diesel

The Government ban on petrol and diesel in 2040 will be fine for new cars. It’s the old ones I’m worried about

Cars like the BMW i3 have made zero emissions motoring more fashionable

APOLOGIES to Mark Twain’s estate for having to shamelessly pilfer one of his better-known quotes. Reports of the car’s death – which you’ve probably read over the past week or so – have been greatly exaggerated.

Chances are you’ll already be aware of the Government’s intention to ban sales of new petrol and diesel cars as of 2040, which a million internet bores instantly took to mean the death knell for motoring fun as we know it. The party that Karl Benz and his pals threw back in 1886 is finally over, because we all overdid it and got drunk on AC Cobras and Range Rover Sports.

But calling it quits isn’t really doing us as a species, particularly those of who love cars, much credit. Ever since we figured out that we had opposable thumbs and could light fires we’ve been pretty good at working out answers to things, and even by the Government’s own prescription we have roughly 23 years to solve this one.

I’m not going to get into how we make the clean energy that propels a zero emissions car but the end result’s a lot better than it used to be. Seven years ago I drove an electric MINI that had a battery so huge it took up the back seats, a range of barely 100 miles and engine braking so severe you could pull up at roundabouts without touching the middle pedal. It only took another two years for the motor industry to invent an electric car that was fun to drive – take a bow, Renault Twizy – and fast forward to 2017 and the charging points at motorway service stations are crammed with Nissan Leafs and Teslas. If we’ve made it this far in seven years, you probably won’t need a diesel Golf as a new car in two decades’ time.

The bit I worry about is what happens with all the old ones. The more intelligent people at Westminster have already said that banning them isn’t the answer, partly because outlawing the MGB is a bit like banning Buckingham Palace and more importantly because the nation’s classic car hobby is worth £5.5 billion to the British economy (and it’s still growing). Horses have been old hat to commuters since the Austin Seven showed up, but they’re still allowed to use our roads.

But the thing with horses is that you only need straw, carrots and a decent vet to keep them going. If everyone else is driving electric cars in 2040 will there still be petrol stations to fill up the MGF or the Peugeot 205 GTI? Or places that can do a new battery for an Audi TT?

The car, I honestly reckon, will live on. It just might be a bit trickier than it used to be.

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Farewell Peugeot 306 – you will be missed!

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WITH THE rain beating down on a 65mph motorway cruise the Peugeot chooses a prime moment for packing up its windscreen wipers. With only a few miles to go on my last journey with it, it decides to throw one final spanner in the works.

I limp the 306 through to the finishing post – the garage where I’m trading up for a bigger, more refined car. Clearly the Peugeot is peeved it’s being given up, but while it’s a firm goodbye it’s hardly good riddance.

Two years ago I picked it up for one of the in-laws as a prime piece of stopgap motoring until their much newer car arrived, and liked it so much I took on the reins myself a couple of months afterwards. My bargain basement 306 was rubbish in so many ways, but as an overall package it was absolutely brilliant.

As the months went on the rather agricultural clatter from the non-turbocharged 1.9 XUD diesel engine was joined by a persistent high-pitched whistle. The clutch was heavier than a night out with Lindsay Lohan, the central locking had a mind of its own, and towards the end of my ownership the offside rear window developed a nasty habit of opening of its own accord. It was also noisy, not especially quick and had no street cred whatsoever.

But it was still a Peugeot 306 – which meant it handled brilliantly. The bottom-of-the-range diesel might have been a long way off a Rallye or a GTI-6, but pit it against a country road and there were definite whiffs of hot hatch from the steering and suspension.

I loved its diesel-ness too. It never failed to deliver anything south of 50mpg, which meant after a few months the savings at the pumps effectively paid the car off. It even made up for its many failings by being a workhorse I could rely on, with a single breakdown over two years of motoring. Not bad for less than the price of a return train ticket to London.

But after 18 years and 175,000 miles of plodding on it was – and only just, I might add – starting to show signs of whatever motoring’s equivalent of senile dementia is. So rather than putting it through even more runs up and down the nation’s motorway network, I’ve allowed to take automotive retirement and let something more suited to motorway life take the strain.

It’s bigger, smoother but still a fine example of bangernomics at work. It’s also Japanese and a bit boring. Stay tuned to find out what I’ve bought…