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The logic of the big electric switch

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Russia’s war on Ukraine is fracturing a delicate car industry but will underline the logic of the big electric switch, writes Simon Hacker.

My recent visit to Baylis Stroud for our Mokka-e’s initial 8,000-mile service was probably in the nick of time. 

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While Brexit and Covid have dealt twin blows to our car business, we may yet see tougher challenges. As soon as Putin’s tanks and helicopters began trashing Ukraine, the entire auto sector, a complex, inter-dependent network that relies upon smooth international boundaries, was knocked sideways.

Along with VW, Hyundai, Volvo and Mitsubishi, Stellantis, Vauxhall’s parent brand, is feeling the full force of Russia’s war, having the headache of 71 staff in Ukraine while its business interests in Russia, at the last annual account, were significant. In Germany, VW, Mercedes, Porsche and BMW are now closing plants because they can’t lay hands on crucial components sourced from what has suddenly become a warzone. These ripples lap as close as Oxford, where BMW’s factory for the Mini is now silent.

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Inevitably then, parts as seemingly inconsequential as a replacement motor for your windscreen wipers may soon become a trifle than puts your family car in mothballs.

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Sat nav directional option on centre binnacle is a neat touch. I use it all the time.

As yet though, Vauxhall’s experience with the new Mokka-e, alongside the Corsa-e and the imminent arrival of an all-new EV option for the Astra. And as reported last month, Vauxhall is at the forefront of makers who are chomping at the bit to get the electric revolution underway, given a self-imposed target of 2028 for sales being electric-only – two years ahead of the government’s deadline.

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The Mokka isn’t over-blessed with rear-seat room; not so ideal for lanky adults, but it’s fine on shorter journeys.

The latest monthly sales stats from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders place the Mokka, overall, at number three in the UK’s chart, while a year-to-date 25.5 per cent market share for EVs shows where the only significant growth lies. The Mokka-e is punching above its modest weight in attracting new interest, helping the EV sector (according to SMMT’s crystal ball), to an anticipated 28 per cent slice of monthly sales 12 months from now.

I have a theory that once zapped by the EV bug, there is no turning back. Personally, I’d not go back to combustion in the knowledge that I’d have to reverse the choice in a few years’ time. Given my Jurassic career in writing about cars, I guess that’s a positive testimony to the Mokka-e’s recruiting abilities.

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Furthermore, a half-term hols minibreak into the underbelly of Devon hasn’t dampened my resolve: in more than 250 miles of driving, we stopped twice for fast food and battery boosts. And – brace yourself – both stops offered vacant, super-fast CCS chargers that were not only available but actually functioned, just like what you see in all those dreamy electric car adverts. 

Oh well, I suspect normal service may be resumed when I attempt a potentially masochistic blat with my son to Wembley for England v Switzerland, later this month. But EV-ing is all about optimism for the future, so in these of all times, I’m happy to do that.

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