A weekly look at all that’s rotten in the automotive industry plus some good bits
Clean air cleans up
Harassed readers occupied with surviving corporate-run DUP Britain might have noticed media chatter discussing the ultimate banning of the combustion engine, that is, petrol (gas) and diesel engines. Hybrid cars are covered too, so you can’t slip a teeny-weeny little Fiat Cinquecento engine under the hood while no one is looking.
The future is all-electric. And nobody mention the first electric car was created in 1828.
It was the great medical item of the week, but of humongous proportion. There’s a medical item every week, from tea causes cancer to superbugs don’t actually wear cloaks. The mainstream media knew they had a big one they could feed off for a month.
Church bells rang out the news from Westminster to the Tory press and back again. Our air will be cleaner, our children live longer, each enjoying a better chance of reaching the state pension, which by their generation will be 80 years of age, giving them roughly two years to cash in, assuming they don’t drink too much Yorkshire tea from Ceylon.
It was a glorious day in Britannia’s history, a day the privileged pronounce dirty, polluting machines of the last 120 years good and dead – nuclear power stations not included.
A Tory Party press release crowed over how wonderful it is to be free of EU interference. Free to make our own laws, free to fly in the face of common sense. Only problem is…..
It was an EU directive.
Last February the European commission threatened Britain with penalties for failing to take action on nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions.
The UK Minister for the Environment, a Scot named Slithy Gove, gave the exact date when we can all stop holding our breath: 2040.
Norway is killing off combustion engines by 2020, France by 2030.
And of course, they will still exist in Britain, for the announcement means no new combustion engines will be made, meaning made by auto manufacturers in Britain.
Tory motor mouth and terribly hot posh totty, Julia Hartley-Brewer, denied on radio the combustion engine was killing people early, shrivelling our children’s brains. That was a bare faced lie. Panellists graciously didn’t draw attention to thousands of Japanese and Chinese wearing face masks daily to block noxious car fumes emanating from their automotive rat race.
Moreover, Hartley-Brewer, (a name conjuring an image of a Chelsea tea drinker) lives in a flat, poor thing, and can’t envisage how long a cable she’d need to reach her car of the future to charge its electric motor, parked in the street. Somehow she manages without a long tube from her car to a petrol station to fill her tank.
I’m pretty sure early electric cars will have a back-up battery for motorists who don’t keep an eye on charge levels, so relax.
Electric BMW MINI
One day after the Smog-Be-Gone! announcement BMW stated it was building an electric MINI in Blighty. In a flash the Tory party boasted this was yet another victory for British industry now free of European domination.
Executives of wholly German owned MINI chuckled into their hand-painted beer steins.
BMW has known about the EU directive for many months, and, seeing their competitors introducing entire electric brands, felt an electric MINI a big seller.
Tories hope we don’t read the small print: the MINI’s electric parts will be made in Europe, in BMW’s e-mobility factories at Landshut and Dingolfing in Bavaria, to be exact, shipped over to their Oxford plant and assembled predominately by robots.
Good old Tory Britain.
A modest step is proclaimed a ‘Great Step Forward’. We are years behind most developed nations, even the state of California, setting up electric charging systems.
Presumably the Tory Party hope twenty years enough to privatise the various parts of an electric infrastructure, franchises handed out to friendly corporations, profits to the Cayman Islands. The fear is, by then we will pay the likes of today’s petrol prices and tax hikes for our weekly leccy boost that actually costs a £1 per city vehicle.
The 2040 ban on fossil-fuelled cars has done its headline-grabbing job, making out the Tory Party is the party of modernity, protective of the environment despite having a track-record of slowing down carbon emission reductions at each and every international symposium ever held on the urgent subject of world health and environmental protection.
Behind the smokescreen – pun intended – ministers murmur coyly that air pollution causes as much as £2.7bn in lost productivity in 2012 – worker output is paramount! – ignoring the reality of annual health costs of at least £27.5bn.
A government’s first duty is to protect its citizens from harm: the UK doesn’t give a damn. Tories avoid mention of the progress Scotland has made ever since Alex Salmond noticed energy matters had been overlooked in the Articles of the UK Devolution Bill, and subsequently implemented a radical programme of energy and air improvements.
No sooner had the ban on dirty engines been announced when up jumped none other than an automotive manufacturer to object. Andy Palmer, CEO of Aston Martin, maker of iconic sports cars designed to make a loud rasping noise between short-stop traffic lights.
Palmer said, “A worst-case scenario of a full ban would put businesses and the jobs they bring at risk. It’s not thinking about the consequential effects to the 800,000 people in our industry. It’s not taking into account the impact on things like petrol station garages and the [Ford employees] who have been making engines in Bridgend.” Boo-hoo!
He’s another CEO devoid of imagination, believing somehow garages will not install charging points in a jiffy if there’s profit to be had. He’s another CEO who thinks mega-companies are impotent, frozen in fear, unable to adjust to market conditions.
Of course, what he is really saying is, if the British government want wholly foreign owned Aston Martin to remain in Blighty they’d damn well better offer massive financial incentives to shift from petrol to electricity.
Go with the electric flow
Readers of this essay site know I’m a great devotee of electric vehicles of all kinds. I’ve no fears Scottish oil fields will be rendered useless the day we regain independence – the predicted jeer of lesser spotted Tory Boy. Petroleum goes into making a myriad of products, indispensable until alternative elements are ready for manufacturing.
I want to see the pain and expense in pocket, and environment pollution, noise too, eradicated in car ownership. The future isn’t lashings of chrome and cow leather. I want convenience, technology, and simplicity.
We can eliminate the pain points of ownership. Buying a car is a painful experience; parking is a painful experience; commuting is often a daily hell. Car ownership, the entire motoring infrastructure, needs to be reinvented as fast as possible. Personal transportation ought to last a lifetime, not junked every 100,000 miles!
So, we can have a laugh at Tory ministers averring “Poor air quality is the biggest environmental risk to public health in the UK and this government is determined to take strong action in the shortest time possible,” ….. in twenty-three years time, or maybe longer if we feel we can get off with it politically.
I’m no engineer but I find this mildly amusing. See the first proper job I had was as a filing clerk in the drawing office of a firm that made electric vehicles, which in those days were almost entirely milk-floats plus a few specials, like things that worked in Cheshire salt mines and so on. It was all a bit like a toytown version of the motor industry. In fact they had designs for electric cars … if ever someone worked out a way of making batteries light enough and motors powerful enough so that they could get much above walking pace.
Clearly somehow, somewhere, someone did finally figure it out. Who would have thunk it 😉
True – getting batteries compact was one answer to making electric cars popular quick charging is the next. I think Tesla cars have it down to 2.5 hours for 300 miles.
Irony is, petrol cars were never popular until somebody invented the electric starter.
Oh dear, that calls for a corny joke about cranks …
The thing is, electric was always the primary objective and internal combustion engines only really became a big thing because of the First Bankers Global War.
It seems like me that everything in our world from that point up to now, every aspect of the way we live, has been deliberately designed to increase the consumption of oil.
Think of the replacement of electric tramways with diesel buses, the almost overnight replacement of steam traction on the railways with diesel power when a direct move to electrification would have been less wasteful, the replacement of a network of freight trains crossing the UK with tens of thousands of particulate-spewing lorries, the visionless creation of industrial estates away from practical railheads; the wholesale adoption of wasteful plastic packaging and (in England certainly), the introduction of a ridiculous school league table system which is directly responsible for the utter insanity known as The School Run.
To my eyes, a clear pattern has emerged over the last century and one that has accelerated since the USA abandoned the Gold Standard and pegged its currency to a barrel of Saudi crude…
You’ve written the paragraph I omitted because I didn’t want to develop my points beyond the satirical. I agree with every word you’ve written, particularly railways from steam to diesel and not electric. And I think you’ll find the same exploitation in the USA at the same time.
“….We can eliminate the pain points of ownership. Buying a car is a painful experience; parking is a painful experience; commuting is often a daily hell. Car ownership, the entire motoring infrastructure, needs to be reinvented as fast as possible. Personal transportation ought to last a lifetime, not junked every 100,000 miles!….”
Dearie me, how sad this makes me, Grouse Beater, you’re evidently unable to conceive of life without a car. The waste, the wastefullness, of global resources … energy from whatever source for everyone to be equipped with their own life-threatening mobile steel box. Our towns and cities are horrific enough already.
Surely our aspiration should be towns and cities free of cars.
When I was young, many moons ago, I travelled across Glasgow to my secondary school every day on a trolley-bus. The stop it left from was just across my street, round the corner from Firhill Stadium (seems too big a word?).
The trolley-buses were phased out in Glasgow by 1967, which doesn’t seem that long ago to me (note to self: it’s 50 years ago!).
Trolley-buses were surely a great solution for urban transport, and would have cost peanuts for Edinburgh instead of the expensive trams project. No need to disturb the roads, and no deadly tracks to disturb the cyclists. Perhaps the Edinburgh system should be extended with trolley-buses. If they were designed to use the tram overhead supply, we could even dig up the tracks of the existing route and sell the trams.
Of course we also had trams in Glasgow at the time, so my bike and I toppled over sideways one day at Queens Cross. Fortunately only my dignity suffered, and I’m here to tell the tale.
Bill: “Surely our aspiration should be towns and cities free of cars.”
I could write a a whole book on that subject – don’t tempt me!
There’s cars and there’s cars – I drive a Smart car around the city. Two can sit on a parking bay nose to tail. There are vehicles in existence that can sit three on a bay, but auto manufacturers are reluctant to manufacturer them. They also run on electricity, or offer over 100 mpg.
We have to wean drivers away from running three or five empty seats around town so they have a status symbol around them. And we have to make public transport efficient, fast and free or almost free as an incentive to the majority to use it.
Life in the modern world is organised to shift labour around, from place to place, so until we are all like me – self-employed in his own office – most of us will need transportation, and a lot need it because they are infirm, unable to cycle or walk short distances.
No apartment block in Los Angeles is allowed to be built without underground parking, two spaces per property unit. Thousands of Edinburgh and Glasgow tenements don’t even have basic two-person elevators.
Bring back trolley buses ! Even when you were late at the stop you could run after it, grab the pole and jump on. Marvellous !
Trolleybuses are, I think, an excellent idea, as are trams. I can think of the old excuse that was always made to me; “they were dangerous, you couldn’t hear them coming”. Well, you can’t hear a bicycle or an electric car coming either using the same logic.
Then I hear the oft repeated tales of cyclists falling off due to their wheels dropping into the tramlines. I’m sorry, but these aren’t the fault of the tramways or the trolleybuses; these are down to the individual lack of awareness of the pedestrians and cyclists involved. If I whilst driving my bus, hit a pedestrian who suddenly runs across my path is it the fault of the bus itself or the company for running a bus service along that road? Of course not, it’s the fault of the pedestrian for not making effective observations or myself for not observing and anticipating the situation and reacting appropriately.
Cities all over Europe retained a more grown up approach to transport after WW2 than did the Anglophone world and retained their tramways and developed trolleybus systems.
A friend of mine drives trams in Leipzig and notes that incidents involving bicycles like those often reported from Edinburgh are virtually non-existent.
Cyclists there have always had trams as part of their environment and I suppose ride with that awareness as standard. Of course, mainland Europe has always been more serious about separate cycling infrastructure too by several orders of magnitude.
On a more positive note, I did see that the public car park in Abington now has an EV charging point.
Always thought a battery replacement station would replace present filling stations. Nearly depleted battery units would slide out of the vehicle and a fully charged unit slotted in.
Excellent article, thanks.
Phew, we surely have the UK tories and britnats to thank for that body swerve. Imagine, if they hadn’t been so thoughtful in reducing pollution and had we still been shackled to the EU, splurting out all those fumes everywhere and not doing a damn thing to help our young people live long enough (80+) to collect their pensions. Phew, a lucky escape there.
Scotland, pah! Trying to reduce pollution, all those nasty windmills, yuk. Imagine if we weren’t being supported by the britnats, where would we be then eh.
Sorry the sarcasm, but if people believe for one moment that the UKok gov are looking after the peoples’ interests, they are seriously deluded.
Cars? Handy but usage far too high. If you don’t drive it is seen as weakness.
The noise, argh, it drives 😉 me mad! Drivers, 50% are reckless, dangerous, selfish and think that anyone not in a car should at no time be on the road. The rest, good, they let pedestrians cross at those funny little things in the middle of the road, that have no lights or zebra crossing but give us a safe, ish, place to stop in case we are a bit slow at dodging the crazy drivers intent on nearly killing us.
Cars, if I was from another planet, I would ask why bipeds are sitting at a wheel in a big metal box, going at great speed, (forget the 20 mile an hr thing, most seem to go faster now) at ground level, using up valuable land, while other bipeds are on foot a just a metre or so away from near carnage! Tongue in cheek, but it is a wee bit bizarre, if you really think about it.
Must oil by bike today, always wear a helmet, shoukld be compulsory. If I was from another planet I would wonder why cyclists are so crazy as to not wear helmets or visors, bizarre!
Electric cars make so much sense. So much fewer moving parts, so therefore so much less to go wrong.
So many good responses here, max stafford especially. Trolleybuses would be an excellent addition to our public transport system as would Dutch /Danish style cycle lanes.
A word on electric trains, (another wonderful invention). Here in Dumfries we have British Rail era diesel Sprinters that have been in use since I was in primary school (I am over 40 now) and will probably still be in use when my children are my age. They are noisy and very…….. s l o w.
On trolley buses: I always felt that Edinburgh Council made a terrible blunder with trams, courtesy of the Greens vote ‘wot swung it’. Had the Council used the majority of the £500 million gift to resurface the capital’s roads, and the rest to install ‘Ye Olde Days Tram’ trip back and forward along Princes Street, we and tourists would have loved it.
The other smokescreen (apologies for reusing the pun) is that, by announcing no new internal combustion vehicles after 2040 which will, by that time, will be someone else’s political and technical problem, scrutiny of the proposed complete lack of any intervening action in the next twenty three years is being avoided.
Other countries, which seem vastly more ambitious, will, by that time, have developed the technologies and infrastructure required and England (as we hope it will be) will be, again, left behind.
Countries which will look at quaint Englandshire and smile knowingly – the writing on the wall for a propulsion system based on a series of controlled explosions was plain to see had they wished to look.
Yes, it’s rather like George Osborne giving corrupt banks “15 years to get their house in order”.
I drew the conclusion that England just has no imagination or competence in terms of transport whatsoever. They gave up sometime round about 1914.
There again, you can say exactly the same of the Americans who shamefully destroyed their interurban transport systems at the behest of the motor lobby.
They’ve invested next to nothing in national infrastructure in the last 50 years; testimony to the blind alley that is the economic model they have forced upon the world.
It makes me wonder if the world would have been a better place if Germany had won in 1914…
Super article and chuckle. The only thing missing was some thoughts about the pollution caused by electric cars – the batteries, the mining of the rare metals used in the car, the power stations etc.
I would prefer a hydrogen economy powered by an over-abundance of renewable energy.
I’ll address the issues of discarded batteries in time. For the moment I’m keenest to see less reliance on the combustion engine, and more research on alternative propulsion.