Before the Dieselgate scandal, environmental groups, campaigners, and governments were generally in favour of diesel vehicles. Every car owner was encouraged to go for diesel over petrol because it was the more environment-friendly alternative to petrol or gasoline.
Diesel-powered vehicles were marketed as being better than petrol-powered ones because, compared to the latter, they are more efficient and are capable of getting more mileage. Additionally, when driven in the same highway conditions and distance, diesel engines burn lesser CO2 or carbon dioxide compared to petrol engines.
However, diesel vehicles are known for their voluminous emissions of toxic particulate matter, which has been proven to impact human health.
To ensure more efficient fuel use, diesel engines use fuel to heat air. This process produces a group of toxic gases known as NOx or nitrogen oxides, which has dangerous components such as NO or nitric oxide, N2O or nitrous oxide, and the highly toxic NO2 or nitrogen dioxide. While gasoline engines also emit NOx, the amount they release is 30% less than that of diesel engines.
Over the years, however, new technology has been added to modern diesel vehicles as they have to adhere to emissions regulations. There are now filters applied to diesel engines that prevent excessive amounts of NOx to be emitted. Then again, fine particulate matter can still be released through diesel vehicle exhausts, so it’s the same story.
Diesel vehicle manufacturers need to have particulate filters, which need regular maintenance using a diesel exhaust fluid known as AdBlue, a combination of deionised water and urea. When sprayed into the exhaust system of a vehicle, this mixture can help lower diesel engines’ NOx or nitrogen oxide emissions. The use of AdBlue is part of the Euro 6 regulations and is mainly required for diesel vehicles that were manufactured beginning in 2016.
Gasoline or petrol-powered vehicles also have their own emissions systems, but these are self-regulating.
Old vs. new vehicles
The age of a vehicle is an essential factor in determining its safety level.
Older diesel vehicles release more air pollutants than newer diesel vehicles, particularly if you consider urban driving conditions, clean air, and human health. Therefore, they can cause more harm to the environment and the general population. Toxic air affects people of all ages.
Newer diesel vehicles, on the other hand, release lesser NOx emissions than gasoline or petrol vehicles because they are designed according to the latest emissions standards or regulations. Additionally, if these new diesel vehicles properly apply the necessary filters, their emissions will be significantly lowered.
Research that was published in Scientific Reports somewhat supports this as the study indicates reduced pollution is emitted by newer diesel vehicles compared to gasoline vehicles. According to the research, which was conducted by a team composed of members from six countries, modern diesel is much better and cleaner nowadays because of the filtration systems installed in them.
The study particularly focused on carbonaceous particulate matter, a pollutant that contains lung tissue-damaging black carbon. Its findings show that regulations that require the use of DPFs or diesel particle filters, such as the ones in Europe and North America, significantly help lower pollution levels in diesel vehicles.
So, using the report as a basis, one can safely say that, today, diesel vehicles are lesser pollutants compared to gasoline – but only if these are the newer diesel-powered ones.
Despite the studies and reports that come out in support of diesel engines, many car owners still think twice about buying diesel nowadays. This is mostly because of the Dieselgate scandal, which first broke in 2015.
The diesel emissions scandal started when the US government found defeat devices installed in Audi and Volkswagen diesel vehicles. Officials from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the California Air Resources Board alleged that the VW Group knew about the devices, which are intended to cheat emissions tests.
After VW, Mercedes-Benz and other carmakers were also implicated in the scandal. It has become the biggest and costliest scam ever to happen to the automotive industry.
A defeat device knows when a car or van is in an emissions testing laboratory. Once it detects such a test, it brings down emissions levels artificially to within the limits mandated by the World Health Organization.
When the vehicle is plying the roads in real-world road conditions, however, it emits high amounts of NOx emissions that surpass the limits drawn by the EU and WHO. So, in essence, the vehicle is a pollutant.
NOx emissions affect not only the environment but human health as well. As mentioned earlier, it has nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide. NO2, in particular, can have life-changing health impacts.
A person constantly exposed to nitrogen emissions can experience any of the following:
- Aggravated asthma
- Chronic lung function reduction
- Breathing problems (i.e. difficulty in breathing)
- Fluid in the lungs
- Increased risk for certain cancers
- Increased susceptibility to cardiovascular diseases
- Mental health issues (ex. anxiety and depression)
- Spasm of the vocal cords or laryngospasm
Exposure to high levels of NOx emissions can also lead to premature death.
Affected by the scandal?
If your vehicle is possibly affected by the diesel emissions scandal, you can file an emissions claim against your carmaker and get compensated for all the trouble it has caused you.
Get in touch with ClaimExperts.co.uk right away to determine if you are eligible for a diesel claim. It’s the ideal way to start the compensation claims process.