I was undertaking my daily dawdle to campus the other day for a 9:15, when I damn nearly knocked over by a car which I hadn’t heard. “Tough morning”, I hear you sigh.
However, the motor in question was Nissan’s all-electric motor, the Leaf. It got me thinking. Electric cars; are they actually the future?
Well the first thing we must ask is what is different to a normal car? Most electric cars look fairly normal, that much is clear. The Leaf looks as plain as any ordinary hatchback and the Peugeot iOn looks like a Honda Jazz with hair gel. Indeed, all electric cars have four wheels, some doors, storage facilities, a circular device to control direction, an indicator which tells the driver how fast one is going and more. Nothing out of the ordinary.
Moreover, those who have owned cars such as the G-Whiz are forever telling us mere mortals about how electric cars are just as easy to live with as, for example, a VW Golf.
However, I’m not so sure. Let me start with the G-Whiz. Apologies for going all “Clarkson” here, but it is a truly hateful machine. Firstly, it looks like a sad dog, and frankly no one likes that. Secondly, as it doesn’t have to pass the same safety regulations as a normal car, I would be concerned for my life if someone came within 5 metres of me.
Fortunately the likes of Nissan, Peugeot and Tesla have all tried to get round this image. Nevertheless, I’m still not convinced. Nissan’s leaf costs a whopping £28,000 (minus the £5,000 government grant), and the Peugeot even more. Mitsubishi’s i-MiEV does cost five grand less than the Nissan, but the electric car still doesn’t convince.
Perhaps it’s something to do with the idea of owning one. All the cars I’ve mentioned take overnight to charge fully, something which would infuriate even the calmest of sloths. Moreover, you would be hard pressed to drive further than 100 miles on one charge. You really would have to change your lifestyle to own one of these.
These cars do deserve recognition however. Emissions-wise, they go infinitely further than the hybrids we’ve seen from Toyota, Honda and (bizarrely) Porsche over the last few years, which have developed into status symbols rather than pioneering, environmentally friendly motors.
They should be seen as the stepping stone to something better. That something I don’t know, because I’m not a damn engineer. If I was, I wouldn’t be sitting here writing about cars, I’d be building them, earning lots of money, looking suave… alas, I digress.
Honda, I think had the answer with their FCX Clarity: a car powered by a hydrogen fuel cell. If they, and other companies, can harness and perfect this technology, then we will have our answer. Until then, I’m afraid, it is petrol and the continual irritation of George Monbiot. Could be worse I suppose.