Four major car manufacturers have failed to sign a Cop26 summit pledge. Volkswagen, Toyota, Renault-Nissan and Hyundai-Kia did not commit to only sell zero emissions cars and vans by 2035, in a step that’s disappointing – particularly when VW and Toyota are the world’s biggest car manufacturers.
Lots of car industry giants did sign up though – including Ford, General Motors, and Jaguar Land Rover – as well as a number of major cities and governments, but undoubtedly there’s a fracture in vision when it comes to how driving, and the vehicles we do it in, will look in decades to come.
Most of us don’t work in car manufacturing; we’re not developing new technology or greening up engines; we aren’t working on making electric car batteries last longer and operate more efficiently; and we aren’t directly involved in making electric and hybrid cars cheaper for everybody. That work is in the hands of experts – our power lies simply in the car we choose to drive, or whether we choose to drive one at all.
And this is the conundrum many are facing – should we really have cars at all? And could you give yours up?
FOR giving it up…
The benefits of driving less are pretty indisputable. The big ones: cleaner air, lower emissions, reduced carbon footprint, fewer fossil fuels being sucked out of the earth; to the more personal: less time spent sat in traffic, no more MOT fear, avoiding traffic accidents, no longer being asked to give everyone lifts everywhere, and the sheer cost of running a motor.
In fact, once you start totting it up, it makes you wonder why we’ve chained ourselves to these petroleum monsters for so long. Especially when the alternatives can be so pleasant. Sure, commuting by bus or train has it trials, but you can read your book, people watch, or relax! We’d rather cycle anyway (it instantly eliminates your need for a gym membership) or scoot (feel like a big kid and get where you need to go – it’s the dream).
And of course, if you do desperately need a car for a one-off trip or to move house, it’s still much cheaper to hire one for a couple of days than it is to own one. It just doesn’t feel like permanently occupying space on the road is justifiable anymore.
AGAINST giving it up…
Ideally we’d just have teleportation – why that hasn’t been developed yet is beyond us, but in the meantime, cars are the closest alternative.
They offer freedom, ease, choice and excellent acoustics for listening to your music turned right up. They get you door to door with minimal fuss and with all your stuff. Road trips are one of the greatest joys, while learning to drive is a right of passage in itself. And that’s just the fun stuff – so much of what our cars mean to us is dependent on where we live and what we do. City dwellers might not be so reliant on owning a vehicle, but that isn’t the case for everyone, especially in rural locations, or if your job requires lots of travel. And it might be easier to scrap your motor if public transport was equitably distributed and fully accessible, regardless of your circumstances. That just isn’t the case yet.
And the car industry is adapting (if slowly). Green technology is going to get there – and arguably it’ll be available more quickly and more affordably if there’s demand for it, and those new technologies in turn will find applications across other industries, immeasurably improving lives in ways we can’t even conceive of yet. There’s hope in driving, we just have to accelerate the tech involved.