Archive for portugal

Alt-fuel dot pt

Posted in Alt-Fuel, Green Tech with tags , , , on 11/06/2016 by Alexander

If you haven’t sussed it before, I live in the westernmost country of Continental Europe, Portugal. You’ve probably heard of us through the doings of Cristiano Ronaldo, and not much else. Perhaps the odd international bailout?

Thing is, I was born in England, and for all the flaws the English might have, I have a sensation that things back in old Blighty were a bit more civilised. I could rant for paragraphs to follow on all sorts of corrupt sectors of Portuguese society and our backward mentality, but this is a car blog after all, so I’ll stick to criticising in the context of automobiles.

The Portuguese are a paradoxical bunch of misers who are at the same time squanderers. They will spend €50,000 or more on a brand new Merc, even though they’re not sure they can afford it, but buy the cheapest, crappiest diesel with the smallest, most under-powered engine ‘to save money’ on fuel. They won’t take their cars to the dealership after buying it because it’s slightly more costly, and are willing to let their cars be subject to hack-jobs undertaken by shifty, lazy mechanics to save the odd euro. They drive like maniacs, with the throttle glued to the floor, and then go on national television to complain how fuel is expensive and how close to bankruptcy they come to after filling their tank. LPG sells quite well here, only due to the inherent savings on fuel. The plus-side of it being more ecological is, to most, a minor advantage. To be perfectly honest, I can count myself to be one of these cheapskates, and I must be fair to LPG-users, they are somewhat smarter than the average motorist. The general picture to be had of car-owning Portuguese are people who want the nicest, most expensive, status-enhancing car while wishing to pay next to nothing for running costs.

With this sort of mindset, I would’ve thought there would be the odd entrepreneur or two who’d be interested in the whole alt-fuel market. Let’s face it, in a country where people are so conscientious regarding the money they need to fork out to keep their cars moving, it’d be natural to assume there would be those willing to invest in offering alternatives, since there’s a big market to tap into. So does anyone do this? No. Google something like “biofuel in Portugal” and you get back paltry, outdated results. And this is what annoys me so much about living in this country. Any clever new niche always takes far too much time to be developed, and when it is there are all sorts of hindrances.

I’m one of those people who still believe biofuels may still play a significant role in keeping vehicles in motion in years to come, and I wish I lived in a country with more than shadowy prospects that this will happen. But alas, this rectangle of Iberian Peninsula has many hurdles to overcome, such as:

  • A previous government passed legislation years ago stating that by 2010 a certain percentage of fuel sold in the country has to come from alternative, non-fossil fuel sources. 2010 came and went and it proves that the said laws were no more than lip-service, since nothing has changed.
  • Said government did nothing to remove all the red tape anyone who wants to pursue alt-fuel develop has to wade through to do so, nor has any government since.
  • Galp, the largest national petroleum-derivative retailer, has its nasty tentacles everywhere, and try to stamp out alt-fuels whenever possible. I have little doubt they’re the lobbyists behind all the previously mentioned bureaucratic demands.
  • People in general are too stupid to see how much money they can save. If they did, there would be demand for change. Nothing gets the mob grumbling more than trying to put your fingers in their pockets.

So, in summary, I’m screwed. I’ll have to wait for electric cars.

What recession?

Posted in General opinions with tags , , , , , , , , , on 27/03/2012 by Alexander

For those that don’t know it, I live in Portugal. It’s one of the three countries of the Eurozone that had to be bailed out because it was verging on bankruptcy, which would lead the average person to think that the Portuguese wouldn’t have much money to spend on things, especially cars. Now, I like to think of a country’s habits when it comes to the acquisition of cars as a sort of barometer of said country’s economic health, since buying a car is usually the second biggest personal investment people make in their lives, after a house.

This should be especially true in Portugal, where buying and running a car is extremely expensive, both compared to what people earn and what it costs abroad. Fuel prices are astronomically high, and according to official figures, only Denmark, Greece, Italy and the Netherlands have dearer petrol. Toll-free motorways are a thing of the past, and though that might not seem so bad to foreigners, but to us it means every journey or commute out of town is precious dosh lining someone else’s pockets instead of our own. Plus, lots of areas of the country depend on tourists coming in from Spain, and these tourists now don’t come here because it’s awkward and expensive to use our motorways, but I digress.

To top it off, cars here are amazingly overpriced, both used and new, but I’ll stick to new cars since that’s complicated enough as it is. To illustrate, let’s use Europe’s best-selling car, the VW Golf, as an example. In its native Germany, prices start at €16,975, in France, at €16,790, in Spain, a more expensive €18,820 and in the UK, £15,865, which for the purpose of this comparison, is €18,968. Portugal? A whopping €21,800, nearly €3000 more than the most expensive of the other aforementioned markets!

So one would think that cars wouldn’t sell much, in Portugal, what with gargantuan prices and deep recession. And on the face of it, you’d think that was the case, with January 2012 sales plummeting nearly 50% when compared to the same month in 2011, and February 2012 sporting the same sort of numbers. However, look again. In both January and February, Audi, Mercedes and BMW made the top ten. In February, Merc, BMW and Audi sold a combined total of 1,332 cars. So of the 6,932 cars sold in Portugal, 1 in 5 was a German luxury car. And that’s not counting the thriving used-car import market, which consists mainly of E-Class Mercs and Audi A3’s.

I could go on and lace some more layers of fact on this already iron-clad evidence that Portugal is living beyond its means, that it’s chock-full of idiots who only look at badges and how unevenly and third-worldly money is distributed here, but I think the point’s been made. It’s a miracle Europe bailed us out.