Fuel for thought

Diesel will con­tinue to power farm­ing de­spite the drive for zero-emis­sions ve­hi­cles, re­ports

Irish Independent - Farming - - NEWS -

APART from the weather these past months, few top­ics have dom­i­nated the talk at marts, or any­where farm­ers meet up, as much as the fu­ture of diesel.

Pres­sure on diesel, be­cause of con­cern to health from its NOx emis­sions, has been in­ten­si­fy­ing for years as gov­ern­ments across Europe strive to end the use of fos­sil-fu­elled ve­hi­cles in a rel­a­tively short time.

“No new non-zero emis­sion ve­hi­cles to be sold in Ire­land post 2030” – pro­claims our Na­tional De­vel­op­ment Plan (Project Ire­land 2040) .

A spokes­woman for En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter De­nis Naugh­ten told us some time back the new plan rep­re­sents a sig­nif­i­cant “in­crease in the am­bi­tion” from pre­vi­ous pol­icy as it ex­tends the ‘electric-only’ rule “to all new ve­hi­cles”.

Taken lit­er­ally that means sales of new diesel, petrol, hy­brid cars, vans, SUVs, 4x4s, large com­mer­cials etc will be banned by, or be­fore, 2030. Ev­ery­thing will have to be emis­sions-free.

How is that go­ing to hap­pen? What does it re­ally mean? And what ex­actly will hap­pen to diesel and petrol cars?

First off, it is an am­bi­tious tar­get; some call it a pipe dream.

It is re­liant on so many fac­tors, not least that suf­fi­cient vol­umes of electric ve­hi­cles will, be­fore 2030, be able to cope with the per­sonal and busi­ness trans­port needs of so many — es­pe­cially those liv­ing and work­ing in agri­cul­ture.

In the short-term, the plan is cre­at­ing se­ri­ous un­cer­tainty about diesel.

Sales are fall­ing (by 20pc in the first quar­ter this year); petrol and hy­brid buy­ing is ris­ing.

There are in­di­vid­ual cases — such as Toy­ota’s an­nounce­ment that they won’t sell any new diesel pas­sen­ger cars here from 2019 — hav­ing a sub­stan­tial im­pact on pub­lic sen­ti­ment.

But we should not panic about diesel just yet.

In the­ory, new diesel (and petrol and hy­brid) cars are dead in 12 years if the Govern­ment’s plan bears fruit on time. Few are bet­ting it will, though. For one thing, they claim it is madly, overly am­bi­tious in its tar­gets and dead­lines.

They point to the daunt­ing task alone of re­cal­i­brat­ing a coun­try for electric power.

In the midst of all the un­cer­tainty and spec­u­la­tion a few things re­main clear.

Peo­ple, par­tic­u­larly farm­ers, ru­ral dwellers and long-com­mute driv­ers need an ef­fi­cient, rea­son­ably-priced method of trans­port — now and in the fu­ture.

Diesel re­mains alive and kick­ing for any­one do­ing 20,000km a year (some hy­brids might match them at that level). For many peo­ple diesel is a no-brainer and will be for many years.

Trade-in val­ues

It will take a long time for the an­tic­i­pated wave of new longer­range electric ve­hi­cles to be rel­e­vant for peo­ple putting up big mileage. A long, long time.

Prob­a­bly the big­gest sore spot in the whole diesel de­bate is the pre­vail­ing opin­ion that its one-time rock-solid tradein val­ues have plunged. Who wants to buy a car that will lose so much value? Much of that talk is rub­bish. A good sec­ond-hand diesel car, as even hy­brid-driven Toy­ota is at pains to point out, will be in strong de­mand for many years to come.

Most in­dus­try sources, un­der­stand­ably, give diesel a strong pres­ence for a long time.

Ford Ire­land chief Ciarán McMa­hon says they see diesel and petrol ve­hi­cles as a key part of their line-up “for the fore­see­able fu­ture”.

He says the feel­ing of most at an in­ter­na­tional SAE World Congress in Detroit re­cently was that the in­ter­nal com­bus­tion en­gine will con­tinue to dom­i­nate the in­dus­try for at least the next decade.

Mr McMa­hon added: “Many of the ‘work­horse’ ve­hi­cles that farm­ers de­pend on, such as trac­tors, 4x4s and com­mer­cial ve­hi­cles, will con­tinue to be over­whelm­ingly diesel-based as they are cur­rently the only power-trains that can get the job done for farm­ers.”

SKODA here say elec­tro-mo­bil­ity will not ar­rive to­day or to­mor­row.

Un­til electric ve­hi­cles be­come fea­si­ble for the ma­jor­ity of cus­tomers they are bank­ing on “an in­tel­li­gent mix of var­i­ous drive-train tech­nolo­gies in­clud­ing plug-in hy­brid, petrol and diesel”.

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