Zero Emissions

The eco activists are right – crossovers ARE going to go out of fashion

IT’S not often someone who owns a 1970s dinosaur of a car, powered by a three-litre V6 knocking back a gallon of unleaded every 23 miles, agrees with a group researching ways to make Britain a leaner, greener, zero carbon emissions country.

Yet, for once, I’m completely in agreement with the scientists at the UK Energy Research Centre – we really do, as a nation, have to go easy on the Range Rover Evoques and the Audi Q3s. Lay off the new Nissan Juke and the second-gen Ford Kuga a bit. Oh, and definitely have a gentle chat with anyone thinking of chucking more than £44,000 on a BMW X4.

You’ll have noticed something all of the aforementioned beasts of burden have in common; they’re all SUVs, off-roaders, crossovers, or whatever lifestyle-orientated name they’ve been given this week. The UK Energy Research Centre’s argument is that because they now account for just a fifth of the nation’s new car sales – as opposed to 13.5 per cent just three years ago – hauling around all that extra weight is completely undermining the do-gooders currently buying 44,000 zero emissions motors a year.

Professor Jillian Anable, the group’s co-director, said: “The rapid uptake of unnecessarily large and energy consuming vehicles just in the past few years makes a mockery of UK policy efforts towards the ‘Road to Zero’”, the last bit referring to the Government’s aim of making Britain net carbon neutral by 2050.

My beef with these cars – and I choose my words carefully, as I dearly hope the UKERC doesn’t have the same wrath towards the 1977 Reliant Scimitar GTE – is that almost all of these SUVs are nothing of the sort. They’re front-wheel-drive, aren’t designed to venture up muddy tracks and don’t do anything a Vauxhall Astra can’t do. If you need more space, get a Combo Life. Only you won’t, because it looks like a van with windows rather than a trendy off-roader.

Virtually every new car I borrow is a bloated, high-riding relation of a much better hatchback that’s been cruelly forgotten by the wider market. I’ve no problem with proper 4x4s that actually go off-road – I grew up in a family that lives and breathes old Land Rovers – but ones pretending otherwise and wasting fuel and resources in the process aren’t doing us any favours.

For ages, I’ve been resigned to it being a relentless march up the new car sales chart that wipes out lesser spotted species in the process (see the critically endangered small coupé, and the extinct-in-the-wild large MPV), but I reckon in a few years crossovers will start to look desperately unfashionable, and it’ll be Greta Thunberg and the march of the green movement behind it. It’s hard enough to justify something like, say, a BMW 3-Series in a world where single use plastic bags are taboo, so turning the same car into a thirstier, higher-riding crossover just seems to be prime ammo for the anti-car lobby.

So don’t make your next buy a Skoda Karoq – make it an Octavia instead, which looks much nicer, will drive far better and be just as practical.

Just don’t follow my example and make it a three-litre 1970s sports car. Otherwise, we’re all stuffed…

Aston Martin Rapide E – licensed to be sensible

SPOILER alert – by which I don’t mean the enormous thing you’ll find sprouting from the back of Honda’s Civic Type R. The next Bond movie is the one where 007 finally settles down for a lifetime of school runs and trips to Sainsbury’s.

Forget any rumours you might have read about the next cinematic outing for Britain’s top MI6 operative being a modern-day retelling of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Or that its working title, Shatterhand, alludes to a SPECTRE mastermind previously only mentioned in the books and thus sets Bond up for a showdown with Blofeld’s right-hand man. Nope, the 25th film in the series is the one where 007, having chatted up Madeleine Swann in the last movie, gets married, takes her on a honeymoon to Prestatyn and they have kids a year or two later. Awwww, Daniel Craig’s take on the orphaned assassin has finally grown up!

I know this not because I’ve got pals at Pinewood Studios, but simply on the choice of car that’ll he be driving in the next film. Elsewhere in the press you might have read about how the new Aston Martin Rapide E is the first time that a 00-agent has been assigned a zero emissions car – nothing wrong with that, of course – but the thing that grabs me that, no matter how cool it looks, it’s a four-door saloon.

A four-door saloon. It’s only the second time in the entire history of the Bond films that’s happened, and on the last occasion it was an Avis-rented BMW that Pierce Brosnan promptly did the right thing to by sending it straight off the top of a multi-storey car park. The fact that 007’s next set of wheels is an Aston Martin, of course, is entirely right. But why does Bond need an extra set of doors? Has he been told that the Ministry of Defence, due to ongoing budget cuts, is insisting on car-sharing with colleagues and that from now on, he’s going to have to give 004, 006 and 009 lifts to their next missions?

I know that Aston Martin is very keen to, er, plug its first all-electric model on the big screen but James Bond is the sort of bloke with no need for a big boot and decent rear legroom – in other words, he needs the newly-launched Vantage, which thanks to its Mercedes-sourced, twin-turbo V8 is not only more sensibly reliable than the Astons of old but looks the part and sounds great too. It has room for our plucky Brit, a femme fatale, some concealed weaponry and nothing else. Now that’s a Bond car.

That’s why I can only assume that Bond’s married-with-children in the next film, because the Rapide’s more B&Q than Q-branch. That, or they’ve picked completely the wrong car.

The Government ban on petrol and diesel in 2040 will be fine for new cars. It’s the old ones I’m worried about

Cars like the BMW i3 have made zero emissions motoring more fashionable

APOLOGIES to Mark Twain’s estate for having to shamelessly pilfer one of his better-known quotes. Reports of the car’s death – which you’ve probably read over the past week or so – have been greatly exaggerated.

Chances are you’ll already be aware of the Government’s intention to ban sales of new petrol and diesel cars as of 2040, which a million internet bores instantly took to mean the death knell for motoring fun as we know it. The party that Karl Benz and his pals threw back in 1886 is finally over, because we all overdid it and got drunk on AC Cobras and Range Rover Sports.

But calling it quits isn’t really doing us as a species, particularly those of who love cars, much credit. Ever since we figured out that we had opposable thumbs and could light fires we’ve been pretty good at working out answers to things, and even by the Government’s own prescription we have roughly 23 years to solve this one.

I’m not going to get into how we make the clean energy that propels a zero emissions car but the end result’s a lot better than it used to be. Seven years ago I drove an electric MINI that had a battery so huge it took up the back seats, a range of barely 100 miles and engine braking so severe you could pull up at roundabouts without touching the middle pedal. It only took another two years for the motor industry to invent an electric car that was fun to drive – take a bow, Renault Twizy – and fast forward to 2017 and the charging points at motorway service stations are crammed with Nissan Leafs and Teslas. If we’ve made it this far in seven years, you probably won’t need a diesel Golf as a new car in two decades’ time.

The bit I worry about is what happens with all the old ones. The more intelligent people at Westminster have already said that banning them isn’t the answer, partly because outlawing the MGB is a bit like banning Buckingham Palace and more importantly because the nation’s classic car hobby is worth £5.5 billion to the British economy (and it’s still growing). Horses have been old hat to commuters since the Austin Seven showed up, but they’re still allowed to use our roads.

But the thing with horses is that you only need straw, carrots and a decent vet to keep them going. If everyone else is driving electric cars in 2040 will there still be petrol stations to fill up the MGF or the Peugeot 205 GTI? Or places that can do a new battery for an Audi TT?

The car, I honestly reckon, will live on. It just might be a bit trickier than it used to be.