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The circuit breaks

In the Times, Giles Coren explains why he has pulled the plug on his electric car.

As I watch my family strike out on foot across the fields into driving rain and gathering darkness, my wife holding each child’s hand, our new year plans in ruins, while I do what I can to make our dead car safe before abandoning it a mile short of home, full of luggage on a country lane, it occurs to me not for the first time that if we are going to save the planet we will have to find another way. Because electric cars are not the answer.

Yes, it’s the Jaguar again. My doomed bloody £65,000 iPace that has done nothing but fail at everything it was supposed to do for more than two years now, completely dead this time, its lifeless corpse blocking the single-track road.

I can’t even roll it to a safer spot because it can’t be put in neutral. For when an electric car dies, it dies hard. And then lies there as big and grey and not-going-anywhere as the poacher-slain bull elephant I once saw rotting by a roadside in northern Kenya. Just a bit less smelly.

Not that this is unusual. Since I bought my eco dream car in late 2020, in a deluded Thunbergian frenzy, it has spent more time off the road than on it, beached at the dealership for months at a time on account of innumerable electrical calamities, while I galumph around in the big diesel “courtesy cars” they send me under the terms of the warranty.

But this time I don’t want one. And I don’t want my own car back either. I have asked the guys who sold it to me to sell it again, as soon as it is fixed, to the first mug who walks into the shop. Because I am going back to petrol while there is still time.

28 comments to The circuit breaks

  • Snorri Godhi

    Very well written.

    Since I bought my eco dream car in late 2020, in a deluded Thunbergian frenzy, it has spent more time off the road than on it

    Ain’t that the case for all, or almost all cars??

  • bobby b

    I love most electric cars. The brutal acceleration, the simplicity of the mechanisms, the quiet . . . They are truly a great innovation for a warm urban environment.

    But if you believe that global warming really is a thing, you ought not be pushing EV’s. They don’t accomplish what you think they accomplish. They’re simply a signal of your double ignorance.

  • Skeptical Antagonist

    JLR have had firmware problems in recent years. They seem to have systemic issues with programming and electronics that they struggle to cure. This appears to apply to all their vehicles, not just electric ones.

  • Leadfoot

    This is a Jaguar problem, not an EV problem. Many years ago, children used lemons to demonstrate electricity. Jaguar can’t even get that right.

  • Mark

    I’ve long suspected that with all these drooling smug addicts waxing lyrical about the wonders of their £50k plus toys that was all just bollocks.

    Whatever else with these things, going beyond the envelope of what is available from an overnight on drive charge at special cheap rate, requires a logistical exercise rivaling D day.

    Well I’m sure stupid meters will close that little door in a few years, so what will £50k plus have actually bought you?

    Well there’s always hindenburg – oh sorry, hydrogen I suppose.

    I’ll keep my well proven, utterly convenient and actually very reliable real car if it’s all the same.

  • Mr Ed

    Cars should not be designed so that they cannot be put in neutral. It is fundamentally unsafe if you can’t shove a car away from its resting place to avoid obstructing a highway or likely path of something. With all the regulations around construction and use, if they were really intended to ensure safety, this would be as important as tyres and braking. (This is anti-Infantile Disorder libertarianism, but I don’t care).

  • John

    For now they’re still a great tax dodge for an employee with the taxable benefit frozen at just 2% until April 2025. For anyone actually footing the entire cost themselves it’s s different story other than for a second car city run-around to avoid whatever charges Mayor Khan comes up with.

    The tax break won’t last plus an excise duty replacement will be phased in as surely as night follows day. Then the drama will start to play out.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    I admire his blunt honesty.

    I’m avoiding buying one for as long as possible.

    Sooner or later, the net zero cult has to stop.

  • Electric cars were never the answer to anyone bright enough to be paying attention.

  • djm

    Electric cars…………have many faults, but whoever knew that they were racist.

    Where else but in the Graun would one gain this valuable insight into some of the pressing issues of the day? The world’s reliance on hi tech solutions such as electric cars and wind turbines to fix climate and ecological crises is “perpetuating racism”, reports the Guardian. According to the UN racism rapporteur Tendayi Achiume, green solutions “are being implemented at the expense of racially and ethnically marginalised groups”.

  • llamas

    I see electric cars like I used to see my Ducati motorcycles. They worked great – within their limitations. They were tremendous fun to drive. I really admired and enjoyed their mechanical construction and operation. And there’s no denying, when you pull up at the lights on a bright red Monster that sounds the way they do, that there are going to be some eyes on you. So I really, really enjoyed having them and driving them.

    But I never, ever relied on them for everyday transportation. I only used them to get to where I had to be on selected days, on selected journeys, and always with an eye on the weather. And I used them for effect – show up for a meeting with majors and colonels and park that outside, and you’d best believe they listen to what you say. Silly, isn’t it? But – For reliable, everyday, all-weather, no-questions-asked transportation, I have a boring grey SUV. And, as this story shows, for many, many people, all-electric vehicles are still expensive toys that can’t be relied upon for everyday use.



  • Paul Marks

    Even if the electric cars worked perfectly there is the problem of where does the power come from?

    To power a car indirectly, via electricity transmission and batteries, is less efficient than to power it directly – by fuel (one loses a lot of power by doing things indirectly – it is very inefficient). This was an engineering fact that was worked out in the late 19th century, which is why electric cars (which are a very old idea) lost out to fuel driven cars. The batteries are also an environmental nightmare – that has long been understood.

    Also there is the problem of how the electricity is to be generated? The logical way, at least in the United Kingdom, would be by burning coal (at least if various Act of Parliament, such as that of 1875 and 1906, had not led to a unionised mining industry – but that is another story), and how is burning coal going to reduce C02 emissions?

    Wind turbines and solar cells are not an answer. Nuclear power, on a truly massive scale, might be an answer – but there is little sign of that happening.

    The endless regulations have not made nuclear power safer – but they have, as regulations always do, made it a lot more expensive and difficult to bring on stream.

  • John

    According to the UN racism rapporteur Tendayi Achiume, green solutions “are being implemented at the expense of racially and ethnically marginalised groups”.

    An example of the blind squirrel or the stopped clock. My only qualm about his statement is that green “solutions” affect poor to medium income people of all races and ethnicities along with western industries to the benefit of more pragmatic economies in India, China etc.

  • The hybrid petrol/electric car is probably the sweet spot today – virtuous enough to get the Greens off your back, but you don’t need charging stations. (They’re okay if you have one, but petrol is widely available.) The “electric” part can give you a burst of power if you need it, and the “petrol” part just needs to be powerful enough to satisfy average demand.

    My sister has a hybrid. We live in Minnesota, where it can get very cold, and she’s often visiting family, which involves country roads. Gravel roads, even. My solution is different – I drive a car that’s over thirty years old, and take good care of it. Nobody had to mine materials for a new car for me. Poor mileage, but I don’t go that often, nor that far.

  • Kirk

    The real issue is in the infrastructure.

    Let’s take the average US household outside the urban squalor zones: Most families need two cars, minimum. That means two charging stations in each dwelling. Each charging station draws 40 amps minimum, which is around the same draw you’re going to have for all-electric HVAC, even with heat pump technology. So… Factor in adding 80 amp loads to every dwelling unit to charge cars at night, which is also when it is usually coldest in the winter. Soooo… You’re going to have to upgrade every service, because few homes were built with that much electrical service.

    Average around here is 200 amp service. You wanna charge your cars, you’re not heating your house and keeping everything else going. Then, factor in the issues with the grid, in terms of what the transformers and transmission lines are set up for. The whole thing has implications that mean that you’re either going to have to charge your car somewhere else, with all that inconvenience, or you’re going to have to upgrade every bit of the distribution grid out there at the “last mile” level.

    The amount of copper and other things needed for that is… Daunting. Friend of mine does electrical grid work, and his take on the work required is that you’d basically be having to recap the work done to electrify the country, only this time with about two to three times the amount of copper.

    Now, get into the weeds with all the transformers and other “accessory items” for the grid?

    Not even getting into the question of where the base power is even coming from, because that’s just not something you want to get into. The generation capacity isn’t there; the copper alone for the generator windings is insane.

    Back-of-the-napkin calculation? We don’t have enough copper to do this even for the US alone. All new copper mining for the next thirty years or so would have to be devoted to this project, and that ain’t happening.

    Anyone talking blithely about converting the transportation network over to electricity is an innumerate dolt. It is economically and likely physically impossible. You’re not even going to be able to make significant supplementation happen; I lay you long odds that in the event, we’ll never get over 10% of the market for all-electric. You just can’t do it without breaking everything else.

    In order for this crap to even begin to work, you need cheap, reliable room-temperature superconductors, which again… Ain’t happening. The technology isn’t there, and may be physically impossible.

    So, what you’re looking at from the standpoint of engineering is a fraud, pure and simple. All this “Green New Deal” bullshit actually is would be another variant on the Bankman-Fried theme, an actual fraudulent scheme that cannot work without the necessarily hand-waved away unicorn farts these idiots blithely assume are there. I have never, ever talked to anyone in the “Green Environmentalist” world who was an actual, y’know… Engineer. They have no real clue about where all this crap actually comes from, or how hard it would be to implement. Most environmentalists are idiots, totally innumerate. They operate off of “feels” and emotions, never once having had to do so much as measure a board for construction. They’ve got not one clue about how much work they’re talking about, with any of this.

    This whole thing is purest Lysenkoism, from top to bottom, side to side, all the way through.

  • tfourier

    Just a reminder. EV’s in their current form were invented long before there was “global warming” and all the related Lysenko Science. They were created by CARB, the California Air Resources Board, as a way of making traditional cars unaffordable so as to “reduce air pollution”. In California. The creator of CARB in its modern form, Tom Quinn, said so in the 1970’s. And repeated every decade since by CARB officials.

    EV’s are very expensive. And always will be. CARB wants to ban gas powered cars. With a well heeled minority driving their short trip EV’s and everyone else using public transit. They also want to ban all diesel trucks and equipment. But thats another story.

    In the land of EV’s their market share is less than 4%. Even after more than two decades of being pushed hard by the ecos who control most of the state agencies and state government. They are expensive to buy and maintain. They have huge quality issues and have nowhere near the longevity of gas cars. They are a huge fire hazard in natural disasters. Plus 95% of the electricity used to charge almost all the small number of EV’s in the state is from “non-renewable” sources. And so on and so on.

    A massive waste of economic resources and spectacularly wasteful.

    And the icing on the cake is that CARB regulations over the last 30 plus years have directly caused the loss of large parts of the states manufacturing base. As well as the worst air quality over the whole state (not just the Southlands) in over 80 years. Due to CARB (as well as CalEPA) regs prevented almost all prescribed burning since the 1990’s. Monster wildfires, blame CARB.

    Add to that at least in California the correlation been annoying d*ckhead and EV owner is almost 100%. Usually top 2% income d*ckhead. Its Virtue Signalling for rich white people.

    The hybrid people are usually just ordinary folk. Who are mostly terrible drivers. Hybrids are another maintenance mess that dont age gracefully. As a friend who inherited a 10 year Prius discovered the hard way. And I warned her. You think a Fiat is money pit… But its a Toyota, she said. No, its a hybrid. First and last..

  • Paul Marks

    Kirk – one odd thing is that the State that is most pushing electric cars, California, is the State least able to have most people in electric cars.

    California has power cuts already, and loses a lot of power on long transmission lines from other States (California has shut down a lot of its power stations).

    The batteries are an environmental nightmare, and the coal burning (in other States) to produce the electricity to power the electric cars in California, produces lots of C02.

    It is doubtful if the plan is to really have most people in electric cars – most likely the plan is to have most people not having cars at all.

    People shoved into “smart cities” (which will turn out to be not very smart – even the Police State stuff will not work properly), dependent on “public transport” (which will be a nightmare – New York and LA are not Singapore).

    But Bill Gates (in his Washington State estate – or one of his other estates) and the other “Woke” billionaries will be happy – as what cars that some (not most – most people will have nothing) ordinary people are able to get will not be able to drive to their estates (they will not have to put up with ordinary people near them) – cars (and everything else) will be computer limited – people will not be able to go just anywhere they want to, only where they are allowed to go.

    For our own good – of course.

    It is much the same with air travel – the rich and powerful do not mind how humiliating air travel is made to be (“stand in this line”, “take your belt and shoes off”, “bend over and take it up the arse”) as they have special treatment – or private planes.

    When ordinary people are not allowed to fly (“climate change”) then the rich and powerful will have the airports to themselves.

  • And the Woke are trying to inject innumeracy into the engineering curriculum. After all, it’s “white” to insist the sums add up correctly. Pray to the Gods of the Copybook Headings that sort of thing is a cherry-picked Bad Example instead of typical.

  • David Mullen

    A home powered solely by electricity (i.e., no natural gas and only EVs in the driveway) is in a difficult situation when the power lines come down in a storm or other disaster. A portable electricity generator would be useless since no NG is being delivered and you can’t just hop in your EV to search for a functioning electric powered gas station to fill a gas can, especially if roads are blocked or gas stations are regulated out of existence. I suppose one might install and fill propane tanks as a reserve but why should propane be readily available if NG and gasoline are being phased out. Forced reliance solely on one source of power (i.e., unreliable electricity) is irresponsible but that won’t stop it from happening.

  • Ellen…”he hybrid petrol/electric car is probably the sweet spot today – virtuous enough to get the Greens off your back, but you don’t need charging stations.”

    Agree–hybrids have a lot going for them, and Toyota seems to agree. One major benefit is regenerative braking with energy recapture, especially valuable in stop-go driving. But I believe California and similar places are planning on banning them as long as the have an IC engine of any size.

    They probably do have more maintenance issues than a pure electric, since they have more things to go wrong. Product design is always a tradeoff.

  • Paul Marks

    Ellen is correct – and this is part of the reason that “Stalin” condemned the Frankfurt interpretation of Marxism (although it as only just starting in his life time) – it is a weapon to destroy society, not alternative social system.

    Society can not function if such things as objective mathematics and engineering are rejected as “racist” and so on.

    The dictators of Russia and China do not reject Frankfurt School “Woke” Marxism because they are nice people (they are NOT nice people) – they reject “Woke” doctrine in their own countries – because they know it would destroy their own countries.

    If Frankfurt School “Woke” doctrine is not defeated in the West – it was destroy the West. Destroying societies is what it was designed to do – it is what it is for.

    And yes, “Greenism” at least of the “Climate Justice” sort, is very much from this stable.

    It does not do damage by accident – it does damage because that is what it was designed to do.

  • Paul Marks

    By the way Marxist regimes always rejected “the right to strike” in the sense of the “right to not turn up for work, but not be dismissed”.

    This is a weapon for undermining industry (in the broad sense) in “capitalist” countries – when a country “achieved socialism” obviously the new dictatorship did not want the country it ruled to be undermined, so the “right to strike” (such a useful weapon for undermining “capitalist” countries) did not apply in socialist countries.

    Western corporations noticed the above, which is one of the reasons they sent so much manufacturing to the People’s Republic China, where one could rely on the workforce turning up for work (or else they would be dismissed – or worse).

    The Western Corporations were, sadly, thinking short term – they thought they were using the People’s Republic of China Communist Party Dictatorship, but (in reality) it was using them.

  • Paul Marks

    By the way on “circuit breakers” – that reminds me of “kill switches”.

    Avoid electronic control of stuff (yes I know it is ironic that I am typing “avoid electronic control of things” on a computer – but it is still true).

    And I do not just mean about electro magnetic pulse – and there may (may – possibly) be a major Solar Flare, that hits the Earth, some time on or before the Sun Spot cycle peak in 2025 (we are over due for the sort of flares that Victorian times recorded – which would knock out most electrical systems).

    There is also the matter of so called “kill switches” – a melodramatic way of saying things can be turned off remotely.

    Whether it is computer influence on cars, or smart metres in houses – avoid it if you can.

    And, of course, avoid “voting machines”.

    I have been involved in elections for 44 years (since 1979) – there is no need, none, for “voting machines” and if there is no legitimate need for something – then there must be bad reasons (very bad reasons) for people pushing that thing.

    Of course do not have mass “mail-in ballots” either – trying to compare all those millions of signatures and what not is essentially impossible for humans (and you try and do it by machine you are bleeped – as those machines will not be left untampered with), mass (I stress MASS) mail-in-ballots are fraud-made-into-a-system.

  • lucklucky

    Recently a Uber driver told me this about eletric cars – he operates a Japanese one, i think a Toyota : “I ‘ll never go back to petrol . At the end of the day i am much less tired.”

    I think both car types have its place. The problem is with increasingly totalitarian culture of Government/Media complex in West. They want to destroy petrol cars.

  • Mark

    The simplest way to restrict real cars – to make them as inconvenient and impractical as milk floats – of course would be to ration petrol with additional restrictions based on the “value” of the individual driver and the particular journey.

    The latter, of course, is the purpose of the “15 minute” city, another drooling fantasy from the munificent engine of creation that is some “think” septic tank or other.

    About as workable as windmills of course but hey ho.

    A successful parasite cannot destroy it’s host. The useless parasitic class of wannabes (I’m not exactly sure what it is they wannabe other than smug and visible) seem utterly determined to destroy the economic activity that provides them with sustenance.

    I would just like one of them to detail how they expect to maintain their lifestyle when the bulk of the population are reduced to little more than pre industrial pastoralism

  • Paul Marks

    Mark – sadly true.

    New York, Chicago, Los Angeles – and London (and so on) are not going to turn into Singapore.

    Government and Corporate control of society here will not just be oppressive (I am NOT saying that Singapore is oppressive – I am talking about the plans that are being pushed for us) it will also be a mess.

    A total mess – the system the international elite are pushing just will just fall apart.

    Can you imagine Joseph Biden being in charge of society? Or K. Harris? Or the Board of “Black Rock” (that group of weirdos controls 10 Trillion Dollars worth of investments).

    This is not going to end well.

    Agenda 2030, and all the rest of it, is not going work – not even from the point of view of the international establishment elite, in the end even they will suffer.

  • lucklucky

    Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.

    Ronald Reagan