Unless you’re an obsessive EU-rophile, you’ve probably not noticed the recent publication of the ‘Transport 2050 Roadmap’, or to give it its catchier title – “Roadmap to a Single European Transport Area – White Paper on a Sustainable and Competitive Transport.”
It really isn’t riveting stuff, I’m afraid, but it is something that petrolheads need to pay attention to, as this is the document that is proposing to ban gas-fuelled cars from all European cities by 2050.
Now before you shout me down as a luddite, I’m totally in favour of clean vehicles, whether electrically powered, or using fuel-cells. By then even low-temperature fusion may be a viable means of propulsion.
But a blanket ban would do a massive disservice to anyone who loves old cars.
In 1900 almost all city transport was horse-drawn. The worry at the time (because there is always an environmental catastrophe just around the corner), was that the volume of horses required to keep the cities flowing would lead to food shortages as the horses ate more and more of the crops produced and massive volumes of manure piling up daily would lead to London being buried under nine feet of horse poo.
This seems laughable now of course, because we know now that the nascent technology of internal combustion obviated the need for horse-drawn technology within a couple of decades, all without any need for legislation or coercion.
The same will be true of electric cars.
Right now they are expensive, high-maintenance beasts with limited range. Their sex-appeal is severely limited, because ‘fun’ driving wears down the batteries even further. And yet, in the next decade or two, the high price of oil will inevitably lead to a reduction in the number of petrol- and diesel-powered cars on our roads, particularly in the cities, where charging points will be plentiful, and journeys short. Of course, another technology may well outdo electric – in 1900 both steam and electric power looked equally likely to replace the horse as petrol.
But just as no-one has ever banned horses from our city centres, banning oil burning cars from cities will be an unnecessary piece of legislation, that will only succeed in frustrating future hobbyists and classic car enthusiasts. Already London makes exceptions to its Low Emission Zones to allow classic vehicle rallies to take place, and keep the tourist-friendly Routemaster buses on their ‘heritage’ routes.
Are the EU saying that children of the future will have to travel out to the depths of the countryside to see, hear and smell the vehicles their grandparents drove? Will you have to move out of the city if you want to own a classic car?
The EU’s aims in this are laudable – regardless of your view on global warming, cleaner air benefits everybody – but legislating the solution is counterproductive.
You can find out some interesting facts and figures on EU transport issues, or get the whole whitepaper, if that kind of thing floats your boat.
If you feel strongly about this, let your local MEP know. Other craziness includes letting the government pick the vehicles that commercial fleet buyers are allowed to buy.