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The 14th July 2021 will be marked as the day Europe decided to well and truly lose the plot.  Forget the internal combustion engine has provided power to empires, aggressors, the public and commerce for just over a century. No, what we need is to go right back to 1900 and get into electrikery. Not enough power? Jack the taxes and build wind farms. Need power for the wind farms if there isn’t enough wind to turn the delicate blades, for their own protection? Need power for the wind farms when the delicate blades might spin too fast? Certainly – oh, wait, we don’t have enough power. Oh dear.

What follows is the evolution of a poorly thought-out policy which, through targeted victimisation of selected sectors will put Europe and North America backwards by at least 50 years. The funding? Government loans, otherwise known as ‘quantitative easing’. Yes, made-up money.

In the beginning there was fossil fuel…. 

Europe announced on the 14th July 2021 the end of new vehicle sales with internal combustion engines, which will take place by 2035 except for HGVs over 26 tonnes GVW / GTW, and all remaining road vehicles by 2040. Just remember this is policy, made by people who don’t earn income from commerce, who don’t run logistics companies or even get paid by results. Unlike us.

The objective is no longer reduction of greenhouse gases, nor offsetting the total greenhouse gas emissions with tree planting – no, it’s to extract more carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide from the air than we emit. So far sighted. So needed by 2050, 2040, 2030, 2025, yesterday.

In spite of my less than kind words, we need to consider collision repairers are faced with a unique challenge. Apart from companies continuously heating (food processing, cement works, industrial incinerators and foundries, for example) there can be few types of activity that match the energy consumed per square metre of business floor space of a collision repairer. The air compressor? The spot welders? No, the biggest energy consumer is the paint booth. 

Even longer ago

When the very first plastics were finding their way into mass adoption, one of the by-products became a key component of ‘paint’. A series of formulations that key to the metal or plastic base material, then build all the way through colour and tints to the final sealing layers. The secret to success is a thin, uniform and imperfection free covering of the component – or indeed – whole vehicle surface. By the way, this came from my wonderful friend Mr Ian Groat!

The components of the paint system used to have volatile organic compounds which enabled storage, mixing and application before the polymers finally cured. For many decades the amount of volatile organic compounds has been steadily reduced, but the process still requires heat to cure the multiple layers of polymers. 

High profile might be bad news

Most of the global political elite are on the look-out for something that all voters can see and which is easily fixed.  The measures revealed on 14th July 2021, which have yet to be fully agreed, are because even though road transport contributes (depending where one finds the numbers) between 20 and 30% of the UK’s total annual Carbon Dioxide emissions – the noise, the very smell, is everywhere. The biggest source of pollution is where we live yet, no one is trying to purge houses from cities on the grounds of emissions.

This is the warning for our sector

Almost every single trading estate across the entire UK has a refinisher. Some, like you, do the job properly with professional paint booths, recording paint use and calculating the volatile organic compound emissions each week or month. Some, in the mechanical service business who will do the occasional small paint job, put up a tent inside their building and use aerosol cans. 

Arise the stellar intellect of the average politician

The average politician they see no difference in approach just described.

The big question is this:  Do we wait to get hit with a tsunami of politically motivated emotionally charged idiocy, or do we quietly get on with making improvements in anticipation of unwelcome interest at some point in the future? If there is any doubt how rough the tsunami can be, just look at vehicle manufacturers and check out their shareholder communications. For all the brave statements, the reality is more like the end of a bull fight (the bit where the participants are badly injured or even die).

We should be interested in the outcome, because the aftermarket survives on a steady stream of new vehicles with refreshed technology.  We should also be very, very interested in our own long-term survival, since the sector is likely to benefit from whatever future transport policy creates – to quote Clark Gable’s character in the film Gone With The Wind, ‘Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn!’

The niggling problem is the paint broth. Is there a way, eventually, energy consumption will reduce to 20% of present levels, and still offer the type of refinish like we know today?

In this enforced closure of the internal combustion engine in Europe, we should remember this. In 2004 no one knew it would be possible to have a NOx reduction catalytic converter to run in the inherently cooler exhaust gas of a diesel engine. By 2009 BASF had created and put into production the technology. 

For engineers, almost nothing is really impossible – apart from perpetual energy. Politicians and economists are the ones to claim to have found perpetual energy, and perpetual cash. They are frauds.  

Auto Industry Consulting is an independent provider of technical information to the global collision repair industry via EziMethods, our online collision repair methods system. For more information please visit the website:  www.ezimethods.com

 

by Andrew Marsh