The basic reason is that there are more diesel vehicles on UK roads than on US roads, which is crazy to think considering that the UK only has 15% of the total number of vehicles of the US.
This all came about because in 2001 the then Chancellor – Gordon Brown – introduced a new system of car tax aimed at protecting the environment. The measure looked to reduce the emissions of CO2 (higher in petrol vehicles) but did not take into consideration that diesel vehicles emit other pollutants which can be hazardous to health.
The resulting financial incentive for diesel cars helped to prompt a “dash for diesel” after it came into effect. This particularly happened within company car fleets which were responsible for a substantial proportion of new car purchases.
There are now 12 million diesel cars on Britain’s roads, whereas back in 2000 there were only three million. And in recent years diesels have accounted for around half the new car market, whereas in 2000 only one in seven new cars was a diesel model.
Looking over the Atlantic we see in a 2014 survey that there were about 8.5 million diesel vehicles on US roads – a mere 4% of total vehicles. And only 1% of all vehicles on US roads are diesel cars (the rest of the diesel vehicles are medium and heavy goods vehicles).
With this data in mind we can see that almost every 2nd or 3rd car in the UK is diesel, whereas that figure is 1 in 20 in the US.
This means that there are more diesel drivers in the UK, and therefore more opportunities for misfuelling to occur. So we can see how it is possible for there to be between 130,000 and 150,000 misfuels every year in the UK alone.
Using these figures we can see that about 1 in 300 cars in the UK is misfuelled every year. However, looking at the total number of vehicles, in the US we see that this figure more like 1 in 3000 (about 90,000 misfuels a year). Misfuelling still occurs in the States but, as it is at such a low percentage of all cars, it seems almost negligible.
And the moral of the story is: misfuelling occurs everywhere. Be alert for it!