LUCA CIFERRI

Why city mayors may dictate which cars will rule the roads

Paris wants diesel-powered vehicles removed from its streets by 2025 to help reduce air pollution.

Photo credit: Reuters
Luca Ciferri is associate publisher and editor of Automotive News Europe.
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PSA Group CEO Carlos Tavares is scared that the mayors of the world's biggest cities -- especially those in Europe -- will have a powerful say in which powertrains will rule the road because they can dictate which types of vehicles will be allowed inside their metropolitan areas.

"Do you expect me to be happy at 85 riding a bicycle in Paris on a cold, snowy day?" Tavares asked reporters on the sidelines of a press event for the Peugeot 5008 in Lisbon last month. It's easy to understand why he is nervous. The rising sentiment against diesels is gaining traction in Europe because mayors in cities such as Paris -- where PSA is based -- want to eliminate the powertrain by 2025.

The mayors are gaining power in Europe because EU lawmakers have failed to set clear guidelines for future urban mobility at a pan-European level.

C40 targets diesels

Eliminating diesels from cities is one of the key priorities of the C40 organization (www.c40.org). Started in October 2005 when former London Mayor Ken Livingstone convened representatives from 18 megacities to pursue action and cooperation on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the C40 now includes 90 cities and is chaired by Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, who is a declared enemy of the diesel. The C40 claims that cities occupy just 2 percent of the world's land but consume more than two-thirds of the world's energy and account for more than 70 percent of global CO2 emissions.

"Cities are on the frontlines of global climate change and are also well positioned to play a leadership role in driving global action to address climate change," the C40 states on its website.

Last year, the C40 drafted the Air Quality Declaration to show its commitment to banning diesel vehicles by the middle of the next decade. The declaration includes data from the World Health Organization that claims 3 million deaths worldwide each year are linked to exposure to outdoor air pollution. The vast majority of these deaths occur in cities. The C40 asked automakers to stop producing diesels by 2025 and to support a rapid transition to electric, hydrogen and hybrid vehicles.

Some of the C40's founding members, such as the city of Paris, not only agreed to remove diesel vehicles from their streets by 2025, they also pledged to incentivize alternative powertrain vehicles and heavily promote walking and cycling. That is why Tavares said that he doesn't look forward to a time when he is forced to get on his bike to enter Paris when he is an octogenarian.

Lack of freedom

Some might consider Tavares' views as a sign that he is against change. That's far from true. He is confident that PSA's engineers can develop whichever solutions are needed to allow Peugeot, Citroen and DS drivers to enter any big city. What concerns him is that motorists could be forced to use a technology based on the whims of a person, or a limited number of people, rather than on the solution's well-to-wheel benefits.

"My view remains that all regulation should be technology-neutral," Tavares said. "Different automakers will offer different technical solutions, leaving the customer the final choice of what he considers more appropriate and convenient for his individual mobility needs." He added that cities that pick technologies for the people strip away their freedom of mobility.

"To me freedom means I could continue to get up on a Saturday and decide where I want to go," he said. "With my own car."

You can reach Luca Ciferri at lciferri@crain.com.

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