Electric Cars are Getting More Expensive, Not Less

If you want to talk about an industry completely tone-deaf to the world, take a look at the car industry. Not only does it not want to change, but it doesn’t even understand its audience or the market.

What customers are crying out for now is affordable electric vehicles. We know that most people don’t travel that far each day, and we also know that the charging network is practically unrecognisable compared to when I started driving an EV in late 2016. So when I saw that both the new Smart lineup (which is almost unchanged) and the e-Up! triplets (inc Seat and Skoda) are closer to £20k than £15k, it took the wind out of my sails.

The only car company that appears to get it right now is Uniti. The car starts at a relatively affordable £15k, and then there are options from there. But the key thing is offering a car for around that £15,000 mark. All these other companies are not offering smaller (more sustainable), cheaper battery size options, despite the fact that shorter range EVs are so much more liveable now compared to just a few years ago. There’s no logic being applied here.

Seeing those prices really made me feel great about my decision to get out of my current contract next year and go car free. I think the rise of micromobility options (and genuine affordability) will take the automotive industry by surprise and put them into difficulty. And that would be great. We want them to be scrambling and having to divert huge resources into EV car-sharing and micromobility.

And of course, we need more companies in the auto sector like Tesla and Uniti, who really get what the car should be in 2019 and beyond.

Docked Bike Sharing Works. What About People Who Don’t Want to Ride?

As much as we cyclists would rather not accept it, the fact is that some people will never want to ride a bike. So for them, I propose the solution for last mile transport could be large wheel, bicycle style stand up electric scooters. We’ve seen small wheel eScooters, but the dockless system doesn’t work in my view, and the small wheels and narrow bars make for a vehicle that’s hard to handle for new riders. This can cause crashes and injuries.

Larger wheeled, wider handlebar eScooters operating in a docked system would go a long way towards making eScooters as widely successful as bike share schemes such as the Santander Cycles in London.

I can imagine docks of these things next to bike share docks, and people just go with whichever vehicle they want, or which one suits that particular journey. I think a lot of people will choose the scooters, but we will have to embrace it as cyclists because it’s a hell of a lot better than the status quo. And it will give a massive boost to the pressure on councils and the government to fully back Dutch style infrastructure.

I could certainly see myself owning a stand up scooter and alternating between cycling and scooting. And then also using the share schemes when I’m visiting other towns and cities.

I realised at a meeting about cycle infrastructure in Worthing that basically nothing has happened due to the Tories. They’ve tried every trick in the book not to do something. So in that case, what do you do? I think the best way is civil disobedience. XR has shown it works, and I think it will work for micromobility too. I think if it remains illegal to ride scooters on local roads in the same way we cycle, then people will be forced to act. Taking my backroad, almost car free commute on a big wheel scooter isn’t exactly going to attract a lot of attention, but I think every little will help. I could see myself resorting to that in a year or so if we don’t see movement on the ridiculous law that currently exists.

Why Are There So Many Bike Brands? And Why Are None of Them Selling The Bikes We Need?

Specialized, Trek, Giant, Scott, Cannondale, BMC, Cervelo, Bianchi and hundreds of others I could list. What’s the difference? Well, if you’re looking for any kind of road or mountain bike, honestly not much. There are differences, but they’re so subtle that no normal person would notice. Put it this way, even professionals who basically live on their bikes have to ride whatever their team’s bike sponsor provides. Mark Cavendish has won on all sorts of bikes for example on road and track.

If you walk into your local bike shop, they are likely to carry one or more brands. If you’re looking for a road, hybrid style or mountain bike then you’ll find one to suit without going to another store. They all use the same components, generally either SRAM or Shimano. The only differences will be in geometry and any number of gimmicks, for example the Lefty fork from Cannondale, or the specialized Future Shock suspended handlebar design. They’re not things that will make huge differences. The frame and rear suspension linkage designs on mountain bikes do differ, but again, unless you’re a very serious rider, it won’t matter.

I don’t like agreeing with Lance Armstrong particularly, but he was right when he said that when buying a bike, just go with whatever brand you like, and which colour you like. Because they’re all basically the same.

While this is true for road and mountain bikes, it isn’t the case if you want something else. If you want a folding bike, there is an enormous variance in folding mechanisms for example. Brompton being by far the best in my opinion.

If you want a bike for commuting, I’d personally recommend a Dutch style upright bike and for those, you’ll have to go to a specialist retailer or online if you’re in the U.K. As we’ve lost our minds and sold mountain bikes as commuters for some reason I can’t fathom.

When you get to e-Bikes, it gets more complicated as the different motor systems actually do make enough of a difference to the point that you might want to do your research, and then figure out which dealer you need to visit. And if you want something really special, such as a belt driven, full suspension urban e-Bike with full fenders and wider tyres, then Riese & Muller are there for you.

Simply put, the mainstream bicycle industry has lost its way completely and the only way to buy the types of bikes that in my opinion, most people would benefit from, you have to go to niche brands. That cannot be right.

The types of bikes that are popular in the Netherlands, where cycling is a normal, daily activity that almost everyone does are upright bikes with chain cases and heavy duty luggage racks, and cargo bikes which are incredibly useful and will be indispensable tools in fighting air pollution and congestion in our towns and cities.

We’re not going to solve all of the transport related issues we have in the U.K. with road bikes and mountain bikes. It’s not going to happen. Things need to change, and quickly. We need the infrastructure to be built first and foremost, but we also need to be seeing huge numbers of Dutch and cargo bike shops opening up.

Talk about Climate Solutions (and make changes yourself)

The biggest problem with the youth climate movement right now is that there’s not enough talk about the actual solutions which we can implement in our own lives as well as from a political and business standpoint. The science is clear. And we have to unite behind it. But people don’t know what that means, and this is still the biggest stumbling block. I want to focus on individual action and list all the things I’ve done so far. Or at least everything I can remember. Individual action is incredibly important, and I’ve realised how much recently. Just going out on the streets to protest is effective, but without voting with our wallets and our behaviours, it’s probably not going to cause significant change in the short term. Politicians aren’t yet worried about kids who aren’t old enough to vote, and businesses are unlikely to change unless they see strong trends away from their current products or services. Or because they’re being forced by regulation, which is obviously less likely due to the previous problem I just mentioned.

Here’s everything I’ve done so far:

  • Decided not to have kids (obviously we need people in the future, just less than now. And I don’t want to put any kids I could have through our likely disastrous future)
  • Cut out red meat entirely and cut back on chicken and fish
  • Insulated home
  • Switched to green energy supplier
  • Bought an EV (smaller / more efficient the better)
  • Cycle (buy a nice bike or e-bike. You’ll thank yourself for it)
  • Bought a reusable water bottle (and don’t buy a bunch of them, just one or two)
  • Use reusable coffee cup or flask and ask Starbucks or Costa to fill them up
  • Avoid as much single use plastic as possible.
  • Switched to LED lightbulbs (Philips Hue)
  • Don’t buy stuff I don’t need
  • Limit new technology purchases where I can. I still have my iPhone 6 (2014) and iPad Air (2013), original Apple Watch (2015). Need to replace them all soonish though. But 5 years is a good lifespan for tech. Don’t buy a new one every year or two.
  • Buy only digital games and other media.

If many more of us did these and other things, it would be impossible for governments to ignore the calls for massively increased climate action.