White Goods, the Future of Motoring

Someone observed to me the other day that he considered cars are now just white goods and because we are both hardened Petrol Heads we mourned the passing of motoring as a pleasure, a pastime, a way of life, a source of endless conversation, an interesting method of travel, a trove of stories but above all an endless stream of expense, frustration and joy. I now consider the golden age of motoring to be over and it has gone beyond the usual arguments of traffic, cost and the uniformity of current vehicles.

M25 traffic jam.

Ask any motorist, commuter or someone who drives for a living, what their main issue is and the answer is usually traffic. Hold-ups on the M25, accidents on the M62, road works on the ring road (of any city) and they all contribute to delay, frustration and cost. There are also the stringent rules and regulations that have one overriding objective, financially milk the motorist.

The Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of a vehicle is an exercise best avoided if one wishes to retain one’s sanity, especially depreciation, but even the everyday running costs can make one squirm. Public transport is touted as a panacea to our travel problems, especially by left-leaning liberal Londoners, but I do not enjoy sharing my personal space with a stranger whose hygiene may be questionable and their taste in music or politics or religion at odds with ones own.

15 Years! Is that all?

And now the Government, in its misguided omniscient way has concluded that battery power is the way to go, having learnt nothing from its disastrous diesel decision. 15 years! That’s all we have apparently to massively upgrade the electric infrastructure and build immense new power stations. We are so poor at building huge civil engineering projects on time and on budget, look at how HS2 has increased in cost!

There is a wealth of information on electric cars on the internet but a very interesting take on the current viability of a Jaguar i-Pace is given by Harry Metcalf (YouTube Video). Harry is a keen Petrol Head and in this video he makes some astute observations about motoring in battery-powered cars, not least that the charging system is very poor (unless you have a Tesla).  Electric vehicles are least economical on motorways at a constant speed, they seem to work best in stop start situations.  The speed of recharging is currently woeful and I understand that these vehicles cannot be towed so running out of volts on a busy road is to be avoided.  In conclusion Harry will use the Jaguar for short town journeys but if he needs to go some distance then it’s the Range Rover!

More power!

Now I am not sure what the answer is, but I do believe that we are headed in the wrong direction. The infrastructure is not there and not just the lack of power generation although several Hinkley Points are not the solution. In the village where I live the grid will need to be upgraded if just 10% of the residents decide to install a 7KW charger, the power lines will not cope. We are also told that gas and solid fuel will soon be verboten and so everyone will have to use electric heating. Madness!

The most likely answer is Hydrogen. These people seem to be leading the way, but there will be others. Quite a good Autocar article here. The future is bright if market forces, driven by demand is allowed to be given its head, just keep the politicians out of it.

BMW 1 Series joins the family

BMW 1 Series joins the family

“Oh Gawd, now I’ve gone an’ done it, I’ve only gone an’ bought a Beemer…”
Well, it’s a 1 Series to be precise. A BMW 118D Sport. The word Sport has pushed up the insurance a little, but my views on insurance costs are well known.
Any way, the new beast is a 5 door white 62 plate Beemer, BMWExterioronly the second one I’ve had, although Mrs S’s X5 is still the best car we’ve ever owned. I used to have a BMW535i, a fantastic saloon, Y reg, that was more than capable of eating up the miles and petrol. This one is a little more prosaic, being only 2.0 Litre and also a manual.  It is claimed BMWInsideto do 62mpg, and I shall be reporting back here as to the veracity of the claim.  I will say that the soon to be departed Merc 350 petrol returned an average of 28.6mpg, which I though quite remarkable for a V6 3.5 Litre engine running an automatic ‘box.

I am quite looking forward to driving it, I am sometimes called upon to drive long distances so we shall see how good it is over the long haul.

Diesel Engines

Diesel Engines

Been having a ride in a BMW 1 series today, more precisely 2 cars, a 1.6 petrol automatic and a 2.0 ltr diesel (118d).  The old C350 Merc is starting to show her age and number 2 son is also starting driving lessons so I have decided to ‘downsize’ to a manual car so that No. 2 can practice his skills.  BMW116PetrolThis one here is the petrol version, and a jolly fine car, although it is automatic so cannot really be considered for the junior offspring.  I was pleasantly surprised by the performance, in my day 1.6 litre was considered a little pathetic, but diesel was never an option in this sort of engine size.

Next up was the 118d, the salesman suggested it as a contrast and I had some time to spare…

WOW!  The 2.0 litre engine has some punch, smooth, pulls well from 1500rpm and goes like a train.  This is not what diesels are supposed to be like, where was the death rattle, the harsh vibrations, the black smoke?  60mpg!  What’s not to like.  If I can find one with climate control then a sale is made.  No. 2 will not be allowed near it.

Petrol or Diesel?

Accurate figures are hard to come by, but my best estimate is that diesel cars account for around 50% of the car market at present and that share is increasing. Some time ago I read an article about the contents of a barrel of oil and the figures are as follows:

Product Gallons Percentage
gasoline 19.5 44.12%
distillate fuel oil (Includes home heating oil and diesel fuel) 9.2 20.81%
kerosene-type jet fuel 4.1 9.28%
residual fuel oil (Heavy oils used as fuels in industry,
marine transportation and for electric power generation)
2.3 5.20%
liquefied refinery gasses 1.9 4.30%
still gas 1.9 4.30%
coke 1.8 4.07%
asphalt and road oil 1.3 2.94%
petrochemical feedstocks 1.2 2.71%
lubricants 0.5 1.13%
kerosene 0.2 0.45%
other 0.3 0.68%

Discounting the differences in fuel consumption between the two engine types I think that there is a glaring anomaly here. We are producing twice as much petrol as diesel for the same number of vehicles of each type, so the question is: How is it accounted for, where is all the surplus petrol going?

I understand that there are far too many variables to grapple with, and that a barrel of oil varies in consistency and content depending on its geographical area of production but I don’t understand why there is no information available for the discrepancies. Note also that the “Distillate Fuel Oil” covers heating oils too, so there is a bigger difference.

Over time I have remarked upon this to various people but no credible answer has been given…. Can you help?

Lancia in reverse

An old joke about Italian tanks having 7 reverse gears reminded me of an amusing incident some years ago:
We were driving from the pub, the Windmill at Linton at closing time; in those days pubs closed at ten thirty sharp. As we were still thirsty several of use decided to go to the pub in the next village which we knew would have a ‘lock in’ and serve beer after hours. My chum Alex set off first in his rather nice Lancia, a good car if a little unreliable. We followed in Nick’s Austin Landcrab, a comfy six cylinder machine with armchairs for seats. Although not a fast car Nick could really make it move and we drove quite quickly to keep up with the Lancia. As we were leaving the village I think Alex must have thought we were not following as we saw up ahead the Lancia brake and then the reversing lights came on. It started to reverse quite fast. Nick came to an emergency stop but the Lancia kept coming. It should be noted at this point that Alex is fairly rotund, could not comfortably turn his head very far and was accustomed to reversing using the mirrors. We realised that he had not seen us and thinking quickly Nick threw the Austin into reverse and started to back away. Still the Lancia kept coming. We were going backwards at top speed, the engine screaming…. but the Lancia was much faster. It hit us square on, I’m not sure what was going on in Alex’s beer fuelled mind, but he stopped and put the car into first and drove off.
We followed to the pub, at a safe distance, and questioned him as to what he was doing. He replied that he had not seen us, decided to come back to find us but hit something so carried on to the pub! Fortunately there was little damage to either car.