Sunday,24 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1352, (13 - 19 July 2017)
Sunday,24 February, 2019
Issue 1352, (13 - 19 July 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Beginning of the end

France is leading Europe towards a new era of electric vehicles, marking the end of internal combustion. So how will manufacturers respond? Mohamed Abdel-Razek reports

Beginning of the end

Last week, the motoring world was electrified after the French government, led by President Emmanuel Macron, announced it will ban the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles in the country by 2040. The announcement came a day after the Swedish manufacturer Volvo also announced that by 2019 all its production cars will be either electric or hybrid.

This was coming sooner or later. In the past decade the automotive world especially in Europe faced an increase in environment regulations to decrease emissions. Accordingly, car manufacturers started developing their production lines to meet the new regulations gradually each year, which brought us a wide range of new technologies that squeeze more power from smaller engines aiming to decrease fuel consumption as well as pollution.

But the environment regulations kept on going non-stop giving manufacturers no room to think inside the box, pushing many to start investing in research to start producing hybrid vehicles which have batteries and electric generators that work with an internal combustion engine and a braking system to produce more power to the car.

Afterwards the plug-in hybrids entered the market in Europe, allowing the driver to switch entirely to the electric mode, switching off the internal combustion engine. These cars had bigger batteries which need recharge stations across the country to give the car more range on electric mode operation. Later on, pure electric cars took their share of the automotive industry as the future saviour of the planet.

Beginning of the end

But after the sharp turn from the French government, the whole image will change in the next two years. Manufacturers will start investing in developing hybrid and pure electric cars and no longer on pure internal combustion vehicles because other countries across Europe are expected to follow the path of the French with similar decisions.

Consequently, this has produced some big questions: what are the pros and cons of such decisions and who will be affected? Streets will be much quieter and will enjoy clean fresh air that won’t be decaying buildings and harming people’s health anymore. What about manufacturers? Car companies will focus their pure internal combustion vehicles on the African, Asian, Russian and Gulf markets until further changes. The manufacturing of batteries and chargers is expected to flourish, and new developments in this sector will increase, providing safer batteries that can operate for longer periods of time with lighter weights that can provide more power and torque to pure electric cars aiming to keep new customers happy and satisfied. Hybrid and pure-electric car owners will save lots of money on servicing and refuelling.

What about mechanics? Their business will definitely be affected in the long run especially in Europe. The fuel business will also probably harm the economic status of countries that provide it, including in the Gulf and North Africa.

But at the same time, like the batteries and chargers market, the energy market will shift to electricity. Countries that have the gift of sunlight and wind will be able to make a profit by exporting electricity to the whole world. Egypt might get a big chunk out of this, as the country is full of a wide range of potential electronic resources like sunlight, wind and the new electricity plants being built across the country. 

Should the Egyptian government follow in the footsteps of France? Certainly. Fuel consumption is placing huge pressure on the government’s economy, so after finding another reliable source of energy for vehicles in the streets, there will be no need for subsidising fuel anymore.

Also the feedback on the environment will be obvious. With a cleaner environment, health problems like cancer will no longer drain the country’s money.

There are even more benefits to come. So what’s keeping the world from following the French?

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