July 2, 2007 Could the age of the fire-breathing sports car be coming to an end? With cars like the Bugatti Veyron and Koenigsegg CCX starting to break the 400km/h mark straight out of the crate and governments around the world continually lowering speed limits in an effort to decrease road trauma, high-speed motoring passion is on a clear collision course with road safety and emission control sensibility. This battle is now set to take center stage at the European Union where parliamentarians are gearing up to debate the merits of a plan that would see new cars limited to 162km/h (101mph) top speeds if they want Euro approval.
The European Union, in its efforts to standardize laws and regulations as much as possible across its 27 states, has become the world's largest economic block and a powerful market regulator in the process. EU emissions standards now dictate the engine management systems of most major car and motorcycle manufacturers who don't want to get left out of this market with its population of around 500 million people.
And it's from the environmental emissions front that top vehicle speeds are set to come under attack; Chris Davies, a Liberal Democrat Member of European Parliament (MEP) has tabled a set of proposals to the EU Environment Committee that include harsh cuts to CO2 emissions, and a top speed limit of 162km/h for Euro-approved cars.
Mr Davies said: "Cars designed to go at stupid speeds have to be built to withstand the effects of a crash at those speeds. They are heavier than necessary, less fuel efficient and produce too many emissions. At a time when Europe is worried about its energy security it is sheer lunacy to approve the sale of gas guzzling cars designed to travel at dangerous speeds that the law does not permit."
The plan would allow cars to exceed the maximum posted speed limit in Europe (130km/h) by around 25%, although it is expected to leave Germans unimpressed, as their autobahns are famously free of speed limits for much of the 12,000km they cover across Germany. "We do not support this direction," said German Transport Minister Wolfgang Tiefensee, while stressing that his country was interested in pursuing other road safety and emissions measures.
While the aftermarket industry have consistently proven themselves in their ability to bypass speed limiters and restrictive catalytic exhausts, a blanket speed limit coupled with the toughest ever emissions regulations would put an instant stop to the quicker, faster, more powerful development route sports cars have typically pursued.