Tuesday, 29 July 2008

A Full Throttle Experience

Last week I attended the Motor Show at the vast ExCel centre in East London, along with my Alliance Against Urban 4x4s colleagues Sian Berry and Blake Ludwig. For anyone who hasn't visited this event, imagine a massive airport terminal with shiny cars of every description, groups of lads (some topless!), blaring music and annorexic girls trying to look seductive whilst standing folornly by the side of a car.

On the plus side, there was a Greener Driving section, with electric cars and even a new Tesla, the electric sports car that has just been manufactured. Sian was most impressed by this but I remonstrated that there was no room for a baby seat, much less a pushchair. Ever the pragmatist.

We also attended the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership 5th Annual Conference, which took place upstairs, well tucked away from the Hummer stands etc down in the car show. We wouldn't want to upset any car manufacturers with talk of low carbon, responsible travel and the like. They might cry.

We heard from a number of really interesting speakers (didn't stop the chap next to me snoring and drooling, mind you). The best speaker I thought was Prof. Dr Jillian Anable, a research fellow at the Centre for Transport Policy, Aberdeen Business School, The Robert Gordon University. She and her colleagues has interviewed loads of drivers regarding their attitudes to motoring and the environment.

They found out that most drivers ONLY think about how much a car costs to run, not how much CO2 emits. That's just not a factor. Advertising doesn't help sell cars, but what it does do is cement brand loyalty. What car people bought was often a very arbitrary decision e.g. 'My friend said this was good.'

In terms of information that's available at car showrooms, people tended not to look at the fuel label, if indeed it was displayed. It really needs to be interactive, the researches concluded, and tell people what each car costs to run each week. This is the only thing that will stop most people buying gas guzzlers - that it's going to leave them penniless.

Another important thing to bear in mind is that 75% of cars sold are second hand, and these don't have to have any emissions data displayed on them. Indeed, as cars get less fuel efficient the more miles they clock up, this would be difficult to calculate. But with the govenment saying that they are going to consider starting to charge differential tax bands for older cars, it is unfair to do this without arming the consumer with all the information they need.

It is a massive task but it needs doing, both for environmental and economic reasons.

All in all, much food for thought.

And of course, on the way home I got to have a rare ride on the Docklands Light Railway, weaving its way through the haunting wastelands/soon to be Olympic village, which to me is what a ride in a Tesla is to someone else. I heart the DLR!

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