Harry Leahey

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Synthetic fuels are the favoured zero-emission alternative for over three quarters of classic and collector car owners, specialist insurance broker Footman James finds. 


Classic car owners were polled by the insurer during a recent Coffee & Chrome event to gain insight into what future, non-fossil fueled options classic car owners may use. 


Among the 728 respondents, 76 percent said they would opt for synthetic fuels to power their classic / collectible car should petrol and diesel become unavailable. 


Meanwhile, 24 percent said they’d go with electric conversions as their favoured methods to power their classic pride and joy in the future. 


Synthetic fuels, or e-fuels, are made from bio waste, itself being a product of biological organisms such as plankton and algae. 


Not only are they less harmful to create, i.e. not using oil-based raw materials to make the fuel, but when synthetic fuels are burned, they also produce fewer harmful emissions.


While some large vehicle manufacturers are investing in synthetic fuels, notably Porsche, it’s widely reported that synthetic fuels may be one alternative way to power vehicles that have already been made and, due to the petrol pump infrastructure already in place, work best for classic or performance vehicles.


The findings come following the company’s Indicator Report from earlier this year, which found that 47 percent of Footman James’ audience say they already feel the pressure of environmental scrutiny against classic cars.


As one of the leading classic car insurance providers that offers policies for classic and specialist vehicles, Footman Jones says the results show the importance of synthetic fuels to the classic car industry, which the Historic and Classic Vehicles Alliance (HCVA) estimates has an annual turnover of £18.3 billion. 


The HCVA is a ‘not for profit’ organisation which aims to protect and promote the sector, and agrees that e-fuels can be a long- term sustainable method to powering classic cars in the future. 


Chief Executive of the HCVA, Garry Wilson said: “The reality is that if people want to keep running their classics on petrol, there will be plenty available for several decades to come. 


“My main message is don’t panic. Most of us will not have to make this difficult decision.”


For classic car enthusiasts, he added that the decision to opt for an EV conversion is very much a personal one. 


“Some classics are deeply impressive converted to electric, but do it because you like how they drive, not because you think you are contributing to saving the planet, which you won’t be unless you drive it enough miles to recover the CO2 spike caused by battery manufacture.


“Sustainable fuels on the other hand are a drop-in solution that, when they become widely available, we can all use without any modifications to our engines, slashing our carbon emissions immediately to 80 percent of net-zero. 


“That’s a huge environmental win that also protects the character of our classics.”


Managing Director of Footman James, David Bond said: “After polling our Coffee & Chrome attendees, I’m pleased to hear that they’re thinking about the future and how they may be able to align their classic cars with a net-zero future. 


“Understanding the power that alternative fuels have for our [classic and collector car] industry, shows not only a potential positive outlook ahead, but also highlights to organisations the power that e-fuels have to secure ICE cars’ relevance and sustainability in the future.


“After all, if we can keep more cars on the road rather than manufacturing new, that will save millions of tonnes of embedded carbon.”

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Harry Leahey 13/06/23