Study: Diesel Cars Emit More CO2 than Gasoline Cars

09.18.17 | Blog | By:

According to a new study from the EU NGO Transport & Environment, diesel cars not only pollute the air but also emit more CO2 than petrol cars. A lifecycle analysis of vehicle emissions proves that diesel cars over their lifetime emit 3.65 tons of CO2 more than a petrol equivalent. T&E notes:

“This analysis debunks carmakers’ claim that diesel cars are needed to meet their climate targets. A glance at carmakers’ marketing brochures and websites demonstrate that the difference between comparable diesel and petrol engines is negligible: from zero to a few grams of CO2. But diesel cars typically cost €2,000-3,000 more than petrol ones. Currently available alternatives such as petrol hybrid vehicles are priced similarly to diesel but emit around 20-25% less CO2.”

The figure below shows a summary of the analysis:

Another, separate, study released the same day as T&E’s found that 10,000 people die prematurely every year across Europe because of nitrogen oxide (NOx) pollution from diesel vehicles and half of these deaths are caused by emissions exceeding the EU limits.  A study author noted:

“If diesel car emissions were as low as petrol car emissions, three quarters or about 7,500 premature deaths could have been avoided.”

The countries with the highest number of premature deaths attributable to fine particles from diesel cars, vans and light commercial vehicles are Italy, Germany and France. That is because of both their large populations and a high share of diesel cars. However, the risk per capita is almost twice as high in Italy as in France. The lowest risks are in Norway, Finland and Cyprus where risks are at least fourteen times lower than the EU28+ average.

Does this mean there will be a de-dieselization and a move toward “gasolinization?” That might make a lot of sense. But the push from the EU Commission, NGOs such as T&E and others is going to be toward EVs. And, the public relations nightmare for diesel and its impact on health and environment will continue.

Meantime, the French government is planning a series of new incentives and taxes that are in part targeted to phasing out polluting diesel vehicles. The 2018 government budget that will be presented next week will include a proposal for a €500-1,000 incentive for all citizens that own gasoline ICEV registered before 1997 and diesel ICEVs registered before 2001. The incentive can be used for new or used vehicles that meet low CO2 standards. The incentive will double for low-income households.  All car owners who switch to an EV will receive a €2,500 incentive on top of a €6,000 subsidy if the measure is approved. The government estimates that 3 million car are eligible for the incentive and the Environment Ministry hopes that 100,000 of these vehicles will be replaced next year. Some three million old cars are eligible for the conversion incentive and the ministry hopes around 100,000 of these will be replaced next year.

Tammy Klein is a consultant and strategic advisor providing market and policy intelligence and analysis on transportation fuels to the auto and oil industries, governments, and NGOs. She writes and advises on petroleum fuels, biofuels, alternative fuels, automotive fuels, and fuels policy.