By Paul Homewood

h/t Ian Magness

Justin Rowlatt is away with the fairies today!

I know, you probably haven’t even driven one yet, let alone seriously contemplated buying one, so the prediction may sound a bit bold, but bear with me.

We are in the middle of the biggest revolution in motoring since Henry Ford’s first production line started turning back in 1913.

And it is likely to happen much more quickly than you imagine.

Many industry observers believe we have already passed the tipping point where sales of electric vehicles (EVs) will very rapidly overwhelm petrol and diesel cars.

It is certainly what the world’s big car makers think.

Jaguar plans to sell only electric cars from 2025, Volvo from 2030 and last week the British sportscar company Lotus said it would follow suit, selling only electric models from 2028.

And it isn’t just premium brands.

General Motors says it will make only electric vehicles by 2035, Ford says all vehicles sold in Europe will be electric by 2030 and VW says 70% of its sales will be electric by 2030.

This isn’t a fad, this isn’t greenwashing.

Yes, the fact many governments around the world are setting targets to ban the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles gives impetus to the process.

But what makes the end of the internal combustion engine inevitable is a technological revolution. And technological revolutions tend to happen very quickly.

This revolution will be electric.

Look at the internet.

By my reckoning, the EV market is about where the internet was around the late 1990s or early 2000s.

Back then, there was a big buzz about this new thing with computers talking to each other.

Jeff Bezos had set up Amazon, and Google was beginning to take over from the likes of Altavista, Ask Jeeves and Yahoo. Some of the companies involved had racked up eye-popping valuations.

For those who hadn’t yet logged on it all seemed exciting and interesting but irrelevant – how useful could communicating by computer be? After all, we’ve got phones!

But the internet, like all successful new technologies, did not follow a linear path to world domination. It didn’t gradually evolve, giving us all time to plan ahead.

Its growth was explosive and disruptive, crushing existing businesses and changing the way we do almost everything. And it followed a familiar pattern, known to technologists as an S-curve.

Justin seems to be forgetting one very important, some would say crucial, factor.

Technological revolutions only take off if they offer consumers something better than they have already got.

The internet did just that. At relatively low cost, it transformed the way people led their lives, and the way businesses operated. The added value to society of the internet is incalculable; indeed it would be nigh on impossible to imagine how much poorer our lives would all be without it.

But what on earth do electric cars offer in this respect? They are much more expensive to buy, and it is hard to see them ever being cheaper than conventional cars, particularly given the looming shortages of raw materials.

Worse still, they are far inferior for the vast majority of drivers than petrol engines, because of the intractable problems of recharging. Given a choice, very few drivers have bought EVs, even with massive subsidies amounting to £10,000 and more over the life of a car, and there is a very good reason for that.  Why should that change?

Even if all of these problems could be resolved, why would EVs offer anything better than what they currently have?

It is true, of course, that many more EVs will appear on our roads in due course. And manufacturers are already shifting their plans accordingly. But this has nothing to do with consumer choice. It will be a direct consequence of government diktat, which will leave millions of drivers worse off than before.

I am left with the impression that Justin Rowlatt, just one member of the vastly overstaffed BBC Environment Department, lives in the centre of London, and does not have the slightest idea how the rest of the country live. To him, no doubt. motor cars are a frippery, which he can do without most of the time. And not the necessity it is for most of us.


June 1, 2021