Requiem for petrolheads

Fossil fuel is shuffling off stage

1978 Porsche Targa. Image by Tyler Clemmensen for Pixabay.

I finally realised that the writing was on the proverbial firewall for petrolheads when an unsolicited email eased its way onto my Mac screen.

Here’s the opening line: ‘A Dutch firm called Voitures Extravert wants to convert your vintage 911 into a fully electric vehicle.’ A quick scan of the ubiquitous ‘Net illustrated the raw truth that converting carefully nurtured old cars into EVs is a growth industry in many parts of the world.

That fact dealt a hammer blow to my belief that old motor vehicles were considered sacrosanct even within the hallowed halls of officialdom. You may well ask why I have developed a growing fear for the future of old gas-guzzlers.  I can deliver a riposte as swiftly as a spinning flywheel.

You see, I have this nagging voice echoing in my ear, telling me that the era of the petrolhead is heading for oblivion. The auctioneer’s hammer is poised, a micro-second from crashing down on the demise of those noisy, foul, polluting machines that have been desecrating our planet for well over a century. I despair at their looming demise.

And that’s exactly why my conscience is balancing precariously on the sharp end of a rapier. I love those thumping big V8s that emit a growl so deep that you feel it not only in your guts but in your psyche. I go into unabashed raptures over the urgent, flat-six clamour of a Porsche coupe. The new models from this Germany manufacturer are considered the epitome of driving finesse. But my soul is firmly entwined in the mechanical heart of the older, more vintage Porsche of around 1978, 1979 and 1980.

How can I reconcile my high regard for these mechanical monsters? I concede that the impact of our prolific, petrolhead lifestyle is destroying our world at an ever-increasing pace.

Climate change is a phase that is tattooed across our consciences. Our weather is going rogue. The ice caps are melting at an ever-increasing rate as ambient temperatures rise to unprecedented levels. Eco-systems across the world are committing a form of Hari-Kiri to avoid an agonising demise.

Flickering against that creeping Armageddon is the realisation that petrol heads will have to concede that the game is nearly over. Like steam buffs back in the day, they will have to doff their hats to superior electrical technology. Yes, petrolheads will have to face the reality that our antiquated machines are helping mankind to destroy our world.

I foresee the day in the not-to-distant future when even to start up and drive one of these fine machines will require a permit from the authorities. Unless you’ve caved in and have converted your shiny monster to an EV.

How soon are us petrolheads facing that dire future? Well, just read on to appreciate that it is just around the corner, to coin a phrase.

Among the countries looking to ban outright the sale of fossil fuel-powered vehicles in the relatively near future are Austria, Britain, China, Costa Rica, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Scotland, South Korea, Spain and Taiwan. I couldn’t bring myself to progress beyond the Ts on that daunting list.

Cities have introduced restrictions to limit or ban from designated low emission zones petrol and diesel-fueled vehicles. Among these green-minded cities are Copenhagen, London, Brussels, Milan, Rome, Athens, Frankfort, Berlin, Bogota, Amsterdam (the city of cyclists), and Dublin. They and others are intent on banning outright the sale of new passenger vehicles powered by fossil fuels. The year 2040 is the deadline for the demise of such vehicles in the US at federal level. Many more eco-conscious states have already taken steps to promote the sale of EVs. And countries in Europe have set deadlines that are far earlier than those envisaged in America.

According to the Eyilo report on the State of Electric Vehicles in South Africa published earlier this year, ‘By the end of 2019, there were 28 model derivatives of Hybrid Electric Vehicles across a 4,924 total, including 10 variant plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle models from BMW, Land Rover, Mercedes Benz and Volvo to a 574 total. In terms of Battery Electric Vehicles, the models sold up to the end of 2019 include the Nissan Leaf (94 units), BMW i3 (405 units) and Jaguar iPace (46 units) to a 545 total.’

Various new models were scheduled for launch this year but delays are anticipated.

Several high-end game reserves in South Africa have commissioned the conversion of game viewing vehicles to fully electric models. They report excellent field trials but at the time of writing the local manufacture of EVs had stalled or is in its infancy.

Now that the ‘endgame for fossil-fuel vehicles’ can be seen clearly on the scoreboard, vehicle manufacturers across the globe have been frantically busy playing catchup. Tesla effectively launched the EV market with huge fanfare at a time when traditional automakers had their hearing aids turned off. Today, Tesla’s market capitalisation is bigger than that of Toyota.

As for the Dutch company offering EV conversions for old Porsche 911s, well, at the moment I’m wrestling with my inner-devil. Another major obstacle is the conversion price of US$338 000. My foray into Porsche ownership comprised a side-line business. Buy a tatty 911 at a low price, return the car to its former glory and sell the car at a profit.

Those days are long gone. But I’ve identified a gap in the EV market. I’m working on building up a library of muscle car sound effects that may appeal to owners of EV models. EVs are so silent on the road that they are the equivalent of earth-bound stealth aircraft. Now owners can enjoy the best of both worlds: a carbon-free electric muscle car with a digital, pollution-free exhaust growl. My conscience is clear.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Safrea or its members.


3 Responses

    1. So true about copper Helene. We live in a Catch 22 environment. Mining of any sort is not the most environment-friendly activity. Plant-based fuels – ethanol et al. Clunky technology is based on internal combustion principles. But just think – a horse is essentially a plant-fueled animal. Hmmmm, should we revert to horse-drawn transportation? I’m game.

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