We’ll Always (cough) Have Paris

There has been a steady effort to market fuel-efficient, “clean” diesels in the US. Some cars even feature “biodiesel” with a small percentage – 2%, 5% or 20% – of the fuel sourced from vegetable oil rather than crude oil. Diesels are more fuel efficient than gasoline engines, and have a reputation for durability, but are they such a good idea?

Diesels are très populaire in Europe, and subsidized in France, but as reported in an interview by LeMonde, Mayor Anne Hidalgo has submitted an emission control plan that will banish older, polluting vehicles – especially diesels – from the interior streets of Paris, beginning July 2015. She says that even modern diesel filters don’t capture the fine particles that are most dangerous to health. According to the European Environment Agency (EEA) Paris averages of 147 microgrammes of particulate matter (PM) per cubic metre of air – while Brussels averaged 114, Amsterdam 104, Berlin 81 and London 79.7.

As translated by France 24, Hidalgo said, “We are determined to act quickly, … The fine particles emitted mostly by public buses and coaches are a major health concern. … It is true that older diesel vehicles are more polluting than modern ones, but the filters in even the latest models can’t get rid of the most dangerous fine particles.”

As in nearly 200 European cities, Paris will designate a, “low emission zone,” which will gradually prohibit the dirtiest emitting vehicles, with a complete ban by 2020. Discussions seem to be underway for Paris to partially fund a transition to electric utility and delivery vehicles.

“This will include up to 50 percent of the cost price, with low-rate loans to cover the rest,” Hidalgo said. “We are already in talks with banks and shops as well as transport companies to get this in place.”

Parisians’ ownership of automobiles has dropped from 60% to 40% since 2001, but Hidalgo also intends to provide incentives for greater use of electric car-sharing (Autolib), personal EVs and bikes.

As reported in The Connexion, many owners of older vehicles have not embraced the plan, and motorbike riders took to the streets:

HUNDREDS of motorcyclists ignored a police ban and took to the streets of Paris yesterday to protest against plans to stop motorbikes made before 2000 taking to the city’s streets – and there are plans to repeat the rally in front of City Hall today.

Describing the plans as “pure nonsense”, the French Federation of Angry Bikers (FFMC), which has organised both protests said in a statement that, “because of their low fuel consumption, reduced size, mobility and shorter journey times, they are a solution to the congestion of urban traffic and of value in the fight against pollution.

But the plan could boost sales of the electric Renault Zoe, and Hidalgo appears to want something to show off when Paris hosts the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 21) in December 2015.

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