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.

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

    Recruitment Genius: Cleaner

    £15000 - £16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you've got first class custo...

    Recruitment Genius: Mobile Applications Developer / Architect - iOS and Android

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a medium s...

    Recruitment Genius: Telesales Account Executive - £40K OTE

    £11830 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working in a friendly, sales ta...

    Recruitment Genius: Web Designer

    £15000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

    Day In a Page

    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
    10 best statement lightbulbs

    10 best statement lightbulbs

    Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
    Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
    Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

    Dustin Brown

    Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
    Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
    Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

    Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

    Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
    John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

    Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

    'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
    Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

    Forget little green men

    Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
    Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

    Dying dream of Doctor Death

    Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy