Tag Archive | "hybrid cars"

The Future Car Challenge

The first weekend in November sees the third annual running of the Future Car Challenge, organised by the RAC. It’s a sort of reverse version of the long established London to Brighton Vintage Car Run. It’s an opportunity for manufacturers to show their new automotive technologies, including fully electric, hybrids, hydrogen power and the very latest in ultra-frugal internal combustion engines. They can also put them through their paces on the 63 mile economy run to the Capital.

Clearly, the idea is, in the long term, to convince the buying public that these alternative methods of getting around are worth considering. The snag is that electric cars have hit the major stumbling block of range. Sales are flat and very disappointing. The cars are generally considered to be too expensive and it’s that initial outlay that puts buyers off.

Renault are countering this by offering to sell the cars more cheaply but lease the batteries. On the face of it this seems like a good idea but it raises the spectre of costing in this additional expense to the motorist, thereby eating into the savings made at the plug, as it were.

In a bid to reduce motoring costs generally, drivers are pretty willing to try these alternative power sources which explain the current popularity of hybrids. These cars offer the best of both worlds and the science behind it is becoming established. Jaguar, for example, are showing three of their prestige saloons – the XJ-ePHEV – fitted with 2.0L turbo engines coupled with 69kW motors instead of the stonking great power-plants of old. The company reckon that 80+mpg is possible with emissions slashed by 70%.

Couple these developments with the massive strides forward made by the engine builders who now produce clean, green and very frugal internal combustion engines that are capable of 100mpg and it’s hard to see where – at the present time – fully electric cars can get a look in.

Nevertheless, the Future Car Challenge is an important and interesting event. It has become abundantly clear that the alternative power bandwagon is an unstoppable force and we might as well get on board. Even if electric car technology is not yet sufficiently developed to suit the mainstream buyer, there are plenty of other cars that are meeting the increasingly stringent regulations. Hybrids are rapidly gaining popularity and cash-strapped motorists are turning to the small, fuel-sipping motors now available. This RAC event is a great showcase opportunity for manufacturers. Next year you might even see a hybrid Ferrari!

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Battery Powered Cars – Is it worth it?

You could be forgiven for thinking that the battery powered car is a new creation, however it has actually been with us for many decades and the concept of a car powered by an electrical battery has been with us for even longer.

It is only recently though since battery power has become a more viable option for powering a car.  Previous downfalls were the simple fact that battery technology simply wasn’t capable of providing enough power for long enough to make it a worthy contender to petrol. Batteries were often incredibly heavy and cumbersome and gave very poor performance, meaning cars that were incredibly slow.  Think of a milk float for example!

The other downfall of battery powered cars was the range.  Battery powered cars sometimes had a range of as low as 12 miles meaning that it was totally impractical for most car owners.

However, battery technology has advanced in leaps and bounds and now batteries are smaller, lighter and more powerful.  As well as this, designers have found ways of making the use of that power more efficient, meaning that the range of a battery powered car has drastically increased.

There is now also the infrastructure for battery powered cars beginning to pop up in major cities.  Take London for example, many of the car parks in central London now have battery charging points for people driving battery-powered vehicles.  This makes owning a battery powered car even more viable.

However, battery powered cars still do have a very limited range when compared to petrol vehicles and this can mean that long journeys are practically impossible.  Unfortunately the infrastructure simply does not exist outside of major cities and that means that on a journey from London to Manchester, for example, there would be nowhere to “refuel” a battery powered car.  This is where an electric car still falls short.

So, is it worth it?  Well, investing in a battery powered car means no petrol costs which straight away makes for some huge savings.  It also makes your car exempt from paying road tax, and if you are in London you are also exempt from the congestion charge.  These all combine to make some pretty significant savings.  Therefore, if you live in London and only ever really drive in London then the answer is most certainly yes, it is well worth it.  The range on an electric car nowadays is easily enough to get you around the city and to and from work with ease.  The savings will be absolutely huge and will make ownership well worthwhile.

If you live outside of a major city though then the benefits of ownership of a battery powered car can quickly be outweighed by the negatives.  The lack of charging points and infrastructure will make it practically impossible to leave your town or village or residence and means that you will always be keeping a beady eye on your battery meter as you panic that you won’t make it home.  Also, outside of the slow-crawling traffic of London and other cities you will quickly notice the lack of performance and speed.

In short, if you live in a built up and congested city that has charging points and infrastructure then you are on to a sure winner.  If you live outside of these areas then it is probably waiting a few more years for things to improve a bit more.

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