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Mike Rutherford thinks most electric cars are out of reach for the majority of new car buyers
We’re in for another eventful, but strangely unpredictable, motoring year. The only thing I can guarantee for 2021 is that car tyres will be black, round and rubbery. At this early, still-sleepy stage of the game, pretty much everything else is clouded or swamped by an atmosphere of uncertainty. That said, 2021 has got to be an improvement on last year, hasn’t it? With Covid still a threat, remind yourself that personal, centrally locked cars (not to be confused with taxis and self-drive rental vehicles) will still be the wisest, most valuable, all-weather tools for those seeking a combination of freedom and safe, secure, sanitised social distancing, 24/7.
Electric vehicle sales are likely to rise sharply – but only if they’re within the reach of the masses, whose personal finances currently dictate that small-to-medium pure-electric cars be priced closer to £20k. Fact is, the £30k-plus territory that far too many EVs occupy is prohibitively expensive for the average working man or woman, never mind the growing number of redundant folk, pensioners, students and other consumers, whose idea of affordability is inconsistent with what most car makers think.
But on a more optimistic note, the likes of Citroen, Fiat, Renault and dark horse Dacia appreciate the importance of sub-£20k electric cars. And surely the cranking up of modest-EV production by the world’s volume makers will mean far greater economies of scale, which, in turn, means more competition and lower prices. Pure-electric cars are comparatively rare on UK roads, and will remain so in 2021 – unless a major scrappage scheme is launched to speed up the planned extinction of diesel and petrol cars. My sources tell me that it – scrappage – could and should happen in the months ahead.
More likely is that politicians and environmentalists will continue to wage war on law-abiding, car-using men, women and kids, especially in vehicles with combustion engines. There are already strong signs that the barely legal mugging of motorists is to be ramped up. For example Central and Inner London, which already has daily ‘Congestion’ and ‘Ultra Low Emission Zone’ charges, is considering a crackpot proposal to slap entry fees on folk travelling into Greater London by car. After that, a similar scam for Greater Manchester, perhaps? And in the longer term, don’t be surprised if entry fees are rolled out further.
I’m not trying to scare you, I’m just sounding another warning that it’s only a matter of time before additional flat fees, or pay-per-mile tolls – or both – are greedily snatched from car occupants needing to drive into certain urban and rural areas. That’s why it’s more important than ever to plan where you live, the type of personal or family mobility vehicle you’ll use, and how you can cut your annual mileage, plus those rising direct road charges.
In 2021, we motorists need to shop clever, drive clever, refuel and park clever. Those hated existing and imminent road charges, tolls and entrance fees, we must do our best to avoid. In doing so, we won’t fall into the cynical, revenue-raising traps set for us by not-so-clever politicians and environmentalists. That, the greedy so-and-sos, would not like.