Dragon’s Den

VW’s smart delivery system? I’d give it the boot

TWO umbrellas, a book about MGs that I still haven’t got around to reading and – for work purposes, because I never know when I might need them – a couple of copies of Classic Car Weekly. That’s about as exciting as the contents of my car’s boot get.

But even they might have to be evicted if a bold new idea to revolutionise online deliveries takes off. For months they’ve been happy to slide around, bouncing off shopping bags and probably knocking a mile or two off what my Toyota does to the gallon, but they’ll have to go, and all because I can’t trust you. Not you specifically, of course – I’m sure you’re fine. I mean other members of the wider population, especially ones who I haven’t met. But VW expects you to trust them with whatever’s in your boot.

Europe’s biggest carmaker has been using Berliners as guinea pigs for its new We Deliver scheme – and says they loved it so much that it’s now looking to roll it out elsewhere, including here in the UK. The idea’s a simple one – if you’re going to be at work all day and you’re expecting a delivery, you can use your car’s boot as the delivery address. The delivery man can then find your car, use an app to open the boot, stick the parcel inside, and then hop back in his van. Brilliant!

Sorry to go all Dragons’ Den on you, but it’s fraught with problems. What if you’ve got something more valuable than two umbrellas and a book about MGs in the boot, and how do you prove it if an unscrupulous delivery man – perhaps one who’s getting rained on and wants to learn all there is to know about the MG Midget – helps himself to your stuff? There are genuinely people out there who get kicks out of nicking other people’s parcels, too. Will they, if everyone’s valuables are locked away in car boots, begin to attack parked cars? There’s also the small problem of cars having this nasty habit of moving from place to place – and why would I leave my car at home when I need it to get to work?

What’s more, I reckon it’s a bit of a halfway house anyway; with Britain going full tilt towards autonomous cars, I don’t think it’ll be too long before I can simply dispatch my self-driving Golf or Astra off to the depot on its own, where it can go collect my Amazon deliveries for me.

It’s a genuine problem, created by our insatiable appetite for cheap things that we can order online with next day delivery, but I don’t think turning all our cars into four-wheeled postboxes is the answer.

Personally, I much prefer the idea of having things I want delivered not via an internet-dispatched delivery man, but being made readily available in a set of buildings, situated in a nearby town or city centre, that are open throughout the week.

Call me old-fashioned, but that might catch on…

The Nobe electric car looks cool – but not enough to invest in

The Nobe 100 is an eco-friendly electric car inspired by small 1960s cars(1)

IT’S NOT every weekend that you get asked to help put a car into production.

Don’t worry, nobody from Vauxhall has rung me up, asking whether – as that bloke from The Champion – I have any tips on what I’d like to see in the next-generation Adam. Nor am I loaded enough to be one of those lucky souls invited to, er, help Ferrari develop its next model by paying for a one-off track-day special that you’re only allowed to access three times a year.

But some Estonians have asked me to bung them a couple of quid to help get their retro-styled electric three-wheeler off the ground. They obviously haven’t approached Deborah Meaden and Duncan Bannatyne yet, but as a car nut I’ll save them the trouble.

Nobe – an eco-friendly start-up specialising in microcars, not a mis-spelling of Leicester-based supercar maker Noble – is using a crowdfunding site to attempt to secure £800,000 for the new car. Apparently the thing that’ll excite Greenpeace types is that it’s zero emissions and easily recyclable, but the bit that grabs me is that it looks good. The front end looks like it could’ve come from a shrunken Borgward Isabella (you’ll have to Google it), the way the rear end tapers to a set of full-width lights is lovely, and the delicate chrome details between the two are distinctly 1960s. Oh, and there’s a very faint whiff of Jensen Interceptor about that rear glass treatment.

It’ll also has room for three, will sit at 70mph happily enough and promises a two-hour charging time, but I’m not exactly going to be taking out a second mortgage or hounding my bank manager any time soon. There have been plenty of miniscule motors over the years, from Messerschmitts and Minis to modern day Smart cars, and none of their creators needed to use a crowdfunding site. The asking figure of £800k also sounds a bit far-fetched, when you consider that Aston Martin apparently had to raise £200 million to help develop their new DBX off-roader, likely to be called the Varekai when it makes production.

All this coming from someone who’s owned two Minis, once bought a Renault 5 for £100 for a laugh and is currently restoring a Reliant Robin. I completely get the point of cars that offering up motoring fun in pint-sized packages, but if the Nobe’s that clever an idea I’d expect Dragons’ Den types would be queuing up to invest in it.

Best of luck, chaps, but I’m out.