Sunday, December 30, 2012

My brilliant idea to get Britain's electric cars back on track

I MIGHT have had a few too many festive tipples when I cracked Britain's electric car conumdrum.

Vehicles which run on volts alone are a jolly good idea but for a few drawbacks which stop them from being practical everyday machines for the moment; they are, for starters, quite expensive, especially when you consider for the price of being an eco activist in a Nissan LEAF you could've got yourself a Range Rover Evoque. Not that I'd mind the price, however, if I could use an electric car to get somewhere meaningful, which - I'm sorry, electric car purveyors of Britain - you can't.

Anyone who read Autocar's hilarious piece on the issue last week will have learned the Leaf can only do Liverpool to London slightly quicker than a horse and carriage can, thanks to the former's insistence on lengthy charge ups every 90 miles or. All this when a certain other electric vehicle, championed by Richard Branson, can do the trip in a shade over two hours.

That's when it hit me - I know what we need to do to make electric cars in this country at least vaguely viable for people who do long distances. What we need, I realised as I saw the potential through the bottom of a pint glass, is to bring MotoRail back.

Bear with me on this one. The idea is you get in your ‘leccy car, drive it to your nearest big train station - which, if you live in the area covered by the Champion, is either Preston or Liverpool Lime Street - and park it on the carriages of a MotoRail train resurrected from the British Rail history books. Said rail carriages have been specially adapted so they've got electric car charging points on them, meaning you can let the train chug its way across the country while your LEAF/Twizy/whatever restocks its batteries. A few gearchange-free hours and a cup of coffee you later you unload your car in Aberdeen, which is fully charged and at your destination three times faster than it would've taken by road alone. Result!

Obviously, such an idea will involve a lot of George Osborne's money and a lot of logistical hard work - in this instance, the work involved in reinstating Britain's entire MotoRail network, from Penzance to Fort William, and equipping it for the electric car age. But it's got to better than Top Gear's solution (running electrified chicken wire, dodgem car style, over the every motorway and trunk road in the country) and Autocar's offering (allowing the slower pace of electric cars to usher in a more genteel motoring age of slow progress and stopping at every other roadside in, an idea already tried not entirely successfully in the 1920s). What we want is MotoRail back. Go on, you know it makes sense!

Normal Life On Cars service will resume next week, now the Christmas break is out of the way and the hangover's cleared up.

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