If you're a classic car enthusiast like us, then you'll be aware of the ecological dilemma facing the industry. As new cars are increasingly moving away from ICE power, the pressure facing the classic car sector looks likely to increase in coming years.
With this in mind, we sat down for a socially distant cup of coffee and a chat with Julien Lescure, founder of Chrome Carbon, to talk about what the future might hold and what his innovative subscription service is doing to help.
Q. Julien, can you tell us a bit about Chrome Carbon?
Chrome Carbon is the first reforestation and carbon reduction program created by and for automotive enthusiasts. We do believe that being passionate about the automotive is compatible with taking care of the environment.
For the price of a pint of beer a month, you can subscribe on the website and remove more CO2 from the atmosphere than your vehicle makes as well as help reforest the UK. We offset emissions using Verified Emission Reductions (VERs) and plant trees through audited and certified partners, so not trusting our impact is not an option.
Our classic car community is passionate about repairing, restoring and preserving our heritage. Chrome Carbon is about facing our emissions honestly. It is about repairing and restoring not only our machines but also our environment. All for future generations.
Q. What a great concept – we really like what you're setting out to achieve. Where do you see the classic car movement heading over the next 25 years, both in the UK and further afield?
I see the classic car movement growing and maturing into the golden age of driving.
With self driving EVs already here and car ownership and new driving licenses at an all time low, I can picture myself explaining to my grandchildrens that yes I used to operate a car manually. Turning a wheel, pulling on a stick and pushing on pedals, all at the same time just to get going!
And that these manually operated vehicles used to be moved by combustion engines which thousands of explosions every minute would make my heart race and the hair on my arm stand up.
When that time comes, and it will, I want them to look at these cars with the same passion I do. Not as one of the symbols of climate change. So I will show them my Chrome Carbon membership, which, in 25 years, should record 3,650 trees planted and 124 tonnes of CO2 removed for 41 tonnes emitted.
Q. What issues do you face as you grow Chrome Carbon?
Chrome Carbon faces two challenges.
The first is that most people acknowledge the threat but are not acting on it. We have very good feedback on the programme but our members are the ones who make the difference. Not the people who just like the programme. It's subscribing that makes a difference.
The second challenge is that there are plenty of opinions about reforestation and carbon offsets, both good and bad but people tend to focus on the bad ones. In a nutshell, carbon offsets are best used in a reduction logic (when the offset is greater than the total of the emissions to compensate for) and reforestation has to be done professionally. We have done our homework - it is all explained on the website - and our partners are solid, again, not trusting our impact is not an option.
Q. Where do you think classic EV conversions fit into the green picture?
I think that each classic car experience is very personal. Whether it is the design of the car, the smell of the interior or the sound of the engine, each enthusiast fulfills its passion its own way. So I completely understand that some people would want to convert their classic car into an EV. You get the style and the experience of a classic with the reliability and eco-friendliness of an EV. It sounds fantastic. Or more accurately it does not make a sound, which for me would be a problem!
If you ask me about the bigger green picture when it comes to automotive and out of the 2 billion vehicles on the road today, I believe that, in 80 to 90% of the cases you could replace the ICE by a battery pack and the drivers would thank you. And for the rest of us, who sit in our cars with the excitement of a kid at the idea of turning the ignition key, there is Chrome Carbon.
Q. What drove you to create Chrome Carbon?
Chrome Carbon was born from my desire to reduce the carbon footprint of my own cars and motorbikes. Back in 2019, I decided to calculate the carbon footprint of my yearly road trip to France. The results shocked me as I released more than one tonne of CO2 in the atmosphere on this single drive. I searched online for a service that would allow me to repair that damage. The available services looked loose, lacking professionalism and transparency and the prices felt random at best. Then I discussed it with some friends and realised that I wasn't the only one trying to reconcile my passion for motoring adventures with a responsible behaviour towards our environment. That's when I decided to start Chrome Carbon.
Q. Do you see the need to reduce our carbon footprint as a barrier to continuing to enjoy our cars?
Reducing our carbon footprint is indeed needed. But I believe that there is a lot of room to reduce our personal emissions before we start thinking of limiting ourselves when it comes to enjoying our cars.
Responsible motoring is about doing our best for the environment while satiating our passion for automotive and the open roads. Everyone should find their own formula.
Mine is commuting on foot or public transport (I live in London so it's easy for me), make my home energy efficient, switch to a green electricity supplier and buy less, shop locally and with a focus on items that are made sustainably and last longer. The latter being completely aligned with the values of classic car ownership.
That aside, I do 5,000 to 6,000 miles a year in vehicles which aren't energy efficient but put a smile on my face and connect me to a community of amazing people. And with my Chrome Carbon membership, I know that ultimately my passion is climate positive, meaning that through my membership I remove more CO2 from the atmosphere than my vehicles make.
Q. We can't talk to a fellow motoring enthusiast without asking them about their own vehicles so tell us what's in the Lescure fleet at the moment?
Having been a teenager during the nineties, I'm a big fan of that era and it is reflected in the vehicles I own.
First in the fleet is my 1997 Maserati Ghibli Cup. I have always been a fan of Marcello Gandini's design and these boxy and over inflated wheel arches left a strong impression on me as a kid. This specific car is now approaching 180,000 kilometers. I bought it in quite a poor state and slowly rebuilt it into the very reliable and performing car it is today. It is a surprisingly easy car to drive and the getrag 6 speed gearbox is an absolute blast. All in all, it is an efficient saloon with tons of boost under the pedal.
Next is a 1997 Ferrari F355 Berlinetta manual. This is a beast - a pure analog driving experience amplified by a timeless design and a Capristo exhaust. It's a genuine grand tourer that does not like getting stuck in traffic. This is to me the last nimble and humble Ferrari. Time will tell how long I will be the guardian of that fine machine. Meanwhile, I strongly lobby my friends who work at Google to add on Maps the option to choose a route according to maximum airflow!
In terms of motorcycles, I own a 1976 Honda CB750 Four. It is completely stock, and my go to if I have to get across London. It's a very good bike that sounds great and provides loads of feedback to make even the shortest drive around town a true driving experience.
In 2015, I also commissioned the AutoFabrica Type 10 based on a 1992 BMW R80 RT. I love this bike, and it feels very close to my heart as I have been directly involved in the design process. I completed the Great Malle Rally on it in 2018, which was a memorable experience that left me with lasting friendships.
And finally I have recently sold my 1989 Yamaha Tenere XT600Z to a portuguese collector. It is a special bike to me since I used it to complete the Scram 2019, a motorcycle rally in the Moroccan desert. The organisers were not so happy with me as contenders are supposed to turn up on inappropriate motorcycles for the terrain! I had a very appropriate machine and don't regret my choice. The bike behaved faultlessly, and I had a blast. It was also perfect to go around London without worrying about the (too) many speed bumps.
Julien, thank you so much for taking the time to have a chat with us. We love what you're doing and we wish you continued success.
For more information and details of how you can play a part in reducing your own carbon footprint, you can find out a lot more here