Fleet News

Increase fuel duty and VED for diesel cars, says think tank

Diesel fuel pump

The Government should end its freeze on fuel duty and introduce a surcharge on diesel in a bid to improve air quality, says a Conservative think tank.

Fuel duty has not changed since 2010, says Bright Blue’s Emission impossible? Air pollution, national governance and the transport sector report, but this should end from the next tax year.

The report also calls for an ongoing surcharge for vehicle excise duty (click here for latest VED rates) on new diesel cars in the UK as the “ongoing VED rates that apply to cars registered on or after April 1, 2017, do not tax diesel vehicles in a way that reflects their contribution to air pollution”.

It says this ‘diesel excise duty’ should be lower for vehicles that meet the RDE2 standard.

However, the report appears to contradict its stance of singling out diesel for extra charges due to air quality by later stating: “Petrol cars are not so simply better than diesel in terms of their contribution to air pollution.

“Some petrol cars, specifically those that use direct injection engines, can emit more PM than conventional diesel cars.”

The report also proposes new legal limits, legal responsibilities and policies to significantly reduce levels of air pollution after Brexit.

William Nicolle, researcher at Bright Blue and co-author of Emission Impossible?, said: “Stronger evidence has emerged in recent years about the detrimental impact of air pollution to human health, the economy and the environment.

“Consequently, there is growing public and political pressure for tougher action to reduce levels of air pollution in the UK.

“The UK Government needs new, ambitious legal limits, legal responsibilities and policies on air pollution.”

As well as introducing the diesel fuel and VED surcharges, Bright Blue's main policy recommendations for reducing air pollution from the transport sector are:

  • Exempt the purchase of ultra-low emission vehicles from VAT
  • Enable local and combined authorities to strive for ‘reasonable profits’ from their charging clean air zones to fund further local air pollution abatement policies.
  • Mandate introducing charging or banning clean air zones for non-road mobile machinery alongside the establishment of all charging CAZs in England.
  • Make it a requirement for local authorities with a charging CAZ to introduce a citizen-based reporting system to increase the enforceability of anti-idling measures.
  • Replace the current 30mph default speed limit on all ‘restricted roads’ in England and Wales with a 20mph default speed limit.
  • Require the installation, checking and cleaning of particulate matter filters on all petrol cars through the annual MOT test.

Click here for fuel and fuel cards best practice and procurement insight

Leave a comment for your chance to win £20 of John Lewis vouchers.

Every issue of Fleet News the editor picks his favourite comment from the past two weeks – get involved for your chance to appear in print and win!

Login to comment


  • Mark Williams - 14/08/2019 11:44

    Wouldn't it be excellent for air quality if PMs could be cut by 95% and commuters able to get vehicles which do 200mpg? Well, this exists in the form of Euro VI coaches and buses, which not only knock cars' Euro 6 standard into a cocked hat but by sharing the fuel use, can achieve better than hybrid car levels of emissions per commuter. The only thing stopping this revolution is the length an unreliability of PSV journeys, entirely caused by cars containing one commuter, yet none of the current CAZs propose charging cars... only coaches get charged. Efficient use of roadspace is the only feasible method of cutting emissions and congestion, and that isn't resolved by electric cars or autonomous cars, which use ten times as much roadspace per person

  • IB1 - 14/08/2019 13:34

    I am sick and tired of having diesel cars and cars in general being bashed by every pundit, politician and in this case think tank. Bright Blue is definitely in the draconian end with its recommendation. Successive governments have forced us into diesel cars for decades and now has spun on the spot and said that diesel is the new society evil almost overnight (I personally blame the VW scandal for starting this off). To most people, a car is a major investment which they dont change every year or every other year. They need to keep the car for quite a few years but are being punished by being threatened to pay more tax for owning something that is vilified within its life cycle. I personally dont want to pay more fuel duty just because the government has starting singing from a different hymn sheet and changed its mind on diesel. Unless the government gives a financial incentive for people to change their cars then this will be viewed as a tax raising effort. Even if you got everyone to give up their diesel cars, then what will happen to all these cars. The energy and pollution created to recycle and reprocess the car will raise its own environmental issues.

  • Gordy - 14/08/2019 14:11

    The whole emissions saga is a shambles! Older more polluting vehicles should be penalised, but adding duty to fuel penalises fleets who have high-mileage EU6/RDE 2 vehicles which would get caught up in this. Also, when petrolgate is upon us next July which cars will fleets turn to? A government who charges £315 tax disc every year for the first 5 years even for fully EV vehicles under the current system needs a rethink. Not much joined-up-thinking at the moment, even the car manufacturers were allowed to write the current emissions standards! Madness.

  • Edward Handley - 14/08/2019 20:17

    I love the stuff that these”think tanks” come up with. Lots of ambitious measures without any proper perception of the consequences. Upping diesel duty just puts up prices and increases the rate of inflation. The transport industry runs on diesel - alternative fuels are a tiny fraction of the energy required and will be for a long time yet, and some of them are no where near as green as their advocates would have us believe. The margins the logistics industry runs on are very, very, tight so any increase in costs has to be passed on. It’s not even road transport and diesel cars that create all the pollution - a lot comes from rail, ships, fridge motors, construction plant, etc.. they will pass on the increases as welll. A move to petrol, LPG, CNG or whatever may slightly reduce particulates but only by increasing CO2. Battery electric and PHEV are fine, once you sort out the issues with power generation, but we are a long way from there - currently we buy nuclear generated power from France. You cannot have renewables without nuclear as only nuclear can be brought on line quickly enough when renewable power generation fluctuates, which it does, all the time.

  • Dave - 14/08/2019 22:18

    More unresearched populist nonsense from our lovely politicians. Have they not seen that the modern diesel engine is cleaner than the equivalent petrol engine. CO2 is widely known to be less but with introduction of RDE2 diesels NOx is also on par if not below petrol levels. HMRC have clearly done their homework as diesel subsidy dropped for RDE2. Its pre 2008 diesels that need an incentive to be scrapped and replaced with RDE2

  • Buckets - 19/08/2019 12:16

    Fellow motorists may agree with me that on the road we see many vehicles pumping out smoke either from poorly maintained engines or even worse when modifications have been made to increase fuelling for faster performance. Those vehicles should be weeded out of the UK car pool as soon as possible. Classic car owners only make up a small amount of the driven miles each year so they should still be able to pass an MOT providing that they are serviced correctly. Operators of polluting vehicles may blame cost as a reason for not complying but until they take responsibility of well run vehicles like the rest of us, their vehicles have to go. If scrappage due to MOT failure is a scheme that the government want to run, I see this as a more sensible idea to operating newer, better serviced, compliant vehicles.

Related content

Compare costs of your company cars

Looking to acquire new vehicles? Check how much they'll cost to run with our Car Running Cost calculator.

What is your BIK car tax liability?

The Fleet News car tax calculator lets you work out tax costs for both employer and employee