FLY­ING

cars ... they were sup­posed to be here by now. If you read fu­ture-spec­u­la­tive ar­ti­cles from the 1950s, in this sec­ond decade of the new mil­len­nium, we

Car (South Africa) - - EDITOR’S LETTER - Email: car@ram­say­media.co.za Steve­smithza

were also meant to be liv­ing in gleam­ing, utopian cities, strap­ping on jet­packs and plan­ning our next moon hol­i­day. Only, we’re not. The fu­ture, as it turns out, is never quite The Fu­ture.

Which is why all this talk about “the death of the car as we know it” has me rolling my eyes. The me­dia is awash with talk of au­ton­o­mous driv­ing, per­sonal mo­bil­ity and elec­tric ve­hi­cles as im­mi­nent tech­nolo­gies that are about to change our very no­tion of per­sonal trans­port. There have been re­cent an­nounce­ments from the gov­ern­ments of the United King­dom and France ban­ning the sale of petrol and diesel cars from 2040 (the UK will al­low hy­brids, but it’s Ev-only for the French). Yet, com­pared with the Nor­we­gians, even that’s not soon enough; they’ve pegged 2025 as the date for Ev-only new-ve­hi­cle sales.

Then there’s Tesla, the in­dus­try’s Chief Dis­rupter, which has smartly po­si­tioned its in­creas­ingly af­ford­able and longer-ranged ve­hi­cles within a self­suf cient elec­tri ed loop that in­cludes in­no­va­tive do­mes­tic so­lar roof pan­els and Pow­er­wall stor­age cells. Plus, tech com­pa­nies such as Google and Ap­ple are also work­ing on au­ton­o­mous-driv­ing tech­nolo­gies ... surely The Fu­ture has ar­rived?

Not quite. At least, not quite in South Africa. Don’t get me wrong; I’m no EV de­nial­ist. I grasp their ad­van­tages and, while I will al­ways want the op­tion to con­trol a ve­hi­cle my­self, I do seethe be nets au­tonomous­driv­ing ca­pa­bil­ity of­fers in cer­tain cir­cum­stances. There is, how­ever, one cru­cial point to re­mem­ber … we’re not liv­ing in Nor­way, Eng­land, France or the USA.

We are decades be­hind those coun­tries in not just set­ting up the in­fra­struc­ture for au­ton­o­mous-driv­ing EV, but be­ing able to af­ford them. As a coun­try – one of the wealth­ier ones on this con­ti­nent – more press­ing is­sues such as ed­u­ca­tion and hous­ing will be in line for gov­ern­ment funds be­fore any charg­ing or con­nect­ed­car net­work. And there will need to be gov­ern­ment in­volve­ment. With­out it com­ing to the party to part­ner car brands in build­ing the in­fra­struc­ture, as well as pro­vid­ing a sub­sidy or tax break on EV sales, I see af­ford­able petrol- and diesel-pow­ered cars mak­ing up the bulk of sales in South Africa well be­yond 2040.

New tech­nol­ogy is use­ful and ef­fec­tive only if it is ap­pro­pri­ate to the en­vi­ron­ment in which it op­er­ates. EV in Nor­way? De nitely. But in an African con­text out­side of a few cities? Not so much. Surely it’s bet­ter to in­vest in more rel­e­vant tech­nolo­gies such as the af­ford­able, prac­ti­cal Gor­don Murray-de­signed OX at-pack truck that’s speci cally for­mu­lated to pro­vide all-ter­rain mo­bil­ity in a de­vel­op­ing coun­try?

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