Barack Obama's new best buddy, Gordon Brown, knows nothing about automobiles and Obama probably less. Both however have the vision thing. They can see what is best for you, yours and your choices. They are also both beholden to the radical left greenies, and unfortunately have a strangle-hold on their automobile industries.
It seems as if both are enamored with electric cars. (Forget that our visionary preferred a Chrysler 300 when no one was looking.) That means big trouble ahead and wasted billions on cars that most people want nothing to do with now and when they do get to know them, they will hate them. Mike Rutherford gives us a preview.
Gordon Brown should realise electric cars are a battery-powered nightmare
The electric car is no good friend of the consumer or the environment, warns Mike Rutherford.
By Mike Rutherford Telegraph
Last Updated: 7:26PM BST 08 Apr 2009
After ignoring the British car industry for more than a decade, Gordon Brown has finally decided to get involved. The Prime Minister's latest – and only – message to the sector that employs almost a million of his citizens is that he intends to save it by establishing the UK as the epicentre of the electric-car industry.
Never mind that South Korea and Japan produce more vehicles than we do, and that their corporations are years ahead in terms of battery technology. The confident – if unofficial – word is that this month's Budget will create additional employment for up to 400,000 people, largely thanks to the creation of eco-friendly vehicles. In other words, you can have any colour car you like – as long as it's green.
Having driven my first electric car a quarter of a century ago, I've been following the technology for a while. But while cars that run on batteries have an important role to play in Britain, it's going to be a limited one – and they certainly aren't the answer to the deep-rooted problems with our car industry, or the environment.
True, they can be cheap to recharge (although not necessarily). But they're comparatively expensive to buy. And setting aside the £90,000 Tesla (see what I mean by expensive?), they're slow, and don't run for long before their batteries go to sleep. I once drove a battery-powered Peugeot into the country, which told me I had enough charge to drive home. Sadly, it changed its mind, leaving me no option but to park on the drive of a country house, whose owner kindly poured me gallons of tea as I plugged the car into one of her three-pin sockets for an hour or two.
Even when we can develop batteries that last longer, there's another problem: these cars do not and cannot run without emissions. True, there are no fumes from their exhaust pipes, because they don't have any. But where do you think the energy comes from to charge those colossal battery packs? Certainly not from their owners' solar panels or wind turbines.
No, it is nuclear or coal-fired power stations that provide the essential fuel for electric cars, which usually need to be plugged into the mains for many hours in order to recharge. That means countless tons of CO2 being pumped into the atmosphere: not to mention the additional ecological damage done to the environment after two or three years, when the battery banks lose their juice and have to be disposed of.
Even if you don't care about the environment, are you sure that the electricity companies won't push through a massive hike in the price of power once we're all chugging around in Gordon's green machines? And as for recharging your car at the side of the road, how much do you think companies and councils will charge you for that?
In the long term, it's arguable that batteries are a dead-end technology, and that the real eco-cars of the future are the impressive, hydrogen-fuelled machines that I've test-driven in cities such as Seoul, Tokyo and Los Angeles. But there is little, if anything, happening in Britain to ensure that filling stations of the future will be able to store and sell the fuel of that distant future.
Instead, Brown is blindly backing the battery-powered car over the internal combustion engine. I can't say that I'll be doing the same. I can currently buy a conventional, 70mpg car with a range of 500 miles, running costs of pennies per mile and a price tag of about £7,000. Alternatively, I can pay £15,795 for a state-of-the-art, battery-powered G-Wiz with a top speed of 51mph and a range of only 75 miles.
Mr Brown might want us to live the electric dream. But for motorists outside the cities, it sounds more like a battery-powered nightmare.