Matt Prior: Eco-activists leave urban SUV drivers deflated Car News

99 Matt Prior SUV in town

Our man is also considering a more technological alternative to road pricing

As I write, some people take great pride in themselves for deflating the tires of SUVs parked in urban areas.

I’m not a big fan of 4x4s bought for no good reason but my own Land Rover Defender sometimes ends up in town after a day of hauling pet food in the sticks because there’s no train back after work.

Randomly dropping SUV tires is stupid for that and a number of other reasons, including the inevitability that at some point someone kneeling next to a Range Rover Sport with a registration plate ‘BO55’ or ‘B16’ being discovered by a particularly unfriendly owner.

But I’m more intrigued by what defines an SUV. Where does the estate become crossover? does the crossover become XC; does XC become SUV; is the SUV becoming a 4×4? And if these guys know, would they like to work in editing our data section?

THEY ARE, YOU KNOW. The data. Everything is here. If you buy a new Citroën C5 X plug-in hybrid, it will occasionally ping head office to let you know how often you’ve plugged the car in – or not.

Everything is anonymized, they say, and GDPR compliant. But Citroën CEO Vincent Cobée explains: “We know, based on 200 million kilometers of results, the fuel economy and what we need to influence the number of people who recharge.”

Your Citroën PHEV will send you reminders if you do not plug it in regularly. “The less often you charge it, the more often you receive a reminder,” explains Cobée.

Now the car knows how to do this even without sending data to the head office. But data referring to the car’s VIN can, for example, be sent to a fleet manager, who can anonymize it and remind the driver himself to plug it in when he gets home.

From what I understand, all new electrified vehicles are connected to the Internet in this way, and they all know precisely how much electricity has been injected into them.

Which makes me wonder. As internal combustion dies out, something must replace the billions in annual revenue the fuel tax on gasoline and diesel brings into the treasury. One option is to tax people on where and when you drive – road pricing, as our MPs seem persuaded to take into account.

But why do this when the connectivity of modern cars means the government can directly tax car electricity and therefore reward efficient driving? Road pricing gives people privacy worries and opens the door for lawmakers to decide where and when you should drive by making certain roads and times more expensive.

Worse than that, road pricing does not reward efficiency, but simply the number of miles driven and potentially where and when. So if you drive 10,000 miles very efficiently and I drive 7,000 hard, you will always pay more, which is not fair.

With the fuel tax on electricity, there is an administrative element (especially on rental cars, fleet cars, etc.) on who pays the final bill. And Cobée says there needs to be “transparency” so we know cars don’t lie (Dieselgate has made a lot of people look at the auto industry with suspicion).

But with all cars connected and registered and public chargers and most private chargers also connected, it can be done.

The idea seems fairer and simpler to me than taxing the roads. It’s a tax on the energy you use to drive, not where and when you have to.

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This notice was published: 2022-03-25 00:01:23

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