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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: June 2, 2010 @ 4:31 pm

    Should we wear our green credentials for the world to see?

    Michael McAleer

    Up until now, there wasn’t a lot of choice when it came to displaying your environmentally-aware motoring credentials. Aside from having a Greenpeace sticker on the back of your Citroen 2CV, it took until the Toyota Prius came along before you could really say that you were making a conscious decision to buy a car that was significantly cleaner and greener.

    And Toyota, with the design of the Prius, also seemed intent that you would stand out like a fur coat at a PETA rally. The Prius has a pretty distinctive body style, optimised for aerodynamics apparently, and this is a shape which has been mimicked by the Honda Insight and aside from carving you through the air with the minimum of drag it also a good a signal to other drivers that you care about the planet.

    The thing is though, that the Hybrid, as we now know, won’t be the green king for long. There is a new breed of electric cars coming, such as the Nissan LEAF and Renault Fluence EV that will make the Prius’ environmental-credentials seem a little passé.

    While the Prius and Insight Hybrid models do indeed have impressively low tailpipe emissions, they can’t compete with the non-existent emissions of the LEAF, Mitsubishi iMiev and Renault Fluence EV and the other breed of fully electric vehicles which are charging towards Ireland with their plugs at the ready.

    The LEAF does look futuristic, but not so radical that it couldn’t have just been a modern replacement to the Primera and Renault, with their EV version of the Fluence which looks exactly the same as the petrol or diesel versions, are giving customers a straightforward choice between petrol, diesel, or electric with the one body style. Carlos Ghosn, the head of the Nissan-Renault alliance and someone who took an early gamble on the success of electric cars, seems to be of the opinion that you don’t need to wear some sort of environmental uniform to choose an electric vehicle.

    So about the rest of us? The debate has reopened again about whether it is time to look at our registration system again. What has been probably the most simple to understand system in the world has not been without its critics and more recently they have come from the motor industry who feels that our current plates front-load car sales heavily to the first three to four months of the year and cause hassles at trade-in time.

    The argument has also been put forward that buyers of used cars should be able to change their registration plate to the county that live in, with the fees to change this going to the upkeep of the roads. Government departments are thought to be greeting any suggestion of such a change with a fair degree of frost, seeing an administrative aneurysm on the cards, but it is thought that they are in favour of some sort of change which would see drivers displaying what sort of energy rating their car has; green labelling of sorts.

    Perhaps this would take the form of different shades of tax discs or perhaps number plate? We know that in Ireland there are forty shades of green, but perhaps we would just need seven to range from motor tax band A to G? Or maybe it would be more severe than this, from green to fiery red perhaps, which would label the band G motorist, who has the means to pay €2,100 per year for their road tax and who despite contributing infinitely more to the government coffers than their greener motorists, should be labelled for their environment insolence?

    What this would serve to do though is assist those people who do have to drive larger cars, be they SUVs or otherwise to show that theirs is at the cleaner end of the scale. The CEO of a company might drive a BMW 520d with a tax band six bands cleaner than his golf club buddy who drives the M5. Perhaps, in the future, their registration plates will reflect this.

    • kynos says:

      Only thing is Paddy what about the power source for these lean green machines? If we plug in a Prius or juice up a LEAF do we know whether the power comes from a nice clean enviro-friendly nuclear plant or a nasty CO2 unfriendly windmill (that takes 14 years of production to offset the huge amount of CO2 that stripping bogs back to erect them pinwheels causes?) Do we know whether it comes from a coal burning or oil fired or – horror – turf burning tera watt plant, that spills more energy than a windfarm produces in a week? (That said the windfarms are handy because you get carbon offsets that allow you to continue using nasty coal turf oil plants). So maybe we ought consider adding something to account for the origin and indeed the provenance (are we buying it from nasty Imperialist invaders of innocent oil-owning countries) of the power?

      Anyway few years back I mentioned on the bb that we could incorporate RFID tags into the tax disc, so that a ‘smart’ fuel pump could instantly ‘know’ the type of jammer we have, and apply a smart excise tax to the price per litre at the pump.

    • kynos says:

      Apparently in NI now there’s a van that can sit scanning traffic and if yer tax disc is out of date you get a fine through the post and you don’t even have to be inconvenienced by the RUC stop PSNI stopping you at a checkpoint. So perhaps mine previous isn’t such a great idea. At least you know here you’ve got at least a month after the tax’s run out before you start getting any bother from the GS. Helpful for cashflow purp/s only of course being as I ain’t someone who signs their jammer off the road and thus does be telling porkies to the p..olice. Always back tax her but there’s ever a famine or a f…ew bits of bread in the cupboard with me.

    • amhain says:

      fact is, the greenest of ALL cars are old second hand cars that the metal’s already been smelted for, the paint’s already dry and the rocks that needed crushing to make the ingredients for the batteries have already been crushed

      they might drink a bit of petrol, but they’re cheap and friendlier to the planet than any new, hybrid or battery powered car

    • Kynos says:

      Yes amhain I have one of those and one of us will see the other out.

    • Frank Jameson says:

      In France the government has made a conscious decision to encourage diesel in the interests of the environment. At the moment diesel in the big supermarket fuel stations is running at E1.11 against E1.37 for petrol. The result is that nearly 80% of cars in France run on diesel and therefore use less fuel and pollute less.

      In Ireland however the opposite is the case. Diesel drivers are penalised with higher road tax unless they can afford to buy a new car. In every recent fuel price hike, the price of diesel has gone up more than the price of petrol. All this has been backed by the “Greens” presumably in order to keep in power with FF .

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