Diesel Is On The Rise, And So Are The Health Risks

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Diesel powered vehicles are hitting Australian roads at a rate more than double their petrol counterparts, but while more drivers may be seeing a reduction in fuel costs, medical experts are warning that health concerns surrounding the fuel will lead to significant health costs.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) annual snapshot of all vehicles registered for use on Australian roads shows that the total number of vehicles fuelled by diesel increased by 293,217, in comparison to 114,337 petrol powered vehicles added to the Motor Vehicle Register since 2015.

"The 2016 Motor Vehicle Census tells us there are over 18 million registered motor vehicles in Australia in 2016, which is an increase of 2.1 per cent since last year. This includes over 16 million cars and light commercial vehicles,” said Amanda Clark, ABS Director of Transport and Tourism.

Oxides of nitrogen (and many other chemicals in exhaust fumes) and particulate matter are being increasingly implicated in heart, respiratory and lung disease as well as some forms of cancer, according to Doctors for the Environment Australia (DEA) -- a not-for-profit group of medical doctors raising awareness of the link between damage to the environment and health.

DEA also points out that the increase in diesel vehicles means that greenhouse gas emissions are increasing in spite of improvements in engine performance standards.

In November this year, all new passenger vehicles will be required to conform to Euro 5 emission standards. While these are a vast improvement on the current Euro 4 standards, especially by reducing particulate matter for diesel engines by 90 per cent, in most of the developed world even more strict Euro 6 standards have been in place for over 2 years.

The Euro 5 diesel standard allows for 225 per cent more oxides of nitrogen than Euro 6, so we will still be well short of our overseas counterparts in the control of polluting and toxic oxides which contribute to photochemical smog, DEA wars. Petrol engines at Euro 5 standard emit one third the oxides of nitrogen than do diesel engines.

"Unless Australia moves rapidly to Euro 6 standards, we should start to phase out diesel-fuelled vehicles especially as passenger vehicles and move to electric vehicles," DEA says. "If we don't, Victorian and other Australians will be breathing in more pollution than our counterparts in the UK, Paris and so on."



    Being an Aussie, I cringe at the ignorance of the Australian public in general. What person with an ounce of common sense or scientific education would buy a diesel vehicle?

      You know that our whole marketing strategy for practically anything that business tries to sell is reliant on consumers being ignorant and lacking common sense? You have just described a minority of the population. Scientifically educated... Hah

      Well the 1500km range my Prado gets is rather useful. However I just replaced a 2.5L Turbo Petrol with a 6.2L V8 and ironically it gets better economy on the highway and the same usage, or only 0.5L higher around town, yet it puts out nearly double the kw.

      I like to think I have both of the things you mention but I still own a diesel vehicle.
      It carries and tows large loads much more economically than a petrol would.
      But the main reason is it has a much larger range than a petrol equivalent which is necessary in many of the places I go.
      As with most things, horses for courses.

    Trolling? Seems like a provocative comment to start an argument.

      Nope, just frustration from dealing with the public for 30 years or so, trying to educate them is like speaking to mice. For a clever country, we certainly aren't!

        We're a country of tight-arses. Despite my advice, my partner bought a diesel Mitsubishi ASX because "it is more economical". The fraction of extra economy is apparently worth the poor emissions, extra purchase cost, extra service costs and, of course, the fact that all diesels sound and feel like goddamn trucks. I'm not bitter or anything....

          Really? Have you tried the latest golf or the mercedes and bmw diesel models?

          You want performance:
          (and the economy isn't bad either)

          But if you really want economy:

          You can also run on biodiesel.

          There's a reason a lot of European car makers are actually producing diesel powered cars.

          Unfortunately, diesel in Aus hasn't been consistently cheaper in more than a decade, hell, probably closer to 20 years. So it's no longer valid to assume people buy them because the fuel is cheaper - since it isn't.

          Sadly, it looks like Mitsubishi may be guilty (like VW) of rigged emissions tests. Although I'm not sure which particular models are affected.

          If however, the ASX isn't affected, then the diesel gets 5.8km/l at 153g/km emissions, in contrast the petrol model gets 7.6km/l at 179g/km emissions. So it's a winner on both economy and emissions.

          But by all means buy a petrol because it's better for the environment.

          BTW, if you're seeing extra service costs there's something wrong. Diesels are often cheaper to service for "regular" services. It's only if something major goes wrong that they become an expensive beast.

          Last edited 01/08/16 5:22 pm

    Yeah ask Paris how's diesel going for them :P

      Good point, the French make some nice Diesel engines yet they are looking at banning them totally! DPF's just turn the bad particles into smaller bad particles.

    I love the old Diesel is cheaper argument. This might be the case in Europe were diesel is generally 10 to 20 % cheaper then unleaded petrol and road tax is lower as well. But in Australia for a lot of cars I don't get the argument.

    Firstly, Diesel is rarely the cheapest option at the pump.

    Secondly, while diesel engines use less fuel when compared it to a petrol engine in the same car it usually comes at a price. Especially used diesel cars seem to come at a premium.

    I think people don't actually to the maths on how many kilometers they drive per year. I have done it now for a few cars and unless you drive in excess of 25k per year the savings don't seem worth it.

      From a business case it adds up - other wise 30 Tonne trucks would be petrol.

      But from a Mum & Dad perspective they are a poor choice especially if you pay extra for it.

      Diesel is on the way out, small turbo petrols with direct injection and high compression are closing in on Diesel output with double the power and almost the same economy, but you will never replaced the higher energy content of diesel, so there is always an inherent efficiency advantage to the oilers.

        To be fair a big part of the reason trucks (and 4wds, Utes and farm machinery) use diesel is because they tend to provide more torque at lower RPM. Commercial trucks also get a discount on fuel prices in QLD (or at least they used to), non-commercial diesel users used to get the discount as well but it was removed years ago.

        Diesel is only fractionally higher in energy per litre than petrol.

        Remember your applied thermodynamics class, its mainly in the efficiency of the diesel cycle compared to the otto cycle. But then many modern gasoline engines don't use the traditional otto cycle either, it gets complicated, yep.

        Last edited 02/08/16 3:08 pm

      Actually, for the past 12 months or so, disiesel has definitely been the cheapest fuel at the pump most of the time. It has been consistently sitting under $1.20 a litre, where petrol gets up to nearly $1.40 at the top of the cycle and only dips below $1.20 for a few days a month. It's horrible and I hate it but it is now the cheapest fuel, other than LPG, of course.

        wow.... around the corner currently: petrol (91) 101.9 diesel 116.9 LPG 57.8 petrol (95) 113.9

        down the road petrol(91) was recently under $1

        here diesel and LPG have no real cycle.

    “If we don’t, Victorian and other Australians will be breathing in more pollution than our counterparts in the UK, Paris and so on.” This is actually complete bullshit, simply because disiesel is the dominant fuel used in Europe and even a Euro 6 disiesel is dirtier than a Euro 4 petrol powered car. So the quality of our air is almost certainly better than any big city in Europe, even without Euro 5.

      The dangers of diesel fuel emissions have been known for decades - they are unequivocally much worse than petrol.

        Actually a simple google search will show the matter is not that simple. I've read articles in both directions. And a lot of the negativity I've read refers to "diesels manufactured before 2005" so they're not actually looking at current engines.

        Read the whole article, it starts off being negative about diesel (because yes in theory NO2 and particulates are bad) but talks about mandatory filters that are meant to be on all Euro diesels which eliminate 99.9% of particulates. If you can't be bothered to follow the link;

        “A diesel engine with a filter removes 99.99% of black carbon emissions and today all the diesel cars have filters, so there are virtually no black carbon emissions anymore,” he said. “We can see the filters are working because the concentrations of black carbon are going down year by year.”


          All the diesel cars in europe have (had for years) exhaust filters, they aren't required in Australia, yet.

          Isn't our diesel far worse quality than what is typically sold in europe? that results in more pollutants in general.

            They're already Euro 5 compliant (on newer vehicles anyway).

            For light duty diesel vehicles, particulate traps are necessary in most vehicles to meet the very low particle emission limits in the Euro 5 standards adopted in ADR79/03 and ADR79/04.


            As for fuel Australian standards are pretty close to EU ones.

            Most problems with Aussie diesel quality are related more to individual resellers (corrosion, water and other contaminants in the tanks) than the diesel being supplied.

            Doesn't mean they can't do better, but at least some of the negative articles talking about health problems from particulates are 7 years old (or more) and they don't factor into account the better anti-pollution measures in place.

    Just to throw my 2 cents in, reducing particulate matter works because the particulate matter counters are not being re-calibrated to smaller levels.
    For example, you make a filter that stops size 2 but size 1 gets through and since size 1 is not being measured everyone is happy (until size 1 accumulates in your body and kills you).
    Worse yet, the smaller the size the less defense/ability your body has to get rid of it.
    tldr; we're all screwed.

    I love how "clean and pure" petrol is made out to be.
    Unleaded petrol contains some of the nastiest carcinogenic chemicals known to man, benzine being one. Petrol does not burn in an air rich mixture like diesel. Petrol combustion produces even smaller particulates than diesel, and the new generation of direct injection petrol engines are even worse. Petrol emissions rely entirely on the catolitic converter functioning properly, is maintaining a 600c operating temperature. Rain and cold weather, and the new obsession with stop-start technology lets the cat cool.

    But the massive pollution that is emitted by shipping is quietly ignored. They burn the worst possible fuel, the left overs mostly of crude after petrol and diesel has been refined from it.
    Just 15 of the worlds largest container ships, which incidentally are claimed to me the most environmentally friendly ships ever, emit as much pollution as the whole worlds cars.

    But we quietly ignore that.

    I'm surprised that diesel vehicles are rising once again, particularly now that Mazda have just deleted the Diesel XD Astina & will soon be reducing the Mazda 6 diesel range as well. Holden , VW , ALFA and many others etc have either dropped or reduced their diesel car ranges from our market. Yet BMW , MERC , AUDI & most other manufacturers have compensated by adding extra SUV diesels to their ranges. Yes despite health concerns, there are still many reasons to buy a diesel sedan, wagon, hatch or SUV. Travel 25,000km a yr & diesels benefits far outweigh an equivalent petrol. The fact that diesel is on average anywhere from 5-8c/ltr cheaper than ULP makes it more appealing. No, servicing costs ARE NOT substantially more than a petrol & nor are spare parts. Avoid dealers for servicing if possible, but if the car has a capped price plan, stay with the dealer until the plan ends. You won't void a new car warranty going to a specialist Euro / American vehicle mechanic etc, but you will save substantial money on parts, & servicing compared to what a dealer will charge for the same service. So effectively a diesel is still a good proposition.

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