2018 Toyota Supra

Can the new Toyota Supra live up to the hype – and does it need to?

2018 Toyota Supra

Few cars in history have a dedicated following to match that of the Toyota Supra. No small achievement for a flagship that began life as a variation of the Celica. Is that the automotive equivalent of starting from the bottom and working your way up? No matter: the Supra earned its cult status through a variety of means – some more credible than others.

The engine powering the last-generation ‘A80’ Mk4 Supra – the 2JZ GTE inline-six – is celebrated the world over as one of the most easily tuned internal combustion engines of all time, making mega power and doing so reliably. That it was a bargain performance hero would be reason-enough for latter-day praise. But that performance potential would put it on the radar of those who would shoot it to super-stardom.

In fact, The Fast & the Furious film was what finally etched the Supra into the history books. In an instant, way back in the early 2000s, the Toyota replaced Ferraris and Lamborghinis as the poster car for many young petrolheads.

Couple all of the above with the fact that all those kids have now grown up, bought Supras and discovered how good they actually are, and you have an enormous act to follow.

What do we know about the new Supra?

2018 Toyota Supra

The car is being developed in conjunction with BMW, with this new ‘A90’ sharing a platform with the upcoming Z4. The top-end model at launch will have an inline-six twin-turbo engine producing over 320hp, which sounds very Supra-like.

In fact, it sounds a bit too Supra-like, in that the power numbers of the new car are looking like they’ll be near-on exactly the same as the car that debuted in 1993. Back then, those were super-sports, 911 Turbo-fighting numbers.

Today, they’re more middling Cayman, while the 911 Turbo out-accelerates the most exclusive hypercars of 20 years ago. Dimensionally, the new car is more pointy sports car than muscular super GT, too. 

Should we be worried about the new Supra?

2018 Toyota Supra

Many who are familiar with, and enamoured by, the last-gen car would likely conclude ‘yes’. The new Supra won’t move the performance game on anything like the last one did 25 years ago.

Not much can be said yet for its tuning capacity either. What we can say is we don’t see many BMW turbo six-pots hitting 1,500hp with anything less than £100,000-worth of parts, coupled with a six-monthly rebuild schedule.

We doubt it’ll earn that cult status from the silver screen, either. Even the most staunch fans of the original be-winged orange hero of the first F&F would admit it’s not aged well. To give the new one the same treatment in a sequel (it’s not impossible, let’s face it) would feel like something of a sad callback. 

It doesn’t need to live up to the hype

2018 Toyota Supra

The old Mk4 may well be a legend, but it earned that status posthumously. Yes, it was a ground-breaking supercar-slayer but it cost the earth and very few were sold (in the UK, at least) as a result.

We should be encouraged by the fact Toyota has declined to enter the horsepower war. The new Supra couldn’t be better-positioned, with its manageable performance envelope, to be one of the sweetest-driving sports cars of recent memory.

Tetsuya Tada, the new Supra’s chief engineer and the man behind the super-sweet GT86, is a stickler for balance after all. Perhaps it’s time for Supra to cater more closely to its Celica-based roots? That it’ll certainly be within the grasp of more people than the Mk4 was in its day already makes it appeal to us.

In short, the new car doesn’t need to live up to the hype. We’d rather it just be a good car – a delicate cocktail for which raw power (potential or otherwise) and buckets of technology are not the primary ingredients.

Big power and tech, with a high price tag, do not a good car (or a big seller) make. We’re hopeful Tada-San convinced the Supra-faithful of the same during their secret show-and-tell with the new car last weekend.

2018 Toyota Supra

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Fernando Alonso

Opinion: Is Fernando Alonso’s career history in the making?

Fernando AlonsoRecent history hasn’t been kind to Fernando Alonso. He spent years with Ferrari, almost winning the F1 World Championship, but nearly wasn’t good enough and he left in a huff to go and win with a McLaren team renewing its famed partnership with Honda instead.

Umm… that hasn’t quite gone to plan either. Three years of abject failure by Honda has seen virtually all McLaren’s big-name sponsors desert it, and Fernando almost run out of very slow things to publically compare the car to over the in-race radio. GP2 car? F3 car? Honda Jazz? Even his most ardent detractors couldn’t help but have sympathy.

Perhaps inevitably, McLaren itself almost lost arguably the most gifted F1 driver of his generation. As it earlier lost one of the other most gifted talents, Lewis Hamilton, it didn’t want a repeat. So it spent months and millions on lawyers to ditch Honda and nab a Renault engine. Not the fastest engine, no, but certainly one powerful enough to take Red Bull Racing to a couple of wins last year. You’d have to put money on it doing the same for Alonso this year.

But there’s more. Because the day job’s been so pitiful over the past few years, Alonso’s looked elsewhere. He started by driving a Honda-powered car in the 2017 Indy 500, a Blue Riband event that he was looking good for until, ahem, the engine went pop. Earlier this year, he drove in the Daytona 500 sports car race, another classic.

And now, he’s going one better, by entering as many World Endurance Championship races as he can, behind the wheel of the much-fancied Toyota LMP1 car. Including, you’ve got it the Le Mans 24 Hours. See what he’s doing here?

Alonso, for years, was seen as a quick driver but also a bit of a sulky bugger. A deserving two-time World Champion, but yet another destined to have things fizzled out by Ferrari (take note, Sebastien Vettel…) before making up the numbers and retiring.

Fernando Alonso 2018 McLaren-Renault

He’s having none of that. If the way he’s battled chronically slow McLarens for the past three years isn’t proof of that, his newfound determination to drive in every classic motor race going, and try to win it, should be. Nando doesn’t just want to be an F1 winner, he wants to be a genuine motor racing legend, someone proving his speed in as many disciplines as possible, not just F1.

This is what our racing heroes of years gone by used to do. Sir Stirling Moss, Jim Clark, Sir Jackie Stewart, all barely had a weekend off when in their prime, so many different cars were they driving. That famous shot of Jim Clark in a Lotus Cortina? That was no mere demonstration – he was racing.

Alonso might well be doing the same. He might be the Mario Andretti of our generation, still driving well into his 60s. Let’s relish it, racing fans. One of the greatest stories in motor racing might be unfolding before our very eyes.

UPDATE – June 18 2018: It’s game on. Alonso’s won the 2018 Le Mans 24 Hours, with Toyota. Part two of the Triple Crown, unlocked. Next step? Indy 2019…

Person in traffic wearing a helmet

Opinion: the three things you need to present Top Gear

Person in traffic wearing a helmetMatt Le Blanc has announced that he will be leaving Top Gear after the next series. As a result, speculation about his replacement is dialling itself to eleven. Every automotive YouTuber in the western hemisphere seems to have either been proposed on social media or volunteered themselves.

Presenting Top Gear must be like joining the Royal Family, only without the initial day of well-wishing and riding in cool cars and carriages. Whatever you do or say will be wrong in the eyes of someone with a mobile phone and an internet connection. You’re going to need a hide like a rhinoceros to suffer that for long.

Some people are questioning if three presenters are needed. We know from previous attempts that six presenters is too many. We also know that an odd number works for presenting, storytelling and challenges, as then you can have an overwhelming dissenting option. Three is the magic number, then. So yes, someone else is needed.

The chances are that BBC management will want a ‘name’ to front the show, someone recognisable on posters without needing an explanation. It’s also likely they’d prefer a lady to have a more prominent role than Sabine. I don’t think either of those attributes is vital, although a female presenter would help break comparisons with The Grand Tour.

Top Gear presenter tick-list

There are three things needed in any motoring television presenter, or we viewers will see right through them. Firstly, they need to like cars. This doesn’t mean simply owning a curated collection of fast cars, but liking cars from all eras and at all price points, to be able to enthuse equally over the merits of an MG Metro and a Koenigsegg Agera.

Secondly, a presenter needs to be believable. They need to have the ability to describe the workings of a vehicle without sounding like they’re merely repeating a script or technical press release. The need to have at least a basic understanding and appreciation of how stuff works.

Lastly, they need to be able to gel with the other presenters and be part of a team. If Top Gear doesn’t have that, it may as well return to being a “back to the studio” magazine programme on a Thursday evening.

It’s a shame that Matt is leaving, as the current iteration of Top Gear is settling down and finding its comfort zone, with the presenters gelling and joshing in a way that’s perfect for Sunday evening TV. I’m not going to propose who should replace him after the next series, but I’m pretty sure that whoever does won’t be anyone we’re expecting.

Who’s your money on?

Akio Toyoda

Opinion: Why the idea of mobility solutions moves me

Akio ToyodaAkio Toyoda, President of Toyota, recently announced that he has “decided to ‘redesign’ Toyota from a car-making company into a mobility company. 

“A mobility company,” he explained, “is one that provides services related to movement for people around the world.'” Not only does Toyoda-san state his desire to become a mobility provider, but he also defines what one actually is. CEOs of mobility start-ups, listen up…

Mobility is an interesting concept, and I’m truly curious what it could look like when it involves a global company like Toyota. We’re all familiar with the ride-share company use of “mobility” to describe, in one way or another, what’s basically a minicab, but even companies like Uber are stretching their scope to include things such as electric scooter hire.

This short and medium distance enablement is fine and dandy in sunny, beautiful and urbanised California, but what does it mean for those of us in the real world? What could ‘mobility’ look like?

From travel to mobility

Let’s look at an example of what’s possible. I regularly travel to the town of Helsingborg in Sweden, and the route I take is an excellent example of multi-modal transportation. Here’s what happens.

Ahead of time, I:

  • Book flights from the UK to Copenhagen from one provider
  • Book parking at the airport from another provider
  • Make sure the car has sufficient fuel to get me to the airport car park

On the day, I:

  • Go to my car and set the navigation for the airport car park
  • I drive to the car park and swap to a bus
  • The bus takes me to the terminal where, after some waiting, I climb aboard a plane that magics me to CPH
  • Once at CPH I take a short walk to the railway station that’s part of the airport
  • At the Station I buy a combined rail and ferry ticket from there to Helsingborg and board a train for Helsingør.
  • At Helsingør I swap to a ferry which crosses the Öresund to Helsingborg.

There are five or six different transactions there, each separate and each needing to be changed or altered in isolation if something fails. Which, sometimes, it does.

Mobility, then, is when I declare that I wish to get from my house to Helsingborg on a particular date, and within defined time and cost constraints. It involves me simply pressing a button and make a payment: all the bookings and scheduling happen in that one single transaction.

Better than that, because I’ve requested a “Home to Helsingborg Service” it’s all integrated. If I get held up in traffic, or the train I’ve been directed to (as it’s theoretically faster) turns out to be delayed enough that I’m late for my flight, the service will re-route me to a different car park, plane, train or ferry, seamlessly and instantly.

At least, that’s my interpretation of ‘mobility’, as opposed to transport, and you know what? I’m all in favour of that future.

No one company will ever have complete control of a series of transactions like that, but there’s no reason that a large, global company can’t forge the necessary codeshare relationships and fill the appropriate gaps to make ‘one transaction mobility’ a reality.

If nothing else, it should make my travel significantly simpler and less stressful. Toyoda-san, for that reason alone, you may just be onto something…

Maserati Tour de Yorkshire 2018

Why Maserati backs the Tour de Yorkshire

Maserati Tour de Yorkshire 2018I’ve now just about recovered from this year’s Tour de Yorkshire Ride. Held on the final day of the cross-Yorkshire epic, we sportive riders get to cycle the same route as the pros do later in the day. It’s a great warm-up for the crowds, and a killer for us riders.

I did the full long route, 129 kilometres and over 2,500 feet of climbs. The pain in my leg muscles was at times crippling, so intense were the ascents. It was yet another reminder of how superhuman pro riders are.

Maserati Tour de Yorkshire 2018

But I made it, and even managed a fist-pump over the finish line, before turning the corner and receiving my medal in the riders’ cool-down area that had water and (low alcohol) beer, food, massage tents… and a couple of Maseratis on display. When you’re title sponsor, you get to do that.

At first, it’s not obvious what links led Maserati to back the Tour de Yorkshire. Sure, the numbers are impressive – 2.5 million spectators along the route, claims that the Tour de Yorkshire was watched by more people than the iconic Giro d’Italia held the same weekend, neither is to be sniffed at. But what’s the hook that makes it genuine rather than opportunistic?

Maserati Tour de Yorkshire 2018

Our customers, says Maserati. Ever-more of them are choosing, in their spare time, to take up cycling. By their nature, they are generally well off, and so able to invest in expensive bicycles and equipment. They love brands, and authenticity, and storied marques with history and tales to tell.

Just as they lust after Bianchi and Pinarello bicycles, so too might a bit of awareness see them ogling Maseratis, goes the thinking.

Particularly as it now has the bicycle-friendly Levante SUV. I drove up to Yorkshire in one and, as the city centre car park had tight height restrictions, chose to stick my bike in the back. I dropped the seats and it went straight in; I didn’t even have to take the wheels off. Riders who are chancing a quick Sunday morning blast before lunch with the family (and thus don’t want to faff with roof bars or cycle racks) appreciate this: making Maseratis more practical has strengthened the logic of the partnership.

Maserati’s been title sponsor of Tour de Yorkshire for four years now. For a firm that doesn’t make bicycles or field competitive teams in the sport, it doesn’t seem an obvious link. But, thanks to the boom in cycling, it actually makes more sense amongst its target customers than you may first realise.

Proton Satria Neo Sport

Opinion: in praise of go-faster stripes

Proton Satria Neo Sport

Go-faster stripes: turning the humdrum into a humdinger since the 1960s. Ever since Briggs Cunningham painted a pair of blue lines along the bonnet, roof and rear of his 1951 C-2R Le Mans car, the racing stripe has been synonymous with the quest to go faster.

As an article in the spring 2015 issue of The Shelby American explains, “Cunningham liked the white and blue colour combination. American FIA entries had been painted white, so Cunningham chose to paint his cars that colour. With this paint scheme Cunningham’s cars became instantly recognisable. In fact, in subsequent years twin stripes were referred to as ‘Cunningham stripes’.”

But while the American millionaire blazed a trail for stripes on the track, it was left to designer Peter Brock to champion their use on the road. Having spotted an unfinished custom 1946 Ford Convertible at a used car lot, Brock set about building his dream car. The blue stripes applied to the finished article were a tip of the hat to the Cunningham race cars of the 1950s.

The story continued when Brock – who was working at Shelby American as its designer – was tasked with creating a competition look for the Shelby Mustang GT350, without the use of badges or bespoke body panels. With no budget to play with, Brock kept things simple, using GT40-inspired stripes along the side of the car, with a pair of 10-inch wide ‘Le Mans stripes’ running from the gravel pan at the front to below the bumper at the rear.

Shelby Mustang GT350

Many of the Wimbledon White cars were delivered without the iconic stripes, with dealers fearful of undue attention from the police. Customers prepared to risk a run-in with the law could have the stripes applied at the dealership, presumably all too happy to bask in the glow of a competition-look road car.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, France was waking up to the power of the go-faster stripe. Unveiled at the 1964 Paris Motor Show, the Renault 8 Gordini caught the eye thanks to its Bleu de France paintwork and twin white stripes.

Soon, the lines of paint or decal strips were earning their stripes in accessories catalogues across the world. In the US, go-faster stripes became almost mandatory equipment on the new breed of muscle cars sweeping the nation, with manufacturers aware of their showroom appeal.

American Motors even attempted to leverage some go-faster magic on its ad for one of the country’s cheapest cars, with the press advertisement for the Rambler asking: “Do Rogues really come with rally stripes?” before answering: “No, but with the new engine they drive that way.”

Flash – king of the universe

Here in the UK, if a manufacturer didn’t offer stripes as an option, it was easy to find an aftermarket company that would. The Ford Lotus Cortina was one of the earliest flag-bearers, with its olive green painted flash helping create one of the most memorable styling jobs of the 1960s.

Of note is the fact that, in common with the Shelby GT350, the Lotus Cortina used the ‘less is more’ approach to devastating effect, inspiring countless imitators in the process. The go-faster stripe was a central part of the overall package.

From sports cars to coupes, and more recently hot hatches, the go-faster stripe became a visual clue that a car might be packing a little more punch than it first appeared. And even if it didn’t, there were obvious psychological benefits associated with the upgrade.

The go-faster stripe was a cast-iron guarantee that the Maidstone inner ring road would be turned into the Mulsanne Straight, at least that’s what the driver thought when at the wheel of his or her Mini 1275 GT, Austin Allegro Equipe or Hillman Avenger.

Hillman Avenger Tiger

In fact, the Avenger Tiger featured one of the most exquisitely executed go-faster stripes of the 1970s, with the black decals contrasting beautifully with the Sundance Yellow paintwork, and blending seamlessly into the rear spoiler. Few cars wore their stripes quite as well as the Tiger and Vauxhall Viva Brabham.

In 1980, Goodyear offered free go-faster stripes with a set of Grand Prix-S recessed white letter tyres. “Go faster stripes free with every set of go safer tyres,” proclaimed the advert, although it’s not clear how many people claimed this attractive offer.

From Viper to Sting

Today, the go-faster stripe is still used to good effect by car manufacturers as part of their personalisation packs, although the results aren’t always successful. A set of side stripes on a Fiat 500 would be a good investment at £150, but if you spent cash on stripes for your Nissan Pixo or previous-generation Peugeot 108, you might want to speak to a financial adviser.

As a rule of thumb, the go-faster stripe works best on a car with a close link to motorsport. Which is why the black stripes on the Porsche 911 Carrera T and the white stripes on the Ford GT ‘67 Heritage Edition work so well. It’s authentic, innit.

And we can’t overlook the impact of the Dodge Viper, which introduced a new generation to the joys of the stripe. Without it, we might not have seen the likes of the Proton Satria Neo Sport and the Vauxhall Corsa Sting.

Clearly, the go-faster stripe can give a car ideas above its station, but on balance it’s a force for good. It says more positive things about you than a sticker for a local commercial radio station, which serves only to tell the world that you enjoy your music being interrupted by hyperactive DJs and your weather forecasts bookended by ads for double glazing firms.

Some would argue that there hasn’t been a car built that can’t be improved by a set of black steel wheels, but is the same true of the go-faster stripe? Ladies and gentlemen, we present the following evidence to spark some debate…

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Renault Espace

Opinion: the Renault Espace proves you don’t need (or want) an SUV

Renault Espace

The original Renault Espace was so revolutionary that the design was passed around between car manufacturers before anyone had the gumption to build it. And when Renault did – six years after the car was first designed by Chrysler UK – sales were sluggish. And by ‘sluggish’ we mean single figures in the first month. Ouch.

It was 1985 before the Matra-built Espace arrived in the UK, with a fibreglass body on top of a galvanised steel chassis and a genuinely lounge-like interior. Today, Mk1 Renault Espaces are rare. A life of hard use by families means few have survived, although at least two still exist within Renault’s incredible heritage collection.

Driving the Mk1 Espace today, it feels a shame that the old-fashioned MPV category is all but dead. There’s an incredible amount of room inside – a flat floor aids practicality, while the seats swivel around to allow passengers to enjoy a meeting, or even a family meal in comfort. No modern-day four-wheel-drive can do that.

Visibility is amazing thanks to thin pillars and a low beltline, meaning kids shouldn’t get travel sick as much as they would in an (arguably more stylish) SUV. And it’s perfectly fine to drive, too. The late Turbo DX model we tried, powered by a 2.1-litre turbodiesel engine, surprised us with its levels of refinement. You’re not going to punt it around for fun, but it lollops along quite happily and body-roll doesn’t become too intrusive. Unless you drive like an idiot.

Production of the original Espace finished not long after this example was produced, with the second-generation model arriving in 1991. Not as revolutionary as its ancestor, Renault still managed to make it exciting by launching the Espace F1 in 1995. Created by Matra, it used a lightweight carbon fibre chassis and a 3.5-litre V10 producing 800hp.

Unfortunately, you couldn’t go along to your nearest Renault dealer and place an order for the Espace F1. A one-off show car, the F1 was launched to celebrate 10 years of the Espace and, incidentally, 10 years of the Renault’s involvement in Formula One. If – like me – you’re of the Playstation generation, you may have fond memories of driving the Espace F1 on Gran Turismo 2.

Today, the Espace continues to prove that MPVs can be cool. Now into its fifth generation, the latest Espace puts comfort before driving dynamics, just like the original did more than 30 years earlier. And you’d be hard-pushed to argue that it’s not a looker; it’s crossover-esque appearance makes it a real stand-out in a declining sector.

It’s a shame, then, that Renault axed the Espace in the UK in 2011, and has no plans to make the latest model available in right-hand drive. Personally, I think it’s much cooler than the majority of SUVs on the market.

Renault Espace

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Nissan Leaf

Opinion: electric cars are the future, so why are sales falling?

Nissan LeafNew car sales in March 2018 saw the 12th monthly decline in a row, with overall registrations plunging by a whopping 15.7 percent, according to latest data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

Many are blaming the current demonisation of diesel for this, at least in part – but although rising sales of alternative fuel cars reveal some may be making the switch from diesel to electric, it’s plug-in hybrids, which combine electric with a ‘range-extending’ petrol engine, rather than pure zero-emissions EVs, that are benefiting.

Indeed, sales of pure electric cars actually fell in March, the largest and most important month of the year for new car sales, and by a not-insignificant 7.5 percent.

Plug-in hybrid new car sales, by contrast, rose by 18.2 percent.

Electric car wallbox charger

The decline in pure electric cars is a surprise, as the assumed trend has been that sales will accelerate as battery ranges increase, prices fall and buyers become more familiar and confident with the concept of an electric car.

But while more than 3,100 pure electric cars were sold in March 2017, little more than 2,900 were registered in 2018. This is despite Renault, one of the biggest brands for electric cars, offering some appealing £199-a-month deals on its all-electric Zoe.

Renault Zoe

One explanation for the fall in electric car sales could be Nissan’s launch of the new Leaf. Often, there can be a hiccup in deliveries as production switches from one generation to the next.

Ford very publicaly showed what happens when things go wrong last year, when Britain’s perennial best-selling car, the Fiesta, lost its top spot for a few months.

However, another explanation could be that, simply, the bulk of British car buyers don’t think they’re yet ready for electric. Early adopters already have one and it’s going to take the roll-out of the next-generation of electric cars to really rally the market.

Nissan Leaf

Again, the Leaf may well prove pivotal here, just as the original one did in establishing the idea of an everyday electric car in Britain. Fresh from scooping the 2018 World Green Car of the Year Award, can it deliver?

Analysts will thus be watching pure EV registration figures carefully over the next few months. Because surely it’s far too early in the life of the everyday electric car for a sales stumble to continue for long…      

Range Rover SV Coupe

The Range Rover SV Coupe? What was that?

Range Rover SV CoupeI don’t do many of the media unveils at Motor Shows. Too much of a bun fight, with a thousand other journalists and wretched I-was-a-college-grad-last week-but-now-I-am-an-important-social-media-influencer types elbowing me.

But I did make the reveal of the Range Rover SV Coupe at Geneva this month. I was genuinely intrigued. This SUV coupe idea has largely been the preserve of the German luxury brands, started (and you are welcome to correct me if I am wrong) by BMW with its X5-derived X6, and then Mercedes with the GLE Coupe.

Both of these are as ugly as sin, but taste and plenty of disposable have never gone hand in hand, and both have sold well to the crowd who like to flash their credentials.

We knew that when Land Rover moved into the same game, it would bring both class and good judgement to the market. That’s what the ultimate Range Rover has always stood for, so much so that it’s hard to believe that all this loveliness goes hand-in-hand with stump pulling, mud-plugging off-road ability that is rarely surpassed, even by a tractor.

And so to the 88th Geneva International Motor Show. Finally the wraps are pulled of the quarter of million pounds Range Rover Coupe, and what do we see?

A three-door Range Rover.

No otherwise discernible changes to the bodywork. It seems like a trick, the automotive equivalent of Hans Christian Andersen’s fable of the emperor’s new clothes. And yes, everyone applauds.

Cruelly, it looks like design director Gerry McGovern spent as much time on his usual immaculate sartorial presentation as he did on this new Range Rover.

>Join in: that’s our opinion – what’s yours?

Diesel bans in city centres

Opinion: should city diesel bans mean a comeback for LPG?

Diesel bans in city centresAlan Bradley is one half of The Motoring Podcast. His first column for Motoring Research tackles the tricky issue of banning diesels in city centres.

The idea of starting a new column the week of the Geneva Motor Show would fill most motoring news commentators with fear. The weeks before Geneva are traditionally a fallow period, a time of meandering sentences and, for us podcasters, speaking slowly.

This year, however, it’s the German Federal Administrative Court that has helped us fill minutes and column inches by granting the cities of Stuttgart and Düsseldorf the right to prohibit older, more polluting vehicles from entering at certain times. ‘Older, higher polluting’ is read as ‘diesel’ by many of us, and that’s how it’s intended. According to the court, restricting older vehicles in specified areas of the cities is “generally permissible” as a method of countering localised pollution.

As the court ruling stands, these limitations apply to pre-Euro 5 diesel vehicles, a regulatory tier that can into force in September 2009. These, again according to the ruling, have to be permitted “free passage” until Euro 5 is 10 years old, when the prohibited zones will be no doubt be revised to include newer models in a quest to reverse the increasing nitrogen oxide (NOx) levels in city centres.

Diesel sales down

Volkswagen scandal

Stories like this, coming as they do off the back of the Volkswagen-triggered ‘Dieselgate’ scandal, continue to confuse and deter new car buyers in the UK and across Europe. Month after month, we discuss the continued decline in diesel registrations on The Motoring Podcast News Show and the buyer uncertainty over regulation and taxation that’s causing it. As an example, for January, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders reported 25.6% fewer diesel-powered cars registered compared with 2017.

This change brings its challenges. While cities have their NOx levels measured and monitored, countries are more interested in their overall carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Indeed, the German government opposes the court’s decision. As petrol engines emit less NOx but more CO2 than their well-maintained diesel equivalents, we can already see an increase in the average CO2 emissions of newly-registered UK cars.

So, I hear you cry, what’s the answer to this? Well, as is ever the case, a complex problem has many potential complex solutions. Electricity is a viable alternative, of course, but while tailpipe emissions are zero, its cleanliness depends on how it’s generated. There’s also hydrogen, an energy source that combines the benefits of electric vehicles with the fast filling of conventional fuels, but lacks a consistent infrastructure.

Leaning towards LPG

LPG filling station

This thinking leads me towards LPG: a forgotten fuel that’s locally available across the UK and that can power existing internal combustion engines with minimal modification. Could the time be right for an LPG hybrid? It’s highly unlikely that’s in any manufacturer’s product mix, but it will be interesting to see and hear the car manufacturers, particularly the German brands, explain how they see solutions to this complex issue. We’ll find out at Geneva.

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