I need to change my car! It was second hand when I got it and I’ve had it for five years, it had low mileage and has served me well. In fact it’s still a perfectly good car.
So, why do I need to get rid of it? In a word: petrol!
To be precise the amount of petrol it uses and the cost of filling it up.
Before I got my current petrol vehicle I had been driving diesel cars for the past 15 years or more.
I was very sceptical about diesel initially, partly because I thought they would be noisy and rattle. But after a test drive I realised modern diesel engines were almost as smooth and quiet as their petrol equivalent.
I was also concerned about the pollution. I’d long associated diesel with old tractors and trains belching out dirty smoke.
But again that wasn’t the case with newer diesel cars. In fact when the Vehicle Excise Duty was changed to reflect emissions, many diesel cars were exempt from paying it.
Now, as you know I am someone who likes to save a pound or two where I can, so that was the final persuasion I needed.
Therefore the first couple of diesel cars I owned were either free from road tax, or it was very cheap. They were smooth and quiet, the range was astonishing and I thought I was being kinder to the planet.
Yes, diesel cost slightly more at the pump, but I could go almost six hundred miles between fill ups.
It’s hard to believe now as I struggle to get even four hundred miles out of a tank in my petrol car.
So why did I switch away from diesel five years ago?
Well after years of tax exempt driving because of the apparently low emissions, diesel was suddenly the devil incarnate.
When I came to change my car back in 2018 I thought long and hard about getting another diesel engine. But I feared I would end up with a car that would lose value more rapidly than a petrol version.
We were all being driven away from diesel, so I went back to petrol.
At this point I should say an electric vehicle never featured in the equation. This was only five years ago, but electric cars were still a novelty.
There was massive concern about their limited range and even more concern about limited charging points.
Then there was the cost. As far as I was concerned they were prohibitively expensive compared with similar petrol and diesel models.
Fast forward five years and as far as I can tell not a lot has changed.
Yes, there are more charging points and yes the range electric vehicles can travel on a charge has been extended, but these issues still remain a concern and most importantly they are still expensive.
It all leaves me with a dilemma. Electric is clearly the way forward; in fact we’ll eventually have little choice. The plan is to ban the sale of all new petrol and diesel cars by 2030 in the UK, less than seven years away.
But there’s a good chance that in seven years’ time I will still be driving the car I might buy now.
If it’s diesel or petrol will anyone want it after 2030?
An electric vehicle is still not an option for me, largely because of the cost. I know there are probably finance deals, but with interest rates like they are I don’t want to take on any additional large monthly payments.
I am also still not convinced we have the necessary infrastructure in this country to cope with millions of electric cars.
I recently interviewed the CEO of a company which is rolling out faster charging points across the country. They have just opened one at Cornwall Services on the A30.
He explained that one of the issues they are trying to solve is the lack of capacity the national grid has to deliver the power needed to rapidly charge lots of cars all at once.
His company is getting around it by using large battery storage at Cornwall Services that collect power from the grid at times of low demand and discharge it at peak demand.
They also want to go further and build a large solar farm next to the service station to feed into the battery storage, so in future you could be filling up your car with the power of the sun.
The company reckons it could provide enough zero carbon energy to deliver four million miles of EV driving.
Leaving aside the inevitable debate about building more solar farms, it all sounds like an attractive solution to reducing carbon emissions whilst increasing capacity for charging more electric cars.
But I challenged him on whether this roll out could keep pace with the growing number of electric vehicles that will be on our roads.
Then there is the time it takes to charge. How long does it take to fill a diesel or petrol car? A few minutes at most.
If you pay at the pump I reckon you’re on the garage forecourt for no more than five minutes in total.
Compare that with the length of time to fully charge an electric vehicle. Just topping it up to give you an extra one hundred miles can take half an hour.
We’re going to need many more charging points to come anywhere close to the speed of filling petrol or diesel cars.
The CEO I spoke to reassured me that by supplementing the grid with solar power stored in large batteries the charging time will be significantly reduced therefore speeding up the turnover rate at charging points.
I am still not convinced that we can transform our power infrastructure fast enough or make electric cars affordable enough for it to be a viable option for the majority of drivers anytime soon.
But then I look at the horrifying extreme weather around the world and wonder if we can afford to hang around.
None of which helps me decide what to do about my current petrol thirsty car.
Where I live and the strange hours I work means it’s not possible to go without a car at the moment.
My heart says electric, but my head and my pocket say it’s probably going to have to be a petrol car again, albeit a much smaller and more economical one.
Bye for now.