Tuesday 21 February 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Tuesday. 21/2/2023

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Christian Wolmar

Losing the spark

With the UK planning to end the sale of internal combustion engine (ICE) cars by 2030 – and the EU from 2035 – many drivers have gone electric. Sales of electric vehicles (EVs) have been booming, constituting more than a fifth of Europe’s new car purchases last year. Some early adopters, however, are abandoning their expensive new rides. Commentators including UK columnist Giles Coren, who spent £65,000 (€71,000) on his Jaguar iPace, have written vociferously about their EV’s shortcomings.

“The cars are useless, the infrastructure is not there and you’re honestly better off walking,” Coren recently wrote in The Times. As he and other EV owners have pointed out, technology and infrastructure are the biggest problems. Drivers complain that the ranges claimed by manufacturers (usually about 400km) are often overly optimistic, making long journeys problematic. Not only is there a shortage of charging points but the apps indicating their location can be unreliable; drivers have been turning up at broken down or occupied chargers.

While the number of charging points is growing, the installation rate isn’t high enough to meet the demand, especially if the proportion of EVs continues to rise. For example, the UK is adding hundreds of new charging points every month but the best estimate is that between 250,000 and 660,000 will be needed across the country by 2035. Even reaching the midpoint of that estimate would require building 3,000 chargers a month, mostly outside London – a target that seems well out of reach. The EV rollout is experiencing significant hiccups. If those implementing ICE bans fail to acknowledge these, it will be to the detriment of us all.

Christian Wolmar is the author of ‘Driverless Cars: On a Road to Nowhere’. Monocle’s March issue features a 12-page survey on the future of the car, encompassing design, infrastructure and technology. Pick up your copy now.

Image: Reuters

Defence / South Africa

Friends like these

Joint naval drills in the Indian Ocean by the navies of South Africa, Russia and China continued yesterday, attracting widespread international criticism. The 10-day Mosi II exercise is the second of its kind by the three Brics countries but their first since the beginning of the war in Ukraine. South Africa has resolutely maintained its neutrality in the conflict; last year it abstained on a UN resolution condemning Moscow. The country has historic ties with Russia: during the apartheid era, the Soviet Union supported anti-government groups including the now-ruling African National Congress. Moscow has sent frigate Admiral Gorshkov (pictured), which the state-owned Tass news agency claims is armed with Zircon hypersonic cruise missiles that can travel at five times the speed of sound. Many have grumbled about Pretoria’s equivocation over the past year but both Nato and the EU have protested that this week’s military exercise is a step too far.

Image: Shutterstock


Track record

For 20 years passengers on Japan’s Tokaido Shinkansen (pictured) have heard a jingle based on “Ambitious Japan!”, a song by boy band Tokio that was released to coincide with the opening of bullet-train platforms at Shinagawa Station in 2003. Now the train’s operator, JR Central, has decided to say “sayonara” to the decades-old tune and welcome a new melody.

“Ai ni Ikou” (“Let’s Meet...”) was written by Taisei Iwasaki and sung by pop star Ua. A snappy new commercial featuring the song and starring actor Kento Kaku was launched this weekend, alongside smart new posters and a dedicated section on JR Central’s website. The railway company says that after three years of travel restraint, “The old days are finally coming back.” Listen out for the new jingle on JR Central’s 130 trains this summer.

Image: Shutterstock

Fashion / UK

Styling it out

London Fashion Week ends today after a busy event that marked a decisive return to normal after last September’s subdued shows in the wake of Queen Elizabeth II’s death. This season saw brands and luxury houses exhibiting their autumn/winter and ready-to-wear collections. Clean tailoring in neutral hues was a feature of many, most notably Eudon Choi (pictured).

The most notable leftfield shape was Christopher Kane’s revival of the peplum, last seen in the mid-2010s. However, the week’s biggest ticket was Burberry, with all eyes on designer Daniel Lee as he presented his first collection as chief creative officer for the brand last night. The London-based firm tapped Lee following his abrupt exit from Bottega Veneta in 2021, which occurred amid reports of difficult behaviour – and despite him turning the once-stuffy Italian brand into a trendsetting powerhouse. Burberry will hope that he can emulate the success without too much controversy.

Image: Alamy

Construction / Ukraine

Building hope

As we approach the first anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, those seeking to rebuild the nation are facing the staggering task with optimism. The Ukrainian chamber of commerce refers to the country as “the world’s largest construction site”; indeed, mayors of its heavily damaged cities are using this moment to reshape their infrastructure for the better.

“We defended our communities and now we have to make plans for them and for the city as a place to live in after the end of the war,” says Oleksandr Senkevych (pictured, centre), mayor of Mykolaiv, a city that was besieged by Russian forces at the beginning of the conflict. Senkevych believes that it’s important to rebuild with purpose. “We must take this opportunity to rebuild Ukraine from the bottom up,” he says. “From the lowest level of local government and city councils, we will develop sustainable and green technologies. We are following the build-back-better rule.”

Part two of our weeklong series on the first anniversary of the war in Ukraine looks at how the country is rebuilding its infrastructure. Listen to the full report on today’s episode of ‘The Globalist’.

Image: Getty Images

Monocle 24 / The Global Countdown

Carnival hits 2023

Monocle 24’s Fernando Augusto Pacheco looks at the top carnival songs in Brazil this year.

Monocle Films / Global

Welcome to the Auberge Monocle

Monocle has so far resisted the temptation to open a hotel – but that doesn’t mean that we don’t spend time thinking about who we’d hire to oversee a renovation, run the bar or design the uniforms. With this in mind, here are the six house rules we’d strictly enforce to keep things civil and serene around the pool, in the lobby and on the balcony.


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