Most of the work we do on the select committee I sit on is in dingy committee rooms for hours and hours, but sometimes we manage to escape out into the real world! We’re doing an inquiry into electric cars at the moment and today we legged it out of London to drive the cars ourselves and meet the people making.
We first went to Milton Keynes where there’s a brilliant place in a mall that lets people see, discuss, and drive loads of different types of electric cars. It’s totally independent so you’re not pushed to any one brand, instead they try to understand your driving habits and match you with a hybrid / plug-in hybrid / fully electric car depending on your needs.
I took a BMW i3 our for a spin. It was amazing and not what I expected at all. Unlike most automatics there are no gears plus when you reduce the throttle a reclamation brake kicks in that harnesses electricity back. It makes the ride unbelievably smooth as there much less braking and gear changing. Also, it was so quiet which makes it a really different experience.
Then we went on to Coventry where we visited the assembly plant for the London Taxi Company who are now making the brand new London cabs that are all electric. The plant was remarkable, and the product is just stunning.
We went out in the taxi after the visit. The cabs are bigger, totally silent, and if you see the photo notice the roof – it’s totally transparent to make it feel light and spacious. I was seriously impressed.
Driving a car and being in the cab left me with the very strong feeling that electric vehicles are already much more mature products than I’d previously thought. There are genuinely positive reasons to get one in addition to the environmental factor. They are almost a quarter cheaper to fuel, even the cheapest versions do things like heat up the cab and defrost before you arrive in the morning (some expensive cars do this but it means running the engine) and the ride quality and engine power is really very good.
We must now get the infrastructure right. We all know of charging stations in the area and in motorway service stations, but many are not convenient enough.
The government has a target of 2040 when new cars must be electric. My experience today has made me feel strongly that this is not ambitious enough. This technology is here, it is extremely robust and desirable, and it is ready for prime time.
Sadiq Khan has set a target for new London cabs to be electric in five years and industry has responded brilliantly. Government should show ambition like this knowing the more that are made the cheaper they will become and demand for charging points will develop.
The car I drove has a range of 125 miles on one charge, way more than the average driver uses in a day which is less than 30.
I don’t have a car, I sold it ten years ago as I wanted to commit to public transport. If I ever do get another one though, after today I have no shadow of doubt that it will be electric. And with the Rampion Wind Farm going live, we in Sussex know that much of the electricity we would use will come from renewable sources too.
Are you open to going electric? Let me know I’m really keen to hear your thoughts…especially as I’m now back in parliament and we have very late votes tonight! Yours, Peter