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Car Talk By Jack Biddle


The power of television


We should never underrate the power of good television and the impact it can have on viewers.

What makes for good TV these days is of course a debatable question, but there are a couple of programmes that have stood the test of time and provide content that continues to draw a wide audience and have done so for many years. One is Country Calendar on TVNZ One. It happens to be New Zealand’s longest running television series and focuses on rural life and at times some good, oldfashioned, down to earth Kiwi ingenuity. It makes for great TV and continues to evolve as those working both the land and the sea strive towards making change to meet ongoing consumer demand. It also highlights the commitment of those people to making a positive environmental change.

The other show is Sunday, also on TVNZ One, hosted by Miriama Kamo. It is promoted as a current affairs programme that brings into viewer lounges the subjects that matter most to them. Those subjects can be vast and varied, and rarely fail to leave an impression on viewers.

Such was the case several weeks ago when the entire Sunday programme was devoted to focusing on looking into the effects of what has been described by many experts as a climate crisis and the negative outcomes of the warming of the planet.

Naturally the motoring industry is part of the problem. In a nutshell, each litre of fuel burnt by motor vehicles creates a certain amount of harmful emissions, so the less burnt or not used at all is, in theory, helping the planet. In its place, we see a move toward alternative power sources such as fully electrified and hybrid vehicles.

Judging by comments I have picked up since the programme aired, it did start the grey matter working with many viewers considering their future motoring options and their desire to play a part in reducing, or not contributing to, temperature rises around the globe. I have fielded several questions since then on “what should I do when it’s time to trade up”. One person had only recently purchased a brand new petrol-powered vehicle but was strongly considering making the change to either plug-in hybrid, basic hybrid or fully electric. The programme had left such an impression that he felt the need to one such person that may help others who are in a similar thought pattern at the moment.

“The hybrid/fully electric/plug-in hybrid or stick with what you’ve got debate can be argued in so many different ways. There is no clear right or wrong answer and to make the decision a little harder, manufacturers will always sing from the hymn sheet that best suits them at a given time. Toyota and Mitsubishi, for example, are pushing the hybrid and plug-in option strongly which is a stop-gap measure until they develop their fully electric programme, I think. Some time away yet, but it’s definitely coming.

“Mitsubishi has also made no secret of their desire to be at the sharp end of new vehicle sales in New Zealand moving forward, so its total sales out the door that matter most to them currently. Would they or any other major player ever consider putting a cap on diesel sales per year for example? I doubt it.

“One argument against hybrid/plug-in hybrid vehicle ownership is owners/potential buyers are committing two sins. The first is using a resource (lithium) - which, according to many, has its own environmental downsides during mining plus the use of child labour claims – that adds weight to the vehicle, The second is that an internal combustion engine is still needed which requires an oil change during ownership.

“Servicing still provides a healthy profit for dealerships as well, so service intervals won't be changing anytime soon.”

“Moving to a fully electric vehicle for those who travel within city limits or limited long distances, definitely has its merits for many people who want to make an environmental stand. Yes there is still the lithium debate, but at least fully electric vehicles are not doubling up and poking out other unfriendly tailpipe emissions, albeit less than many other vehicles, including diesel. Owners also don’t currently pay any road user chargers and the range on a full battery charge is getting better and better.

“Hybrids and plug-in hybrid vehicles simply help reduce the demand on petrol when driving and at times can run solely on their batteries for limited distances, which is a big plus in big cities and short commutes to work, etc. This for many is enough and provides peace of mind they are helping the environment.

“There is still a lot to be said, however, for simply downsizing or reducing the number of vehicles in a family and sticking to an economical petrol-powered vehicle. If there is an answer that can have an immediate effect on the environment, it is to encourage people to downsize their vehicles where possible and to simply drive less.”

The one big positive TV programmes like Sunday has is that it makes for impulsive viewing and creates ongoing positive discussion. Keep it up TVNZ One.

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