Sunday night’s are back to normal for 6.5 million people in the UK, due to the return of a perennial favorite, BBC’s Top Gear. I want to state that I am a fan of the show, I think the format is strong and the presenting team are now globally recognised as being excellent for the job.
I was reminded of its return by my tweet-stream. According to the twitters, the men in jeans were talking about electric cars. I got a lot of tweets about it, 100’s, I suppose all expecting me to go off on one.
Well, not quite.
When all was quiet on Sunday night, I flipped open the lappy and watched the show on iPlayer.
It was indeed very interesting, there was a glimpse of the truly remarkable, but I have to agree, maybe not currently relevant electric Jaguar C-X75.
The chaps then went on to discuss the price of drill and burn fuel, Mr Clarkson actually acknowledged the increasing cost and difficulty of getting oil out of the ground (for those outside the UK we are now paying around $8 US per imperial gallon) and they managed to work in the classic Top Gear ‘fact’ that ‘from what we’ve seen the electric car just isn’t ready yet.’
They then discussed the now tiresome idea that it would take Mr Hammond, 4 days to drive from his home to the Top Gear studio and back.
Unlike previous episodes of Top Gear which have driven me to rant on YouTube, this time I smiled and felt quite relaxed. There was no need to rant, the wording of ‘from what we’ve seen’ said it all. They aren’t interested, their blinkered view makes them ignore what is going on and they are rapidly being left behind.
Last week I read this report http://bit.ly/f1Cggw which gives some credence to the feedback I’ve been getting, particularly the rich middle class.
I’m talking about people who drive around in Range Rovers, large BMW’s and thirsty high end Audi saloons, people who run their own businesses and send their children to private schools.
This lot are suddenly getting in touch with me, the scourge of the Cotswolds. I have actually heard that I’m referred to as ‘that annoying old lefty up the road’ by some of my not so near neighbours, so you can see we don’t always see eye to eye.
Why are they getting in touch? For one reason only, because they all know we drove an electric car for a year, my Mrs was a very good quiet ambassador, lots of posh ladies saw the car and were impressed. They like my Mrs even if they think I’m an old loony leftie.
‘How can we get hold of an electric car?’ they ask me, they don’t ask about range anxiety or express doubts that the technology is ready. They talk about two things, they don’t feel good about burning drill and burn fuel anymore, and they know they are spending between two and three hundred quid a week on petrol, just doing the school run and getting to and from work.
Drive a big SUV five or six hundred miles in a week and it wallops even the most well padded wallet.
No mention of the basic, vital human need to ‘drive to Scotland’ at the drop of a hat or what happens when the battery runs flat. I readily admit that these are the sort of people that can afford a Nissan Leaf or Toyota RAV E4 in their spacious garage charging next to a lumbering Range Rover. For them, £22,000 odd is nothing, a skiing holiday maybe.
But as many on the twitters have commented, this running cost advantage (and it is huge at present) is surely short lived.
One thing is certain, once electric cars become more common, I’m talking one million EV’s on the roads, the Government will have no choice but to start raising tax from this technology in some way.
I have spoken with numerous government officials about this, and the verdict is unanimous. You can’t tax electricity for cars.
I know from experience that you can plug an electric car in anywhere (you might need an extension cable).
But think about it for a moment, a public charging post (taxable) a special home re-charge unit (taxable) or the plug socket next to the fridge, the plug socket at your neighbours house of round the back of the office at work. The solar panels on your roof or the big wind turbine in your spacious garden.
Electricity can come from so many sources, (there is a retired engineer in Wiltshire who charges his Tesla from a converted mill water wheel.
Electricity is not taxable and clearly civil servants have already worked this out.
The prevailing opinion is we will be taxed by miles, not volts. Some modern cars have built in tracking devices like phones. It will soon be possible to log the miles you drive on a central database and pay some kind of tax on that.
Invasion of privacy? I don’t know, all the time I drove the iMiev it was being tracked, I didn’t think about it, it’s the same for our phones and we’ve got used to that.
So of course the cost of driving an electric car will increase as they get cheaper to buy and more common on our roads, but it is obvious even to the kings of the petrol head people that it will still be nowhere near as expensive, both to us individually, and to the nation as a whole, as driving drill and burn fueled cars.
We can generate electricity without importing billions of tons of stuff from dodgy, unreliable overseas suppliers. I know we don’t but we can. We can’t drill for oil in Berkshire, we did drill for oil in the North sea but we burnt our way through that in 30 years.
That is the essence of my argument, electric cars can be sustainable, drill and burn cars cannot.