Stand up for any colour car – as long as it’s green

September 22, 2008

From today's Financial Times: The European car industry claims to comprise the Continent’s “most innovative entrepreneurs” (Letters, September 16). Hmmm. The 1948 Beetle used 7.5 litres of petrol per 100km; the biggest-selling version of the New Beetle uses the same.

A century ago, the Ford Model T could run on ethanol or petrol. Ford now proudly promotes its Flexifuel range as “for the next generation”. Thirty years ago hydrogen was the fuel of the future. But the future isn’t getting any nearer, it seems.

Acea, the European car industry lobby group, is certainly innovative when it comes to fending off legislation that could make cars cleaner. It has managed to persuade some members of the European Parliament’s industry committee that new fuel-efficiency standards should be “phased in” over several years. In other words, the standards should apply to cars that are already clean; that is like introducing a smoking ban but applying it only to non-smokers. It also wants credit for gadgets such as gear-shift indicators that tell drivers how to save fuel rather than making making more efficient cars. “Eco-innovation”, they call it.

One hundred years ago, the Model T was truly revolutionary. We now need another sort of revolution to save drivers money at the pump, cut the continent’s €1bn-a-day oil-import addiction, tackle climate change and make Europe’s car-parts suppliers leaders in clean technology. The EU should stand up for cars available in any colour … as long as it’s green.

Dudley Curtis
Transport and Environment (T&E)

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