In May, the Historic and Classic Vehicles Alliance suggested more than 100,000 skilled jobs were at risk as the £18.3bn industry bowed under the weight of red tape and ‘poorly-focused environmental legislation.’
With the ban on new petrol and diesel vehicles never far from the headlines, it’s hard for classic vehicle owners not to feel they might soon find themselves in the environmental firing line.
However, Rachel Maclean, the minister responsible for the government’s transport decarbonisation plans, sought to reassure classic owners in an interview with Autocar, saying: “It’s important to be clear that while we’re phasing out the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles, at this stage we don’t have any plans to actually ask people to remove existing or classic vehicles… from the road. Hopefully I can say this and reassure people.”
Many enthusiasts are currently grappling with issues surrounding the introduction of E10 petrol, but on this issue, too, she promised the government was listening: “We want to be very clear that we do consider the needs of classic vehicles and their drivers, because it’s a big part of their lives.”
Maclean drives an electric Jaguar I-Pace and has experienced first-hand the patchy charging infrastructure. “We’re going to be laying new legislation about the requirements we’re going to put on operators later this year,” she said, outlining requirements for contactless payments, data sharing, and cost transparency.
That bodes well for the growing number of enthusiasts who turn to electric propulsion to keep their classic on the road, and while battery power has captured the imagination of many, Maclean was keen to paint a technology-agnostic picture: “We don’t prescribe one technology over another, but it’s a fact that some technologies have been accelerated beyond others.”
She acknowledged hydrogen and synthetic fuels have a role to play in transport’s decarbonisation, although Maclean suggested these were more likely to be used in HGVs, air travel and shipping, as “those sectors are hard to decarbonise.”
But for those who prefer to keep their historic vehicles as their makers intended, Maclean’s remarks give cause for a brighter outlook. “The classic vehicle community is a really important group,” she reiterated, “and a really important part of the whole picture.”
Research by the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs showed the average UK classic vehicle travels only 1,200 miles and emits just 563kg of CO2 in a year – less than half the emissions of using a mobile phone over the same period.
What would you do in the government’s position? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.