In 1908, Henry Ford changed the world, with his Model T Ford — The first affordable motor car that the average American could own. It spawned an industry in America and then the rest of the world, that would become the cornerstone of modern 20th century life. It’s made our lives better without a doubt. Never in history was it this easy to travel about. Work opportunities and medical services reached rural areas, education was no more the privilege of the urban dweller, and countless other benefits. In fact, life as we know it today, would be impossible without the mobility of a motor vehicle.
On the surface it’s one of mankind’s greatest innovations. But it’s also part of an ever increasing problem. The motor car’s hunger for petroleum fuel, has made the world increasingly dependent on oil. A commodity that by nature releases harmful gasses when it undergoes combustion in the engine. In the early days, with fewer cars on the road, air pollution wasn’t a major concern, but today in South Africa alone, there are approximately 10 million registered vehicles on our roads, almost all powered by fossil fuel. Whether you agree with the climate change narrative or not, our planet is feeling the strain of this relentless splurge on its atmosphere and even the Pope’s joined the call for us to make better choices now, before our planet is laid to waste.
More Reasons To Change
Traffic: Ever been stuck in traffic? You know the feeling. It turns out the average South African spends 10 working days a year stuck in traffic! If you take it further, the country’s 8.5 million employed workers earn an average of R710.04 per day, according to Stats SA. This means we waste R7,100 per annum, watching the rear end of the car in front! And what about the toll on our mental well being.
Cost: There are an estimated 1.3 trillion barrels of oil reserves left in world’s major oil fields. At the present rate of consumption, the wells will run dry in 40 years. As supply decreases, prices will rise. From our current R13,34 per litre, of unleaded petrol (on the coast) R30 per litre is not so far off. Sorry if I’m painting a picture of gloom and doom, but that’s just the beginning.
So what next – horse and cart?
It would definitely be cheaper to run. But there are other options.
6 Better Choices You Can Make Now
1) Hybrid Cars
Toyota is the pioneer in this area. Its Prius is almost a byword for hybrids. The Prius is constantly the best-selling hybrid in the U.S and elsewhere, additionally being the best-selling car overall in the state of California, a state known for its eco-conscious citizens. South Africa has been slow in joining the hybrid revolution, but that could soon change with the fuel price on the rise again.
2) Hydrogen Fuel Cell Cars
The Toyota Mirai releases this year in the U.S. and other select markets. For Toyota, this is the future. And after watching the vehicle in action in this video, I think so too. A car that uses a readily available fuel source, hydrogen and emits water vapour as a by-product. It’s a no-brainer. The technology crammed into this car is immense. Toyota used all the experience gained from building hybrids, coupled with new innovations to pioneer a fresh path. This could possibly be the Model T of the 21st century.
3) Fully Electric Cars
A South African boitjie by the name of Elon Musk, is all the rage in America. His company, Tesla, built the insanely popular, but expensive, Model S. A luxury sedan that’s shattered many of the electric car stereotypes. The car is definitely not boring, it can take you 300 km’s on a full charge, and with their network of super-fast charging stations in the U.S, more than 50,000 Tesla’s have found new homes. Locally we have the Nissan Leaf, a small fully electric car. The range is not as good as the Tesla Model S, but at the current rate of battery development we should see improvements soon.
You’ve heard of Uber right? Get this. Uber is the fastest growing company – ever! It was founded in 2009 and in 6 years has gotten to a $41 billion evaluation. The company started as a smartphone app, connecting a driver with a passenger via gps. It still is basically that, with advanced infrastructure behind. The company has 150,000 drivers worldwide, and with a tap on your smartphone, an Uber car can pick you up in minutes. No need to carry cash or credit card. Your Uber account, will get billed accordingly. Suddenly being without wheels is not such a daunting thought.
5) Car Sharing. Locomute
Car-sharing, pioneered in Switzerland in the 1970s, is gaining popularity across the globe as people shy away from the cost of owning and maintaining an automobile in big cities. Reasons such as rising vehicle and insurance costs, high fuel costs, in addition to the chronic problem of traffic jams, and parking space, has contributed to the popularity of the car sharing scheme. In South Africa, we have a first for Africa, car sharing scheme called Locomute. The startup is still in its infancy stages. Members reserve a car online or via the Locomute App and simply swipe a member smartcard over a card reader on the windshield before commencing with their reservation. Locomuters have 24/7 access to a pool of vehicles located within designated zones called Locoparks.
6) Public Transport
South Africa is unique in many ways. While public transport may not be a viable option for many, due to crime, and lack of a world-class public transit system, the tide is changing. In Gauteng we have the Gautrain, in Cape Town there is the My Citi bus system, and right here in Durban, construction of Go Durban!, a rapid public transport network is underway.
So there you have it! More eco-friendly ways of moving about are at our disposal every day. It’s up to you and me, to make the tough decisions now, to safeguard ours and our children’s future on this beautiful planet.
Bonus: Check out the Toyota Mirai in action in the U.S. The car has just achieved 3,5 litres per 100 km in official US combined city/highway driving calculations, and an estimated driving range of 502 km on a single tank – a distance further than for any other zero-emissions car on the market.