Well, we Brits are all pretty certain that heating our homes this winter will cost more than NASA's entire budget. We're also certain that some people might resort to burning their floorboards just to keep themselves warm. Even the family cat is at risk of either becoming food or fuel. Increasingly, I am quite certain that if the world doesn't buck up its ideas FAST, there's a very real danger that basic foods might end up in short supply.

Food shortages are something I can't be flippant about, because food shortages mean that millions of children could go hungry. Now, my Mum wasn't rolling in money but she always made sure that none of us (her four boys) ever went to bed hungry because that's what Mums do. But, what could even she have done if food supplies simply weren't there? Money is of no use nor ornament if goods simply aren't available. This grim scenario is what's faced by more and more people around the world.

There are other less dire shortages that have recently blighted some people's lives, such as the great microchip shortage which was brought on by the pandemic. But this isn't such terrible news for everyone. You see, EV's are no good without microchips and the ongoing shortage means fewer EV's are being produced which therefore means fewer irritable electric vehicle owners clogging up Starbucks at motorway services. I have never owned an EV but I've noticed that motorway charging points aren't designed to put energy into your car, they're actually designed as another means by which energy companies can suck more cash out of people's bank accounts. By Christmas, these big energy companies will have plundered so much of everyone's money that hardly anyone will have enough left to buy a carrot. This massive drain on finances coupled with record petrol and diesel prices means that the number of people currently contemplating buying any sort of new car is precisely nil.


All this has consequences. One such consequence is that over 25% of all cars on UK roads are now close to being 15 years of age. I've read numerous articles suggesting that an ageing stock of vehicles on busy British roads could potentially cause more accidents. People from the likes of the AA and the RAC have been quoted suggesting that, from their own experiences, older cars tend to be run by more budget-conscious motorists. This can sometimes mean older vehicles are more likely to have worn-out parts, dodgy tyres and poor or even missing service records. This means breakdowns are much more likely. It recently took 4 hours for the RAC to attend a call-out for a small glitch that appeared on one of our cars, which proves how busy they are.

Of course, modern cars come with a suite of driver aids and passive safety technologies that might help us avoid getting into any potentially sticky situations. The blind spot alert will chime if there's something lurking where you can't see it whereas if you drive an older car you must rely on your own senses. Basically there's a whole lot more to go wrong on a new car which will often shut down or go into limp-home mode if a significant fault is detected in any of these often complex systems. That almost invariably means an AA or RAC call-out.

Naturally, not all older cars are poorly maintained. Far from it. For example, I have a 2008 Mercedes E280 CDI that only has 24,000 miles on the clock. None of my vehicles, old or new, have been neglected. Of course, the 2008 Mercedes doesn't have modern gizmos such as lane-keeping assistance or blind spot alerts like those fitted onto our latest MK5 Ford Mondeo, which even tells us when we're overdue for a coffee break! But, I've managed 35 years without any serious accidents with nothing but my own automatic wherewithal system to depend on. I have learned to pull over if I'm weary. A ten or fifteen minute shut-eye can be a life saver.

Nowadays, a modern car will have anything from a few hundred to in excess of three thousand microchips built in. They control everything from the climate control, the brakes to all manner of engine functions. Yes, microchips really do somehow even tell you when you're due a caffeine fix and believe me, it works. The Mondeo rarely flashes up the coffee symbol unless I'm thoroughly worn out and genuinely in need of a break.

Rather than curtail car production lines until the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic ease and microchips become more readily available, car makers are now deleting some of these systems. They started deleting pointless stuff like wireless phone charging. Then, out came some of the touch-screen functions and a number of other quirky electronic stuff that most customers won't even know how to access let alone use.

Supply chains

So, the war in Ukraine has even thwarted car manufacturers because a massive amount of raw materials used in the industry either comes from Ukraine or Russia. These supply chains are currently shut down or are operating at drastically reduced capacities. Matters are only likely to further deteriorate unless hostilities cease. In a few months we'll be lucky to have a windscreen on new cars. Soon a BMW 7-Series will look more like an Austin Allegro and a once cutting edge Mercedes S-Class will land at our nearest Mercedes showrooms looking more like a Morris Marina, complete with all-round brake drums and a set of SU carburettors.

The moral of the story is this: Whatever combustion engine vehicle you're currently running, please cherish it! You'll be very glad you did because the much hailed electric cars actually need an even greater number of microchips in order to work at all. Even those packed out charging points you see at service stations need chips for highly complex recharging systems to work without blowing your battery up. Anyway, if you believe the doomsters, electric car advocates aren't going to be hooking up to any power points soon, if the forecast power cuts arrive.

If any semblance of normality is to return to our beleaguered world and we really are to avoid regressing into a world of Allegros and Trabants, someone needs to lead both Putin and Zelensky towards a negotiating table, preferably before the icy breath of winter grips the northern hemisphere. Regardless of their differences, a compromise deal which neither side will actually like, will nevertheless have to be reached. Otherwise, if this war drags on much longer and Russia's hold begins to wane, Putin won't want to be portrayed as the loser. Should that scenario ever come to pass, goodness only knows what spine chilling depravity and barbarism might be unleashed on the already grim, blood-stained battlefields of Ukraine.


Douglas Hughes is a UK-based writer producing general interest articles ranging from travel pieces to classic motoring. 

Douglas Hughes