These days I don't own many cars, especially compared with pre-COVID days. And most of those I do have are ex-competition cars and are not road registered. But you might be surprised by what I consider to be the most environmentally sound car I currently have, and maybe set you thinking about alternative purchases especially if you do want to embrace a ‘greener' culture.
I've written on these pages before about the Holden Volt and the Electric Mini SE that I've previously owned, and also about the Cupra Born I have today. These are all cars with supposedly sound green credentials for sure, but I've made it clear that I own the latest Cupra purely because it's a great city car and extremely economical to run. Important as a pensioner!
However, in the unlikely situation that I ever find myself going to take part in a Climate Change demonstration or some such malarkey, I would be getting my green car out of the shed – the Saab 9-5 Vector.
Yup, some years ago I bought myself one of the very last Saabs ever made, let alone imported into Australia. The car had done 24,000 or so kilometres when I acquired it and it's now done 30k. It's a 2011 model, the year that Saab disappeared from not only Australia, but the automotive world altogether, despite an attempt to resuscitate a clearly dead patient.
This is a 2.0-litre turbo diesel and one of approximately 11,000 Vectors produced. Apparently only 43 made it to Australia. The 9-5NG, or Vector, was the facelifted 9-5 that General Motors developed shortly before selling Saab to Spyker Cars. Yes, GM owned Saab for about 20 years and, for most of that time, didn't exactly cover itself in glory in terms of preserving the unique characteristics of Saab products.
In fact it stooped as low as using the truly awful Vauxhall Vectra platform as a basis for the mid-1990s 900. They might have sold a number of them, but it was a fleeting success as the market realised that the traditional Saab qualities weren't there. However, GM redeemed themselves with the development of the short-lived final generation of the 9-5. Despite being again based on a GM platform, the Vector was, and is, a rock solid and beautifully assembled car.
This is surprising, given that GM appeared to be doing everything it could to dispose of Saab during the time of the car's development. The backdrop to these ongoing attempts to sell the business was the Global Financial Crisis as well as the internal translation of the Saab name – within GM, Saab stood for ‘Send Across Another Billion'.
Luckily, someone forgot to tell the development department to ease off at the time and we got the 9-5NG with superb, and stand out, styling as well as that hewn-from-rock feeling of solidity.
So why do I regard this car, and mine in particular, as being so environmentally sound?
Well, I reckon that any good, well maintained, used car is in fact ‘greener' than any new car. A major part of the lifetime carbon footprint of any car is it's initial production. So, it makes sense to maximise the use of a car as well as producing one in the first place that has real potential longevity. After all, the production carbon footprint of a well made car will differ little from a poorly made one.
Hence, those cars that were originally properly produced with the real prospect of having a 20+ years useable life get to amortise that production carbon footprint over a much longer period than the average new car sold today.
I believe that my Saab reflects that approach as well as any car made in the last 20 or so years. For me, it's akin to a 1980s or 1990s Mercedes Benz, with real quality that results in long life for so many of them.
Of course, the 9-5 Vector isn't a rocket ship, especially with the pretty lethargic 2.0-litre diesel engine. But it's fast enough for Australian roads and traffic plus it'll go from Brisbane to Bathurst four-up on a tankful of fossil fuel.
It's also extremely comfortable with huge legroom all round and a massive boot.
Mine's black and immaculate, so if times get hard I can maybe do some Uber work or weddings, bar mitzvahs and funerals on the side.
Perhaps it's time for those folk who are seeking to reduce their personal carbon footprints to look harder for used car opportunities rather than rushing out to buy a new Tesla or whatever. I think that's especially relevant for people who don't actually cover that many kilometeres
The sort of models that I'd suggest looking for are diesel powered, five plus years old, lower kay ones such as Volvo S/V 60 and 90 or Volkswagen Passat, for example. Maybe even a Jaguar XE or XF. There are bargains to be had in the non-SUV part of the market.
The message is though, that a good used car is a greener solution than a new one and trying to encourage everyone to switch to new EVs is not as climate friendly as preserving many older vehicles and getting the full potential use from them rather than sending them prematurely to the recycling yard.