Doctor Diesel

The Big Question, again…

Dear Doc,


I have just trawled through the data pages of the August edition (issue 391) with the noble intention of possibly identifying an electric medium-sized SUV which would meet our present driving needs, which include two annual six week trips to Germany. I even looked at the baby SUVs and smaller cars, but the best ranges were little more than 200 miles, with the inconvenience of long charging times. In addition, most of those cars in question cost well in excess of £30,000! 


But then I should say that we have just returned from a trip to Germany in our 2018 Kia Sportage 3 CRDi, having fuelled up in Luxembourg at the equivalent of 95p per litre, to discover that at the end of the 530-mile trip, the computer was predicting a further 200 miles. I eventually chickened out at just over 700 miles, and then refuelled! The car itself was heaving with the trappings of six weeks of self-catering in various apartments, plus copious quantities of very generously priced wine and beer. For example, a very palatable Sicilian red costing just £1.95 per bottle. An electric car would not have got us anywhere near the tunnel at Calais. 


My conundrum is how can we contribute to saving the planet by not driving a disgusting diesel car, given our present driving needs? I think I know the answer, which is: “Impossible at this present time.” I have recently done the London Transport ULEZ test for our car, which it passed with flying colours – no ULEZ charge due for this Euro-Vl vehicle. So much for the diesel demonisers. I would be very interested to hear your erudite views. Maybe you know something that I don’t? 


Yours sincerely,

Alan Bradley


Hello Alan, I guess that you have answered your own questions really. A significant point is that your current Sportage is not a “disgusting diesel”, other than to those with extreme prejudices, and those who digest the rubbish churned out by some factions of the media. Your recent European trip shows that, for practicality and economy, on long trips there is still nothing to touch a good diesel. Oh you foolish manufacturers, who are feeding the nonsense down the line to their retailers, and thence to their sales people, and reducing their diesel ranges. I’ve had more than a few people relating stories of non-availability of diesels and the sales people trying to talk, or scare, them out of diesel power!


Let’s look at the situation: There’s a continuing world CO2 emissions problem, and the latest clean diesels can continue to make a contribution to lowering CO2 output from transport, as long as they are “clean” in significant other ways, which they can, with Euro-6 and its tougher successors. I’ve had feedback from emissions specialists that tell me that in some badly polluted city situations, clean diesels are actually reducing the particulate pollution, by cleaning up the air with their DPFs, and producing cleaner exhaust gases, in terms of particulates, than the air that enters their engines – and that adjacent humans are breathing. I await more details on this. NOx is a problem that seems to be now getting under control with RDE (Real World Driving) and the latest tougher WLTP laboratory test procedures, and the realisation of manufacturers that they cannot cut corners with NOx controls.


As we know, the serious medical issues are focused on urban locations, with high particulate and NOx pollution. The action to eliminate the problems are fragmented. Exercises in specific areas, in parts of London, such as Putney High Street, have shown that local measures can considerably alleviate the PM (Particulate Matter) and NOx problems. Basically, put your cleanest buses on the routes in question (not enough of them yet for everyone to have them!), and maybe you close a few streets to all vehicles, and perhaps tighten up on the taxi fleets – but not too much, or too quickly! What about the areas that gave up their clean buses? Serious efforts can clean up the worst areas, but the stinking hypocrisy of yummy mummies protesting about polluted streets where they drop off and pick up their kids for school, in their V6 4x4s, with the engines left idling, is simply breathtaking!


But, returning to the general picture, all this worrying about fast charging and EV range does not involve the majority of car owners, for most of the year, and there is no huge benefit in getting lots of expensive upmarket EVs on the road, apart maybe from possibly subsidising the development of cheaper EVs for everyman – EV Fiestas, Golfs, and Sportages that should sell for £15-25K. I’ve highlighted the serious electricity supply and demand problems in How it Works. For many people, the “Clean EV Dream” for commuting to work, shopping, and weekend outings etc., then simple home charging overnight for a 100-mile range is probably adequate. For holidays and longer trips, you would perhaps hire a bigger SUV with a better range, and as long as you can drive to your destination in perhaps 300-mile hops, with a halfway lunch stop and recharge, you have a once or twice a year solution. This sort of approach should evolve, but I don’t see that happening yet. Every new EV launch takes my breath away… the new Honda e city car is going to have a limited range and cost £30K plus evidently! Dream on! Who is going to buy one out of their own pocket?


But to come back to your question, I think you are doing your very best right now, and should continue to do that, with a clear conscience. The full facts about the CO2 manufacturing cost of EVs, and the rare metal and lithium resources required, are not readily available, and this might be of serious concern. I’m suspicious that most EVs have a significant mileage payback handicap, and the future residual values are worrying. 


I don’t think we are set on a clear enough course for electric transport, worldwide, or in Britain. Government guidance is minimal, the motor industry is floundering, and I do worry about it all.


Stick with your Sportage Alan, don’t change it until you really need to, which possibly means a long time, as you may not find another one to replace it! Then things might be clearer, who knows? 


Very best regards

Doc Diesel

One Response

  1. If you are driving long distances, not in towns or city population- dense centres, then there are not so many to harm, but do not overlook the greenhouse effects of NOx in an exhaust, is the the NOX measured in the ULEZ test? Scientists are claimng NO2 to be 250 times the potency CO2 for greenhouse effects on the climate,

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