We’re so obsessed with driving the greenest, most economical cars around it’s easy to forget how much of the planet we sacrifice to make them.
Take hybrids. All those batteries need chemicals called rare earths. And mining them has the Chinese committing environmental rape on a massive scale. Even producing a bog standard petrol car takes tonnes of CO2. But it doesn’t have to.
I recently visited SEAT’s Martorell factory on the outskirts of Barcelona. The idea behind the trip was to drive its new electric and plug-in hybrid cars and see how the firm is going about reducing its environmental footprint. The cars were, well, electric. They didn’t make any noise, the battery model felt sluggish up hills and the plug-in hybrid was no more or less impressive than any other.
What made the biggest impression was seeing acres of photo voltaic cells spread out over the sprawling factory complex’s roof. There are 135,000 square metres of the things in Martorell making it Spain’s largest solar installation. And it cuts carbon dioxide output by 6,200 tonnes a year.
Of course that’s perfectly logical in a country as sunny as Spain. But it means SEAT will have to convince an awful lot of people into its Ecomotive fuel sippers to garner a similar CO2 saving via its vehicles. One more sobering thought: SEAT bosses predicted there would be 11,000 electric-only vehicles on the road in Spain by 2011. Currently there are a mere 197. Keep on with the solar panels fellas.