Intelligent Design – An Evolution For The Environment

The following paragraphs almost read quite differently to how they currently do, with writes, re-writes, and much editing down in an attempt to try and get over a point which is of much concern to us and, we hope, the broader public. It was few thousand words which, at times and rather uncomfortably, teetered on the edge of that chasm of apocalypse which characterizes the, understandably impassioned but often irrational, debate regarding pollution and the environment which it, without any doubt, is doing great damage to. Then an announcement was made by the Department of Transport, and it changed, entirely, the tone in which this latest blog speaks, with negativity giving way to positivity.

The announcement stated that the UK government intends to bring to an end the sale of new diesel and petrol-powered cars by the year 2040. That is, at present, only ‘the sale’, and specifically ‘new cars’, and comes as the latest in a line of announcements by other governments and of car manufacturers, indicating some strong momentum away from internal combustion. At a first cynical glance, from a UK perspective, this means that the used fossil-fuel car market will take a good decade-or-so to wind down, and there may suddenly be a mushrooming of sales of small vans as people attempt to take advantage of such loopholes. So it is, realistically, quite a long time down the road, and much can happen before then. I mean, to lend the timeline some perspective, a young couple who may have just invested in a smart new car, could, if purchase and re-purchase trends hold, be on their fourth or fifth new car some twenty-three years from now, and on their way to a maternity unit to welcome their latest grandchild into the world.

How does this affect the operations of Barnes Logistics? On the face of it, not a great deal. However, it isn’t some irrational display of clairvoyance to predict that heavy goods vehicles will one day benefit from a massive propulsion re-design, and it got us thinking as to what will our fleet of lorries will look like in the year 2040. It’s just that we’re not planning on going anywhere but forward, up to and beyond that date with destiny for cars, in the future.

Nobody could really say operating a modern fleet of trucks is fun recreation – it’s costly, a headache of regulations, and they are rather attention-seeking when it comes to the strict maintenance regime we observe. A fleet consumes thousands of litres of fuel per day, and operations are replete with any number of factors which can impede or halt progress. However, they are quite an essential tool in industry, supporting people and growth and contributing to prosperity for all. Aye, there’s the rub, and as things stand, it is a real question of ‘To be or not to be?’ if one wishes to retain a presence in the road transport industry. For the present and for the movement on the roads of the size of loads our trucks and those of other operators carry, diesel trucks are the only cost-effective show in town. For the future, however, we at Barnes hasten the advent of economically and environmentally efficient hybrid commercial vehicles. The technology is there, and has been for many, many years. From the once familiar sight of an electric milk-float, right up to some of the largest quarrying trucks, moving 350+ tonnes per-load. It is a question of range and efficiency with regards application, but it will come, and we welcome it.

I think one of the dilemmas for the majority must be that we have, in rather a short space of time, become very conditioned to the internal combustion engine as the pinnacle of transport engineering, and the idea of not having it or of having the choice of ownership taken away is considered a violation against the personal. Yes…it is a marvellous piece of engineering, in its time, in the same way a valve television once was. Like such televisions, the engine as we know it may well, one day, occupy a place in a museum of historical curiosities. I relish the idea of our successors looking upon such an exhibit with amusement, as a token of a time when things were less sophisticated and less advanced; and, like more enlightened thinking about now outdated and less efficient forms of transport of goods and people saw an end to certain other fuel sources’ use, so it will with regards to current modes. To give the understandable environmental concerns all the credit for re-design is to miss a point, as the perpetual enquiry inherent in technological research was always going to render much of what we know and currently use to be obsolete, given a long enough timeline.

Another bit of misdirection which the eventual eradication of diesel and petrol engines lends itself to is a kind of panic thought that we will not recognize the few vehicles we perceive will remain, when oil-burners have gone. Except, just as evolution of an organic species is a slow and long game, the technological evolution of manufactured goods is a rapid one which implements re-design to a consumer block so accustomed to upgrading with every tenth breath, with the majority of re-design being solely in function, and only a slight margin given to appearance. This is intentional, as whilst we demand improved function and application, our eyes are an early warning system, and if something looks too suddenly alien or a threat to what we understand, we’re less likely to readily engage. In the manufacture of vehicles, this has put far more not instantly recognizable hybrid cars on the road in the last decade-or-so than we would believe, and our obsession with the known aesthetic is why these cars of the future have few of the very acute angles and long sweeping arcs which our naive imagination had us drawing as children. Yes…a mid 20th century vehicle looks markedly different to a new vehicle on a forecourt, today. But, given that the engined car is, only about 130 years old, it’s a cosmetic evolution as comparatively slow as us creeping from the primordial swamp, to where we are now.

However the inevitable socio-economic evolution alters truck design, the Barnes Logistics of the future will embrace such changes, as we’re sufficiently pragmatic to understand that all evolutions have one steering principle…efficiency. Like anything evolved, the internal combustion engine is going, and it was on its way out as soon as it was formed, as there are certain engineering design compromises which lend it a certain efficiency, but nowhere near the potential of yet to be exploited sources of energy. As a company, we equally demand new efficiencies, and embrace all mechanisms which encourage such. We just eagerly await technological advances in truck design, as newer and more sustainably efficient trucks will be good…the four charging horses of Barnes Logistics on their bodywork will be better.