ‘right’ fleet fuel and, while diesel as well as petrol, pure electric, hybrid and plug-in hybrid cars all have their merits they also have their drawbacks – financial and operational – that must be taken into account in the decision-making process.

Therefore while it is not the end of the road for diesel, as legislators grapple with introducing measures to improve air quality and potentially change tact with their vehicle taxation strategy it does mean that diesel is no longer the exclusive option for corporate travel.

* https://www.theguardian.com/money/2017/mar/04/diesel-environment-ban-tax-duty-emissions-values