A weekly look at all that sucks in the car world, plus some good bits
Every so often Westminster’s departments come up with truly wild ideas, remove Scotland’s constitutional rights one day, stick green registration plates on cars the next. The Department of Transport (DofT) has announced a consultation on whether or not electric cars should be given green plates to identify them as battery electric – an absence of engine roar and exhaust pipe insufficient for the stupid public to spot the difference from smelly diesel cars or noisy petrol cars. They dangle a carrot – green plates can “enforce incentives for the drivers of such vehicles, like [sic] allowing them to use bus lanes or pay less for parking”.
Bad enough we accept yellow plates on the rear of a vehicle to make it easy for speed cameras to read the number. The Republic of Ireland has no yellow plates for the simple reason it has no speed cameras. (Scotland has shut down 80% of speed cameras not out of guilt for using them as revenue sources, but because the cameras are so costly to maintain.) Here in England and the ‘regions’ we are to be given Sherwood Forest green plates with black letters and numerals, (Robin Hood tights thrown in for free) a cost to the taxpayer for what benefit? Lots of people are colour blind. They will see blue plates.
The consultation is part of the DofT’s £1.5 billion Road to Zero strategy and takes inspiration from a scheme in Ontario, Canada where drivers of electric cars were given free access to toll lanes and high occupancy vehicle lanes, leading to an increase in EV registrations. The hope is UK local authorities will implement similar policies with the aid of the green plate scheme.
Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Transport, a politician with a seriously iffy business record, said: “Green number plates are a really positive and exciting way to help everyone recognise the increasing number of electric vehicles on our roads. By increasing awareness of these vehicles and the benefits they bring to their drivers and our environment, we will turbo-charge the zero emission revolution.” Note no mention of real environmental changes. Magically, green plates will give us clean air.
The Tory party, readers will recall, cut back financial incentives to buy electric cars, and has pursued a policy of installing electric charging points nationwide, and mandatory in all new house builds, with all the alacrity of a sloth troubling to scratch an itch.
Hands have been thrown up in horror. Nicholas Lyes, head of roads policy at the RAC, cast doubt on the scheme: “While the sentiment seems right, there are question marks as to whether drivers would see this as a badge of honour or alternatively it could foster resentment among existing drivers of petrol and diesel vehicles”.
The DofT admits to receiving a negative reaction so far. “On the face of it, drivers we’ve questioned don’t seem too impressed – only a fifth think it’s a good idea and the majority said the number plates wouldn’t have the effect of making them any more likely to switch to an electric vehicle.” Well – no. My neighbour has a car with a green plate. Gosh. I’m so jealous. I’ll remortgage the house to buy a costly electric car and stick it to him.
Given their relatively high purchase costs, only drivers that could afford to make the switch to an electric vehicle will be proud of their green credentials, leaving the vast majority who rely on petrol and diesel cars feeling second-class.
Some Tory-loving civil servant has come up with the idea of incentivising us to go electric by the cheapest solution possible – peer pressure. Forget charging points, free parking, grants to buy. We employ envy. The government can use money saved to buy war planes for the empty decks of the eye watering costly aircraft carriers they built.
Why do we elect a government? We elect a government to provide tax money to build infrastructure. The best way to encourage drivers to ‘go electric’ is for the Government to provide the right financial incentives at the point of purchase, to investing in better roads, and garages with charging points, and research for reusable materials in car manufacturing. Common sense, innit?
How long before the first bright pink Vauxhall Astra passes you sporting lurid green plates? If that happens the DofT ought to recommend sick bags as standard issue in all passenger cars. Green plates are the equivalent of the ‘Go Faster’ stripe that car makers used to stick on slow cars.
GROUSEY’S FOOTWELL FINDS
Bad for good
Our capital city has had a look at its 20mph experiment. The report to the Transport and Environment Committee estates public support for the scheme is up, with 65% of those polled in household survey, now in favour compared to 58% before the roll-out. People who walk and cycle report doing so much more frequently now streets are calmer and respondents feel Edinburgh’s traffic speeds are “very safe” for cycling.” (Cars and vans pass me doing 40mph in 20mph zones.) There’s also a corresponding relaying of poor or rough road surfaces but frustratingly as much digging up for new drains and cable TV as ever – entire resurfaced road about to have a sunken channel left in them because road gangs do not compact the earth (spoil) they put back.
National Transport Strategy
Writing in the ‘Opinion’ column of the Herald newspaper, a believer in Shank’s Pony says: “Scotland’s transport system has become too reliant on cars. It doesn’t give the necessary priority to walking, cycling, the bus and the train to help us improve public health and tackle the climate emergency.” So, by his reckoning we’re never going to see the useless A1 trunk road transformed into a proper motorway. And as for his other loony ideas of cycling everywhere, elderly and young, Highlands and Lowlands, fishermen on the seas too, lets see him round up a flock of sheep on the side of Ben Nevis on a bicycle!
Car events for November
As the nights draw in and we take to comfort foods, booze, or getting grumpy, meetings for car enthusiasts are weather related. Perth sees its Classic Car rally from 10 – 17 November: 5+ tests through forests, across farm tracks and over different terrains with a handful of regulaties thrown in to keep the navigators in their toes. A Targa permit event is added to the back of the event to allow modern cars to also enter Lochgelly’s Raceway sees another Stock Car Race on Saturday, 2 November from 5pm. Other than that, we can amuse ourselves while on the move observing small-scale vehicle shunts, and near misses as drivers continue to keep speeds only safe in summer light.