‘Your car may not be the most efficient tool for your new, lower-mileage life’

Mike Rutherford thinks now is the perfect time to re-evaluate your modes of transport

What better occasion than now – Christmas 2020 – to reflect on transport patterns during the troubled year just gone, before planning our likely travel needs in 2021 and beyond?

I used to feel almost affronted when signs nosily asked me, a free man in a free country: “is your journey really necessary?” But times change, and it’s now a valid question. Justifiable reasons for travel for the foreseeable include driving for emergency purposes, or for charity, family, food, friends, health, or work and education that can’t be done at home. Pretty much everything else isn’t really necessary now, is it?

Most of us are buying and doing much more online; travelling less to increasingly redundant offices and department stores; finally admitting that heading for airports and their long-term car parks is as much fun as visiting the dentist for a root canal treatment. With these and other truths in mind, do you need to drive the 10,000 or so miles you’ve traditionally driven annually? Unlikely. Is that current vehicle of yours the most appropriate and efficient tool for your new, lower-mileage life? Doubt it. Time to press your transport reset button? If you’re anything like me, you will – and feel far better for it.  

Regularly working from home instead of spending two hours a day driving to and from what used to be the regular place of work means that you’re clawing back around 40 hours of commuting time a month. This is equivalent to 12 full (but unpaid) working weeks a year. An added bonus is saving on fuel, parking, plus wear-and-tear costs on your vehicle, as well as you! 

But when next using your car – built for fast, lengthy drives, now a runabout for slow, short trips to takeaways, supermarkets or coffee shops – ask yourself if it’s superfluous to requirements. Bravely consider a Citroen Ami quadricycle instead, although a more realistic compromise might be an inexpensive (but not cheap ‘n’ nasty) Skoda Octavia – the Auto Express Car of the Year, and the best car I’ve driven in the last 12 months.

Panic not: sales of new petrol and diesel cars aren’t being declared illegal for nine years. That hopefully leaves time to plan your finances around a pure-EV Britain from 2030. It’ll be different from the unleaded and derv-dominated GB of today. If you already – or soon will – live in a house with a chargepoint and driveway for an EV, congrats; you’re good to go. But spare a thought for millions of fellow citizens in apartments or houses without electrified parking spots, garages, driveways or gardens that can double as places to park and charge. Such drivers must rely on more expensive, less convenient charging stations on garage forecourts, in supermarket car parks, or on exposed, unpredictable streets. 

We can only hope that the entrepreneurs in the ‘new automotive energy’ industry, tasked with providing chargepoints mainly for drivers unable to install them at home, get their act together and improve their hitherto questionable levels of customer satisfaction. Britain cannot, and must not, have a public charging system that’s as filthy, hopeless, and vandalised as our public telephone network, which crashed, burned, and effectively died. 

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