London’s new hybrid bus is leading by example

With Mayor of London, Boris Johnson eventually stripping the bendy busses from the city streets of the capital, a new public urban mobility solution (don’t you just love today’s buzz words) needed to be devised.

Cue the New Bus for London, a replacement for the famous Routemaster that was recently revealed, drawing inspiration in its styling and engineering from the legendary London bus.

The famous rear step-off deck will make a return on the New Bus for London, as will a conductor, even though the bus can be operated without one. Two pairs of doors with Oyster card points and two staircases, front and back, will also feature.

More interestingly though, is that the new public transport vehicle has a hybrid power train.

The New Bus for London features a 4.5-litre Cummins turbo diesel engine acting as a generator to provide power to an air compressor for the bus’ brakes and steering, as well as delivering power to charge a 75KWh battery.

The battery provides power to a Siemens electric motor that delivers a twisting force of 1844lb ft – with it being an electric motor the torque is available from zero RPM too.

It’s the electric motor that does all the propulsion, with the diesel unit tuned to sit at optimum RPM for efficiency – just like the Vauxhall Ampera/Chevrolet Volt range extending vehicle – improving the bus’ ‘green credentials’.

But all this talk (or should that be torque) of the new ultra-efficient bus for the capital has left us wondering something.

With the government showing us the way to go and leading by example, why haven’t hybrids and electric vehicles experienced a bigger take up in urban environments, especially with a £5,000 government subsidy applied to such modes of transport?

Answer: they just aren’t good enough.

The crop of all-electric vehicles such as Nissan’s LEAF, Peugeot’s iOn and Mitsubishi’s i-MiEV just don’t have the range to make them functional. Nor are they able to be recharged quickly enough to make them practical.

Plug-in hybrids are getting there but still require a heavy internal combustion engine to be carried around all the time, effectively acting as fuel-economy sapping dead weight when not in use, as well as the hydrocarbon fuel they’re also carrying.

The Vauxhall Ampera/Chevrolet Volt – employing similar technology as the New Bus for London, with an on board engine acting as a generator for a battery/electric motor combination – appears to be the way forward though.

So then, maybe the real answer to the question of hybrid and electric vehicle take-up is they just aren’t good enough – yet.


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There’s never been a better time to buy a convertible

We know it’s not customary to start searching for a convertible in the cold season – we’re in the darkest depths of winter with the country’s roads still slick with salt and atmospheric conditions not best suited to top-down motoring.

But, and it’s one of those big, wholesome well-rounded buts, the winter could mark the right time to start searching for an al fresco motoring proposition, ready for the warmth of spring and summer.

As the warm months arrive they’ll bring with them inflated prices in the two-seater market.

It’s widely recognised that open-top cars are harder to sell on with the weather doing its best to pinpoint their drawbacks – but, start scouring the classifieds before green shoots appear on the trees and a smart buyer could bag a slice of open-top motoring for an appealingly discounted price.

There’s something for everyone in the open-top class, too. Hardened track day enthusiasts will know that the Series 1 Lotus Elise is a properly focussed sports car.

Driven well, even the entry-level Elise with it’s 118bhp 1.8-litre Rover K-Series engine will rival a Porsche 911 of the same era for go and eclipses it through the twisties thanks to its superbly agile handling and 725kg kerb weight.

Believe it or not, examples of this gem of a sportscar can be had for as little as £8,000 pounds. But when spring comes, you can expect prices of even the cheapest and tattiest Elise’s to rise by at least £500.

There’s plenty for the driver looking for a more laid back approach to convertible motoring, too.

The BMW 3 Series convertible, Mercedes-Benz CLK drop-top and roofless version of Audi’s A4 can all be picked up for prices around the £10,000 mark – and that’s not the bottom of the range models either.

They may be the previous generation vehicles but with lower than average mileage (convertibles often are due to the seasonal nature of when they’re driven), gutsy straight-six, V6 and four-cylinder turbo engines respectively, electric roofs, and plenty of executive level equipment, all three examples are a bargain buy for a large chunk of premium open-top motoring.

If you’re on the look out for a convertible as a second car and don’t want to spend a great deal then there’s more affordable but no less attractive convertibles available, too.

The Mazda MX-5 MK3 on an 07 plate car can be snapped up for as little as £4,995 – the famous roadster offers sweet handling, smart styling and solid build quality.

Whatever your choice, there’s a couple of basic rules to follow. Watch all your usual motoring outlets like a hawk and don’t buy the first car you see.

Whatever you do though, don’t leave it too long as those winter prices will start to creep up to spring/summer levels.

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Getting The Best Car Insurance Quote

Car insurance is a necessary evil that all drivers have to endure.  It is one of the most expensive aspects of running a car and insurance companies seem to try and hike their prices up on an ongoing basis.

When it comes to car insurance there is a whole host of factors taken into account when working out your premium.  Two people driving exactly the same cars can receive insurance quotes that are literally hundreds, or even thousands of pounds different.  The reason is because insurance companies don’t just take into account the car that you are driving but they also take into account many aspects of you and your history as well as where you live.

Because there are so many factors to take into account, by far the best way to get the best insurance quote nowadays is to use an online comparison site.  Gone are the days when a whole day would have to be put aside to phone up dozens of companies and go through a twenty minute question-and-answer session with each broker.  An insurance comparison site will instantly show you the best price for you, your car and your circumstances.

However, don’t stop there.  Many people opt to then simply go ahead, click on the cheapest quote and proceed to enter their credit card details.  If the insurance company with the cheapest quote isn’t an “Online only” company then do not proceed to the checkout, instead, get their phone number and then call them up as if you are asking for a quote for the first time.  Then when they ask if you have had any prices already try quoting a couple of prices cheaper than the cheapest price you saw on the comparison site.  You will be amazed how many insurance companies will drop their price to meet a competitor’s quote.  Sometimes they simply won’t be able to do it but if they can then there is every chance that they will!

The thing is that insurance companies want your business and the person on the end of the phone gets a small bonus for getting your business.  Their website however is non-negotiable and there is no real person there incentivised to get you onboard.  By speaking to a real person who is financially motivated to get your business you will find that if there is a way to drop the price then they will.

Sometimes this can mean a saving of just a few pounds, but at the end of the day a five minute phone call is worth a few pounds.  In other cases though you will be surprised at just how much you can save.  If you are one of the unlucky people who have a very expensive insurance premium due to the kind of car you drive or your driving history then it is possible to save literally hundreds of pounds on what was already the cheapest quote in the first place!

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