Hamish McRae: Higher petrol prices are here to stay

Let's start with the bad news. The only sensible assumption we can make about fuel prices is that they will stay high for the next 10 years - and may well go quite a bit higher than they are now.

Not only will crude oil gradually become scarcer and demand from China and India increase. Should there be any easing off of the price of crude, expect governments to claw that back in higher taxation - as Ken Clarke and Gordon Brown did with the fuel escalator during the 1990s dip in the oil price. Governments desperately need the revenue and unlike most other forms of taxation, fuel duty is almost impossible to evade. You can't brew your own in the back garden.

The better news is that the next 10 years will also see huge advances in fuel efficiency. In another 10 years, I predict that there will be lots of decent cars that will do 80mpg or more. Filling up will be more of a monthly chore than a weekly one.

The best early glimpse of the future is the Toyota Prius, the hybrid with the petrol motor and an electric one, which will do close to 60mpg in town. Small French diesels are almost as good.

What will happen next is that most makers will eventually produce hybrids and that meanwhile bits of the new hybrid technology will be incorporated into existing models. An example of the efforts to catch up by other companies are an SUV petrol/electric hybrid planned by Ford, while I see that on one of its small diesel powered models, Citröen is offering automatic stopping and restarting the engine when the car stops.

Other refinements that save power will come in too. Instead of power-steering run by an engine-driven hydraulic pump, it will be run by electric motors, which only cut in when needed. Air-conditioning will be all-electric and independent of the main engine, as on the Prius. Automatic transmissions will be refined to help engines run at their maximum efficiency as much of the time as possible. The systems developed when fuel was cheap will be replaced with energy efficient ones.

In one sense this is all very bad news for governments: the more manufacturers produce efficient cars, the less fuel revenue there will. But don't feel too sorry for them. They will fight back by devices such as electronic charging for road use - though if they are unable to stop people driving uninsured cars I'm not sure they will be smart enough to make road use charging work.

It will, on the other hand, be good news for the environment, and not just for pollution and global warming. As cars become radically more efficient that will change the way we think about them. Small example: I would not say it is fun to sit in a jam but it is more pleasant if the engine has switched itself off and only switches on when you move. The calmer driving becomes, the calmer drivers become, and maybe safer too.

Driving pleasure used to be about the tactile feel of a well-engineered product. From now driving pleasure will equally be about not having a sharp pain in the wallet every time you fill up. And this looks like being the genius of Toyota, which with a little help from the fuel price, is setting standards that will dominate the next generation.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
people
Arts and Entertainment
Stella Gibson is getting closer to catching her killer
tvReview: It's gripping edge-of-the-seat drama, so a curveball can be forgiven at such a late stage
News
Brazilian football legend Pele pictured in 2011
peopleFans had feared the worst when it was announced the Brazil legand was in a 'special care' unit
News
i100(More than you think)
News
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
News
peopleExclusive: Maryum and Hana Ali share their stories of the family man behind the boxing gloves
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Austen Lloyd: Commercial / Residential Property - Surrey

    Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: SURREY MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

    Recruitment Genius: Graduate Programme - Online Location Services Business

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: What do you want to do with your career? Do yo...

    Recruitment Genius: Senior QC Scientist

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is a leading expert in immunoassa...

    Recruitment Genius: Development Scientist

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Development Scientist is required to join a ...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

    Christmas Appeal

    Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
    Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

    Is it always right to try to prolong life?

    Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

    What does it take for women to get to the top?

    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
    Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

    Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

    Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
    French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

    French chefs campaign against bullying

    A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

    Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
    Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

    Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

    Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
    Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

    Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

    Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
    There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

    In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

    The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

    It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit