Automotive: will we still be able to drive a thermal car by 2030?

Since the beginning of the millennium, the idea of ​​a definitive ban on the sale of new thermal vehicles has taken shape … to the point that it appears in the package of laws announced by the European Commission in July 2021. If the deadline for 2035 for its use is still hotly debated, the signal is clear. European manufacturers are announcing, one after the other, that they are abandoning traditional engines. The switch to electricity therefore appears to have taken place.

However, the time for the disappearance of service stations and workshops capable of servicing piston engines is far from over. Firstly, because the measure announced by the EU does not concern vehicles in circulation. The scenarios – no matter how ambitious they are – on which they are based actually evoke a total decarbonisation of the transport sector … only in 2050.

A long-term replacement

Today, fossil fuel vehicles make up the vast majority of the French fleet – consisting of 55.5% diesel – while its average age is eleven years old, according to a study by AAA (1) published in February. “We must keep in mind that the car fleet is characterized by considerable inertia: its complete replacement with electric will take place over a very long period of time.”believes Jocelyn Gombault, project manager at the Observatory of automotive service professions. “The question of whether we will still be able to maintain our thermal vehicle in 2030 or even in 2035 simply does not arise. There will certainly be a decline in activity, but the problem will mainly arise for manufacturers and their employees. “this sector will be a problem. Two thirds of jobs will be lost by 2035, according to our most pessimistic forecasts”, he continues.

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Same story on the side of oil tankers regarding the availability of fuels. “As far as France is concerned, there is no concern for the future: either the existing refineries will secure production or they will close, but in this case we will be able to import. The excellent French oil logistics make it possible to consider that.“, confirms Olivier Gantois, President of the French Union of Petroleum Industries. In fact, standardized worldwide, the fuels will continue to be produced for Asia, Africa and the United States, regions which, unlike Europe, have no plans to condemn thermals.

Ultimately, it is the ever-increasing number of low-emission zones that risk posing the biggest problems for French users. The one in Greater Paris, which includes the capital and its inner suburbs, thus allows for a ban on all petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030. It is still unknown whether the measure will actually be applied when the ban officially enters into force for Crit ‘Air 4 and 5 are simply not implemented, and that of Crit’Air 3, scheduled for June 2022, has already been delayed by six months.



The difficult start to retrofitting

Replacement of thermobile engine with its electric equivalent and batteries: The idea seems attractive and in line with the ambitions of recycling and the circular economy. The state even issued a decree to this effect in 2020, which encouraged the conversion of vehicles over five years old by paying a conversion premium of € 2,500 to € 5,000. Many start-ups have also embarked on the adventure and offer remodeling of very popular models such as Renault Clio, Volkswagen Polo, Fiat 500 … Alas, the remodeling kit approval process, long and very expensive, drastically limits the number of eligible models in 2022. Today is it just … Citroën 2CV which has been the subject of a real marketing of about ten copies.

This is not the only obstacle to the development of this sector. We must also take into account the lack of autonomy and limited performance of vehicles, knowing that their final weight can not exceed their original mass by more than 20%. Not to mention the absence of a properly used electricity market. Therefore, in the end, it is very advanced projects, regarding coveted collector cars intended for a very privileged clientele, which seem to be the most economically profitable.

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