Number of diesel cars in Britain falls for the first time since 1994

Have we passed ‘peak diesel’? Number of diesel cars on UK roads falls for the first time since 1994 with 110,000 fewer licensed in 2019, show new figures

  • Figures reveal 12.29million new and old diesel cars were licensed in 2019 
  • Department for Transport statistics say 18.82mn petrol cars were licensed 
  • Steve Gooding, RAC Foundation director, says we may have hit ‘peak diesel’ 

The number of diesel cars on Britain’s roads has fallen for the first time in at least 25 years with new figures showing there were 110,000 fewer licensed in 2019 compared to the previous year.

Department for Transport data reveals it is the first drop in demand since records began in 1994, with 12.29million diesel cars being licensed in 2019, compared to 18.82million petrol cars. The totals include new and older models.

The number of alternatively-fuelled cars, such as hybrids and battery electrics, reached 78,000.

RAC Foundation director Steve Gooding says Britian could be past the peak of diesel usage as the number of licensed cars fell last year

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: ‘These figures hint at a motoring milestone – the possibility that we have hit or even passed ‘peak diesel’ – 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.

‘Last year also saw the first drop in the volume of diesel fuel sold since the financial crisis.’

Car manufacturers have partly blamed confusion over how diesel cars will be treated when clean air zones are introduced in towns and cities for their drop in popularity.

Bristol City Council is bidding to ban privately-owned diesel cars from part of the city at certain times.

Vans – the vast majority of which are diesel-powered – bucked the trend, with an increase of 113,000 to 4.12 million last year.

Mr Gooding said: “Manufacturers have struggled to develop cost-effective zero-tailpipe technologies to power these workhorse vehicles.”

Transport Minister Rachel Maclean said the number of new battery electric cars more than doubling last year demonstrates that ‘more drivers than ever before are choosing a greener path and making the switch’.

The Government has said the ban on sales of new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars and vans could be brought forward from 2040 to as early as 2032 in a bid to meet carbon reduction targets.

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