Brussels without thermal vehicles: apart from a few aberrations

So it’s official since last week, the Brussels-Capital Region will ban all vehicles with combustion engines in 2035, or even 2030 for those running on diesel.

In this, it imitates other European capitals which have positioned themselves in this way, such as London, Amsterdam or Paris. Basically, even for the ardent defenders of individual mobility, it is difficult to prove it wrong.

Despite the latest environmental standards, a heat engine pollutes and emits CO2. Certainly much less than before, but there is no fire without smoke, one might write. Seen through the prism of the environment and public health, this measure is fully justified. However, the absence of nuances raises some questions.

Everyone in the same bag

OK to eliminate the most polluting fuels. But what about the others, presented as a credible alternative only recently? Natural gas stations are starting to appear all over Wallonia while there are already many more in Flanders. CNG (compressed natural gas) emits 80 to 90% less fine particles and nitrogen oxides than gasoline or diesel vehicles and 7 to 16% less CO2. The Walloon Region has invested more than 6.6 million euros in supporting the deployment of infrastructure for natural gas vehicles, although Brussels will soon ban them. It may be difficult to convince commuters to opt for this technology in the years to come.

Let’s admit for CNG, it pollutes anyway. But what about hybrids?

Traditional hybrids have a small electric motor helping the thermal and whose battery is recharged during deceleration. The gain is appreciable in town with consumption less than 5 l / 100 km for the best. OK, but a little bit of burnt gasoline is a little more pollution …

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Also admit for hybrids. But what about plug-in hybrids?

That they have a large battery with the capacity to move only electrically seems not to have been taken into account. However, the very nature of a plug-in hybrid is to be able to emit no polluting emissions at certain times, which can be defined by the driver. We switch from gasoline on the highway to electric in town.

But there are risks. Whether the battery is empty when entering Brussels or motorists misuse this technology by not recharging regularly. So the authorities seem not to have wanted to take the slightest risk. As long as there is an internal combustion engine, even little used, we ban!

Motorcycles and scooters: what alternative?

Installing 300 kg of batteries in a car is a bit easier than in a motorcycle. Moreover, at present, no electric two-wheeler on the market has a range of up to 200 km. It’s okay to drive around town, which is the case with 50cc scooters. But what will Brussels bikers do who want to go out for a weekend or go on vacation? No solution exists yet and the development of a “clean” technology is much more expensive and complicated than for a car. Not to mention the many Walloon and Flemish bikers coming to work in Brussels on two-wheelers to avoid traffic jams. They can keep a traditional motorbike but cannot return to the capital. And if they switch to electric (70% more expensive now), they can no longer consider long journeys without planning multiple stops to recharge, hoping that by 2035, ultra-fast charges will be available at the same time. time than large capacity batteries.

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Technologies not taken into account

The auto industry knows full well that the days of the traditional combustion engine are numbered. Several manufacturers, and not the least, have announced that they will stop manufacturing thermal models in the course of the next decade. This is the case with Audi, Volkswagen, Volvo, Mini and General Motors in the USA. But we also know that it will be impossible to transform the entire thermal park into electric. It’s hard to imagine electric vehicles in the African bush in the short term. We could possibly evoke hydrogen, but its production remains polluting and its cost prohibitive.

Still, the industry is looking at other alternatives. Like synthetic fuels, which are no longer derived from petroleum, or entirely “green” fuels, made from algae, vegetables or cereals.

The thermal exit plan in Brussels does not breathe a word. As is the future Euro 7 depollution standard planned for 2025 and which could possibly serve as a buffer in the planned schedule.

Because 2035 is just over 13 years away. Remember that the first mass-produced electric car was only marketed with us in 2011. The Nissan Leaf, car of the year, cost 30,000 euros for 150 km of range. Ten years later, autonomy has doubled for a price increased by a third. At this rate, in 2035, we could expect 700 km of autonomy and € 60,000. All that remains is to save and hope to be able to recharge in Brussels.