Electric vehicles

Light bulb moment: the flaw in the petrol car ban

This week, writing in the Daily Mail, Matt Ridley produced a devastating takedown of the government’s 2030 ban on the sale of new conventionally powered cars. He plans to pre-empt the ban himself by buying a brand-new petrol car in 2029. Innovation happens gradually and delivers its benefits unevenly – therefore it is stupid to impose it on everyone all at once  I thought he was right about almost everything, except perhaps that final prediction. He’s right to be sceptical about the environmental benefits of electric cars – especially in countries such as China (and, to a lesser extent, Germany) where electricity is largely generated from the filthier forms of

Could you love an electric campervan?

The Volkswagen ID Buzz is a pretty car, though so innocent-seeming you would forgive it anything. It succeeds the equally pretty T2 campervan, the Betty Boop of 1950s vehicles. The T2 was so convincing – cars, like everything, vary in charisma – it is one of the most famous vehicles in the world, so much so that I can’t think of one without seeing Don Draper’s face. Iconic is a stupid word, but the T2 was iconic, and in testament you will pay £20,000 for the bones of one, though you shouldn’t. I should have waited for Exeter and topped up at Bristol, as the delivery driver counselled, but I

Carmageddon: the electric vehicle boondoggle

A couple of years ago I thought seriously about buying an electric car. Not a hybrid, but the full monty. There was one in particular I liked the look of and I even contacted a dealership to ask whether they’d accept my diesel-powered VW Touran in part-exchange. The answer was yes, but it was still eye-wateringly expensive. Was it worth it? I tried to persuade myself it would be, given the savings on fuel costs, the waiving of the congestion charge, etc. Boy, am I glad I dodged that bullet. Scarcely a day passes without a new horror story about electric vehicles in the press. Over the past week alone,

Extreme E: how motor racing turned green

Prior to kick-off, Fifa declared the World Cup in Qatar to be ‘a fully carbon-neutral event’, triggering enough spluttering, snorting and involuntary cackles to feed an entire wind farm. Seven giant brand-new stadiums, open-air air-conditioning in the desert, goodness knows how many long-haul flights in and out, and an armada of cruise ships to store the Wags. Righto, Mr Infantino. The Fifa president is the poster boy of talking tripe – the Comical Ali of sports-washing. Football is losing the climate fight like Costa Rica lost against Spain (7-0). Instead, the world’s most eco-friendly sport is motor racing. I’m serious. Let me introduce you to Extreme E. Extreme E, or

I’ve seen the future of motor racing, and it’s quiet

Are petrolheads’ days numbered? I only ask because having just been introduced to the quiet, petrol-less world of Formula E, I’m rather taken by it. Apart from anything else, part of the fun of spectating is making your feelings heard, which isn’t easy against the 130 decibels generated by F1 engines. The Formula E world championship arrives in London’s Docklands this weekend, weaving in and out of the ExCeL for races 13 and 14 of the season. That’s ‘E’ as in electric and plainly non-fossil fuel motoring is the future, though how soon isn’t clear. Formula E people think single-seat racing is a good way to promote it, and once

The hidden benefit of an electric car

Hello, and welcome to episode one of What’s in My Frunk?, the first in an occasional Spectator series of news and advice for the electronic motorist. In this edition we’ll be discussing one of the unexpected benefits of owning an electric car. The space under the bonnet vacated by the engine often provides a small but usable secondary storage area. This is the ‘frunk’, a portmanteau word combining ‘front’ and the American word ‘trunk’. Now that even Land Rover Defenders have carpeted boots, your frunk is great for transporting anything wet or dirty – wellingtons, charging cables, takeaways or body parts from your last hit. My Mustang Mach-E even has

Letters: What Sturgeon has got wrong

Sturgeon’s single issue Sir: Nicola Sturgeon needs to be careful what she wishes for. Declaring that the next general election will be concerned solely with the issue of Scottish independence is, as you say, ‘a constitutional absurdity’ (‘Sturgeon’s bluff’, 2 July). Heads of government who stipulate single-issue elections are on a hiding to nothing, and rightly so. Theresa May’s ‘Brexit’ election in 2017 turned out badly for her, although at least she kept her job (just). Ted Heath wasn’t so lucky in 1974 (‘Who rules Britain?’), ditto Churchill in 1945 (‘Who won the war?’) or Stanley Baldwin in 1923 (‘Free trade or protection?’). Even the 2019 election was about more

How to save Oxford Street – and your high street

Oxford Street is ‘a dinosaur district destined for extinction’, says Marks & Spencer boss Stuart Machin – whose plan to replace its ‘flagship’ Marble Arch store with a new ten-storey retail and office block has been referred to a public inquiry by Michael Gove as Housing Secretary, despite winning approval from Westminster council. Machin points out that his real flagship nowadays is M&S’s website, which accounts for a third of the group’s clothing and home sales, while much of its pre-second-world-war store estate stands in sad need of repurposing or right-sizing. And he’s not wrong about the decline of what used to be Britain’s premier shopping boulevard – with its

Buying a brand-new car is the ultimate good deed

The Department for Transport recently ended a £1,500 subsidy towards the price of new, lower-priced electric cars one year earlier than planned. To their credit, there are better ways to promote electric-car use – for instance by encouraging the installation of public charging stations. As it is, the spread of rapid-charging stations in the UK is bizarrely uneven. Some parts of the country are well served, but there are unexpected black spots. Oddly, trendy places where people talk endlessly about sustainability – such as Oxford, Cambridge and Brighton – are hopeless for rapid charging points, while less fanciful places like Thurrock, Milton Keynes and Newport are awash with them. If

The death of old bangers

The old banger is a vanishing breed. And it’s not because all drivers want new cars. On the contrary, not everyone wants to pay out monthly for a fast-depreciating asset. Many drivers would rather opt for a cheap, serviceable car in its dotage. Although I write about cars for a living, and shiny new ones sometimes cross my path, cars I’ve actually owned have mostly come from the bargain basement, including a venerable Toyota which lasted for three years and 50,000 miles that someone gave to me because they wanted it removed from their drive. I saved vast sums of money and had fun in the process. Today, such cars are virtually non-existent and demand

Hydrogen vs electric – which car is the better investment?

Does the future of motoring really lie in electric cars? Battery powered motors are now commonplace, but a few intrepid British drivers have gone for hydrogen fuel cell models instead. They currently have two choices. The £69,495 Hyundai Nexo (28 sales) and the £55k plus Toyota Mirai (about 200 owners including James May), so they’re hardly cheap. Eventually there will be more, including a BMW X5 4×4 due to be launched later in 2022. Jaguar Land Rover is also said to be looking at the technology for its heftier offerings. These cars take minutes to re-fuel, go further between top ups and, unlike battery cars, aren’t adversely affected mileage-wise by cold weather. The

Most-read 2021: Why I regret buying an electric car

We’re closing the year by republishing our ten most popular articles in 2021. Here’s number two: Jonathan Miller writing in April about the woes of owning a battery-powered vehicle.  I bought an electric car and wish I hadn’t. It seemed a good idea at the time, albeit a costly way of proclaiming my environmental virtuousness. The car cost €44,000, less a €6,000 subsidy courtesy of French taxpayers, the overwhelming majority poorer than me. Fellow villagers are driving those 20-year-old diesel vans that look like garden sheds on wheels. I order the car in May 2018. It’s promised in April 2019. ‘No later,’ promises the salesman at the local Hyundai dealer.

Should you electrify your classic car?

Inspiration comes in unusual forms. David Lorenz’s lightbulb moment arrived when his classic Mercedes broke down. His small daughter was in the car, and Lorenz began thinking about ways to make it cleaner, more reliable and give it a long term usable future in a world that is turning its back on the internal combustion engine. This led him to set up Lunaz Design, close to the Silverstone racing circuit in Northamptonshire. It’s high end old car restoration business that fits electric drive systems to sometimes exotic period Jaguars, Rolls-Royces and Aston Martins amongst others. According to commercial director James Warren, giving treasured, collectable old cars electric heart transplants might be

How we did the locomotion: A Brief History of Motion, by Tom Standage, reviewed

Audi will make no more fuel engines after 2035. So that’s the end of the Age of Combustion, signalled by a puff of immaculately catalysed smoke from polished chrome exhausts designed by fanatics in Ingolstadt. But some say the age of motion itself will have shuddered to a halt before then. A trope of the New Yorker is a cartoon showing cavemen inventing the wheel, a companion to the other trope of desert island castaways. The adventure promised by the wheel and the limitations of boring stationary solitude are ineffably linked. Since Homo erectus left Africa 1.75 million years ago, without wheels, moving our bodies through space has been a

Why I regret buying an electric car

I bought an electric car and wish I hadn’t. It seemed a good idea at the time, albeit a costly way of proclaiming my environmental virtuousness. The car cost €44,000, less a €6,000 subsidy courtesy of French taxpayers, the overwhelming majority poorer than me. Fellow villagers are driving those 20-year-old diesel vans that look like garden sheds on wheels. I order the car in May 2018. It’s promised in April 2019. ‘No later,’ promises the salesman at the local Hyundai dealer. April comes and goes. No car. I phone the dealership. No explanation. The car finally arrives two months late, with no effort by Hyundai to apologise. But I Iove