Archive | June, 2012

The Spy On The Village Green

Somewhere in deepest, darkest Bedfordshire, a minor local dignitary announced with messianic glee: “ We have done the education and we have done the warnings. It is time to play hardball”. Gosh. So, what is he talking about? Is it crime or vandalism? No – it’s all about drivers speeding through a village and the installation of a new breed of average speed camera technology.

It is absolutely true that even the best of drivers can become complacent. There is no doubt that most of us, including minor local dignitaries, have been guilty of some slight transgression of the law. It is also true that there is a section of the motoring public who couldn’t give a fig for the lives and wellbeing of others. On the village green in question volunteers have tried being friendly and requesting speeders to slow down only in some cases to get the finger. This is why we have to have laws.

Nevertheless, you have to ask why it is that these single interest people presume to get all moral and high and mighty with the rest of us. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone and so on. It is the responsibility of the police to ensure we obey the rules, not local councillors or other private individuals. Certainly they are entitled to their opinion but they are also entitled to demand that the police do their job instead of sitting in the nick worrying about their budgets.

As the dreaded Gatso’s come to the end of their useful, hateful lives we are likely to see a new and invidious form of speed monitoring taking the place of the yellow peril. We’ve already become used to giant average speed cameras peering at us on the motorways and A roads. Now, coming soon to your neighbourhood are the Sicores. These devices are much smaller and harder to spot – although they will still have to be painted yellow – and are linked to a network to cover an area rather than a single stretch of carriageway. They will be even more dedicated to the task of issuing tickets than ever before. The 10% + 2mph rule will still apply but, basically, in areas where these things are sited you are seriously going to have to watch it. No matter how much you twist and turn within the area covered your average speed can be calculated in as little as 75 yards.

The village in Bedfordshire is buying four of them. They cost £25000 each. That means local tax payers will be stumping up as more and more councils, residents’ associations and safety camera partnerships get on board. Income generated, however, will be distributed as usual with the Treasury getting the lion’s share.

Speed limits are there for a reason and no reasonable person can object to that. We all have a vested interest in road safety. What’s of more concern is this Big Brother attitude that turns neighbour against neighbour. That’s what leaves a nasty taste.

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Are We Nearly There Yet? (Part One)

Any experienced family man reading this will feel an immediate affinity with the subject matter; they may shudder and possibly become a little withdrawn. I am talking, of course, about the long distance family outing.

It has been calculated that the moment the cry of ‘Are we nearly there yet?’ goes up is precisely twenty four minutes into the journey. This is apparently the amount of time that any British child between the ages of 2 and 8 will need to start complaining, whingeing and fidgeting from the point of being buckled in.

Quite why the researchers responsible – at TomTom, incidentally – have chosen to pick on British children is not known although they do say that Australian brats are worse, becoming fractious in a mere 23 minutes. This may be because they keep getting sprayed by foam from the tins of lager being opened up front. Interestingly, just across the Tasman Sea in New Zealand, it takes a full 34 minutes for their offspring to start turning into violent revolutionaries.

Other nations don’t fare much better. Surprisingly, the French – always a petulant people – take 30 minutes, the same as the Yanks; but, of course, American kids are too busy shoving massive quantities of glutinous grub down their necks to worry about where they are going.

Thank goodness, I hear you say, that Motor Blogger is here to help. With the Summer holidays coming up you’ll need some sage advice to avoid to any great extent the problem of children in cars. First off: if you live anywhere near London this Olympic year there is no hope for you at all, as – and you know this to be a truth universally acknowledged – it is just going to be one huge traffic snarl-up. For the rest of you – apart from those lucky enough to afford laptops tuned to the new Junior Facebook – try making up some fun games which, according to TomTom 75% of you already do. If that doesn’t work try bribery, but remember, kids today are very sophisticated so a packet of wine gums is not going to do the trick. Cash inducements are usually required – and you’d better be able to fold it.

You’d think that TomTom, having done the research, would come up with some answers, wouldn’t you? There should be a button to press that will produce a selection of carefully targeted responses to the dreaded question but it doesn’t yet seem they are going to do so. They should consult parents. Of course the real answer is to lie through your teeth. Tell them that your destination, although still four hours away, is ‘just up here and around the corner’. It works for a while. Alternatively, try vacationing just twenty three minutes away from your house.

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New Cars Cleaner And Greener Than Ever

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) have dished out some new statistics announcing that new cars are less polluting and more efficient than ever. Apparently, cars registered in the UK last year were, on average, 18% more fuel efficient. When analysing the information available they also found that there has been a continuing trend downwards in emission output, highlighting a drop of 4.2% during 2011. The averaged out figure is 138.1g/km, equivalent in mileage terms of 52.5mpg. This is a drop of 23% since such reporting began in 2000.

The report goes on to say that almost half of new cars in 2011 had emissions below the 2015 European Legislative Target of 130g/km. In addition, over 65,000 vehicles were exempt from the dreaded Vehicle Excise Duty. Sub 100g/km (which, it seems, approximates to about 70mpg) have almost doubled their market share.

Paul Everitt, SMMT Chief Executive, said, “Industry can be proud of the progress it has made in reducing CO2 emissions and improving fuel efficiency, 23 per cent since 2000. The UK motor industry recognises its responsibilities and the industrial opportunities from the transition to ultra-low carbon vehicles. Future environmental and economic success will be determined by sustained investment in new technology, R&D, infrastructure and consumer incentives. We are seeing steady improvement in conventional technologies and the emergence of a range of alternative technologies, creating one of the most innovative periods for the global automotive industry.”

When you consider just how good modern cars are it’s especially impressive that reductions in average emissions were made across all segments of the industry. It’s interesting to note that the executive and sports car categories made the best progress, falling 9.5% and 7.0% respectively.

Achieving record market shares, diesel and alternatively-fuelled vehicles continued to be popular, taking 50.6% and 1.3% of the 2011 market respectively. Petrol-electric hybrids accounted for 92% of all Alternative Fuel volumes in 2011 with an average CO2 output of 104g/km, some 25% below the UK average. EV registrations rose by 557% in 2011 to 1,098 units, aided by the introduction of new models and the Plug-In Car Grant.

The automotive industry is a vital part of the UK economy accounting for £49 billion turnover and £10 billion value added. With over 700,000 jobs dependent on the industry, it accounts for more than 10% of total UK exports and invests £1.3 billion each year in automotive R&D. Since 2000, huge strides have been made to reduce the environmental impact of its products throughout the life cycle. Improvements in production processes mean that since 2000, energy used to produce vehicles is down 28%, water use has been cut by 40% and 78% less waste enters landfill sites.

Proof positive that the UK industry is a world leader in working towards a cleaner future.

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Topless Mini Soon To Hit The Showrooms

Hot on the heels of the coupé comes the latest in the ever growing list of MINI derivatives. This time it’s a roadster, the sixth unique model in the line-up and it will hit the showrooms next Spring. Although they’ve offered convertible Mini’s before, this is their first two-seater and what a cracker it looks to be. Ever since the first example rolled off the Longbridge/ Cowley production line in 1959 the car has been noted as a fun drive and there’s no reason to think that things have changed with the new model. And being built at Plant Oxford means it can justifiably claim to be a spiritual successor to the traditional British roadsters of old.

Mini claims a useful 240L luggage area with an additional stowage area behind the seats plus a ski hatch. The tailored canvas, soft-top roof has semi-automatic operation for rapid opening and closing up to speeds of 20mph and the company says that it doesn’t affect the car’s practicality in any way. When opened, the roof folds down flat behind the seats, keeping the car’s elegant lines intact. And since the outer skin of the roof faces upwards, there is no need for any additional cover.

Prices appear to start at around £18,000. It will be offered in the usual Cooper variants and, if you’ve got a handy £25k, there will even be a John Cooper Works option. It will be interesting to see how it compares with Mazda’s terrific MX5 for value and performance.

All the usual styling cues are there – including the circular speedo – and the makers claim that the roofline is a sleek 20mm lower than the four-seat convertible for that low-slung appearance. Fuel economy stretches from 38.7mpg to 62.8mpg, while CO2 emissions are as low as just 118g/km on the Cooper SD. Even the MINI John Cooper Works Roadster emits only 169g/km. Vital to getting the best from the powerful engines and customary front-wheel drive transmission is MINI’s outstanding chassis technology. It pushes the brand’s hallmark driving fun to the fore, with a ‘go-kart’ feeling that’s agile, precise and stable according to the company. The Roadster has an active rear spoiler in the tailgate. It deploys when the car reaches fifty miles per hour and closes when the speed drops below 37mph. Posers can operate it manually.

As with many new cars today the two-seater comes with electric power steering. It remains to be seen whether or not the familiar handling and feel will be compromised – MINI say not. A sport button is included to alter steering and accelerator responses should you be in the mood. You’d think that we would all be getting fed up with an endless stream of new Mini’s, wouldn’t you, but with a generous list of standard equipment and some great new features it looks very much as if they’ve done it again. Start saving.

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