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Education key to EV uptake

24 September 2012

Fleets need educating on how to introduce low carbon vehicles and the planning required to gain a real-life insight into the performance and potential savings they may bring.
That’s the view of Cenex, which says many companies are trialling electric or hybrid vehicles without first considering vehicle utilisation.
“The key thing is planning and analysis upfront rather than taking a vehicle from a manufacturer as a demo for a month and seeing how it goes,” said Chris Walsh, head of technical support and consultancy at Cenex.  “Fleets need to think about the characteristics of the vehicle, how to manage recharging and utilisation and, crucially, how to measure success.”
Cenex, the centre of excellence for low carbon and fuel cell technologies, is a delivery agency established to promote UK market development in low carbon and fuel cell technologies for transport applications. It receives support from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.  While an increasing number of fleets are employing hybrid technology, electric vehicles are yet to be adopted in large numbers, with range and purchase cost remaining the biggest stumbling blocks.
The latest figures available from the Department for Transport reveal that 1,706 claims have been made through the Plug-in Car Grant scheme while just 99 claims have been made through the Plug-in Van Grant scheme.  Nevertheless, Cenex believes that more fleets would embrace the technology if they employed more thorough trials when testing vehicles.  For example, it says that many companies will introduce electric or hybrid vehicles into their fleet on trial without placing them into the fleet’s usual operational cycle, which means they do not see the benefits of replacing their current vehicles and find it hard to justify because of the increase in outright cost.
“The safer route for many companies is that they keep things the way they are as their current fleet works, but if they do not run the vehicle like the rest of the fleet they will not see the full benefits,” said Walsh at the Cenex LCV 2012 event last week.  In the case of electric vehicles, the return on investment can take substantially longer if the vehicle is not properly utilised, as even with the various procurement schemes available, the lower the mileage, the longer the payback period will be.
“EVs are expensive vehicles to buy and save you money when you drive them,” said Walsh. “The more miles you drive, the more you save to offset the initial cost.”
The Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership also believes the Government should be doing more to educate companies on the benefits of low carbon vehicles.  “The Government has a key role to play in educating fleets on vehicle utilisation to try and think differently about how the vehicles are used,” said Andy Eastlake, from the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership. “There is more fragmentation of the vehicle market today and utilisation is much more important.”


UK should follow French fuel tax cut says RHA

05 September 2012

The French government has introduced a six cents per litre cut in fuel tax for three months to help stimulate the economy and the Road Haulage Association (RHA) is calling on the UK powers-that-be to follow suit.


Games Lanes back in action

29 August 2012

The Paralympic Route Network (PRN) comes into operation today, but will be much smaller than the Olympic Route Network (ORN).
Again, it will be focused on the City of London, where the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and world’s media will be based and venues in the east of London.  The PRN in London has just 8.7 miles of Games Lanes and, as was the case during the Olympics, these will be operated flexibly and opened to general traffic if demand from Paralympic vehicles is low.  There is a separate Games Lane on the M4, also part of the PRN and operated by the Highways Agency, which is already in operation. For more information about the PRN outside London, visit
During the Paralympic Games, motorists are urged to avoid driving around the PRN routes and venues, particularly around the Olympic Park in Stratford and on the A102 approach roads north and south of the Blackwall Tunnel.  The A2, A12 and A13 routes into London are also expected to be busier than usual, particularly in the morning peak. If driving is the only option, please plan ahead and allow more time for your journey.
A large number of spectators are also expected to watch the Paralympic Torch Relay today as it passes through a number of London boroughs before ending its journey at the Olympic Park for the Paralympic Games Opening Ceremony.
The Paralympic Torch Relay will be like a moving venue across London and there will be temporary restrictions on roads that form part of the route. Certain locations along the route will be busy with crowds, especially when the Torch reaches central London.  The Paralympic Opening Ceremony will take place in the Olympic Park this evening. The Jubilee Line, District Line, Central Line and DLR will be busier than usual in the evening.
A live site for 10,000 people will open today in Trafalgar Square from 11am, meaning nearby stations are expected to be busier than usual.


No change for petrol and diesel Advisory Fuel Rate

29 August 2012

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has published new Advisory Fuel Rates (AFRs) with no change to either petrol or diesel rates.
The rates, which organisations use to repay drivers for fuel used on business mileage, take effect from Saturday (September 1) and are reviewed quarterly.  There is a 1p per mile decrease for LPG cars with engines smaller than 1400cc and for those between 1401cc to 2000cc. The banding applying to cars over 2000cc has also been reduced, but by 2p per mile.
New rates in bold, previous rates in brackets.
1400cc or less 15p (15p)
1401cc to 2000cc 18p (18p)
 Over 2000cc 26p (26p)
 1600cc or less 12p (12p)
 1601cc to 2000cc 15p (15p)
 Over 2000cc 18p (18p)
 1400cc or less 10p (11p)
 1401cc to 2000cc 12p (13p)
 Over 2000cc 17p (19p)


New VW Golf details

29 August 2012

The Volkswagen Golf MkVII is nearly here, and Volkswagen has revealed a host of details on the new Golf, ahead of its official unveil on 4 September. The biggest news is that it will be bigger, 100kg lighter and that the most efficient BlueMotion model will emit just 85g/km of CO2.
VW has refused to release any official pictures of the car before 4 September, but this artist's impressions gives a good idea of how the car will look.
The new Golf is the first VW to be built on the new MQB platform, which was debuted by the new Audi A3. The Golf will be bigger than the car it replaces, too, with a wheelbase that's 59mm longer and a body that's 56mm longer, 13mm wider and 28mm lower. The front axle - which will come with a locking differential that was previously only on sports models to aid cornering - sits 48mm further forward, giving the Golf a larger footprint and better stability.
Despite its larger size, the Golf has shed an amazing 100kg across the range, which means the entry-level version will weigh just 1,150kg – you have to go back to the 1997 Mk IV to find a Golf that weighs as little as this.  The improvements are due to the use of high-strength steel and more advanced manufacturing processes that allow thinner, stronger body sections. The body itself now weighs 23kg less, but components – such as the air-conditioning (which saves 2.7kg) and the front seats (now 7kg lighter) – have been improved, too.
We had the chance to sit inside a prototype of the new Golf, and it has a markedly different feel to the current car. The driving position is 12mm lower, and the seat itself has more adjustability in length.  While there’s less headroom - thanks to the lower roofline and ride height - there’s more leg and elbow-room, with rear passengers benefitting from most of the 14mm increase in overall cabin length.  Stretched before the driver is a new ‘driver oriented’ cockpit, which in VW speak means that the centre console is angled towards the driver, not like the current car’s flatter set-up.
There's a new infotainment system, too, which uses a 5-inch display on entry-level models, a 5.8-inch colour display on mid-level cars and a massive 8-inch WVGA screen on range-topping models. While they’ll all be capable of controlling the audio and air-conditioning settings, high-end versions will feature 3D sat-nav and be combined with new ‘Heptactic’ touch, which senses your finger approaching the screen and switches from display to operating modes.  This is part of the increasing customer demand for technology: “We feel Haptic Touch is brand relevant. Phaeton has the same,” says Head of Electronic Development, Dr Volkmar Tanneberger.
The touchscreen can also be used to zoom in on maps, for instance, as well as select music from a 64GB hard-drive. Bluetooth, USB, auxillary and SD card connectivity, as well as the ability to read all file formats, ensure Golf owners won’t be without music.  The centre display also takes care of trip computer data, while the soft-touch dash is scalloped towards the driver, with more detailed switchgear and similar white-on-black instrumentation. The switchgear has a quality feel, while practicality is even better as the conventional handbrake has been replaced by a smaller, electronic version, allowing for a larger centre console.
The Golf is also big on safety, with Adaptive Cruise Control, City Emergency Braking, Front Assists and Lane Assist. For enthusiasts, there’s optional Dynamic Chassis Control and a ‘progressive’ steering set-up.  The boot is up by 30 litres, which means the new car will match the Ford Focus with 380 litres. Access will be excellent thanks to a wider opening and lower lip, as well as 60/40 split-fold rear seats.
VW has confirmed that its most efficient model, the Golf BlueMotion TDI, will achieve 88.3mpg and emit 85g/km - the best in class. Also confirmed is a 138bhp 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine, which achieves 58.8mpg.  On average, the new Golf is 23 per cent more fuel-efficient and produces 13.9 per cent less CO2 – these figures don’t include an all-electric version that’s due next year.
Production of the five-door model has already begun, with a 220bhp 2.0 TSI GTI concept expected to be shown at the Paris Motor Show. The Golf Plus, Estate and Cabriolet will continue in MKVI form for the time being.  The new Volkswagen Golf will make its public debut at the Paris Motor Show at the end of September, before  going on sale in December with first deliveries in January 2013. Prices are expected to start from around £15,000.

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