TO SEE the future of driving you don’t have to look into a crystal ball – but you might need to look into the mind of Rishi Sunak.
There have been motoring mutterings aplenty this week that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is looking into ways to plug the shortfall in funding caused by all those pesky people snapping up electric cars and no longer paying for petrol or diesel. While the Treasury hasn’t committed to anything – and I know, because a colleague of mine asked the other day – what’s being heavily rumoured is a sort of pay-as-you-go system.
For anyone over the age of about 20, pay-as-you-go will inevitably bring back memories of not being able to phone your mates on a Nokia 3310 because it’s run out of credit, and then having to traipse to a nearby newsagent to spend a tenner on an Orange top-up card. I sincerely hope that the new system won’t be anywhere near as rubbish, thanks to all the technological advances we’ve had since – but while I think it’s not a bad idea in principle, I worry about one group of drivers in particular.
If you’re not chucking £1.10 a litre at a nearby BP or Esso, which the Government hopes most of us won’t be, seeing as it’s planning to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars in a decade’s time, then a system that charges more to those who drive more makes sense. It might even use it as a clever way to manage congestion – it’s unlikely you’re going to get stuck in traffic at 3am on Parbold Hill, but if it’s 8.45am on a Tuesday morning, you might be more inclined to give Switch Island a miss if it costs a couple of quid to crawl through it.
The devil’s in the detail, obviously, but my bigger concern is for those troublesome so-and-sos who insist on still burning deceased dinosaurs on occasional journeys. Me, basically.
Classic cars over 30 years old, according to newly-commissioned research also released this week, are responsible to just 0.2 per cent of the nation’s annual vehicle mileage and do an average of just 1200 miles a year – and behind a tiny, tiny fraction of the pollution on our roads. My worry is that they’re going to caught out by Rishi’s new system, being forced to pay by the mile, in a system geared towards Teslas and Nissan LEAFs, and have to stump up for unleaded. Unleaded that will almost certainly, on account of it being much harder to get hold of in a not-too-distant future, more expensive.
So Rishi needs to dig out his Casio scientific calculator and make sure that the people who own all of those old cars, bikes, buses and lorries and take them out to the occasional show – people who put £7.2 billion a year into Britain’s economy, and support more than 30,000 jobs – aren’t being hammered by any new pay-as-you-go scheme.
I appreciate he’ll want to make it worth our while to go for an all-electric Renault Zoe rather than a petrol or diesel, but there’s got to be a sensible compromise somewhere.
David Simister is the editor of Classic Car Weekly