By Maggie Barry on 2019-10-21 - Experienced car journalist.
Tavares talks tough
ONE of the most powerful men in the automotive industry has accused governments of being dishonest about electric cars.
Carlos Tavares is the chief executive officer of French group PSA which employs 180,000 people and includes Peugeot, Citroen, DS Automobiles, Opel and British car maker Vauxhall.
He said politicians had failed to make it clear that electric cars would undoubtedly be more expensive than traditional vehicles powered by internal combustion engines.
And he suggested governments should be absolutely sure they had made the right decision for the planet in reaching for electricity as their preferred option for the future.
He said: "If in ten years or 20 something new happens and they figure out they have selected the wrong technology, the costs to society are going to be enormous."
Speaking at the launch of the Peugeot 208 and e-208 in his home country of Portugal he said politicians needed to tell the truth about electric cars.
In Europe alone 448 billion euros is raised every year from tax on petrol and diesel which will have to be found elsewhere if drivers move to electric.
Tavares went on: "Zero emission mobility is going to be much more expensive than conventional cars - like biofood is dearer than conventional food.
"The truth is nobody is yet investing in a charging network that is dense enough for people to be at ease with the range of electric vehicles.
"That needs a lot of investment and currently that business plan does not fly which means either you increase the price of electricity and that will feed back to the total cost of ownership of an EV or you increase taxes to fund the network.
"The motoring industry can do sustainable zero emission mobility but funds have to be raised for the charging network and that is going to be costly for the consumer - and that is what the politicians are not telling the public."
Tavares is angry too that in the rush to electricity no-one has thought it proper or fit to consult the car makers themselves - the men and women with the expertise.
He puts the blame for this firmly on the ‘Dieselgate' crisis which he believes shook the European Union to the core.
He explained: "There was a very strong reaction from politicians who considered all car makers in Europe as crooks which meant there was zero empathy and zero willingness to talk to us.
"The European Parliament was very frustrated and emotional over what happened and now the whole industry is paying the price.
"And this is very bad for the public because we have 100,000 engineers in Europe, 15,000 in PSA alone, and all of this scientific knowledge could be used to offer solutions to the people's representatives in terms of reducing emissions in the most efficient way possible.
"Instead they have decided they do not want to talk to us and they are making decisions without access to the physics and chemistry of it all.
"The responsibility to select one technology instead of another is in the hands of politicians."
And he foresees problems in the slow delivery of the charging network, the ethical dilemma of producing electricity from coal-fired plants, the manufacturing of batteries and the delivery of them from China where most of them are sourced.
"And then the climate change campaigners will tell us the EVs are not the solution because they are not that efficient in terms of CO2 - and where will that leave us?" he asked.
Tavares is the man credited with turning round the fortunes of PSA. When he arrived as CEO in 2014 it was on the verge of bankruptcy. Earlier this year it posted the highest profitability of any car manufacturer in Europe.
PSA bought Vauxhall along with Opel from General Motors in 2017 and last year Vauxhall posted its first profits in almost two decades.
Seen as a visionary by many, Tavares is a modest man who inspires loyalty and devotion in those who work for him, and is passionate about good mobility choices.
He sees freedom of mobility as a right and is concerned that the far reaching consequences of a dearer or more expensive sustainable future have not been fully thought out.
"Do we accept that in the future you can only be mobile if you are wealthy? Of course not," he said.
"But affordability will touch on the very core of the way we live and these are the facts the politicians must tell the people.
"It will affect what we eat, how often we travel, if we wake up on a Saturday morning after a tough week, can we spontaneously decided to go to the seaside for the day? This is what is at stake.
"Politicians cannot keep piling on the punitive decisions because there will be a time when the people will say, ‘no more'.
"This is what happened in France with the Yellow Jackets - that rebellion came from an increase in the price of petrol and diesel. People have a hard time already making ends meet.
"We do not drive cars because we are addicted - it is often because we have no other choice.
"Sustainability is not just about cars it is about a whole change of lifestyle, but the car is being held hostage.
"Decisions that are being made on our behalf but people have to work out for themselves just what they are willing to sacrifice for this future."
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