To go electric?

For many years now, the constant rise of the road-tax (or license as we call it here), has made me wonder many times why I put up with it?

As somebody who is not a real car fan (unless it is Formula1 racing!), I am at great pains to really work out why a 3-metre tiny car with a Euro5 emission rated engine should pay nearly three hundred euros for a road-tax, which, added to the approximately two hundred euro insurance, brings the total amount to nearly five hundred Euros.

I have no doubt that it is a deterrent so that people will no longer buy imported cars from second hand dealers, but obviously enough, fill the already rich local new-car importers with more money.

Be that as it may, a car is always good for emergencies, and seeing that the local bus service is nothing to write home about, it is indispensable. (Catching a bus from Tarxien is like fishing. You KNOW the buses are there, or will snare you at some time, but planning is nigh in impossible.

I don’t want to hear excuses on how things are better now (untrue), or how they have improved greatly (another lie). When a bus sign at a stop says that the bus will be there at 5.07, I EXPECT the bus to be there at seven minutes past the hour. Other countries can do it. Then again, this is Malta.

OK, so in substitution of a car, or the bus, what else can I do? I love cycling. The minor altercation with a Qash-Qai last year left me shaken for many months. The sight of my bedraggled bike in the corner of the garage did not inspire that much confidence to get into the saddle once again.

I repaired the damage, and although the bicycle looked pristine once again, I still had problems in addressing the not unsubstantial step of once again venturing into the roads.

The past month has seen me looking around, thus, for alternate transport. Not because I need to, but because I want to. And going electric has intrigued me for many years now. Sure, I understand that with electric, the waste is going to be generated at a different source, in effect, minimizing somewhat the carbon footprint saving. (I am already doing much of that with electricity generation and solar water heating.)

To me, however, the pure pleasure of cycling, boosted with electrical power when required is unrivaled. Let’s not go into the financial aspect. My daily commute is mercifully very short, so apart from my weekend jaunts, fuel consumption is not something I am overly worried about. I perhaps use up twenty euros of fuel every fortnight, if even that much.

It is the knowledge rather that we are moving on from burning fossil fuel at secondary source.

I have thus taken a decision that in the future months, I will build an electric vehicle. It might not take the form of a bicycle, as indeed, I have a scooter which takes me places very efficiently, but perhaps not the best option for hills.

Malta is, after all, a quite hilly country which does not lend itself exactly brilliantly to car-less commuting.

So yeah, I am researching on how to put together an electric machine for personal use. The scooter is the first step as it is light, portable, fold-able, and easily adaptable to what I have in mind.

Plans have been thought up and drawn. Let’s see how it goes.


Some thoughts after Bologna…

As usual, when I go on holiday, I walk a lot. It IS a big deal for me considering my conditions. Be that as it may, we usually go to places where the land is typically flat, quite unlike our country.
It is thus quite usual for me to walk ten to fifteen kilometres daily without any hassle. Of course, locally, normally, one would do this in a car…
Let’s face it, who would dare to go to Scan by walk? Of course, it is only 2km away, but one only needs to look at that great big hill to realise that it is akin to torture.
So it is one of the reasons we use a car. With the erratic timetables of buses, it is difficult to plan ahead properly. And if the Italians can do it, why can’t we??? We make jokes about Italian organisation. But I can honestly say something. We are DECADES behind. Not a simple amount of years. But DECADES.
Somebody needs to explain to me how the hell do they manage to get a bus to the city centre every fifteen minutes in the countryside where houses are few and far in between? How is it even possible to EXACTLY plan where you are going by bus and be ASSURED that at that time, the bus WILL be there?
Bus tickets for the entire Emilia-Romagna region cost a miserly €1.30, less if purchased in bulk. Each ticket would have a 105minute time stamp on them. AND you can stamp the ticket at the END of your first journey.
A train ticket to Piacenza costs €3.80… Every train was clearly marked with what station it would stop through and at what time it would leave. This is ITALY for fuck’s sake… they CAN’T be that organized… or can they?
Cars in general were in a smaller number than what I envisaged. Buses galore, scooters abundant, and of course, many many bicycles. In a flat city, what could be better than a bicycle?
Of course, good luck with leaving a bicycle outside here!
The food is incomparable. We THINK we know food. We don’t. The pasta, the milk, butter, and the local produce such as beef, pepperoni, mortadella, vegetables… simply unreachable. With all that greenery I had no doubts. And as for ice-cream… suck me sideways!
The distribution of prices in living is also skewed. Supermarkets (especially CO-OP) are laughably cheap. But a simple hair-cut is not less than €15. Buying shoes or clothes requires taking a loan.
Naturally there are problems everywhere, and if there is something which really made me sad, were the number of homeless. And the beggars. Typically the same number as in London. Not so much in the suburbs and outskirts, but in Bologna city centre, I was astounded to see a good number… Catholics were buying €2 candles to light for their deity, but turning their head away at the plaintive cry of a woman in help… It was heartbreaking.
I also think that the centre of the city requires more respect and graffiti was on practically every wall that had more than a metre of space available. Rush hour is chaotic, but between ten in the morning and four, the city is practically empty of people and traffic. There was nobody there!
Around 4.30pm, the hordes start to emerge, and it is total panic until eight at night, when, once again, the city is deserted anew…
It was, in all, a beautiful experience, and one which I want to repeat.