Driver in fully-electric van pulled over to check for illegal diesel

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As the Government in the UK prepares to restrict the use of ‘red’ diesel from next month, Road Safety Authority (RSA) officers in Ireland made the mistake of pulling over an electric van to check the driver wasn’t using ‘marked’ fuel.

In less than two weeks, the use of rebated diesel, or red diesel, as well as rebated biofuels will be restricted for uses in most industries.

Red diesel is standard diesel which has been blended with red dye to mark its lower fuel tax duty required to pay on it.

Because of this, Governments don’t want to see drivers trying to avoid paying taxes by using it in standard vehicles.

In Ireland, similar fuel is instead ‘marked’ with green dye, and using it illegally is considered tax evasion, while in the UK a driver found using red diesel incorrectly will just be charged for cleaning the vehicle’s fuel tank.

Due to the current sky-high cost of normal diesel and petrol, checkpoints have been set up in Ireland to ensure drivers aren’t trying to use red diesel instead.

But hapless officers pulled over one electric van driver in order to “take a fuel sample”.

The driver recorded the incident and could be heard laughing to himself as he followed the officers’ orders to pull over to the side of the road.

“They’re going to take a fuel sample… from an electric vehicle,” he told the camera.

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Random testing of fuel in Ireland is known as ‘dipping’ and much the way an owner would check for oil levels, officers will check the colour of any fuel being used.

If it shows the dye put into green diesel and the vehicle is not licenced to use it for agricultural or industrial purposes then a penalty will be imposed.

That could be an eye-watering amount in Ireland as there’s no limit to the fine.

Some drivers will even install ‘false tanks’ to hold small amounts of regular diesel should they be pulled over.

The checkpoints are also intended as a visual deterrent to motorists not to knowingly use marked diesel, often sold at much lower prices, to fuel their car.

A spokesperson for Customs and Revenue said: “Marked gas oil attracts a low rate of excise duty and its use in ordinary road vehicles is illegal.

‘Tackling shadow economy activity in all its forms, including any form of mineral oil fraud is a key priority in Revenue’s drive to maximise compliance and protect legitimate trade.

“Revenue policy is that all detection of the misuse of marked mineral oil are investigated with a view to prosecution. The maximum penalty on summary conviction for a first offence is €5,000 (£4,200).”

With the UK Government tightening restrictions on who can use red diesel, operating costs for the construction sector are expected to rise by around 15 percent.

Businesses have also written to Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, appealing for them to delay the ban.

Despite widespread opposition to the rebate, the Government has not indicated that a 12-month delay is likely to occur for red diesel.

CPS Fuels found the switch from red to white diesel alone will bring an additional expense of 46.81 pence per litre used, resulting in five times as much duty rate as before.

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