Lord Frost has written a terrific column in today’s Telegraph in defence of drivers – a group so unfashionable it has almost no defenders. He sees in the desire by central planners to phase out the internal combustion engine the same folly that has driven draconian socialist policies down the ages. Here’s how it begins:
One of the pleasures of the vinyl record era was getting the new album by your favourite band on release day and rushing home to listen to it. I did just that on Feb 12 1981 when I bought Moving Pictures by the great Canadian band Rush. My favourite track – still well worth a listen – was Red Barchetta. It describes a world in which, with private cars banned, the narrator has to sneak off every Sunday for an illegal drive in his secretly held eponymous Italian sports car.
Great track, but not plausible, I thought. Who can imagine a world in which private cars are banned? Even in the Soviet Union, if you can get one, they don’t stop you driving it around. No government is going to take people’s cars away from them.
Well, Western governments haven’t quite done that, it is true. But there are advocates for car bans in some large cities, and one day some feeble Red-Green mayor somewhere in Europe will surely give in to it. Meanwhile, our leaders are doing everything short of it.
For a start, the best currently viable technology for cars – the internal combustion engine plus battery – is being withdrawn from the market in just eight years. We are told that by then electric cars will be better and cheaper. It is hard to be confident of that, or that we will have the electricity to power them.
The comedy road trip of Jack Rear (in the Daily Telegraph of July 25th) shows that going any distance in an electric car is more like a coach journey in Jane Austen’s England than anything we are used to. Just as you had to work out where you could change horses and where you had to stay overnight, so now you must establish where the chargers are, whether your car will make it to them, and what you do while waiting. And at least Jane could sustain herself in a coaching inn rather than having to sit in a Tesco car park.