/ Motoring, Technology

What should driving look like in 2040?

Future cars

Petrol and diesel cars are on their way out – but what else can we bring in?

In an effort to help clean up air quality in the UK, the government has banned the sales of all new petrol and diesel cars after 2040. The idea is that by 2050, almost every vehicle using UK roads will be zero emission – basically electric or hydrogen propelled like the Toyota Mirai.

We know from a recent poll carried out on Which? Conversation that there are a range of reasons why you’re not rushing out to buy an electric car:

Whether you agree with the petrol/diesel ban or not, it made us think what else might be in the proverbial pipeline. 23 years is, after all, quite a way off.

Perhaps you think the future is proper autonomous cars. Or perhaps vehicle subscriptions replacing ownership, flying machines, tunnels that transport cars (yep, tunnels move you, you don’t drive in the tunnel).

Or do you foresee much less futuristic measures such as more congestion charge and car free zones?

Rise of the machines

When I went to the 2015 Frankfurt car show, the theme was connectivity. There was a lot of future star gazing and claims that cars in Europe will be largely autonomous by 2050.

I’m not sure how I feel about autonomous cars. Mostly because I enjoy driving, and partly because I’m hesitant at the moment to relinquish full control to a car.

But I can see the benefits of autonomy. Cars that require no input to move themselves. That might sound obvious but it opens realms of possibilities – being able to call your car to your location regardless of where you are. Or even a car that drops you off at home and then finds a car parking space that’s a while away.

Or if your car is low on electricity (or even hydrogen, depending on what you think the fuel of the future might be), you can make it toddle off to your nearest charging point when you’re not using it and it returns when it’s full. Sorted. Right?


Alternatively, you could swap ownership of a car to a subscription. In my mind, it would work by signing up to a car brand. Then you simply programme in your journeys, and a car from that brand will take you where you want to go, or call it on the spot, Uber style, and wait for a car to turn up.

The pros: no maintenance costs, no need to have a driveway or parking.

The cons: potential waiting times, maybe fines for leaving a car dirty. Accidentally leaving something in the boot suddenly becomes a lot more problematic and it would be a bit of a pain to transfer, say, a child seat from car to car.

Going up?

Of course, there’s the prospect of moving up in the world – perhaps building on tech like this Flyboard.

Perhaps a safer option would be autonomous drones large enough to transport people. But if people like myself are hesitant to trust a self-driving car, a self-flying drone will require quite the leap of confidence.

Going down?

But anything flying will naturally be affected by bad weather – so how do you eliminate that?

Elon Musk’s latest idea is to dig. The ‘Boring company’ envisions large tunnels being dug under cities, cars being lowered to it on lifts and then transported at high speeds on sleds.

Claimed benefits: alleviates congestion, potentially super quick journey times, tunnels are weatherproof, no practical limit to how far we go down/how many layers of tunnels are created.

The problem: Boring company states tunnels are so expensive that the cost of creating them has to come down by a factor of ten to make them viable.

Boring says this will also help with Elon’s Hyperloop initiative, where people use high-speed pods to be whisked quickly from one point to another.

What do you think?

Do any of these ideas appeal? Do any seem vaguely feasible? Or do you think our future is simply a nationwide sprawling quagmire of congestion charge zones and battling over local EV points?


I am an asthmatic affected by sulphur dioxide and the introduction of smokeless zones and low sulphur petrol and diesel has helped me lead a normal life. We are all affected by nitrogen oxides, particularly nitrogen dioxide, which is produced by cars and heating our homes and some cities, particularly parts of London, are seriously polluted with nitrogen oxides and particulates.

I have been experimenting with using public transport and last month it took five trains to travel a distance of 44 miles and three to return. Amazingly the journey was without a hitch. Another journey of 40 miles took two trains, a long wait, and a bus. It’s not difficult to see why many of us just hop in the car. In the current warm weather, my diesel car is averaging 58.6 mpg, helped by the fact that most of my driving is outside built up areas.

I drive about 8000 miles a year and an electric car would be fine for most journeys, I make occasional long journeys including two of 420 miles, before and after the Christmas holidays. I have done this by train and it is no fun. A hybrid might suit me and having my own drive it would be easy to recharge it, but I cannot see an electric car as practical because of the restricted range and lack of public charging points.

I was not impressed by the governments predictions for 2040 and suggest that it would be better to look at what can be achieved practically within the next five years. I suggest that we have more pedestrian-only zones in cities as a start.

NukeThemAll says:
30 July 2017

In our locale, public transport is pretty hopeless because of the usual vicious cycle – it was never that good, cars became cheap and ubiquitous, everyone deserted public transport which is now unreliable, expensive and inconvenient.

My car is a Euro-6 diesel and I drive about 12,000 miles a year. I did look at electric cars but instantly rejected them because of limited range, virtually no charging infrastructure (and there are many, many reports of charging points that simply don’t work because of hardware/software issues) and the cost, which makes no financial sense for a private buyer. I did look at hybrids, but my usage pattern would mean far too many miles on petrol (I reckon about 8000 miles a year) and, combined with their current very high price and unknown depreciation/reliability, makes (again) absolutely no financial sense for a private buyer (but possibly for a company car driver). So the first thing that will need to change to tempt drivers **right now*** into at least hybrids (if not full-electric just yet) is a price re-alignment.

Although increased emphasis on electric and hybrid vehicles sounds commendable, no government for many, many decades has listened to its science and engineering advisors and committed to investing in decent transport infrastructure (it can be done – simply travel to Europe and observe). Hence I have huge doubts that investment in electricity generation and storage/distribution will be sufficient to meet the demand even by 2040. I suspect public transport will continue to be hopeless outside major conurbations, for all the obvious reasons, confounding the problem.

Self-driving cars may well transform our mobility, but there are huge challenges to overcome – look at any popular science/engineering articles for the reality, ignoring the hype.

Richard A says:
11 August 2017

If you bought your Euro-6 diesel new for 12k p.a I suggest you were tempted by the economy, listened to the government telling you diesels were good for the environment, which it later did a U-turn over, rather than the facts, initially you paid at least £1k more for the diesel over the petrol option forgetting that with the extra weight of a diesel engine in the long term 3 extra factors have to be considered, 1) Brakes suffer so need replacing earlier than petrol 2) Front suspension is put under extra stress 3) £1k plus extra buys a lot of mileage. It’s widely accepted to justify running a diesel an annual mileage of 20-25k justifies the extra price. Unfortunately following the U-turn if you decide to hang on to your diesel for a few years it’ll be worth less than a petrol alternative and you may be forced into a scrappage scheme which it looks pretty certain the government will offer to save face. By then hopefully electric cars will be more affordable, take the Tesla 3 for example ( estimated from £32k ), and other manufacturers will be forced into competing with similar cars, with a sensible range, and the charging infrastructure will have improved. It’s a case of watch this space…………………………………..

Steve says:
20 August 2017

I have driven a first-edition Nissan Leaf electric-only for 6 years and done nearly 50,000 miles. Battery still good though range a little reduced. Servicing costs at main dealer c £100 / year.

I have no experience of long range motorway bashing in an electric car but they certainly work beautifully for commute and round town use.

There is very little to go wrong ( I have had to change oil, tyres and windscreen wipers) and no engine slowly rattling the car to bits – I suspect I will still be driving the same car in another 6 years time

bishbut says:
30 July 2017

The government .can do anything it likes in 2040 because myself and many more will not be around to see the result o f another government blunder or the getting things wrong mistakes it is always making all the time By 2040 there will have been plenary of time for the usual long consultations and objections that always follow anything the government suggests

I see the effects of the loss of jobs/apprenticeships has not been gone into in any detail , in reality many 1000,s will lose their jobs when most of the work on cars relates to the engine and its processes leaving only the frame/wheels /steering which dont require intensive apprenticeships . I listened to a BBC speaker who was put forward as “knowledgeable ” on the subject – a caller said – but how long will the battery last ?-reply approx 8 years -under full guarantee he asked – um well right it depends –on what ?– well if a cell goes down the replacement of that cell will cost £180+ –and how many cells are there in a battery ? — a lot . There is a lot of “smoke+ mirrors ” going on here and I hope the public are not taken in by the “glowing ” sunshine /blue sky image that is propagandized. Nuke Them All — your wish will be granted –only “them ” will be us .

“I see the effects of the loss of jobs/apprenticeships has not been gone into in any detail”

But there may be compensation in terms of all the staff needed to build and run all the new power stations. (After WW1, my dad’s dad worked at a “London Transport” power station, from which they provided “the juice” for their trams and trolley buses.)

“but how long will the battery last” In space, no-one can come to change your batteries, so satellite batteries are designed to serve for as long as possible… Acceptable work-a-day electric cars may need to deploy similar technology.

I agree, Derek. A practical approach is useful.

London Transport used to have four power stations – Islington, Chelsea, Deptford and Neasden. Now, Transport for London is entirely reliant on the national grid. The deep-level tube trains push large volumes of air through the tunnels; could this ‘wind’ not drive turbines?

I suspect That was always the case, John. On the breakup of the Central Electricity Generating Board in 1990, the ownership and operation of the National Grid in England and Wales passed to National Grid plc and I don’t think the existence of the different power stations would have made a lot of difference, since they presumably fed into the main grid, anyway.

The second point is interesting. I’ve a friend in Oxford Uni who studies fluid dynamics, turbines and tunnels and it’s a rather mathsy issue (beyond my somewhat innumerate brain) but in chatting to him some time ago on similar lines (no pun intended) it seems as though the air displacement effect of the tube trains is needed to ensure two things: that passengers manage to breathe and they don’t get quietly cooked.

The piston effect of the trains’ passage pushes air to the extractor points. These are disguised in London as building façades, so to the average person they just look like a row of houses. But that air is actively drawn out of the tunnels by large fans, so there’s nothing really left over to operate turbines.

It’s a fascinating subject, since the clay around the tunnels has been warming (and thus drying out and contracting) for many years and the tunnels are now some 8C higher than they were thirty years ago.

Hobbitland says:
1 August 2017

Because it will slow the trains. The trains are powered by electricity there no free energy

Steve says:
20 August 2017

I rather think there will not be lots of new power stations. The existing generation capability in Britain is sufficient to charge electric cars providing charging is done outside of peak hours.

As cars will be self driving there is no reason why they would not drive themselves to a charging station at off-peak hours when the car is not in use – typically while the owner is sleeping

Ideally the manufacturers (or government if they fail do so) should
now define a communications standard so that cars can communicate their charging requirements and availability for charging to charging stations, and charging stations can summon cars to be charged per a schedule that spreads electricity demand to maximise the most off-peak supplies

Steve- Electricity consumption in -2014- 34.42GW (average ) -301.7TWh over the year coming from -335 TWh generation -peak demand -2015-52.7GW Latest -2016 reports are that in cold weather this country will struggle to produce enough electricity due to coal-fired power station closures . A scarcity of gas plants producing at times half the supply means spare capacity is at a low level . Even the Financial Times agrees -brace for energy shortages . Reality is like a cold winter dip in the sea . Self-drive to charging WOW ! as you speak every crook in the country is listening and back street garage owners are making expansion plans. Communicate via -Bluetooth -you cant be serious I have case after case from tech companies worldwide showing all the hacks and hackers taking control of them ,also as we speak . You do know they can re-direct them to their own location/ turn off the engines /overcome the CPU in them /open up the doors and that the FBI/CIA are already doing it in the USA to catch crooks . Even years ago US police forces had radio control over “Trap Cars ” to catch people. Engineering first – future vision , no matter how enlightening -second.

You can watch the amount of electricity being generated and used in the UK live here:


As usual the headline actually distorts the fact. It would seem that the definition of electric is flexible and might include hybrid vehicles. I also note who made the pronouncement and reflect on the track record of this particular politician. The actual logistics of the operation are monumental. Charging facilities, electricity generation, battery development, disposal and recycling, charging times and public acceptance of the change to their driving habits and their ability to go where they want, when they want. On top of that, the government have hinted that they will progressively penalise diesel drivers by town charges and extra taxes to force the change. The picture is not rosy. Will the public sit by and let this all happen in the name of clean progress? We seem to have been obedient so far, but we haven’t really been tested yet. Interesting times ahead.

Ps. I am amused by the sci-fi tone of this introduction and confidently predict that none of the above will actually take place. We shall be on roads for a long time to come and need to own our own personal transport in order to live and work.

In the late 60s I was given a book ‘Power from the sun’ as a metalwork prize. It described research in the US and looked forward to the days when there would be electric cars on the roads and homes could be self-sufficient in electricity. It seemed highly speculative at the time but less so now. I have no problem with the science fiction but agree that we do need practical solutions.

Putting an end to commuting – both by private transport and public transport – would solve many problems and save considerable time and money. We managed this before the days of railways and decent roads.

” It would seem that the definition of electric is flexible and might include hybrid vehicles…”

As regards its environmental footprint, a hybrid that is never plugged in and never leaves the city will be little different from an ordinary car.

I gather: you need around 1.6 sq m of solar panel to produce 1kWh per day averaged throughout the year. Conversion to battery storage is around 60% efficient. An electric car requires around 30kWh per 100 miles. So to produce enough energy to drive 40 miles a day would need around 32 sq m. Better in summer, probably much worse in winter. So they will rely heavily on mains charging unless a radical change in technology occurs. (Unless my figures are way out!). Until we have a lot more nuclear power stations I cannot see vehicle usage can possibly be sustained.

Commuting is a real killer – clogging towns and lungs, wasting fuel and time unnecessarily, and losing money for railways that need extra stock, staff for peak times that is then underused for the rest of the day. The obvious answers of relocating public and private organisations away from the major conurbations, staggering working hours, encouraging working from home, seem to miss the politicians, and even the organisations who could benefit.

That’s right, Malcolm . . . Especially since we have many large towns with large labour forces but hardly any office work and all the support services that go with it. Information technology enables companies to relocate much more easily now [and I don’t mean to India]. I think it’s time for government direction.

Of course this requires government direction, but in the meantime, many people could do this for themselves, so that they are within walking or cycling distance from their place of work. I suggest that teaching children about how they can minimise their impact on the environment is more important than anything currently in the curriculum.

If the BBC Countryfile show (compulsory viewing, here) is correct, 85% of atmospheric pollution is agricultural. Not, as you might imagine, from their vehicles but from the ways in which muck is spread. Holland understands this, and doesn’t allow the currently used system of squirting it on the land but requires it to be injected.

The recently announcements with regard to atmospheric pollution by the government contained nothing whatsoever about this particular source.

Is that 85% of atmospheric pollution in rural areas, or across the whole country, Ian? Even in rural areas, much of the land is pasture or grazing where no manure is spread mechanically [the animals make a small deposit in return for their roaming rights].

I agree with you – there is far too much atmospheric pollution by the government.

I believe that the Countryfile programme focused mainly on small particulates – so-called PM2.5s – but a lot depends on the chemical composition of particulates and even their shape can be a factor (as in asbestos particles). One of the biggest impacts of agriculture is on the quality of water in our rivers, which are fed by countless drainage ditches. There is also the impact of use of chemical pesticides which can get into our food and damage biodiversity.

Most of our problems could be greatly improved if the population of the UK was allowed to decline.

I particularly agree with your last paragraph, Wavechange. Indeed, I would make it compulsory.

How do you propose that this should happen, John? Carry on the way we are going and the decrease in male fertility could help us out.

The expanding population needs addressing in more ways than one.

I once read a short novel by Anthony Trollope called The Fixed Period when everyone who reached a certain age had to stop whatever they were doing and spend a year preparing for their demise. It was based on compulsory euthanasia, but such a concept would be unthinkable today I suppose. As you say, certain natural processes will probably help prune the population but perhaps we also need to introduce limits on the incentives to propagate. Once we have clean air to breathe everyone will live longer, so it’s a bit of a riddle.

How about removing all speed limits? We could follow that by abolishing all H & S restrictions, offering free alcohol at shooting ranges, issuing gift certificates for sky diving experiences using paper parachutes and perhaps introducing a gladiatorial version of Big Brother…

John: sorry – nearly missed your question. I had to rewind the show to hear the arguments again, but it does seem that they were saying 85% of ALL atmospheric pollution in the UK is directly or indirectly caused by agriculture. Wave will know more, but apparently it’s the effect of ammonia from muck meeting NO2 that presents the greatest risk.

We’re mercifully free of car fumes, up here, and the prevailing wind keeps it that way for much of the time. But we do have a lot of muck spreading. On still days when we walk through fields the smells can be almost overpowering.

I’m not sure how you allow a population to “decline” unless “allow” is a euphemism for “cause”, by, for example, withdrawing medical services, tampering with the water, or some other device.

I was hoping it could be achieved by education, Malcolm. Perhaps we could spend less time discussing money and focus more on how to reduce the environmental impact of the way we live.

Relevant to the current discussion is tackling the problems created by commuting. We have discussed the possibilities of people living near near their workplace. That was a high priority to me when I left school, although it was to save time and money rather than for environmental reasons. Having fewer people in the UK would help in many ways.

According to one source, supported by this document ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/010/a0701e/a0701e.pdf
“Livestock farming produces 37% and 65% of our global methane and nitrous oxide emissions respectively (3).” Cows are more damaging than cars, so perhaps the focus of out attention should change?

Trollope’s Science Fiction future (based on Middleton’s 17th C play) does show that the same problems have afflicted cultures throughout the ages. It also spawned several novels with similar themes, and some became films and even TV series.

I doubt we have to worry, however; the history of the world suggests we’re overdue for a mass extinction event. It’s almost exactly 100 years since the outbreak of the ‘flu that killed more around the world than the Great war had. And there’s an asteroid due to pass us by a mere 4000 miles, shortly. Now, where’s the aspirin?

It’s nitrogen dioxide emissions that are the main health risk, Malcolm. Nitrous oxide is popularly known as laughing gas – which may account for the existence of the laughing cow brand of cheese.

They were worried about over-population in the seventeenth century? My goodness – we’ve got some catching up to do! I suspect, as it is today, that it’s the density in towns and cities that is the real problem, not necessarily the actual total numbers.

I was surprised when I learnt that Ancient Rome had a population in excess of a million back in 200BCE. Large towns, it seems, are not a recent development.

Perhaps this is where the term “laughing stock” originated?

The problems are worst in towns and cities but built-up areas are fast spreading in some parts of the country. More buildings, roads and paving all increase the chance of flooding. More people, agriculture and industry can result in more pollution of water courses that provide our drinking water. There are so many factors.

None of these events reduce the population, just dent its rate of growth.
If all the world’s population were instructed to face the same direction and run as fast as they could for one minute, I wonder how much shorter (or longer) we could make our day length.

I imagine a mass extinction event or two would reduce the population. 🙂

Jack Black says:
6 August 2017

I agree. Nuclear power stations are needed NOW. I don’t believe any other power source will be able to supply our current (excuse the pun) needs, let alone those of 16 million vehicles.

Jack Black says:
6 August 2017

China had a ban on couples having more than one child. This helped control the population rise. This policy has now been abandoned. I wonder what the population of China will be by 2040 ?

Tim says:
6 August 2017

Interesting. But what counts as ‘atmospheric pollution’? Maybe there is a technical definition (if so, what is it?) or maybe it’s simply a term of disparagement. Is there an agreed list of atmospheric pollutants? If so, fine. Some of these will be worse – much worse – than others, and are therefore more urgent to combat. Does it include carbon dioxide – essential to plant life, at least in minimal quantities? What was the Dutch government particularly worried about – was it the smell?

As in Japan?

Only just seen this thread. Noting your sarcasm, Ian, the first five words chime with me. A speed limit is a poor proxy for safe speed of travel, and I’d like to see them made advisory for advanced drivers (defining an advanced driver is another topic entirely, and they should/would be subject actually to greater scrutiny by class 12 police drivers for anything that would be regarded as unsafe, and a transgression would see their advanced status revoked.

Speed limits are there to give an expectation to other road users – those crossing the road, on cycles, children for example; safety is not just dependent upon the skills of so-called “advanced” drivers. You could argue that speed limits should be abandoned when the roads are quiet – between midnight and 7 am say – but the occasional user will still be about and not able to predict what an oncoming vehicle might be doing.

We must accept that we share roads with a whole range of users with skills ranging from zero upwards and be prepared to accommodate them. We don’t all drive as well as we like to think.

At the weekend we were overtaken by a very skillful motorcyclist, not travelling particularly quickly. Hi advanced skills were in demonstrating wheelies all the way down the middle of the road as he continued to overtake. However, one slip by either himself (not possible, too clever 🙂 ) or another unaware road user, could have had him off his bike, damaging another vehicle or being run over a damaging some other driver’s life – at least temporarily.

That wasn’t sarcasm, Roger; it was dry wit…

“In an effort to help clean up air quality in the UK… by 2050, almost every vehicle using UK roads will be zero emission – basically electric or hydrogen propelled”

But what about:

The required prime power sources (power stations and related factories, as used for their construction) and their emissions?

Air, rail and sea travel modes?

Presumably we’ll have to have nuclear generation plus more renewables – hopefully tidal storage/flow may receive more interest with our island nation and useful tide ranges.
Sea could be nuclear powered. Rail electric (more nuclear power). Air – that would use the fossil fuel no longer being used on the ground.

However, as we will not be alone in going all-electric, I wonder where all the resources will come from to build all the necessary nuclear power stations worldwide, all at the same time?

Somehow I think our transport habits will have to radically change.

As I see it, the top priorities are to keep diesel and petrol vehicles out of city centres and to cut down the amount of driving.

I regularly use park & ride facilities, though some cities are much better served than others. Today I will park four miles out of a city centre and take the bus because using the park & ride would add miles to the journey.

I am opposed to charges for driving in city centres because that will do little to discourage those who can afford to pay.

We can all find ways of combining journeys to allow us to achieve more but drive less. Yesterday I took bags of vegetation to the local recycling centre, visited a friend and did the weekly shopping on the way back. It saved time and money compared with separate trips. I had passed on the latest Which? car magazine to the friend who will be looking at replacing a car that is ten or eleven years old. That has inspired him to look at a hybrid car.

Really don’t know be long gone from this world

One thing that currently puts me off autonomous cars is how they will react to unexpected conditions such as a road that has just closed due to flooding or an accident. Google Maps already let me down one time when a major road was closed on my way to work. There is no way I could tell it to exclude the blocked road and it insisted on trying to take me back to it! In the end, I just followed road signs to another town far from the blocked road and had to drive at least 10 miles for Google Maps to recalculate another route that didn’t include the blocked road. So if assuming a Google Car uses the same Google Maps based algorithm, I can just imagine a Google Car getting stuck going around in circles back to a road that has just been closed.

As for electric cars, I’m still debating about getting one as I rarely drive more than 100 miles in a day. I could easily borrow a car for a longer journey, e.g. lend the person my car in exchange. Even at present, I generally take a bus for long journeys such as to the airport. I’ll most likely get one second hand as they are too expensive new. If I get one and a home charging point, I wouldn’t need to use a public charging point for 99% of my journeys.

How long do batteries last and what do replacements cost. There might be a hidden disadvantage in a second hand well-used (or little used) car. Apparently the Nissan Leaf battery costs around £5000, but prices are dropping and it may be only individual cells need replacing. Renting/leasing batteries is from around £60 a month and may be the popular choice.

Hopefully rather than recharge a car, with a long wait, you might simply replace the battery at a service station – if they standardise on connections, fixings, size and so on.

Decent public road transport may be the better way forward.

I am curious to know how autonomous vehicles would cope with the occasional hole in the road problem where a bloke with a Stop/Go board controls the traffic. And how they deal with two vehicles meeting at an unprioritised cross roads where at present headlight flashing, courteous hand signals and other gestures are the norm. Of course, it is envisaged that all autonomous cars will have a competent driver on board to over-ride the intelligent computer commands and restore conventional misbehaviour.

Unless you’ve got a lot of luggage or shopping on board it might be easier just to go off in a different car rather than fiddle about swapping batteries around. Let’s pool our vehicles. Swipe your code card on the on-board computer and off you go.

Exchanging batteries will only be feasible when they are all mounted for swift detachment and light enough for anyone to carry them. There’s also the question of the residual juice in the replaced battery – a standard universal tariff for electric car recharging might be needed to make for easy billing.

As with other batteries, the capacity of electric vehicle batteries will decrease with age, so swapping them may give you batteries that will give your car longer or shorter range. The latter could cause problems if you don’t make it to your destination. Maybe it will be possible for batteries to show their actual capacity to help the driver make an informed choice of whether a shorter range will do or to pay more for newer replacements that will provide longer range.

The scenario you present of the unprioritised cross roads, John, is one into which they’ve put a lot of thought. Our present hybrid has a Lidar assembly on the windscreen which houses laser, radar and several cameras and because the car has an autonomous braking system it’s interesting to watch how it deals with certain anomalies.

It does, indeed, detect holes in the road and flashes a red warning before we hit it. Because it has only limited steering autonomy and none at all in normal drive mode it doesn’t swerve the car but can stop it prior to disappearing into the odd abyss.

The cameras are very effective, able to recognise correctly roadside signs, centre markings and obstructions, in addition to craters. When I’ve played with the autonomous steering, only available in parking mode, it’s an eerie sensation when the car takes over, and certainly isn’t something I use for two reasons: the first is that the space into which it puts the car assumes that other drivers are all perfect and can escape a similar-sized space with ease. The second reason is simply that I actively enjoy reverse parking, because it’s a test.

Ian, what about in the rain and a deep pothole full of water?

Some years ago in an automatic American rental car, I tried out cruise control. I found because my feet were not where they would normally be and not doing anything useful, they sort of forgot what they were supposed to do momentarily. So, would you be able to react quickly enough in an emergency?

Good point, Wavechange. Perhaps it should come up on a dashboard meter and indicator: “Miles remaining to your satnav destination 55; next charging point at 45 miles. Click on steering wheel to book a charge in 40 minutes time.

I think when confronted by the bloke with the Stop/Go board protecting a guy plopping a dollop of bitmac into a pot hole I shall just have to take over command of the car and run them both over. I understand it’s different on motorways.

That would make sense, John. I would hope that the batteries themselves could show the available capacity too.

I think the best way forward is to introduce small electric cars for short range use. A couple might have a small electric car for local use and a hybrid vehicle for journeys that would not be practical without recharging an electric car.

Why would a hybrid vehicle with reasonable battery range not fulfil both requirements? Electric in towns, fossil fuelled in open areas and to recharge the battery.

Alfa: interesting point (pothole covered by water) but then I doubt I’d do any better than the car in that situation. But I do take your point about remaining ‘on guard’ for such events.

Malcolm: there are now hybrid hybrids, in the sense that many can now be plugged in and operate as an electric car for all local journeys.

John: the cameras would read the man with the stop sign and run them both over much more accurately than you could probably achieve, so no worries on that front.

Patrick Taylor says:
31 July 2017

Most companies in Europe and the US do not use petroleum powered forklifts, as these vehicles work indoors where emissions must be controlled and instead use electric forklifts.[38][45] Fuel-cell-powered forklifts can provide benefits over battery powered forklifts as they can work for a full 8-hour shift on a single tank of hydrogen and can be refueled in 3 minutes. Fuel cell-powered forklifts can be used in refrigerated warehouses, as their performance is not degraded by lower temperatures. The FC units are often designed as drop-in replacements.[46][47]

As som4ebody who repaired forklift trucks in the late 60,s for an American owned company I can agree Patrick LPG fork lift trucks were used they were American made Hyster brands .They also had lansing Bagnall British battery operated trucks which contained massive batteries requiring a chain lift to remove them , if the battery fell on you -forget it , you would be squashed flat . The smell of the gas exhaust was like old socks or that piece of meat found at the back of the fridge –it stunk.

Malcolm asked me: “Why would a hybrid vehicle with reasonable battery range not fulfil both requirements? Electric in towns, fossil fuelled in open areas and to recharge the battery.”

If I was replacing my one car now, that would be the best compromise. For a couple it might be better to share a small electric car for local use and a larger hybrid or conventional car for longer distances or when a bigger car was needed.

I am not planning to replace my car for another five years or longer and it will be interesting to look back at this Convo at that time. I expect that Adrian will keep us informed of new developments.

That’s what I chose…. a wonderfully economic hybrid – as Ian knows… 😉

Electric will be over by 2040 and the only fuel available will be hydrogen so yet again the government has gotten the timescale wrong

Er…Hydrogen cell vehicles generate electricity, so the car would be electrically powered.

My vision of 2040.

All vehicles will have wind turbines and solar panels on them.

Speed bumps and other traffic calming devices will no longer be necessary as navigating failed batteries will provide sufficient impediments, therefore saving councils lots of money.

My 2040 vision is that there will be no wind [maybe just a gentle breeze from time to time] and some sunshine every day.

Alfa – I think your turbine and panels will offer more wind resistance than the motor will cope with.

The sooner we scrap road humps the better; the speedy people have now acquired vehicles that are unaffected by them. It’s the small cars that are usually driven carefully that have to slow down severely.

Aw shucks, so a little windmill 🎡 on the bonnet wouldn’t charge the battery then. Oh well, back to the drawing board.

I suppose you could have a large one which you towed behind the car, but I suspect those pesky conservation of Energy laws would figure somewhere.

Don’t give up on it, Alfa. The little windmill if angled away from the direction of travel but still picking up enough windforce to turn the blades would contribute something. A sort of turbofan might be more effective. These would probably work best on downhill gradients where less engine power is expended and the battery makes a nett gain. The solar panels would also produce something to reenergise the battery, especially if the cells were orientable towards the sun and could be housed in a streamlined fairing, but night-time driving would be impaired.

Making cars as light in weight as possible will be one of the keys to economical electric traction; plastic seats, no roof, no windows, no accessories drawing power, no baggage on board, maximum people loading 32 stone, one pedal. Hopefully, they will not have a man standing on the back bumper taking fifty pence off you every half-mile.

You’d probably have to have windows and a roof, otherwise turbulence would induce a significant amount of drag. But you could eliminate seats and have the vehicles driven (and steered) like a Skeleton.


Get on to youtube and search out Charlie Chaplin and Magnet Car. Better still I’ll do it….

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gjRrvS7ef8s – starts at 2:30 – although the first 2:30 is worth a look too!

The link does not work for me, Roger. Try this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PRAP_w0eYDA

Unfortunately it is just entertainment because magnetic attraction has a very short range.

On a more serious vision for the future, a lot could be learned from theme parks. Both rides and getting around the parks.

Individual pods holding 1-4 people that run on rails could be the way forward for towns and cities. A smart system that has your pod waiting for you in your street ready to take you to work, school or shopping. 2-way pod lanes in towns would only take up one existing lane leaving the other free for deliveries. No need for people living in towns and cities to own vehicles. Car rentals available at the edge of town for longer journeys or even super-fast pod lanes on motorways to get you to the next town or city.

Epcot was intended to be that future, indeed. They still have a mini- maglev ride which was slated to be in the original concept. Lots of fun!

Which ride is it Ian?

It’s in Futureworld, in the Magic Kingdom: the Tomorrowland Transit Authority People Mover it’s called. Very pleasant ride at night.

Now I know what you are talking about. Disney do know how to move people around.

I first went to Epcot about 25 years ago and found it absolutely amazing.

I wasn’t writing the guide for them then (shameless plug).

This should solve all your electric car charging problems for free (if you have a lawn, twigs, and some leaves). Unfortunately you’ll have to listen to ages of spiel before you even get to the point where money is required.
Perhaps Which? could build one to power its offices and report back? 🙁

A search on his name and the word scam seems to come up rather a lot.

A couple of reviews:


One poster mentioned one way to get free electricity is to sell the idea to the gullible.

What could be a more feasible and free to read electricity through compost:

Can’t imagine it hitched to the back of a car though.

On another site I’ve just posted around 20 links to sites which purport to show you how to build machines that create free electricity. I won’t post them in here but they are hilarious.

The “inventor” no doubt worked on the principle that although his “device” (an aerobic digester that produces high pressure gas, recovering 97% of the energy stored in the plant material, to power a turbine that drives a generator….) was useless, it did actually pay his electricity bills, and more, by getting revenue not from exporting electricity but from importing money from the gullible people who paid him $39 a time for the downloaded instructions

Something that hasn’t been thought about in regards to petrol , what helps make America “Great ” – you an I , why? because of the Petrodollar as agreed by OPEC and previously agreed with Saudi Arabia . If consumption falls where s does that leave US wealth , apart from printing money and us supporting it. You do know the US is deep in debt , don’t you ? $100,s of Trillions . The petrodollar elevated the US dollar to the World,s reserve currency through collapse of the Bretton Woods gold standard enabling the US to enjoy large trade deficits and allow it global economic hegemony helping US financial markets with a source of liquidity and foreign capital inflow through petrodollar re-cycling . if it is possible can you now see what I am getting at when Russia/ China / Venezuela /Iran are moving away from it and using their own currency ? That cant be allowed to happen in US eyes so the impending war . But guess what ? , as I said before the IMF is considering moving to China because of US debt backed ,I think , by the City , remember China uses the gold standard for the Yuan Renminbi which, as I have brought up often, helps limit a governments debt and so reduces the burden on the poor to pay for massive spending as this country does.

You’re spot on about the US being so heavily indebted that if it were a small country it would be bankrupt. This is why I don’t take too much notice when people say we don’t have the money to spend on the NHS, etc. The US continues to spend and the debt continues to be ‘bought’ – mainly by China. It’s bizarre.

And now that the US has China surrounded with missiles /bases etc Ian and is threatening it ,wiping out China isnt too bad in the normal level of the minds in the Senate ( which is child level ) even helps the Donald accelerate his – Made in America – factory opening /building policy. It certainly is “other world ” thinking over there.

Not sure there’s any thinking going on at the moment, in the White House, anyway. Just a large revolving door.

Hobbitland says:
1 August 2017

Looks like wont be buying a new car very soon. People wont be new buying or owning cars. If cars are self driving and electric it will be cheaper to hire a tax. Problems with electric cars is the battery as they have to be replace every 3 years and highly polluting to make.

A better future is remove the need to travel altogether. No flights, trains or cars. Instead VR headsets people can goto school university and work using VR headsets. People can have VR food as well 🙂

Paul says:
23 August 2017

Where did you get your information about battery life from? I suspect that you’ve been misinformed by reading the misinformation peddled by the anti-electric car lobby. I’m now on my 3rd electric car having kept the two previous ones for 3 years each. The batteries were still at 90% + of their original efficiency. As soon as I see the words “highly polluting” I think of the millions of tons of noxious gas being pumped into the atmosphere by internal combustion engines and the rare metals used to make catalytic converters. What about lead additives in petrol in the past? The earth’s population is still paying the penalty for that one…

Electric cars are better for the environment, especially in built-up areas, but it’s worth being aware of some of the problems specific to EVs and common to all forms of motorised transport: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jul/29/electric-cars-battery-manufacturing-cobalt-mining http://publications.jrc.ec.europa.eu/repository/bitstream/JRC89231/jrc89231-online%20final%20version%202.pdf

We can all help by minimising the amount we drive.

bishbut says:
2 August 2017

Some people who own a car MUST use it to travel EVERYWHERE many have forgotten they have legs and still can walk Modern Times? RUSH rush to do everything wanting to reach the end of their life as fast as possible It makes me wonder and feel sorry for them

BruceHenry says:
4 August 2017

This all makes sad reading. I’m getting my old saddle out and giving it a good polish! Plenty of fodder in the parks of those famous cities.

London and other major cities had enormous problems with pollution from horse traffic before they were motorised. Visible pollution on the streets as well as noxious fumes in the air.

Maybe it is electric bikes that we should be promoting. Clean, adequately fast, immediate back-up power if the battery runs down, easy to park and they take up far less space than a car. Perhaps Which? could do a report on them (and accompanying weatherproof gear).

Alan Barker says:
5 August 2017

I am a self-confessed Dinosaur. I live far from any city. I thoroughly enjoy driving
reasonably quickly on country roads in my eleven-year-old, perfectly maintained
Nissan X-Trail. I hate cities. I hate large crowds of homo sapiens in any one place.
I shall no longer be alive when cars are no longer controlled by their drivers,
and that pleases me no end !

The above statement makes me a literal outsider. My views are not relevant.
My attitudes anti-social. My perceptions unacceptable. And I do not give a damn.

stuart l says:
6 August 2017

I drive a seriously polluting diesel SUV – for one simple reason – I need to tow a caravan. So far there are few if any hybrids capable of exerting the pulling power required for such function. (And the one that is capable is more than £50,000). The same goes for long distance delivery vans, long distance coaches etc. The proposals as they stand will see the death of the UK caravan and leisure industries – which contributed several million jobs to the economy. At the same time you can forget rural bus services or postal deliveries. Hybrids don’t have the range and would take too ,long to re-charge between journeys – another million plus jobs gone! Not to mention communities isolated!
These proposals are a knee-jerk reaction to an unrealistic court judgement forced by a lobby that would much rather see us back in the horse and cart era. A time scale of 22 years is totally unrealistic for the technology to be devolved – the present “clean” diesel/ hybrid petrol engines have taken four to five decades to happen – and have been a global development. At the moment the US, China and Russia have no incentive to get involved, whilst Japan and South Korea also show little interest in such a revolution. European manufacturers do not have the resources to create such a revolution on their own – and indeed there would be little enough world-wide market from which to recoup such investment.
As for government – it speaks with ‘forked tongue”! Whilst imploring the use of electricity for cars, it cancels electrification of our rail system, and has no answers as to what fuel the necessary new p[ower stations will use – oil may well make up a significant proportion of it!
I will be very long in the tooth by the time these directives happen -if they happen – but I am very concerned at the impossible legacy that this can potentially leave our children and grand-children.

frank salisbury says:
6 August 2017

I am 72 years old.If I could have an autonomous car now,no one could compain I am too old and I would be able be able to drive(?) around Dartmoor without having to bother about other drivers,sharp bends and narrow lanes.i would happily use public transport to get to hound tor,but there is NO PUBLIC TRANSPORT suitable for people who like walking and under the present regime I don’t suppose there ever will be.

And what counts as ‘atmospheric pollution’? Maybe there is a recognised definition, or list, but it sounds like a catch-all for anything the writer thinks we’d be better without. Assuming (optimistically) that there is a recognised definition, it would be good to know what’s on it. And which are the most important and which (if any) are trivial? Concentrate on the former, which should be tackled first. Is carbon dioxide included? That gas is a natural constituent of the atmosphere, and essential to plant life. As Paracelsus pointed out some time ago, it’s the dose that makes the poison.

I think it would be better to focus on pollutants that affect humans and the environment. In the case of conventional vehicles nitrogen oxides (particularly nitrogen dioxide) and particulates appear to be the main problem at present. With electric vehicles, most of the pollution is related to electricity generation. Manufacture and subsequent disposal of vehicles is also important.

One benefit of taxing conventional vehicles according to fuel consumption is to discourage use of vehicles with large engines.