Two Months Car Free

Batavus Personal Bike: my daily driver

It’s been almost 2 months since I got rid of my EV and went car free. Because of the current situation I haven’t really had to go many places yet so it’s hard to give a real assessment of how practical it is, but it’s definitely a case of so far, so good.

I think at some point, the lack of electric buses, taxis, Ubers and EV car rental is going to start annoying me big time. That is inevitable. But so far it’s been fine. Generally, we get our groceries delivered weekly and that’s usually enough to avoid going to the local convenience store during the pandemic.

I haven’t had a “summer break” from Covid like most people seem to have had. I knew it was going to come back strongly as soon as I saw the Tories phasing out the restrictions. I’ve been careful the whole time as I was told to shield pretty early on as a precaution. Once my employer required me to come back to work towards the end of the furlough, I refused and quit. I knew I was in a good situation to live off my savings for a while, just as long as the pandemic doesn’t go on for years. And I wasn’t prepared to put myself in a really unpleasant situation that was worse than when I was initially told to stay at home. Especially at a time when it was clearly accelerating again with an even worse government response than in the spring.

The Smart EQ ForTwo was a fun car. But ownership is not the future.

I have had to make one essential trip which was easy enough by bike. Other than that, I’m going walking or cycling for fun and exercise and that’s really it. In the event that I have to go further than the 5 miles I can comfortably go on my non-ebike (because I can’t leave my e-bike anywhere) maybe I could buy an e-scooter or something like that. But even then you might not be able to bring it with you depending on the destination. We desperately need e-scooter storage lockers everywhere, in addition to the secure, indoor bike parks that are essential for growing cycling as transport.

I think it’s too early to say how this is going to play out. The covid and climate crises have the potential to change the way we do things massively in the coming year. Tesla is getting closer to self driving robotaxis seemingly every day, with other companies also making strides. It may be that by the time covid is over, car ownership will be steeply declining. That would be the ideal scenario, but we just have to wait and see.

I think even if nothing much changes, it will still have been the best decision for me. Even though I feel like a second class citizen without a car (which is very much by design), I also feel like I’m back to doing what I’m meant to be. And that feels great.


How I Would Turn Honda Around

I don’t have a lot of love for the traditional automotive industry any more, but I do have a soft spot for Honda. They don’t mind doing some risky things and they don’t take themselves as seriously as most other brands out there.

We’ve just seen that they decided to leave F1 at the end of 2021. They say it’s due to needing to switch to EVs faster than they thought. It was clear for a long time that their projections were incredibly off, so I’m not surprised they got a nasty shock. We don’t know how much Covid has to do with it. Whether the pandemic sped up the decision making process or gave them clarity. Maybe they even saw Tesla battery day and said “oh shit, we have to commit 100% right now”, although I very much doubt that.

The incredibly conservative motorsport media seem to think that Honda can now just buy out a team in FE and it’s problem solved for them. While they could join Formula E and I would personally like to see them do so, it wouldn’t be anything more than a marketing exercise. So here is what I would do if I was running the company right now.

1. Buy or merge with Yamaha Motor

The motorcycle industry is not going to thrive in the upcoming decade. In order to survive, they need to switch focus from powerful fossil fuelled machines designed for leisure use, to practical electric scooters and micromobility products. We know they’ve already been collaborating on battery tech, so a merger or acquisition would be a logical next step.Yamaha have the ability to be very innovative. We’ve seen that in many of their research projects. The two companies combined would complement each other very well in my opinion.

It would also give Honda an entry into the incredibly important e-bike market, which will be absolutely crucial in the next ten years. I also think one of the two companies should acquire the Stroke leaning cargo bike. Cargo is clearly going to be the most crucial of the e-bike segments, and that company is literally asking to be acquired. Someone needs to because it’s a great design that needs to be in the hands of consumers.

Yamaha’s ground breaking pedal assist bike from 1993

2. Immediately pull out of all fossil fuel motorsports

The day after Honda announced they were pulling out of F1, Indycar announced that they were going to introduce hybrid engines in 2023. We don’t need to get into the pathetic timeline for something they should have had years ago. We all know it’s a joke. I just don’t understand why Honda have committed to this. I think it must come down to either the relatively low cost of Indycar, or perhaps they signed a contract a while ago and want to honour it. That’s the Japanese way.

Any fossil fuelled race series they compete in, they should immediately stop. That means MotoGP, WTCR, GT3, Super Formula and Super GT. Although I would hope they’d find a way to make Super GT sustainable, because it’s the only fossil powered motorsport series I still enjoy.

3. Keep being weird

The Honda e is in my opinion the coolest car in the world. It’s not the best car in the world, but it’s the coolest. And that matters. Make it the centrepiece of your brand and replicate it in all your future products. Not just cars. Make them fun and make people smile. Honda does that better than anyone else. Just think of Asimo for example.

4. Immediately end all research and development relating to combustion engines.

Sell the existing models only as you develop EV products. This perhaps should be number one, but it basically goes without saying. And I guess it also should be mentioned that any model currently produced that is sold in hybrid and fossil only versions should immediately stop production of the non-hybrid version.

I think if Honda do something along these lines then they can survive the massive transition that’s gathering pace. But they haven’t got a day to waste. We’re still in the early days of the electric takeover. If they get caught with only the Honda e available when the market really goes crazy then they’ll be in big trouble. I think the key thing for them is just to be different and fun. If they try to do what Tesla are doing then they will cease trading long before anyone in the mainstream business press could possibly imagine.


I’m not sure what to think about the Honda E Prototye

The Honda Urban EV, now E Prototype, soon to be something else, has been the subject of my infatuation since it was first revealed. But it’s always been tinged with negativity because it shows that Honda are still refusing to accept that EVs are anything more than urban runabouts, despite the obvious evidence to the contrary.

I know that many EV fans don’t like this car and don’t get why it’s cool. I can understand that point of view, but I also take issue with it. While I am frustrated with Honda and others and their approaches, there’s nothing wrong with this type of car. It’s not a Zoe competitor as some have suggested. It’s a special, premium, unique car for people who want something out of the ordinary. It’s a future design classic. It’s a car that makes people happy when they see it.

The other aspect I take issue with is criticism of the range of the car. Let’s be clear, a compliance car like the Fiat 500e this is not. It has double the range, it has CCS charging (even if it’s just 50 that’s still fantastic). Whether Honda are in the wrong in their general EV strategy is another topic. If you take this car by itself, there’s nothing wrong with it. It has around 125 miles of real range according to WLTP (which I consider pretty accurate to how I drive). That’s a lot. Combining that with CCS and it’s a capable car for what the majority of people are going to need.

EV drivers move on from their first 80 mile EV to a Kona or something, and they forget that those cars work well. They worked for local driving especially, even when there was barely any charging infrastructure. Now they’re incredible vehicles with so much utility. They get better every day as the charging network grows and gets more reliable. People who buy a second hand first gen EV now are purchasing a ticket to motoring bliss compared to buying any other used car.


The Most Progressive Motorcycle Manufacturer in 2018 is….. Harley-Davidson?

This can’t be right. Harley-Davidson, that company that makes huge, old fashioned, rumbly, V-Twin cruisers. They’re leading the charge into electric motorcycles. I never thought I would be saying that.

They are reinventing themselves at pace into a company fit for the future with plans for multiple electric bikes. A powerful naked bike, urban runabouts, even an ebike. I would like to know of anyone who predicted this.

The biggest aspect to this, is the fact that they’re blowing Yamaha, Honda, Suzuki and the rest out of the water. This has got to be hugely embarrassing for all of the major manufacturers. Beaten to electric by the company everyone expected to be consigned to the history books because of the rise of electric, not embracing it.

Even BMW and Piaggio, who are embracing the change more than the others, haven’t done anything for a long time, and keep delaying their debut EV respectively.

When I was a kid, I was drawn to Harley-Davidson. Then over time I lost interest as I got more and more into technology and modern designs. But now it’s great to see the transformation they’re on the path towards, and I’m fully back onboard as a fan of the company. I just hope they can convince their customers to make the switch, while simultaneously attracting a whole new audience.

I really hope it pays off for them, because it would have been so easy for them to bury their heads in the sand and do nothing. But they came out swinging, fighting for a better future for the company.