13th Mar 2023
The Internal Combustion Engine & Hybrid Technology - Politics VS Motoring
by Chris Harris
CHRIS HARRIS COLUMN
One of the most depressing aspects of knowing a little bit about your trade is watching idiot politicians, who somehow are elected to define legislation, prove how little they know about it.
Last year a group of people within the EU decided it was time to kill the internal combustion engine. Just like that. They probably had a series of meetings and listened to the fact that their 7-year-old kids were anxious about the future and, kaboom, they decided to kill the car.
None of them stopped to consider how ridiculous this piece of legislation was, nor what a catastrophic effect it would have on an entire industry, or the millions of people who rely on cars just to live a normal life. Their intention was to supplement the internal combustion engine with the electric car, but none of these unelected planks really bothered to look into the electric car world, or Google ‘Ugandan Cobalt Mine’ before announcing that nothing burning fuel would be allowed to be sold after 2035. In killing the ICE, they effectively killed the idea of motoring for the masses.
Shamefully, the UK decided that it would not only embrace the legislation, but bring it forward - again with little sign that it had bothered to investigate how the lives of ordinary people might be affected. ‘We’ll ban them by 2030’ they sneered - a piece of one-upmanship that challenges a student Jägerbomb competition for sheer futility.
It also made absolutely clear that it viewed hybrid vehicles as the enemy too. So no sensible transitionary period was to be allowed. We’ll ban the thing that works and force you to have a thing that doesn’t work unless you’re very rich. And the in-between tech that will help a potential transition? Yeah - we’ll trash that too.
There’s a wonderful piece of tragi-comedy in the brilliant 'Yes Minister' where the hapless Jim Hacker explains that government ministers should know nothing about the subject they represent. Because that way they can remain impartial. One of the most harrowing discoveries in adulthood is that the most important aspects of our nation - health, defence, education and transport - are governed by not-very-clever people who know nothing about them.
But perhaps the most tragic of them all is transport. Those of us who rely on private motor cars and trains and buses have decisions about them decided by a tiny cabal of ego-maniacs who simply don’t need or care about such things. It makes my piss boil when some prat earnestly tells us that we really must ditch these car things - before jumping into the free ministerial car back to Islington. In many ways, the reality of 2023 is more absurd than the fiction of Yes Minister’s 1981. The current Mayor of London is so absurd I’m not convinced he isn’t a fictional Sacha Baron Cohen character.
The anti-hybrid stance has always baffled me. Over the past decade I’ve driven every solution imaginable and can safely say that the petrol electric hybrid is, currently, the cleverest solution for the majority of people. It’s a bold claim that I’m willing to stand behind.
And it appears that UK motorists are discovering the same thing. Hybrid sales are up 40% year-on-year, and you can see why - they actually work. I wonder how many of those were early full-EV adopters who loved the serenity and eco-credentials of electricity but just couldn’t deal with the hopeless infrastructure and capricious reliability records?
And now the EU is coming under pressure from Germany and Italy to exempt internal combustion engines that run on synthetic fuel. If it’s carbon neutral, they say, why can’t we sell it? Some Eurocrat who gets driven to Brussels every day, at no cost to themselves, by hybrid S-Class will no doubt find a way to kill that piece of common sense too.
I know we can’t ignore the emerging geo-politics of crude oil. That lines are being drawn between oil producing nations (mostly baddies) and those that are aiming to de-carbonise (mostly goodies), but the western world has devised a way of living that, however difficult it might be for politicians to understand, at its heart, uses a lot of oil. At some point this will end. I accept that is the ultimate solution.
There are many aspects of the scientific arguments presented about decarbonisation I find hard to believe. But the scenario that haunts me most is the one where students 200 years from now are taught how an entire civilisation bankrupted itself and effectively regressed back to being a series of local, feudal communities to hasten an inevitable process of decarbonisation that would have happened, without too much disruption, 30 years later anyway.
People are buying hybrids now because they work. When EVs can do the same, people will buy them in greater numbers. The UK government will probably have to make concessions on the infantile 2030 deadline. When it does it will confirm, once again, that the last group of people you want deciding how you move about are those whose grace-and-favour executive travel we pay for. And if anyone thinks this column presents political bias, please be aware that I think all of them are woeful.
Chris Harris' column is an initiative where Chris will get stuck into the latest topics from the automotive world and other conversation points. The column will be published on the Collecting Cars platform and we welcome you to get involved in the comments section below with your thoughts.