Diesel cars are everywhere on Australian roads. From SUVs to 4X4 off-roads trucks to utes, you’ll find plenty driving around—you might even own a diesel car yourself. Diesel engines are popular because of their size and power offering more torque and are more fuel efficient.

Even with the many benefits diesel cars offer, only under 5% of new passenger cars sold in 2022 were powered by diesel. Even though there was an increase in diesel-engine cars for SUV and ute sales, there was a decline almost everywhere else.

Slowing sales of diesel cars and impending diesel bans paint a bleak future for diesel in Australia. Although, we might not see a complete and total disappearance of diesel cars, it’s expected that we won’t see a lot of them in the distant future.

Diesel engines will still be out there in the form of long-haul truck fleets and powering agricultural machines. But passenger cars with diesel engines might soon be a thing of the past.

European and Global sentiment moves away from diesel towards alternative fuels

The European Parliament has recently approved a law to effectively ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars in the European Union starting 2035. This law aims to hasten the shift to electric vehicles and fight against climate change.

By 2035, carmakers must comply with a 100% cut in CO2 emissions from new cars sold. Selling new fossil fuel-powered vehicles in the EU countries by that time will become impossible. Compared to 2021 levels, emission from new cars sold in 2030 should be 55% lower and new vans must be 50% lower under the terms of the political agreement last year. The zero-emissions target for 2035 still applies to new cars and vans.

Currently, Germany also has a diesel ban effective for cars with an emission standard of Euro 4 or lower. Other countries such as Canada, the United Kingdom, Norway, and Japan have passed or announced similar legislations to ban combustion engines. Although the United States has yet to set a date on the ban of diesel cars, the state of California has passed rules banning sales of new gas-powered cars after 2035.

A more prominent global push is expected in favour of banning new sales of petrol and diesel vehicles according to auto-industry executives.

Will diesel be banned in Australia?

Now, a lot of people are wondering if Australia will follow suit with the European Union and other countries with the petrol car and diesel car ban. As of the moment, the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) announced the end of petrol and diesel vehicle sales in the territory will be on 2035.

If you live in the ACT and you’re worried about your diesel car, the 2035 ban refers to the end of new cars sales of petrol and diesel engines. You’ll still be able to drive petrol or diesel cars in the ACT or sell it to other drivers. This move is to help phase out light internal combustion engine vehicles and not a band of used ones. By 2030, the ACT targets 80% to 90% of light vehicles sales to comprise of zero-emission vehicles.

Other State and Territory Governments have yet to announce a similar ban, however, the Committee for Sydney has proposed a ban by 2027. The NSW Government has also recently announced their Electric Vehicle strategy which targets an all-electric passenger fleet by 2030.

It is likely that Australia will follow suit with the EU because we do abide by the Euro 6 standards, but it’s unclear when and to what extent the ban may take place.

It will be difficult to remove diesel engines from the roads, especially considering the reliance of heavy transport trucks and larger SUVs used by businesses nationwide. However, we can expect to see fewer diesel-engine vehicles driving around in later years.

Since the EU is moving towards the total ban of diesel, the supply of diesel vehicles from European manufacturers will also diminish over the next few years. Looking at American and Asian car manufacturers, which do not focus on diesel passenger vehicles, the future of diesel in Australia is not bright.

Emission standards in Australia

In Australia, all new diesel light vehicles sold must meet the Euro 6 standards which has since tightened the regulation around diesel engines reducing the permissible Nitrogen Oxide (Nox) emissions from 180 mg per kg of body weight to just 80 mg compared to Euro 5.

As a result of the Euro 6 standard, older diesel-engine vehicles that exceed the latest emission limit will be removed from the roads. The Euro 6 standard will also be phased in from 1 November 2024 over a period of 12 months for new trucks and buses.

Recently, the EU proposed the new Euro 7 standards on emissions. This proposal works to replace and simplify the previous Euro 6 standards while doing the following:

  • Have better control on emissions of air pollutants from new vehicles
  • Improve and tighten the limits for pollutant emissions
  • Regulate emissions from brakes and tires
  • Ensure new cars stay clean for longer
  • Support the deployment of electric vehicles
  • Take full advantage of digital possibilities

The new Euro 7 regulations will be implemented in Australia starting 1 July 2025. This will affect new cars and light fans. Compared to the Euro 6 regulations, the Euro 7 will lower NOx emissions by 35% and cut tailpipe particulates by 13%. For larger vans, trucks, and busses, the regulation will be implemented in 2027.

Diesel’s environmental effect

Just how bad are diesel engine emissions? All fuel combustion engines contribute to air pollution but diesel engines are probably the worst. Aside from NOx, the hazardous combination of Nitrogen Monoxide (NO) and Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) in the air, it also produces tiny soot called particulate matter (PM). It is produced and released after combustion and will stay in the air for a long time. When inhaled, PM can activate cancer cells in the human body. The International Agency for Research on Cancer even tagged PM as part of the Group 1 carcinogens list.

The recent ‘Dieselgate’ controversy added more damage to the already tarnished reputation of diesel. It did not help that a certain European car manufacturer advertised false claims about the clean emissions of its diesel vehicles. Following this perfect storm of events, automotive experts and environmentalists all over the world now believe that diesel no longer has a place in the industry.

What’s next for the Australian car industry?

As we move away from diesel cars, the clear frontrunner to replace them are electric vehicles (EVs). In the past year alone, Australians have bought 40,000 new EVs compared almost double what it was in 2021 with 21,000 new EVs. According to the Electric Vehicle Council, the data represents different types of EVs such as battery (BEV) and plug-in hybrid (PHEV).

Volkswagen Australia has also forecasted that sales of electric cars will outpace petrol and diesel vehicles by 2028. Car manufacturers like Volvo have also announced a move to electric power in Australia with some saying there could be a significant shift to EVs in 2030. Manufacturers like Ford and General Motors are also working on developing EVs that can tow and haul heavy loads.

The electric charging network that was recently completed around the country also helps promote the use of EVs and hybrid vehicles as opposed to combustion engine vehicles.

Are there diesel car alternatives?

What should you look for if you love diesel cars for camping, towing, and more? The good news is you don’t have to scramble to look for alternatives right away. Currently, there was been no country-wide announcements about a total diesel car ban. You can still purchase diesel cars if those are what you really need them.

Most EVs aren’t powerful enough for towing or hauling, but manufacturers are looking to fix this sooner rather than later. Tesla, Ford, and General Motors are some of the car manufacturers that are working on creating an EV with towing capabilities.

Pros and cons of diesel cars

Like every car out there, diesel cars have advantages and disadvantages. A pretty big disadvantage of owning a diesel car is their environment impact. However, to give you a clearer picture, we’ve listed down a few pros and cons of diesel cars.

Pros of diesel cars

  • Good fuel efficiency. Compared to petrol cars, diesel cars are more fuel efficient especially when it comes to longer drives.
  • Less frequent maintenance. Diesel engines are built in such a way that they require less tune ups and maintenance which helps save on extra costs.
  • Increased torque. Diesel cars are great for towing and hauling because of their increased torque.

Cons of diesel cars

  • Diesel fuel is expensive. Diesel car fuel are priced higher compared to their petrol car counterparts.
  • More expensive repairs and maintenance costs. Although you’ll have fewer trips to the mechanic, when you do go you might pay more than you’d expect.
  • Less horsepower. What diesel cars have in torque; they lose in horsepower. You may be disappointed to find that diesel engines can’t keep up with speeds.

Keep these pros and cons in mind when you buy your next car.

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Will diesel cars become obsolete?

Yes, but not any time soon. There are policies in the works to ban diesel fuels cars in Australia, but we’re still a few ways out before a diesel-less car future becomes a reality. A lot of vehicles that use diesel fuel will still be on the roads like trucks and SUVs, but there will be less of them soon.

Will diesel cars be banned?

Diesel cars will be banned in the future with the Committee for Sydney announcing plans to ban diesel cars in 2027. Meanwhile, the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) has announced that the end of petrol and diesel vehicle sales will be 2035. Other states and territories may soon follow with similar plans in order to cut down on emissions by 2050.

What is the future of diesel cars with the rise of electric vehicles?

With electric vehicles rising in popularity and more restrictions being put on diesel cars, it’s likely that electric vehicles could beat out diesel cars. Although, diesel cars may not be completely obsolete in the coming years, the direction governments and consumers are on will see less demand for them.

Will diesel cars continue to be popular?

Probably not. As the popularity of electric vehicles grow and as more policies against diesel cars become more prevalent, the popularity of diesel cars can come to an end. Although, some car manufacturers aren’t making the switch to electric cars anytime soon so those who want diesel cars still have options.

What are the alternatives to diesel cars?

Electric cars are the more well-known alternative to diesel cars. Other alternatives include fuel cell electric vehicles, renewable-fuel internal combustion engines, and biodiesel engines.

Are diesel cars more expensive than petrol cars?

Diesel cars are usually more expensive than petrol cars. However, they may be cheaper to operate compared to petrol cars. It depends on the make and model of your vehicle and your driving habits.

What is the future of diesel fuel?

Diesel fuel may be on its way out in the future with new more environmentally-friendly fuel alternatives and the rise of electric vehicles.

Are diesel cars more efficient than petrol cars?

Yes, diesel cars are generally more efficient than petrol cars. Diesel engines produce more torque compared to petrol ones making them more powerful too. They also emit less carbon dioxide making them better for the environment.

What is the future of diesel engine technology?

Diesel engines will still have a place in the future especially with powering agriculture and transporting goods. Newer model diesel engines will have to meet stricter emission rules and must compete with alternative sources of fuel.

What are the pros and cons of diesel cars?

Diesel cars have plenty of benefits such as:

  • Better longevity – the engines are more durable and can withstand the ignition cycle. The fuel also lubricates the engine which helps keep it in good condition.
  • More efficiency – diesel is a better source of usable energy compared to gasoline.
  • Has more torque – diesel engines are designed to generate more torque which means it’s great for hauling and towing.

On the other hand, diesel cars also come with a few disadvantages which are:

  • Not ideal for short distances – to get the best fuel economy for diesel cars, you have to drive long distances. If you’re driving mostly short distances, you may not get the most out of your vehicle.
  • Not great for speed – although diesel cars have more torque, they’re not great when it comes to speed and performance.
  • Higher maintenance cost – although they require less maintenance, the cost of service and repair are more expensive compared to petrol cars.