A Few More Thoughts on Electric Motoring
As you have read from us before, we are not anti-EV, but we are pro-ICE… although we’re not entirely pro-acronym!
I was asked by a motoring journalist a few days ago, how would I feel about converting my classic car to an electric vehicle (EV)? My instant reaction was to decline, thank you very much. He then asked me to rationalise why. That’s when the conversation lasted a little longer than a polite “No, thank you”. After all, when was the last time you had a conversation with a fellow Petrolhead that lasted for only one sentence?
There you have it, part 1 of my answer. Whenever I pull up in my classic car, someone will start a conversation. How long have you had it? How fast will it go? What mileage does it do? How much is it worth (sadly)? How long does it take you to clean those wheels? Can I see the engine?
Part 2 centres around the engine bay. It’s a work of art that combines different surfaces, materials, finishes, levers, pulleys, wires, you name it, it’s in there. On a cold day, you can also have the conversation whilst warming your cockles, physically and metaphorically. In the same way that people describe steam locomotives as ‘living beings’, the engine of a car – that is, any internal combustion engine (ICE) – is its beating heart.
Then came the third part of my answer, the feel. When you drive along any road in a classic car, it talks to you. The steering wheel vibrates with the engine note and the road surface. Apart from the self-centring argument, it goes where you point it. There’s no ‘lane assist’ to keep you from ploughing into a hedge on the left (instead, there are numerous stories of drivers fighting such modern systems to keep from being forced into the dangerous centre of the road). The floor pedals too vibrate with the aliveness of the car. The gear lever, that most tactile of ‘driver aids’ is the strongest direct connection between driver, engine and driven wheels. The temporary embarrassment of missing a gear, grinding the cogs or simply forgetting to change in time, is all part of the relationship we have with our car.
There will soon be a generation who have never had to change gear to effect motion suitable for the road conditions. No doubt the DVSA and DVLA are already planning to amend driving tests and licensing accordingly. Likewise, there are many classic car drivers who will never get to experience the intricate joy of understanding the menus and options of their new car’s touch screen system.
Let’s not forget the olfactory aspect. “Ah that smell”. How often have you heard that comment in your fleeting conversation with an interested party when you park up your classic car? That heady mixture of leather, wood, old cigars, fuel, exhaust smoke and countless other sources that have woven themselves into the carpets, seats and headlining of your classic car. It can’t be bottled but it’s universally loved.
Combining the above created answer number 4: history.
When I was a boy, I spent what seemed like countless hours on the driveway at home, holding a torch whilst my dad tried to fix something on the car. I’d be complaining that it’s cold and/or my arm was aching. Many years later and certainly now, I realise that I was learning something. Something important. With a will, a few tools and some light, you can attempt to tackle most (all?) problems on a classic car.
We said in a previous post about obsolescence that one’s ability to repair an electric vehicle at the side of the road is almost nil. That’s thanks to its operating system which is akin to how Eurofighter Typhoons stay airborne. Those fabulous aircraft are so inherently unstable, that a human pilot cannot fly it without the constant automatic computerised adjustments to its flight controls. That quality also gives it unbelievable manoeuvrability that’s so important for its job of defending the free world.
When classic cars were new, they were simply that, new cars. They were bought (rarely hired), perhaps unloved, used, misused, moved on, loved eventually and for all of those reasons survived the crusher. That process of survival endeared those chunks of metal to a generation who recalled holding the torch with an aching arm. That same generation remembers the holidays they went on. Whole families squeezed in the back for a week on the coast… only achievable because dad fixed the car on the night before they set off.
Another generation is now reliving the car they first bought or experiencing for the first time the car they drooled over but could ‘never’ afford in their 20s. Romances in the back seat, just avoiding disaster on an icy road or getting away with a caution from a friendly policeman when you really should have lost your licence.
Classic cars are part of the country’s history. That history is made of human experiences. Much of that history played out in, with and by cars.
So how would I feel about converting my classic car to an electric vehicle?
My reply remains a polite, “No thank you”. Whilst EVs are clearly the future, at least the current version of the future, that doesn’t mean we have to eliminate the past. Indeed we should celebrate the past for the learning it has given us. That’s why the historic vehicle industry is worth £7.2b and employs over 34,000 people in the UK, according to the latest FBHVC research.
In writing this piece I was trying to think of an electrical machine with which I ‘have a relationship’. Apart from shouting at my computer when it doesn’t do what I want it to (usually operator error), all I could think of was an electric drill… that I bought my dad in the 1970s!
I have decided that my classic car is in fact an electric vehicle. It has a battery, an electric starter motor, and alternator and when there’s a national fuel shortage, I get range anxiety!