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'The best way for travellers to prevent COVID spread is to use private cars'

Mike Rutherford says the government is attacking UK motorists when it should be helping them

Opinion ICE and EV

Don't expect me to apologise for driving to and from the place I was born – London – because I won’t. Why drive there? For work purposes, social or family gatherings, hospital appointments, shopping and the like. But for the past decade it’s been my (unpaid) part-time job as a volunteer/charity worker that’s seen me drive into the capital at all hours. 

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I don’t do it for fun, I do it when it needs to be done in appropriate vehicles. So my carbon footprint ain’t heavy, and my conscience is clear. As for some hypocritical, limo-using London politicians – I don’t know how they sleep at night. They are, after all, the ‘leaders’ who insist on hitting drivers like me with their Congestion and Ultra Low Emission Zone penalties – even when I deliver gifts and kit worth thousands of pounds to patients in cancer wards, as I did last week in the Marcus Rutherford Foundation/Young Adult Cancer Trust battle bus/mobile clinic. 

It was during that out-of-hours run into London just before Christmas when it dawned on me that it’s time for us all to press our respective reset buttons. Those car-hating local and national politicians have to stop fleecing motorists and start recognising that without the circa £60billion we pay in annual motoring-related taxes, the UK economy will collapse. Honest.  

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We’ve had more than enough of being mugged by questionable schemes that have little to do with cleaning the air or road safety, but are all about legalised theft from drivers.  And while they’re at it, those politicians have to start telling the truth – can you imagine that? – by admitting the best way for commuters and other travellers to prevent the spread of COVID infection is to use private cars. It’s a no-brainer. 

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The global motor industry could also adopt a long-overdue stop/think/take a deep breath policy for the rest of the month, possibly longer. Competing manufacturers are in such a mad, expensive dash to bring electric vehicles to market that they’re forgetting – or simply failing to check the facts and remind themselves – that vehicles powered by combustion engines still represent the overwhelming majority, and will do so for years to come. 

I admire the industry’s extraordinary ability to respond to rules and regs that say you can have any car you like from 2030, as long as it’s an EV. But why the great rush? Preparing for the inevitable transformation from ICE to EV is good. Forcing the market, by trying to convince customers that their £20,000 petrol cars are nearer £40,000 as all-electric replacements is a sales pitch that can’t work. So please, back off, reset and wait a little longer (when battery tech reduces in price) before the big switch from ICE to EV. 

And given that it’s responsible for the legislation that will ban new ICE vehicles from 2030, the Government surely has to step up and cough up far more subsidy? Instead, it’s lowered its Plug-in Car Grant to £1,500. This at the same time as I’m being bombarded with promises that I can grab a £9,000 subsidy to replace my recently installed, state of the art gas boiler with an allegedly ‘greener’ heat pump. Welcome to the new year that seems as ill-thought out and unfair to the motorist as the one just gone.

Learn more about the UK's plug-in car grant here...

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Chief columnist

Mike was one of the founding fathers of Auto Express in 1988. He's been motoring editor on four tabloid newspapers - London Evening News, The Sun, News of the World & Daily Mirror. He was also a weekly columnist on the Daily Telegraph, The Independent and The Sunday Times. 

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