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Number of diesel cars in the UK drops for first time in 25 years

The number of diesel cars on UK roads fell for the first time in at least 25 years, government data has revealed.

In 2019 there were 12.29 million diesels on the roads, compared with 12.4 million in 2018.

Diesel registrations have risen sharply over the past few decades and when the DfT began recording data in this way in 1994 there were just 1.6 million licensed. 

According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), 583,488 new diesel cars were sold in 2019, down 21.8% on the 746,332 sold in 2018.

However, diesel-powered vans – which make up 96% of the fleet – increased in number last year, up from 3.86 million to 3.97 million.

The data also shows how fossil fuel-powered cars still dominate the marketplace. In 2018 there were 18.8 million petrol cars compared to just 90,000 pure battery-electric cars. There were also 145,000 plug-in hybrids and 514,000 ‘mild’ hybrids.

Commenting on the data, Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: ‘These figures hint at a motoring milestone – the possibility that we have hit or even passed “peak diesel” – due to the collapse in sales of new diesel cars together with the scrapping of older diesels, which have either come to the end of their useful lives or whose owners fear increasing restrictions on their use because of air quality concerns


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