Both government and manufacturers have a number of responsibilities up to which they must abide, otherwise, opines Iain Robertson, a state of lawlessness will ensue that will encourage cowboy tactics and perpetuate an era of dishonesty.
Two trains of thought surrounded the discovery of one carmaker’s violation of the US Clean Air Act: 1. That Volkswagen had been really foolish in attempting to circumvent exhaust emissions legislation; and 2. How ingenious was Volkswagen? Although the investigation had actually started seven years earlier, it was not until 2015 that it was christened ‘Dieselgate’. Since that time, dealing with different administrations around the world, Volkswagen has endured a never less than jostling ride that has cost it (well, its insurer, at least) rather a lot of money in reparation.
Ironically, rather than Volkswagen emerging from the scandal suitably chastened but suffering from a major loss of sales, the German company has sealed its fate as a ‘giant’, in manufacturing terms, by becoming one of, if not THE biggest car company in the world. In case you wondered how it has amortised the various international claims made against it, an inexorable rise in list prices every couple of months has drawn in billions of extra Euros. If it is still not abundantly clear that conscience has sweet Fanny Adams to do with any element of the ‘scandal’, VW has gone from strength to strength off the back of it, which only serves to set out a stall for dishonesty that should make all of us question our morals…but does not.
In my book, it is counter-intuitive to tell lies. After all, it is only a matter of time before the liar would be found out and made to face the consequences. VW’s methodology provides a ‘golden ticket’ to each and every major operator in the motor industry. Just look at the vast number of carmakers made to face their self-created demons, even after the most stringent denials, as BMW did with rather too much eagerness after the VW doo-doo hit the media fan. The Munich-based manufacturer has been dragged through the courts, along with Fiat Group, Mitsubishi, Suzuki and PSA. In each case, they can pull the same corporate ‘trick’ of increasing retail prices, without an ounce of profits-affecting conscience tweaking.
If you have indulged in my recent series of critical reports on the EV sector, you will be aware that just sitting back and waiting for the dust to settle is not in my ethos. Yet, while I will question the tactics employed by the evangelistic EV protagonists, where truth is sometimes an all-too-avoidable issue, in the face of heavily promoted electrification, it is my desire to investigate and inform, where necessary. What I fail to comprehend is that far too many sections of the motoring media are unwilling to upset the manufacturer gravy-train, upon which they have become disturbingly reliant over the past fifty years.
In chatting with Paul Delahay, the driving force behind SYNC EV, a designer, developer and manufacturer of EV charging technology, he admits that a change is essential. “Part of my reasoning behind establishing SYNC EV was to lead by example in an hectically competitive market sector, upon which the domestic recharging practice is comprehensively reliant to maximise EV mobility. Our company has been totally open in the way it conducts its business, which treads a very judicious clean and green line, as it ought to. Yet, without ‘dissing’ any of our commercial competitors, it does seem as though very few of them are as candid and prepared to work for the greater good, as we are.”
Evidence is abundant through hyperactive social media channels of the technological advice that SYNC EV is providing, a factor that strengthens its role as a market leader and converts installers to the compact, design-led, smart-tech accessibility of its EV chargers. While this can lead to patent-challenging replication, it does highlight a welcome openness that also warrants both safety and security aspects.
While social media is seldom the most intelligent source of useful information, packed as it is with virtue signallers and apologists, it has pinpointed already the variance in mileage range results between manufacturer claimed figures and actual consumer achievements. While not dissimilar to the comparison between NEDC and WLTP fossil fuel economy results, if EVs are to stand half a chance of survival, government insisted, or not, true range expectations should not be clouded by spurious claims. After all, when most EV dashboards state that the battery pack is exhausted, the safety margin between reaching a charging post and the two-tonne EV grinding to a halt can vary between a few yards and 15 miles.
Yet, that is only part of the argument. In a recent unbiased test that stuck rigidly to speed limits, the latest Tesla Model3, while providing an excellent range of 270 miles, fell short of its claimed maximum range by an inexcusable 22%. It is worth highlighting that none of the six EVs group tested attained their previously inferred and insisted upon maxima, although the Nissan Leaf managed 90% of its total; good but no cigar!
The consumer is also sorely misled over EV list prices. Listen to the EVangelists and you might believe that EVs are taking over the world that they believe is being bequeathed to them by birth right. WRONG! The real penetration into the UK new car scene by EVs is still well below 7%, even after a decade’s worth of fully electrified availability. Naturally, the pandemic is having an impact in almost doubling EV registrations in the past twelve months but it has been from a low base, during the most fraught trading conditions.
Government also has a major responsibility to attend to. While its sometime ‘Public Information Service’ was scrapped, it is about time that it produced some ‘EV Truths’ informationals. As with vehicle and ancillary manufacturers, it has a Corporate Responsibility to its citizens and ignoring the facts for any excuse is simply inexcusably bad governance. As Paul Delahay urges: “Our government needs to take a literal lead in this area and we urge consumers to demand their rights to obtain it!”
Conclusion: Innumerable issues surround the arrival of ‘E-Day’ in less than nine years and it is abundantly clear that the UK government, freed from EU shackles, must assume an unbiased and balanced course of action for the future.