Likelihood of citywide bans is slowly pushing diesel cars out of Europe

By James Ayre, Clean Technica, May 21st, 2017 

The threat of citywide bans in various large cities in Europe seems to be slowly killing the diesel car market, going by recent sales figures in key markets there. In particular, diesel car sales in France and Spain have been falling particularly rapidly. And sales in other large markets such as the UK and Germany have seemingly been reacting to the threat of eventual outright bans as well, though a bit more slowly.

Relating to this, March 2017 actually marked a 5-year low-water mark for diesel car sales in the 4 markets mentioned above (France, Germany, the UK, and Spain), according to the ICCT. Together, the four markets comprise roughly 60% of the new auto market in Europe — so a decline in diesel car sales in those markets is significant.

As a reminder here, the European Commission issued “final warnings” to the 4 countries above (as well as Italy) back in February relating to consistently high air pollution levels (nitrogen dioxide). Following this, city-level efforts to ban or de-incentivize diesel cars in the countries in question seem to have picked up a bit of steam.

With regard to the differences in the rate of decline in the four countries mentioned above, the ICCT does a good job explaining, so I’ll quote a bit from them:

“France had the highest diesel share in 2012 but was also ahead of the curve in phasing out diesel: In 2014, Paris already toyed with the idea of banning diesel cars and the French carbon tax, introduced in the same year, started to increase the price of diesel fuel. These developments led to a gradual decline in diesel shares over the years, and monthly diesel shares plunged further after several cities announced bans in late 2016 and early 2017. Paris announced that the city will ban diesel vehicles by 2025. In the meantime, four French cities, including Paris, will rely on a color-coded system of anti-pollution badges to restrict vehicle access to city centers during pollution peaks…

“In contrast to France, Germany’s diesel share has been stable since 2012, hovering around 48% of the new car market. Debates around banning diesel cars in German cities first surfaced when the federal government started discussing ‘blue badges’ in April 2016, and since then diesel registrations have gradually declined. Blue badges would only be awarded to Euro 6 (post-2014) diesel cars and would enable cities to ban older diesel cars from entering their centers. Several cities, including Berlin, Cologne, and Munich, have begun to discuss restrictions on diesel vehicles. Stuttgart has decided to ban pre-Euro 6 diesel cars when particulate levels exceed European thresholds.

“The Spanish diesel market rapidly contracted after Dieselgate broke, with the 12-month rolling mean declining from 64% in September 2015 to 55% in March 2017. During this time, Madrid announced that it would ban diesel vehicles by 2025 (though Mayor Manuela Carmena later denied committing to a diesel ban), and Barcelona decided to ban old (pre-2006 diesel and pre-2000 gasoline) cars from 2019 and to introduce temporary bans during pollution peaks from December 2017. Monthly diesel shares nosedived following these announcements.

“Like Germany, the UK saw relatively stable diesel shares before Dieselgate. Even after the scandal broke, the 12-month rolling mean fell by only 2.2 percentage points, the smallest decline among the four markets. But monthly shares dropped steeply throughout 2017, falling to 43% in March. This drop followed news of municipal initiatives to combat local air pollution. For instance, Liverpool’s mayor proposed temporary bans of diesel cars starting in 2022. Instead of banning diesel vehicles, London opted to introduce a £10 ‘Toxicity Charge’ for pre-Euro 4 cars in October 2017 and an Ultra Low Emission Zone in 2020, which will charge pre-Euro 6 cars £12.50 per day in central London.”

Elsewhere, talk of possible diesel car bans seem to be having a similar chilling effect on sales — which isn’t surprising, as not only are you potentially not going to be able to drive your car in large cities, but who are you going to sell it to? With the threat of low resale values hovering in the background, many consumers are unsurprisingly going with the petrol/gasoline powered options more and more in Europe.