If you have owned a car long enough you will have faced two situations – one, you would have suffered a puncture and secondly, you would have had a flat battery. It’s a given and no amount of technology or modernity in your car can take away from the fact. It also cannot take away from the grind that you have to undergo. There’s apparently no way to save yourself from a puncture. Sharp object lying on the road meets pliable rubber and sundry plys of fabric and you have a flat. Run-flat tyres may be a solution to getting back to a tyre shop, but can you actually prevent the puncture in the first place? Hardly.
On the other hand, the other type of flat is the one that’s raised my ire this month. I own a car that I consider a sleeper hit. Not that many people in Oman or indeed the region do (for if they did, Peugeot wouldn’t be in such a bad way here) but the 508 packs in all the bells and whistles I could want. It has features like auto headlights, auto wipers, parking sensors, navigation, remote entry – in short, the works. To have all of this the car needs a 650 Ah battery. This battery itself is almost a work of art, with a small footprint and lots of additional stuff added on a layer above. But the one thing it doesn’t have is the good sense to give the driver even a day of warning before packing up.
You get out to the car in the morning, thinking ahead about the meetings you have planned for the day and trying to figure out the workload and the fancy pants car just does not crank up. Click, click and that’s all. And the only way I even know what’s wrong is through sheer experience – no warning message that comes up and says flat battery or the like. And why can’t they manage that, I ask?
It’s not just Peugeot, no manufacturer seems to want to tell us things like this. In the good old analogue days, you could feel the intensity of the cranking process through the sound. You knew well in advance that the battery was weakening and you either replaced it in time or had a handy jumpstart cable ready. I have the latter, which seems to be out on constant loan because people find themselves betrayed by their car batteries.
I would have laughed at the irony of my being saddled with a dead car and no other car around for the jumpstart. I had to call a mechanic, who did the honours and found myself battery shopping in Wadi Kabir. Try finding an exotic, high-drain battery like I need in the volume driven marketplace of Oman’s car parts market. I had to drive back to the dealer’s place on the other side of town and wait while the battery was replaced, in the bargain having spent half a day on the task.
Now, I ask you, in a day and age when your camera, laptop and mobile phone have the decency to show you the battery status, tell you how well it is charging and even warn you well in advance about the deteriorating health of the little powerhouse, why can’t we get the same in our cars? Don’t say the technology doesn’t exist – I say ‘Pthah’ to that! Why are the bulk of cars saddled with a little red battery light in the first case? Shouldn’t it flash rapidly or something if the battery is nearing its sell by date or retention capacity? And with all the welcome and other sundry messages that the car delivers on its monochromatic LCD display, shouldn’t it tell you something along the lines of “a change of battery is in order”?
Car manufacturers need to give us customers a means to avoid getting caught out. I foresee dark days ahead, indeed, for the industry that will be delivering cars that run purely on battery power and the comfort of a little red light whose only function is to just be there.