Electric cars – fuelling our dreams


Sir, – Asking if the cars of the future will be seen as bland household necessities rather than statements of identity, Neil Briscoe may be already too late (“Will electric cars actually be desirable?”, Motors, August 4th). The models he mentions in his article are arguably created entirely to attract readers to motoring journalism – Ferrari GTOs and Ford Mustangs are rarely seen, and never driven, by most people. Perhaps, in fuelling our dreams, they attract us to buy similar brands or watch motor racing. In the real world though, the average car on the roads of the US is now about 13 years old. It is unlikely that typical refrigerators and tumble dryers are much older. Sales of cars are paradoxically being hit by the machines’ increased reliability.

However, the real transition of the future will probably be that cars will cease to be goods at all for most of us, and become services. The evolution of electric cars is, of course, accompanied by developments in autonomous or self-driving technology. So the experience quoted in the article regarding such vehicles – “I just felt that I was being driven by the car, not the other way around” – is increasingly the reality. This will surely be the major transformation. Most cars spend over 20 hours per day stationary, costing money in taxes, depreciation, parking charges and so on. While I drive typically for about an hour a day, I often need to waste hours sorting out servicing, NCTs, and so on, during time off. And I rarely get to park exactly where I’m going. Autonomous electric vehicles will drop you anywhere there’s a road. They will then pick up the next passenger, probably summoned by phone. No small talk with drivers will be necessary. When they need to, they will dock somewhere to recharge, power up and get back to business. Ownership will make less and less sense.

It is striking that while car brands can easily be ranked for prestige, no one really cares about the taxi they use. If there is a Skoda or Toyota available, nobody will forego it to await a Mercedes. Analogous to how mobile phones have made us question the need for a home phone, an account with an electric taxi company might be far better value than buying a car that sits outside costing money. In paying only for your travel, you’d have more convenience and avoid a range of bills and some risks. Indeed, given the safety profile of autonomous vehicles – where a single road death warrants international news coverage – the era where we are even allowed to drive cars may foreseeably come to an end. – Yours, etc,



Co Cork.

Sir, – “Will electric cars actually be desirable?” by Neil Briscoe hands the megaphone to Stephen Bayley to propose that the future is distressing because cars won’t be interesting enough.

If driving dynamics, range, and performance are Mr Bayley’s chief concerns, perhaps he can trade in his BMW i3s (305 km range, 184 brake horsepower) for a Tesla Model S Plaid (637 km range, 1,006 brake horsepower).

If his worry is not having something interesting to listen to while he drives, might I suggest the How to Avoid a Climate Disaster audiobook by Bill Gates. – Yours, etc,