Living in electric dreams

When I was a nipper, there was much talk of pollution and acid rain, damage caused by aerosol propellants and litter. Inspired, I started a Womble Club to encourage my fellow pupils to keep the school playground clear of Spangles wrappers. Who knows if it made any difference? If you believe the vociferous voices of climate change deniers, catastrophic weather events like the hurricanes which batter the Caribbean are Someone Else’s Problem.

Wherever you sit on the global warming fence, it’s probably time to end our thrall with fossil fuels, particularly when it comes to getting about. In previous columns I have eulogised about the delights of using sustainable transport; I take the bus, utilise Shank’s Pony and my chrome is shining just like an icicle when I ride around town on my old lady bicycle.

Of course cycling on the Isle of Wight is only really any pleasure if you are fit. When I moved here I brought my three-geared racing bike with me – fine for pootling around Pompey’s streets but useless when encountering the tiniest of undulations. My new bike has a heap of gears but cycling is still blooming hard work.

For old ducks like me, an electric bike might be the answer. In fact, there must be something in electric vehicles as progressive governments are calling for all cars to be electric in the near future. Over in Silicon Valley, Tesla has moved the electric vehicle out the daydreams of whiskered environmentalists into the stuff of capitalists’ wet dreams with its sexy supercharged performance cars – with a matching supercharged price, and features including “ludicrous mode”.

If you’re not lithe enough to straddle an e-bike, or wealthy enough to buy a Tesla, you could join that other electric fleet – the chapter of mobility scooters. With these, the Island could lead the ‘charge’ on personal transportation; as well as a good network of dropped kerbs it has plenty of accessible paths including some of the most scenic rights of way.

Still think that the electric vehicle revolution will pass you by? Then buy a ticket to Ryde on the Island Line. Electrified in 1967, the little railway ticks the transport boxes that the futurologists advocate, with 1930s vintage steampunk styling.

Of course, electric vehicles are old hat to this country. Did you know that ‘sixties Britain had more battery-electric vehicles on its roads than the rest of the world put together? Colour you astonished! Well, if I whistle the chorus of Benny Hill‘s 1971 Christmas number one hit ‘Ernie (The Fastest Milkman in the West)‘, all will become apparent. Yes, milk floats. This e-future we’re chasing? We were already there with our fleets of silent sustainable milk floats.

This article first appeared in print in the Isle of Wight County Press on 22 September 2017.

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