I grew up on a diet of TV shows like Knight Rider and The A Team. I saw Ferrari and McLaren produce faster cars as time went by. I admired how the car industry kept on trying to improve.
But it seems like some carmakers have lost the fun of innovation. BMW and Daimler once led the world in building cars that were fit for the future. But as the impacts of climate change get more and more severe across the planet, they’ve been pressing politicians to keep our cars locked in to using fossil fuels.
Last week, that pressure saw Angela Merkel drive a wedge into the progress of a fuel efficiency law to make car companies build more efficient cars. The law could have cut CO2 emissions from new cars in half and saved Europe 17.3 billion barrels of oil. Now that law is in limbo.
While BMW and Daimler would have been preparing for a frantic final week of lobbying to postpone the clean car law, Paul Drayson broke the electric world land speed record at over 204 mph.
Although BMW has plans to produce two electric models next year, it doesn’t want to introduce hybrid engines across the rest of its fleet. And although Daimler has produced the Smart car, the EU may be about to sue it for breaking a law to use more climate-friendly chemicals in its air conditioning. Meanwhile VW, Ford and Nissan have all backed the planned CO2 cuts of the regulations.
Car companies and engineers only innovate when they are truly challenged. From the rollout of unleaded petrol and catalytic converters (which Germany forced through) to the London congestion charge zone, politicians have often had to force these decisions. You can see how history makes the case for these decisions this handy timeline.
Today is no different. We’ve heard that the vote on the clean car law could now be delayed for months - leaving Germany able to try to weaken them even more. So we’ll come back fighting.
Over half a million of us have come together to get Europe’s carmakers to clean up their cars. We got Volkswagen to commit to do just that. But to make sure the whole industry does the same, we need more support. Share this blog and ask your friends to join the movement for clean cars at www.EUvsCO2.org.
Hugh Mouser is a Digital Co-ordinator at Greenpeace UK.