The colum­nists: Gavin Green & Mark Wal­ton

CAR (UK) - - Contents - Gavin Green THE VOICE OF EX­PE­RI­ENCE @greenofrich­mond

LAST TIME I had an en­counter with a pick-up truck, it hit me. I was on my bi­cy­cle and ended up in hos­pi­tal.

Yet I’ve al­ways rather liked pick­ups. Like most work­ing ve­hi­cles, they have char­ac­ter. Ex-Ford boss Jac Nasser likened Amer­i­cans’ fond­ness for the pick-up to their fron­tier spirit. They are the mod­ern equiv­a­lent of the horse, he once told me. In Bri­tain, they come with manly names like War­rior (a Mit­subishi), In­vin­ci­ble (a Toy­ota), Bar­bar­ian (Mit­subishi again) or Wild­trak (a Ford). They are not aimed at chaps who drink skinny lat­tes and eat lentils. UK sales boom.

Un­like new SUVs, which are mostly tin­selled trucks, pick-ups have not been gen­tri­fied. They have an hon­esty alien to most con­tem­po­rary SUVs. They also usu­ally last a long time. Take the Toy­ota Hilux, re­cently sam­pled on a fam­ily trip to North Wales. Hiluxes are renowned as the tough­est ve­hi­cles in the world, and prob­a­bly the long­est-lived. Own­ing a Hilux is like own­ing a piece of rock. It may get weather beaten but it will never wear out. A friend has one that’s done 252,000 miles in 20 years. It’s still on its orig­i­nal clutch and has never bro­ken down.

I love en­coun­ter­ing well-used ve­hi­cles, still pro­vid­ing loyal ser­vice. Ev­ery old car is unique, ev­ery ding and scrape has a tale to tell. One of my wife’s friends, a land­scape gar­dener, has a 30-year-old Volvo 740 wagon, used daily. A friend has a lovely W123 Mercedes, at least 35 years old. An­other has a Re­nault 4, one of my favourite cars. A mate has an old Saab 99. Up the road there is an early ’80s Volvo 240 wagon, rust­ing but still a run­ner. Th­ese are not pam­pered clas­sics. They are as much faith­ful fam­ily friends as daily trans­port.

Com­pli­cated elec­tron­ics of­ten con­demn new cars to early graves. Car mak­ers, en­cour­aged by cheap fi­nance, pop­u­larise three-year (or less) lease deals to en­cour­age short-term own­er­ship.

Now we are on the verge of main­stream elec­tric cars. Th­ese will be dis­pos­able con­sumer goods. You’ll never see a clas­sic car mag­a­zine devoted to elec­tric cars. Elec­tric cars don’t get old. They just get scrapped. Their rel­a­tively short bat­tery life de­mands it. Bat­tery re­place­ment is rarely eco­nom­i­cally jus­ti­fied.

Elec­tric cars are the fu­ture, of course. Zero emis­sions, sus­tain­able en­ergy gen­er­a­tion, re­use and re­cy­cling of old bat­ter­ies: th­ese will all mean a greener and more pleas­ant to­mor­row. In the mean­time, while most of our man­u­fac­tur­ing belches CO2 and only 0.5 per cent of UK car buy­ers choose pure elec­tric power, we should surely be en­cour­ag­ing petrol and diesel cars to be as eco­nom­i­cal, and as long-lived, as pos­si­ble.

Long-lived cars must be in­trin­si­cally greener, just as ‘bags for life’ are bet­ter than car­rier bags and qual­ity hand-made fur­ni­ture is bet­ter than flat-pack self-as­sem­bled tat. Our throw­away cul­ture is one of the great en­vi­ron­men­tal evils. So we should be wary of hasty calls to take per­fectly good diesel (and petrol) cars off the road.

After the re­cent ‘diesel emis­sions scan­dal’ – an ur­ban prob­lem drama­tised na­tion­ally – a UK state-backed scrap­page scheme was en­thu­si­as­ti­cally pro­posed. This would en­cour­age those fool­ish enough to be­lieve the politi­cians a few years ago to get nd rid of their diesels. Many car mak­ers have jumped on the band­wagon, of­fer­ing bribes to trade-in ‘dirty’ old cars for ‘clean’ new ones (also petrol- or diesel-pow­ered).

But does it make sense to scrap a per­fectly good three-to-10year old diesel car, still with many years of loyal ser­vice re­main­ing? Es­pe­cially if the cars are small and fuel eco­nom­i­cal, and/or live in ru­ral ar­eas where their NOx emis­sions are ir­rel­e­vant?

The Times colum­nist Jan­ice Turner re­cently wrote: ‘Who has cost the planet most grief? Me, own­ing the same mod­est diesel, which runs on a thim­ble of fuel, for over a decade? Or [those] who trade up ev­ery few years, con­sum­ing pre­cious re­sources, ex­pend­ing en­ergy in man­u­fac­ture, and now have a pi­ous Prius?’ Ac­cord­ing to Mike Bern­ers-Lee, au­thor of How Bad Are Ba­nanas? The Car­bon Foot­print of Ev­ery­thing, the to­tal emis­sions from a car’s man­u­fac­ture – in­clud­ing metal ex­trac­tion, rub­ber man­u­fac­ture, tools and ma­chin­ery – typ­i­cally ri­vals its ex­haust emis­sions over its life­time. Some­times, they’re higher. His ad­vice? Make a car last as long as pos­si­ble and main­tain it prop­erly. This is an ar­gu­ment not pop­u­lar in car com­pany board­rooms. On the other hand, friends who own faith­ful old cars cheer­fully look for­ward to many happy miles to come.

For­mer CAR ed­i­tor Gavin is still a keen cy­clist, rid­ing most days; check out his many cy­clin­gre­lated col­umns un­der ‘Opinion’ in the features ar­chive of car­magazine.co.uk

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