Hoodwinked by car manufacturers

Elisabeth Dütschke (Freiburg, Germany) has been putting some figures onto the ‘rebound’ phenomenon ie the degree to which expected savings are not made when converting to more efficient technology. She indicates that this figure is c.5% for domestic lighting and up to 30% for domestic cars.

I lived in the Netherlands 1977 – 2011 where we were being convinced by the plausible propaganda from the car manufacturers that we were all saving the planet and being otherwise wonderful because car engines continue to become more efficient. However, people started noticing that nevertheless petrol and diesel consumption was not decreasing nationally. We were not driving further. Many car owners had exchanged a family saloon for a 4×4 (the Netherlands had the highest 4×4 ownership per capita although nobody drives off-road). Other car owners down-sized. I traded my 4-door hatchback in for a 2-door woman’s shopper on the grounds that I no longer need to transport a team of railway maintenance workers and their kit. Imagine my disappointment when my weight-related road tax bill remained constant. Checking the logbook, I found that my small car was no lighter than the previous larger one. Modern cars are just getting heavier and extra metal doesn’t necessarily mean more safety. Elisabeth and your colleagues: keep up your good work of translating this ‘rebound’ into figures to make us aware of what we are actually doing.

Peter Badcock, Cardiff

Photo of a road