Europeans pay 14 cent more on average in tax for a litre of petrol than for diesel – indirectly subsidising diesel cars to the order of €2,600 per vehicle, a new study by sustainable transport group Transport & Environment (T&E) finds. This 30% tax gap in favour of diesel is a key reason for diesel cars’ majority share of new sales in Europe and leads to air quality problems where nine out of 10 diesel cars fail to meet NOx limits when driven on the road. 
The gap between petrol and diesel taxes in Europe is quite unique in the world and is the main reason why diesel engines have taken off in Europe and not worldwide. This study analyses fuel price and tax trends since 1980 and adds a specific analysis of diesel tax paid by trucks. It finds that in 2014 the gap in tax levels for diesel and petrol paid by motorists was €0.14/l, which is 30% lower than petrol per unit of energy or tonne of CO2.
T&E’s German member Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH) commissioned emissions testing on a Opel Zafira 1.6 CDTi (Euro 6b, 6,000 km) with a testing house at the Swiss Berner Fachhochschule.
This is my modest attempt to add something to the almighty #autogate scandal that detonated like a bomb on 18 September, four intense weeks ago. Here we go. First, about the industry. All the evidence we have assembled has led us to say this affair is the tip of the iceberg. Predictably the industry is trying to paint it as the opposite - an isolated incident for which a few low-level rogue engineers were responsible.
Europe’s response to the failure of EU vehicle emissions testing exposed by Volkswagen’s admission of cheating must be a complete overhaul of how cars are approved for sale. That was the response of T&E as further evidence emerged of the growing gap between official test results and cars’ actual carbon emissions on the road.
Volkswagen has been left with its reputation in tatters, as well as facing huge fines and a recall of 11 million of its diesel cars worldwide, after it was caught cheating emissions tests by US regulators. The company’s CEO resigned days after the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the admission of software in its vehicles designed to cheat the tests.
The car industry lobby is second only in size to the financial industry in lobbying the EU institutions, according to the transparency register. The sector’s influence on EU legislation for car emissions limits and testing has come into sharp focus since Volkswagen’s cheating was uncovered in the US yet went undetected in tests in Europe where diesel cars account for more than one in two cars sold.
The new Volkswagen boss, Matthias Müller, who was appointed following his predecessor’s resignation over the emissions scandal, was head of Porsche when the high-performance sports car company appeared to be caught drafting EU legislation to weaken noise pollution laws.
Loans to Volkswagen from the European Investment Bank (EIB) may be recalled if it becomes clear the money was misused, the bank’s president has said. ‘We will have to ask ourselves the question whether we should reclaim loans,’ Werner Hoyer told the Süddeutsche Zeitung.
The Dieselgate scandal has prompted European car manufacturers to rethink their commitment to diesel and this week Volkswagen announced plans to intensify development of electric cars and plug-in hybrids. It may also have smaller vehicles use petrol instead of diesel. Yet European carmakers’ industry body ACEA has warned against jeopardising diesel, ‘one of the key pillars for fulfilling future CO2 targets’.