Parking Tales from Big Ben: KABOOM! It’s Explosive!


Parking Tales from Big Ben: KABOOM! It’s Explosive!

Over here, parking makes lots of headlines, but not usually in the financial columns. So, I was interested to see a full-page article in The Times on NHS hospital parking. About 100 years ago, I implemented what must have been one of the very early paid hospital parking schemes in Britain. Then, as more and more hospitals started to charge, first to patients and visitors, then staff, the taxman decided to intervene.


VAT is a 20 percent tax on many transactions, including commercial parking, and the taxman decided that hospital parking should be taxed, winning two legal challenges by a hospital in 2017. Part of the reasoning was that, if hospitals didn’t charge, then commercial operators would be at an unfair trading disadvantage. This is, frankly, poppycock, since hospital parking is site-specific and not competition with a commercial site. In fact, I cannot think of a single hospital where there is a commercial car park next door that would lose business if the NHS site were VAT-free. 


Anyhow, the hospital did not give up and they have just won a case in the Court of appeal that has reversed decisions in two lower courts. More than 50 other hospitals were waiting on the outcome, and it could spell a major payday for all hospitals. This may seem a bit dry and academic but for the hospitals, it could mean tens of millions of pounds in tax paid back from the revenue at a time when the health service has collapsed due in part to under-funding. 


Closer to home, it could also mean that tens of thousands of NHS staff who have paid VAT-inclusive parking fees, may be able to claim back the VAT. Since she who must be obeyed worked in the local district hospital, and paid for parking, for something like 20 years, there may be good news down the line in Chez Guest! 


I am bored with electric vehicles now. It seems that almost every day there is another story either telling us that there is just about to be a new breakthrough that will finally tip the balance irrevocably towards sparky, or yet another doom-laden prediction about why they are an automotive evolutionary dead end due to follow the Stanley Steamer as a footnote in the history books. 


This month we have had stories about sodium ion batteries which would displace lithium-ion as a cheaper and more sustainable power unit. Apparently at least one major manufacturer, can’t remember who, is already re-tooling to use this technology. And Jaguar have announced that they will shortly stop making ICE and saloon cars and relaunch with a range that will only include E-powered SUVs and high-performance GT cars. 


On the other hand, the government, far from using the vehicle taxation system to support EV purchase, will introduce an annual Vehicle Excise Tax on EVs from April 2025, which I believe will be the same as for an ICE car. In addition, they will also charge an additional £410 pa for EVs costing over £40, 000, for the first five years. 


On top of this, yet another university has highlighted that, taking everything into account, total pollution from an EV, not just CO2, is higher than for an equivalent ICE vehicle. Frankly, I am old, my diesel car (boo – hiss) probably has a longer sell-by date than I do, and so I am rapidly losing interest as I am probably going to stop driving before the promised nirvana arrives and forces me to choose.


Another story that got my attention was a feature about hydrogen fuel cells. Many pundits are now pointing to hydrogen power as the better way to achieving a zero-emission future than EVs. 


The obvious twin disadvantages of range anxiety and refueling time disappear with hydrogen. A driver simply refuels at a pump in about the same time as getting petrol or diesel. 


To be fair, hydrogen production can be very inefficient compared to EV power, but it removes the stumbling blocks of limited range and refueling times and it’s the ultimate clean fuel if produced using electrolysis powered by green energy. 


The by-product of manufacture is oxygen and the residue from power generation is water vapour. Apparently, both Toyota and BMW are keen to see more work, but progress is, at the moment, being stymied by a lack of a refueling network not helped by government’s “All their eggs in one basket” attitude to EVs. 


Not forgetting, of course, JC Bamford’s extensive work on hydrogen-powered internal combustion engines.


Why should the parking industry care? Over the next decade or so, as ICE cars are phased out, we shall collectively invest billions of pounds in EV charging technology. If the market veers towards hydrogen, fairy dust, or some other green solution, that money will be largely wasted. 


Even although our respective governments will have forced us down this path you can be absolutely certain that not a single penny in compensation would be offered if they change their collective minds! 


On the other hand, if we all shift to hydrogen, then car park operators will have to adapt to a future where the vehicles that they accommodate each contain a tank full of a very highly volatile, highly flammable, and explosive liquid under pressure. When, not if, one leak, KABOOM! Look up the video of the Hindenburg.

Article contributed by:
Peter Guest, Parking Tales from Big Ben
Only show results from:

Recent Articles

Send message to

    We use cookies to monitor our website and support our customers. View our Privacy Policy