Within the automotive industry it is common practice for vehicle manufacturers to terminate production of car parts after what is usually a ten year period from the point at which that model ceases being produced. So even car owners preferring to keep their car for more than a decade will find obstacles in their way if they buy new but fail to ensure they can repair their vehicle long term.
However, the increasing popularity of vintage and classic cars means that there is now an established market for vintage or out of production spares and parts. In the UK companies like British Parts UK, VW Heritage, Mini Spares and Rimmer Brothers to name a few, have spotted this opportunity and are providing parts and service for owners of these well designed and reliable car models which stand the test of time.
David Ward is the managing director of VWHeritage. They are a Sussex based company who source, make and sell genuine and repro VW classic parts for out of production vehicles. I recently spoke to David about our current waste crisis. He is conscious of the issues associated with the automotive industry, and is keen to support drivers who want to keep their cherished cars for life:
“The current business model makes sense for vehicle manufacturers, who by law have to produce parts for ten years of the car being offered for sale, but this encourages people to buy a new car when the parts supply runs out. Classic and vintage VWs were built to last, having survived 30+ years, and VW Campervans and Beetles have become iconic because so many people have fond memories of them. People want to keep hold of them and we want to help them to do that.”
But isn’t a green or hybrid car the greenest option?
One would assume that a hybrid or electric vehicle would produce the lowest carbon emissions, but a number of recent studies demonstrate that the manufacturing stage of all vehicles, including and sometimes particularly green or electric, makes up a considerable proportion of their total emissions. Many studies now suggest that repairing and keeping the same car for decades is greener than buying a new, green car.
According to the Environmental Transport Agency the tank-to-wheel fuel consumption is only one part of the picture:
“Petroleum and fuel transport and production consume energy, as well as car manufacturing and scrapping and the maintenance and infrastructure. The total energy consumption of car use is on average 54.7% higher than the tank-to-wheel energy consumption alone.”
No black and white conclusions
It’s a complex area however, and often dependent on car make, age, how much a person drives, and, in the case of electric vehicles, what their fuel source is. Notwithstanding the fact that the manufacture of all cars, no matter whether they are green or not, has a huge environmental impact, an electric vehicle, during its life on the road, will produce radically lower emissions, but only if the charging source is renewable. Electric vehicles may well be the carbon zero option for the future, but the manufacturing technology, the infrastructure, and the alternative energy needed currently require more development. As Lindsay Wilson, writing for The Energy Collective explains:
“Electric cars are relatively new at a commercial scale and are dealing with issues of cost, range and charging speed. Each of which will be helped by improving batteries. Despite this they offer enormous hope for reducing carbon emissions, improving local air quality and limiting noise pollution.”
It’s worth considering that a driver with a very high weekly mileage could certainly lower their emissions by trading a big, thirsty and polluting older car for a fuel-efficient new one.
However, for the motorist whose mileage is average to low, the research seems to suggest that by keeping and caring for the same vehicle for as long as possible, and keeping mileage as low as possible, you are committing to what is currently the most sustainable way to drive.