Motoring Recycling

Written by  //  March 14, 2012  //  drive  //  No comments

Great advances have been made in the last decade to reduce the impact the car makes on the environment. Higher mpg, lower emissions. All good news without doubt. But what if you can’t afford a shiny new car? How can you be a (relatively) green motorist?

There is another argument to this particular debate. Which manufacturer is the most environmentally friendly? Toyota? Honda? Nope. It’s Porsche. Bear with me.

According to the Stuttgart based manufacturer of posemobiles more than two thirds of the cars it has ever manufactured are still on the road today. And a LOT of the world’s resources are chomped up with each new car produced. So here is some interesting math:

Pablo Päster is a sustainability engineer using Argonne National Laboratory’s GREET green calculator. The GREET model takes into account the energy intensiveness of producing glass, steel, copper, and other critical materials. Päster concludes that manufacturing a Toyota Prius requires about 113 million thermal units of energy. The Prius consumes the equivalent of 1,000 gallons of petrol before it reaches the showroom. Think of it as a carbon debt, one the Prius won’t pay off until it has completed over 46,000 miles or so.

Of course, there is much more to the equation than that. But, instead of putting an old car on the scrapheap with all the other millions of cars that end up there each year, why not go “old school”? If you aren’t worried about driving the latest, most fashionable motor, consider entering the fascinating world of ‘bangernomics‘ (link to a truly awful website but some interesting info).

So, you’ve (sort of) justified driving an old crate because you are a newly born eco warrior. But what do you buy? I was at this stage a year ago and my own wish list was as follows:

An estate (hopefully not in-a-state) as we were restoring a house and needed to transport ‘stuff’, and lots of it.

Diesel engine. Cheaper fuel and diesel engines normally last longer.

Cheap to buy.

Reliable. (ahem!).

Safe (Portuguese roads, etc.).

If I could achieve all that I’d be happy. But if the car looked good, was comfortable and had that indefinable “cool/interesting” factor then I’d be on to a winner.

After much research and boring the wife to tears, we finally bought this:

A Mercedes Benz W124 250TD. Fifteen and a half feet of German loveliness. We call him ‘Fritz’, our friends call him ‘Der Panzerwagen’. This model was developed when Mercedes was still putting engineering targets ahead of financial ones . It really is built like a tank. In 12 months of ownership it has only cost us 110 euros in parts. On a run it returns 40 mpg, at speed is quieter than many petrol cars I’ve driven, has the most comfortable orthopaedic seats this side of a massage chair at Singapore airport, and it has a turning circle that would shame a London taxi. Not bad for a car that is coming up for its 25th birthday. The downside? It’s a bugger to park, when cold is noisier than a Tiger Tank and smokes a bit until the engine warms up. And the acceleration is best described as glacial (another eco reference, get it?) but once you get going it is fine. More than fine actually. Its bloody good.

Reliability? There is one of these cars in the Mercedes Museum in Stuttgart that spent its life as a taxi in Porto. A recorded 1.9 million kms on the clock. Not bad. In fact the next time you fly into Lisbon or Porto airport and catch a taxi into town, you may well be in one of these beasts.

Safety? The current euro ncap test was originally designed by Mercedes for this car, except they tested the front and rear impact. Also, see the Fifth Gear TV program link below.

Road Tax? Depends on the year of the car and its engine size, but it’ll be cheap. The Panzerwagen only costs us 15 euros a year.

And one other bonus. It’ll run on SVO (straight vegetable oil). That’s used chip fat to you and me. However, this is illegal in Portugal. But if you are in the UK, go for it. It’s allowed. HM Customs & Excise removed the requirement to account to them for duty on vegetable oil, and other alternative fuels, if you consume less than 2,500 litres a year. On a W124 Diesel that equates to around 17,000 miles.

Despite all the reasons we bought this car, the thing is, I really like it. It’s a classic (almost). It puts a smile on my face when I drive it . No mean feat, just ask the missus. I will definitely be buying another one. I just love the svelte coupé…..

If you are tempted, there is some great info from Nick Froome in the UK. He is the jedi master of these cars

And here is the Fifth Gear T.V. program trying to destroy one
Fifth Gear W124 Test




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