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Do you feel lucky…?

You may wonder why I find it necessary to critique the electric car when I publish a food guide and have conscientious friends who have purchased such a car already? Well the reasons are threefold: firstly I have long had my suspicions that electric cars are not the answer, secondly I am horrified at the lack of press coverage on their spontaneous combustion potential, and lastly, in order to experience the wonders of food travel we need a good public transport network and, for the foreseeable future, modest, petrol-driven, low-emission cars, the likes of which are often disparaged, so do read on…

The other day, as we headed for the Amsterdam ferry, an alarming event appeared on our morning newsfeed: a ship full of cars was ablaze off Holland. Surely not our ferry? As we pulled over at one of our favourite watering holes, the Afsluitdijk Wadden Centre for fika, we read it was a cargo ship off Waddensee, just north of where we were sitting. As we sipped coffee, we watched birds swooping and graceful wooden sloops reaching across the inland sea.

All part of the same UNESCO World Heritage Site, with rich diversity many can only dream of, and now with a blazing ship to contend with on its doorstep. The threat to the environment is real and the death and injuries suffered by the crew is tragic. Such was the intense heat and fumes from batteries, plastics and fuel, the sailors had to throw themselves overboard and be plucked from the sea.

Carrying almost 3,000 vehicles from Bremerhaven to Egypt, an electric car is the suspected ignition point of the inferno. It wouldn’t be the first time but you’ll need to look at Reuters and European newsfeeds to hear more than a whisper about it. After all, electric cars are the way to go…or are they? Rowan Atkinson, equally famous as a car fanatic as for Mr Bean, is quoted as saying he feels “duped” by the electric vehicle trend, that “doesn’t seem to be quite the environmental panacea it is claimed to be,” and, “our honeymoon with electric cars is coming to an end.” [see The Guardian] In addition to his concerns there is the safety aspect of a lone driver hanging around awaiting charging on a forecourt or by a station, the challenge of homes accommodating doorstep plugs and the rarity of rural charging points.

The lovely couple we chatted to on our ferry homewards had just taken delivery of an electric car. They were from a German town close to my daughter-in-law’s family and were about to embark on the NC500, armed with an app but nevertheless anxious about those charger locations. They happily disembarked with a Scottish Food Guide card and some “Plan B” recommendations, should they find it all too stressful. Much as I admire the beauty of the NC500, Perthshire, for example, is stunning and you’re never far from Perth for that essential plug-in!

In Sweden the honeymoon is most definitely over for the electric car. Batteries do not fare well in extreme winter temperatures so cars regularly stop mid journey, with no warning. Distances are vast so charging is another issue and, should they halt, they cannot be towed – unless you count towing on a flat-bed truck but I call that a piggy back!

There are rules and regulations currently being debated around the safety of electric cars however that could be years in the making… in the meantime, do we want to share a ferry with a known risk rocking in the hull? In the words of Dirty Harry, “Do you feel lucky…?” comes to mind.


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