Is Diesel or Petrol Worse fo the Environment?

Diesel vehicles have been in the news for years and have been compared to petrol time and again. Both are pollutants but there has always been the question of which one is more dangerous for the environment. It’s not an easy question to answer.

For years, we were led to believe that diesel vehicles were better for the environment. They’re better than petrol because they’re more efficient and can give you more distance. In the past few years, however, diesel has been in the news for all the wrong reasons.

Some people now believe that petrol is better than diesel because of the diesel emissions scandal, where the vehicles involved emit excessive amounts of NOx or nitrogen oxide, which has adverse effects on the environment and people. Dieselgate has resulted in governments committing to achieving zero emissions soon.

However, the zero-emissions goal is not exclusive to diesel vehicles; it also applies to petrol engines. The switch to electric vehicles is not happening until 2030 in the UK and 2035 in Europe.

Petrol vs. Diesel

Petrol-powered vehicle emissions are more toxic than the ones that diesel vehicles release. Their emissions are potential contributors to global warming. Overall, petrol vehicles release higher amounts of emissions compared to diesel vehicles of similar sizes. There’s only one type of emissions that diesel vehicles emit more than petrol engines – and this is nitrogen oxide.

So, although diesel vehicles emit lesser volumes of greenhouse gases and CO2 (carbon dioxide), their NOx emissions are more dangerous and can even be life-changing.

Nitrogen oxide emissions are at the centre of the Dieselgate scandal that shocked the global automotive industry when it first broke out.

The Dieselgate scandal

Diesel vehicles were thrust into the spotlight in 2015 when the Volkswagen Group was discovered to have integrated defeat devices in Volkswagen and Audi diesel vehicles in the United States. The California Air Resources Board and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said the carmaker used the devices to cheat on emissions.

A defeat device is prompted when a vehicle is in testing so that it can automatically and artificially bring down emissions to within the World Health Organization-mandated safe limits. To regulators, the vehicle looks to be emissions-compliant.

When the vehicle is used on real roads, though, it releases excessively high volumes of NOx; levels that exceed EU and WHO limits by a significant margin.

The Volkswagen Group had to recall Audi and VW diesel vehicles so these could be fitted with emissions-compliant software. They’ve also had to pay fines, legal fees, and compensation. The carmaker deceived their customers by advertising their diesel vehicles as clean and emissions-compliant even if these were significantly contributing to air pollution.

Other manufacturers were implicated in the scandal, including BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Renault. UK-based Vauxhall is the latest carmaker to be included in the list. Over one million car owners are allegedly affected by the Vauxhall emissions scam, specifically those that were manufactured between the years 2015 and 2019.

Although the defeat devices used in Vauxhall (and probably in other vehicles) are different from those that VW used, their impacts are the same. These impacts are what make diesel engines dangerous.

Effects of NOx emissions exposure

If you are exposed to NOx emissions, you’re bound to experience a variety of impacts ranging from mild to serious complications.

Nitrogen oxide is highly reactive and has nitric oxide (NO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) as primary components. They produce acid rain and smog. Ground-level ozone also forms because of NOx. This type of ozone negatively affects vegetation, making plants and crops weak and susceptible to damage.

Your mental health may also be affected if you regularly breathe in nitrogen oxide-laden air. You’re most likely to experience more episodes of depression and anxiety, among other things.

NOx can also weaken your cognitive abilities, which means you can be at risk for dementia, specifically Alzheimer’s disease.

Nitrogen oxide emissions have numerous impacts on your overall health: breathing difficulties, asthma, bronchitis, and other respiratory conditions.

Exposure to high levels of NOx emissions will open you to serious impacts, such as vocal cord spasms (or laryngospasm), chronic lung function reduction, asphyxia, and cardiovascular diseases.

The most devastating effect of nitrogen oxide emissions is premature death, and over the years, hundreds of thousands of such cases have been recorded across the world.

These are all repercussions of excessive emissions from diesel vehicles.

So, which one is better for the environment?

In terms of emissions, petrol and diesel are about the same. Petrol engines release dangerous emissions, too, specifically hydrocarbons, carbon dioxide, and NOx. Direct-injection petrol vehicles emit particulate matter. These are just as dangerous as diesel emissions.

Both have significantly negative effects on people and the environment. Both contribute to air pollution. Diesel vehicles just seem to be in the news these days because of Dieselgate – which is why affected car makers are urged to make an emissions claim against their carmaker. They deserve to be compensated for the dangers that defeat devices exposed them (and everyone around them) to.

Before making a diesel claim, however, you’ll have to verify if you are qualified to do so. For this, you should visit; the site offers relevant information about how you can go about the claims process.

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