Alchemist

Shifting a gear into sustainability

South Africa has become synonymous with prohibition. Right now, owing to the pandemic – alcohol, cigarettes, and even visiting your grandmother are on the banned list. Technically, you can visit your grandmother at a restaurant but NOT at her home. Inconsistency across prohibitive regulations often leads to myopic decision making.

The very wheels we own and love today are going to be banned tomorrow. As the world and its governments become more concerned about the harmful effects of global warming on our beautiful earth, cars, specifically ones with internal-combustion engines, are marked as targets. Apart from a blanket vehicle carbon emissions tax – South Africa, appears to have less of a game plan.

In the UK, Boris Johnson & his crew decided that as of 2035, the sale of new petrol, diesel, and even hybrids will be banned. That’s right, even hybrids. This means you will have to rely on your electric vehicle if you want to impress your crush on the sidewalk in London, but instead of a roaring engine, you may need to settle for an unimpressive buzz.

This sort of mindset to ban cars carries across the EU with many countries hopping on the electric wagon – even across parts of Asia, America’s and Australia. Again, South Africa does not seem to express the same interest. Worryingly, South Africa has the highest emission intensity in the G20 group of developing countries. A large reason for the disconnect lies in South Africa’s reliance on coal powered energy with no concrete plans to reduce our dependency in the future.

Toxic emissions aside, you’re probably thinking, “how are we ever going to shift towards electrical vehicles when we barely have electricity in the first place?!”. That’s absolutely correct. It’s very evident our existing methods of power generation aren’t efficient on any metric and desperately need an overhaul.

Here’s how global manufacturers are adapting and balancing the demand for climate conscious vehicles:

  • Ferrari, announced in 2018 that 60% of their total model range will be hybrid or electrically-assisted by 2022. Ferrari, a hybrid? Unheard of.
  • Porsche, traditionally sports car makers, now makes a fully-electric model, the Taycan, with plans to make even more models that are EV
  • Tesla is now the worth more than Volkswagen , Toyota and Honda…. combined!

As a testament to Tesla’s dominance in China – Tesla is still leading sales in the market with the made-in-China Model 3 reaching a production of 12,571 vehicles and sales of 11,014 vehicles during the month of July. That’s more than the next 3 best-selling all-electric vehicles in the country combined during the same period!

With this dynamic coming to the car market, we (as consumers) are faced with placing more thought into our purchases, and how they will affect our future. It’s a difficult one, as I personally find myself conflicted with the internal struggle of leaning towards the experiences of bigger, powerful engines and wondering how quickly green vehicles can replace the experience.

Wrestling with the topic of sustainability & grappling with what life could like was especially pronounced this weekend when we took out two magnificent machines for a squeeze, a BMW M4 Competition, and M2 Competition. Both are fantastic sports cars, which I have driven on road and track. Admittedly, their primary purpose is to bring pure enjoyment and pleasure to those behind the wheel. It was a phenomenal time, one for the scrapbooks. You can’t help but feel it could be a while before this type of experience is replicated becomes accessible with the newer introduction of cleaner vehicles.

Aside from those craving loud, noisy experiences – not everyone is happy with the shift towards electric. The traditional argument is with the introduction of simpler manufacturing, limited need for combustion fuels and fewer staff in production plants, we could expect major job losses. Essentially we are seeing a modern day industrial revolution replicate itself across vehicle manufacturing. The counter argument is, “Is it worth destroying the planet over?”. If life in the past 30 years has taught us anything it’s that “adapt or die” has never been this pronounced. Furthermore, designing frameworks that are all encompassing across balancing job preservation, clean energy, corporate sustainability and profits is difficult – but very much possible.

Yes, I do also work at Ferrari and get to drive Prancing Horses of all eras weekly and I have seen the change of how the cars are becoming more useable and kinder to the environment. Ten years ago all they were after was performance and speed, now they have to be considerate yet still convey driving emotions.

It is a difficult transition that manufacturers are facing but they are doing an incredible job of bridging the two – as a consumer, you have a choice, in this era more than any other. It’s a bit like how digital media, education, entertainment & publishing has evolved. For instance, you have the ability to use Google, Siri and BankerX all for free & then there’s people who are willing to cough up 75 bucks a month for News24 to read screenshots of your own tweets.

As we spend sleepless nights wondering whether we should swap out the M4 for the Prius (just kidding), it’s definitely worth making a carefully thought out choices which maximizes your smiles per mile, encompasses consumer satisfaction in your purchase and retain the sheer emotion of being behind the wheel…. but all while still being conscious of the blue skies above us and the blue waters in front of us.

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