If the car does have a future - and I'm not sure that it does - it will be a wildly different device to the one that we see today. I'm not sure what it will look like, but you can be pretty certain it will look like neither a Jaguar or a Range Rover. I'm also pretty certain it will not look like a Toyota Prius - this innovative car has just played around the edges.
So what would a sensible approach have been from the government? Well we need innovation, that seems to be a given. So how does a government encourage this? In this case they have taken the apparently low risk option of guaranteeing large loans to a few manufacturers. We can be pretty certain that a large chunk of those guarantees will be exercised. In other words they are concealing a subsidy - and they should know that these businesses will fail. How long do you think it is likely to be until someone goes out and buys a Jag or Range Rover? Innovation is not something that this government does well.
The Conservative opposition is not making much sense either - except in their recently released briefing document on Open Source software. This document has been a long time coming - contributions were being sought for it early in 2008, and another, very similar but longer, document complete in April 2008.
Amongst other things it says:
- Smaller IT projects mean less risk of failure, and will cut costs by opening up the procurement system to more companies, increasing competition for IT contracts.
- These data standards will create a level playing field for open source software.
Why? Well the message is getting through slowly, but the only future of mankind is through co-operation, not vicious competition. Spend the time to read Adam Smith - he did not expect the sort of capitalism we have now, it would have been abhorrent to him. He was thinking of rows of small shops and workshops, not multinationals with apparent balance sheets bigger than most nations.
Excellent suggestion from Richard Smedley:
"How about a £3000 voucher given to every family to spend towards a British-built electric car. Within six months there'd be something on the market, and a support infrastructure on the way. We could always licence the best new design from that Chinese battery manufacturer."
Not sure how that would sit with EU rules, but it's an interesting idea.