The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders launched a robust defence of the crucial contribution diesel LCVs make to the UK’s economy at the CV Show that took place at the NEC in Birmingham recently, and dismissed a claim by environmental group Friends of the Earth that “the writing is on the wall” for the fuel.

It said 1.8 million owner-operators rely on vans for their livelihood and claimed commercial vehicles contribute £27.5bn to the economy by moving freight alone. The SMMT also said modern diesel vans use around 50% less fuel than petrol alternatives, and emphasised the cleanliness of Euro6 diesel engines.

SMMT boss Mike Hawes said: “Commercial vehicles play an essential but often overlooked role in keeping Britain functioning, performing jobs and transporting vital goods and services that we all rely on every day. This sector has never been so important to the UK economy – and to British jobs – and diesel’s role in powering these vital vehicles should not be downplayed. Nearly all our commercial vehicles are driven by diesel.”

The SMMT also highlighted that emergency response vehicles are almost exclusively fuelled by diesel. Hawes told What Van? that for the foreseeable future “there’s no alternative to diesel”.

For many operators, such as inter-urban delivery firms, for example, Hawes said the fuel economy and torque diesel delivers to haul goods makes it the only viable choice. “Petrol would increase the logistics costs massively,” he claimed.

He acknowledged the gradual emergence of electric vans but added: “You need the range and to maintain payload.”

It was “too simplistic” to suggest electric vehicle technology could replace diesel, he argued, because the expense, despite Government grants, and lack of infrastructure put it beyond the reach of most operators.

Hawes said on-road tests could more accurately demonstrate how diesels need to perform than the current laboratory-based regime, but insisted such tests would have to be repeatable and robust.

“Consumers need to make a choice based on a like-for-like comparison,” he said.
Friends of the Earth has called for vehicles powered by diesel engines to be eradicated by 2025.