So that’s where the Parking Levy money is going!

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It takes two to operate apparently!

Nottingham is now subject to the Workplace Parking Levy (WPL) – a misguided way of raising money in the short-term for our City Council – once it has managed to drive business outside the city boundaries I assume they will come up with an equally ‘good’ idea to fill their coffers.

As part of the WPL the City Council obviously need to police it, this is managed by way of a car that drives around the city and its estates taking pictures of all the parking spaces and the cars that are using them This is probably as efficient a way of policing it as can be arrived at in the current world – or it would be if it was done using one member of staff. However, in the same way that Traffic Wardens only appear to hunt in pairs nowadays (for protection?) it also appears that the WPL car requires both a driver and a passenger to make it work!

When I saw the car operating last week it was ‘two up’, surely this is unnecessary – or is it just jobs for the boys? One thing is for sure – it is going to become about as popular as the traffic wardens, so perhaps they are just preparing themselves for the worst?

An even more pointless Prius?

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Once in a while a car comes along that is so pointless that it beggars belief – some would claim that the original Toyota Prius filled that role – perhaps slightly unfair as it did develop some technologies that have found their way into many vehicles – but the overall concept is in my opinion deeply flawed (I am not a fan).

good looking - not!

As I understand it one of the Prius ‘selling points’ is its low fuel use (totally flawed as well) – this is managed by being aerodynamic, light and having an electric motor (it’s a hybrid). The downside of all this is that it is noisy (very), built from rubbish materials (the interior is like a 70’s eastern block car) and generally ‘nasty’ (told you I don’t like them).

To make matters worse it also is nowhere near as economical as Toyota claim – so you have to put up with all the downsides with no upside! (It doesn’t even save many fluffy bunnies) The only fun to have in a Prius is getting out of it!

So can someone please explain to me why they are now producing the Prius+? This is in effect a people carrier version. Now I am a fan of small people carriers, I have had a few in my time and they are excellent for growing families. What they are not however is aerodynamic, light or economical – plus cheap build quality is a definite ‘no no’ in a people carrier – it needs to be bomb proof against small people!

So unless I have missed something Toyota have just produced the worlds most pointless car!

A practical hybrid? – apart from the price!

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I have a very poor opinion of hybrids since a Prius tried to kill me. More seriously they have not so far in my view provided a decent driving experience and decent savings in both fuel and emissions (the Prius is nowhere near as economical as Toyota claim unless you drive like a snail!).

yes it's an estate - what do you expect - it's a Volvo!

In recent months the next phase of hybrid electrics have started to appear or be announced (I don’t count the plugin Prius (it’s a personal hate thing). But the likes of Peugeot, Citroen and Vauxhall are starting to produce more interesting machines. All of them do appear rather ‘hobbled’ though – with either poor performance or economy.

The latest offering from Volvo however does appear on the face of it to be a possible ‘decent hybrid’;

The V60 Plug-in Hybrid is powered by a 212bhp 2.4-litre diesel engine (good start!), which drives the front wheels. The rear axle is driven by an electric motor, which provides a further 69bhp and the car has a six-speed automatic gearbox. The 11.2kw lithium-ion battery pack is situated beneath the boot floor and can be charged from the mains, or boosted by the diesel engine’s alternator as well as by recapturing energy generated by the brakes.

On average, the V60 Hybrid should return 148.6mpg and emit just 49g/km of CO2 – pretty impressive figures (and far better than a Prius). But there is a more interesting side to this car – there are three driving modes available – Pure, Hybrid and Power;

Selecting Pure allows the car to drive for 32 miles on electric power alone – plenty for urban trips.
Selecting Hybrid engages the diesel engine to increase performance, so much so that the car can tow up to 1800kg (possibly more important for Volvo drivers?)
Power mode combines the electric and diesel motors to give an output of 276bhp, which should do the 0-62 sprint in just 6.9secs – pretty good!

The downside? The cost – Volvo are offering them at £47,000 – just a bit on the expensive side!.

The start of a realistic charging network?

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One of the major issues holding back the uptake of electric cars (like car of the year Nissan Leaf) is the lack of a decent national charging network – people correctly believe they can’t realistically do long journeys in an electric car. Because of this electric car drivers have been unwilling to break free of the city and hit the open road. Well now green energy firm Ecotricity has launched the world’s first national motorway charging network for electric vehicles and all the power is coming from renewable sources, from the Wind and the Sun. If you are an Ecotricity user at home or work (and they will price match the standard suppliers tariffs) the charging points are free to use – quite an attraction.

It has installed free power points at 12 Welcome Break service stations, with 17 more promised later in the year.

Welcome Break’s power outlets offer two types of sockets – a three-pin one for 13A current supply and a seven-pin one for a higher 32A supply. Using the 13A supply takes around 12 hours to charge the vehicle and would probably require spending the night in one of the service area hotels – not a great idea unless you were planning to break your journey this way.

Opting for the higher current option will top-up a car in just 20 minutes – and fully charge it in one hour, so in the time it takes to get a cup of coffee and a sandwich, the system can charge your car. The downside? Not all electric vehicles are compatible with the newer 32A system.

This is a real step forward and if a major roll out of similar charging points is made across the UK it would offer a real option to the city dweller who only goes on long journeys once in a while (and there are a lot of them). For once a positive addition to our motorway service stations!

It can be done!

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Today I have been up to Gateshead for work, travelling up the A1 – not the fastest road but a steady journey.

To date on a long journey I have not got close to Volvos “official” miles per gallon figure of 75mpg for my car (and I don’t expect to). But today it did 67.5mpg which can’t be bad in anyone’s language. And I wasn’t driving like an old man either – I think the engine is finally loosening up!

Oh, and it’s not a hybrid! – it’s a proper car!

The proof!

Now THIS is a hybrid!

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I have had a very poor experience of hybrids to date – a Prius tried to kill me and they just don’t tick (any) of the boxes as far as I am concerned. However, Jaguar may have just come up with something that does…… 

The £700,000 hybrid C-X75 supercar.

The original concept C-X75 used two on-board micro-turbines to generate power for its batteries, a technology it says it continues to develop now that parent company Tata has taken a significant stake in Bladon Jets. According to Jaguar this technology will not appear “on the majority” of production versions of the C-X75. Instead, most cars will be powered by a small-capacity, highly boosted petrol engine along with a pair of electric motors, one at the front axle and the other at the rear. Rumours suggest the petrol engine could be based on the 1.6-litre, four-cylinder Williams will use in its Formula One car from 2013.

But a proportion will have gas turbines!

The car maker and Williams F1 are combining to produce 250 examples of the supercar, each costing around £700,000 with Williams providing its engineering expertise for the carbon-fibre chassis, aerodynamics and hybrid powertrain.

The targets set out by the company for the car include a top speed in excess of 200mph and CO2 emissions of less than 99g/km, an all-electric range in excess of 50km or, when the engine and motors combine, accelerate from 0-60mph in less than three seconds.

Jaguar is taking expressions of interest in the car, which is expected to go into production in 2013, via its website. I can’t wait to see one on the road!

No surprise – no one wants electric cars!

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I have blogged before about electric cars and in particular how despite the Governments best efforts to promote them they are just not ready for ‘prime time’ yet.

The Government’s £5,000 grant was intended to boost sales of electric cars which generally cost a third more than petrol or diesel vehicles. It appears that their hoped-for electric car revolution, jump-started by this grant, is getting off to a very slow start with just over 500 people signing up to the scheme since it was introduced at the start of the year.

Car of the year - why?

The figures were revealed in a parliamentary answer by the junior transport minister Norman Baker, and show that 534 electric vehicles were registered to the so-called “plug-in car grant” during the first quarter of 2011. So far, only 213 have been delivered.

The incentive scheme, devised by the Labour government to mitigate the fact that electric cars typically cost at least a third more than conventionally powered equivalents, has sufficient funding during 2011 (the only year for which it is guaranteed pending a coalition review) for 8,600 cars. If sales fail to pick up it will struggle to reach a quarter of that figure!

There is expected to be a “sales surge” as more of the nine cars that qualify for the grant come onto the market in the coming months, among them Vauxhall’s Ampera, the Volt from Chevrolet and the new, all-electric version of Toyota’s popular Prius hybrid.

While electric cars are a significant outlay – the first two cars on sale, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV and Nissan Leaf both cost about £28,000 – the AA calculates they can be run for about 2p per mile, against around 14p per mile for a similar-sized petrol or diesel car. They also pay no vehicle excise duty, have cheaper insurance premiums, are exempt from London’s Congestion Charge and can be charged for free at some public car parks.

The Leaf, which saw 20,000 pre-orders worldwide, has won the European and world car of the year awards, voted by motoring journalists.

But, despite all this the public can’t get over the fact that these are not a satisfactory alternative yet for good old petrol or diesel cars. Time for another idea?