After nearly a year of Clio ownership, I had to do what every old banger owner fears a little:
The annual visit to one’s local friendly MOT Testing Station.
Some liken it to a visit to the dentist and in the same way that a dental check can be painful, the result of a banger’s test can often result in severe wallet damage or the end of the road for the car.
The good news is that the mighty Clio passed, no advisories. What a result!
Over the past year, I’ve serviced and maintained the car to the schedule in the Haynes manual that came with it. Things like oil, filters and fuel systems have either been changed or cleaned, according to the book. None of this work was especially difficult or expensive and none required special tools, except for Renault’s weird oil drain key, which I borrowed from a friend. Only the French!
On a slightly different subject, I’ve been taking more interest in electric vehicles and trying to work out what my opinion is on them.
Where do you stand on electric vehicles?
Many environmental activists, celebrities and politicians promote the purchase and use of electric cars. They are touted, seemingly as a panacea for all evil caused by vehicles with an internal combustion engine. Drive an electric car and you will be doing your bit in helping save the planet. You’ll be entitled to a halo.
I’m not so sure and it’s certainly not helpful to be thinking along these lines. Let me explain my thinking as it seems to be that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.
As much as I love the convenience and freedom that car ownership brings, I know that this form of personal transport isn’t sustainable. Cars pollute, they take up lots of room in the environment, they are noisy and they kill. But, as this particular car ownership experience has proved, my 8-mile round trip to work and back is cheaper over one year than a three-station-stop on the train for which my home station is a two-minute walk. That includes car purchase, maintenance, insurance, tax and fuel. Mad.
Well-run public transport is the only way we’ll reduce carbon emissions overall for one simple reason; It shifts more people in one go. The carbon footprint of a single, high occupancy journey can be spread over the number of passengers for buses and trains. However, this isn’t the case for flights as planes emit more carbon emissions than either put together. Drive an electric car daily and you’ll smash any halo with one, hour-long flight.
There are lots of reasons that electric vehicles might be part of the answer and the best one I can think of is the removal of asthma-causing engine smoke particulates from high-density urban areas, such as London. Despite living in a post-industrial economy, many studies confirm that London’s air quality is poor and lives are prematurely lost due to it, each year.
If we are to curb the biggest environmental catastrophe of our time, we need radical thinking and improvements to our mass transit systems. We also need to consider the need for each journey in the first place.
Electric vehicles are probably suited to very specific applications, like London’s taxi network where there is an immediate need and ready charging network. Electric vehicles also secure jobs, livelihoods and possible pensions, but encouraging people to dispose of perfectly serviceable equipment in favour of something newer and ‘greener’ is misleading.
I suggest that a well-maintained fuel-efficient car with a manufacturing carbon footprint spread across a lifetime of say 15 years is probably ‘greener’ than a battery car which is built with more complex materials, heavy metals and batteries that will need to be changed every 4 years or so.
At the present time, we cannot be sure that an electric car gets its energy from renewable sources all the time. We also know that lithium ion batteries are not environmentally kind.
I suspect that with so many conflicting view points out there, it’s hard to see the wood for the trees, but deep down, we probably already know the answer and for now it’s this : Own a small car for as long as you can, look after it, love its dents and scratches and only use it when you need to.
On a slightly lighter and more factual note, I compared the Clio’s emission results from this year with last and it seems that all the servicing work has paid off. Not only is the car running sweeter, but the emissions are vastly improved, so a good result for all.
It’s ironic then that a Toyota Prius or Yaris Hybrid both of which have electric and petrol motors, do not need an emissions check as part of the UK’s MoT test. No wonder we’re all confused.
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