TV personality Johnny Ball first made his name as a comedian, but he’s now known as a populariser of science and mathematics. He drives a BMW 530d
WD: What made you choose a BMW?
JB: It’s my fourth one and I really like them. I had a 3-Series and then I went for the 5-Series. This one is quite rare – it’s gold with a light interior, and you don’t see many like that, but I love it. I bought it in January 2008 and I’ve done around 25,000 miles so far. I have always driven a lot – I particularly love driving in London.
WD: Have you got many extras on it?
JB: I’ve got cruise control and a lot of other kit, but the only thing it hasn’t got is sat-nav. I don’t want it – I think it’s a waste of time. I can find my way anywhere I want to go without it. I know instinctively where north is, so I’m always sure which way I’m heading. Maybe it’s something to do with men still having the hunter instinct. My wife uses a TomTom in her Lexus, but I won’t have it in my car.
WD: What kind of driver are you?
JB: I drive fast. Oh for the open road, that’s me. But I am courteous, I always let people out. I think you should do that. A few years ago standards were declining, it all got very honky. But since they removed police from motorways, the general cruising speed seems to have edged up, but it all flows very well and there seems to be more courtesy among drivers. I do think courtesy is very important. I always smile and wave at people and give a thumbs up – not a middle finger, mind – and that helps a lot.
WD: What annoys you on the road?
JB: Fast lane hogging is about the only thing that really annoys me. I don’t mind young lads being young lads, unless they’re particularly hairy, like when they’re weaving in and out. When I was that age, I had a Mini van and I used to press pedal to floor, but it only did 70mph top whack.
WD: Where do you go in your car?
JB: Well, this week I’ve been to Liverpool, Cheltenham and twice to London. I drive into London a lot. Off-peak it’s a super run from junction two of the M40, and I can get from home to town in under an hour.
WD: What do you take with you on a drive?
JB: Sweets – lots of them. I virtually chain-eat sweets to keep my blood sugar up. My metabolism likes sugar. I can do a long journey on a bag of Liquorice Allsorts, and in 200 miles I can eat the whole bag. I think I might overdose on sweets.
I think there are climate fluctuations, but they’re not dangerous and we’re not the cause.
WD: What made you get your first diesel?
JB: Everybody said go for a diesel if you do all that mileage like I do. There is no difference in performance, but there’s a tremendous difference in fuel economy. I usually keep my cars for about three years, but I might well go four years with this one. It does annoy me though, the absurdity of charging the same for diesel as petrol. It’s crazy – it hits the commercial sector so badly.
WD: What do you particularly like about your 530d?
JB: It is just such a good car and everything I want. I don’t want a Lamborghini or a Ferrari, or even a 7-Series. Stepping up from a 3-Series to a 5 was nice, but that’s enough for me. I love the cruise control, I’m more alert with it switched on than I am without it, otherwise I find the constant pressure of the accelerator foot very soporific. I like the centre armrest that slides back and forward – that’s a lovely feature.
WD: You’re known as a sceptic about man-made climate change, aren’t you?
JB: I think there are climate fluctuations, but they’re not dangerous and we’re not the cause. Climate change is happening, but they are blaming manmade CO2 for it, and that’s wrong. CO2 isn’t poison, it is plant food. We have been lobbied that CO2 is damaging, and now the City is trading carbon, people are making fortunes out of it. It’s keeping the Third World poor, because we are spending so much on so-called climate change and we will not cure or alter the situation at all.
WD: We’ve heard you do an after-dinner speech on the subject, and you get quite worked up about it.
JB: Yes, it’s farcical. You look back at the smoky, smoggy 1930s and there was no climate change then, yet things have got better not worse. I hate having to be a stick-in-the-mud and seeming to be against so much of this man-made climate change debate, but it’s bad science, it’s corrupt science, and it’s costing us the earth. It’s political expediency, and it is wrong. The whole idea of the rich end of the world reducing energy use is like saying to the poor end of the world you can’t have what we’ve got.
WD: So you wouldn’t ever be tempted to drive an electric car or a hybrid then?
JB: No, I don’t feel the planet needs us to be thinking about saving it, every hour of the day.