Category Archives: Cars

DIESEL FINISHED?

New global measures are clearly identifying diesel engines as the main culprit regarding urban air pollution. What does this mean for the future of diesel? What penalties await owners of diesel vehicles? What happened to the promises made to buyers of diesel cars?

Less than two decades ago, vehicle owners were encouraged to purchase diesel cars and incentives such as lower road tax lead many to the showrooms to help do their bit for the environment and save a few pennies into the bargain. Yet today things are very different and diesel owners face a myriad of rising costs from purchase to parking. Justifiably many also feel let down and frustrated by the direct shift in attitude but how did it all come about?

What has changed?

Back in the early 2000s the main focus of environmental issues was to reduce carbon emissions. No bad thing of course, whatever your view on the role played by man in climate change, cleaner air is always something to strive for. This led to the diesel engine becoming the green champion of the highways. With its high MPG and low CO2 output they flew the flag for a greener, cleaner world.

However since those days the pollution levels of major cities has increased to such a point that the whole diesel landscape has shifted dramatically. This time it isn’t carbon at the core of the argument but its sinister cousin nitrogen. Diesel emits several forms of nitric gases, labelled under the general term NOx.  They include Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) and Nitrous Oxide (N2O) which are the gases found to be the most active in urban pollution. So its away with the shining armour and a lady’s colours flowing proudly from its lance and into the village green stocks to be pelted with rotten tomatoes and have abuse screamed in its ears. Such is the fickle nature of the diesel’s fate.

Penalties

Governments across the globe are starting to implement measures to combat the rise of pollution by banning diesels from entering their walls. Berlin began by banning diesels when air quality was dangerously low back in 2008. Paris has just introduced a similar scheme and alongside Mexico City, Athens and Madrid have further schemes to ban diesels altogether from the mid-2020s. In April 2017 Westminster is introducing a pilot scheme to charge diesels 50% more than petrol cars to park in the district. Add in talk of scrappage schemes, higher road tax and these proposed increases to parking charges and we have a multi-pronged attack on the engine and its owners.

The Future

It’s hard to predict what future the diesel engine has. You only have to look at the change in attitudes in just 15 years to see that it could happen again in the opposite direction. However at the moment it has to be a very uncertain future. Buyers will be looking to save money and will clearly not be attracted to a new vehicle if it comes with higher road tax, parking charges and limitations regarding access to urban areas.

The motor industry has faced many mixed messages in its life and that has only been exacerbated by recent news that vehicle duty is also set to rise markedly for electric/hybrid vehicles as well. If it isn’t the end for diesel it could well be the beginning of the end, for non-business or industry users at any rate. During the next decade more will become clear but for now the future for diesel is as shrouded in mystery as the clouds of fumes that emanate from its exhaust.

COMPANY FLEET OPERATORS: ELECTRIC CARS A REALITY OR A DISTANT DREAM?

As the human race continues its quest to lessen its carbon footprint electric cars are gradually becoming more popular. Charging stations are far more numerous today and designs and options are improving across the board. However for many businesses it is still going to take a fairly substantial leap of faith to “go electric” but should it given what is available now?

The key factors for any business will be the financial impact and practicality. If neither of these issues cannot be worked out then the desire to help clean up the atmosphere and reduce carbon outputs won’t even get off the ground. If a business owner can’t afford to run electric cars and they don’t get the staff to the desired location then, with all the best will in the world, it isn’t going to happen. So where are we today regarding costs and the ability for a fleet to be able to operate widely across the country?

The basic situation regarding finance is that the initial outlay will be higher than a petrol/diesel vehicle but the ongoing running and maintenance costs will be considerably cheaper. For example, in 2016, the electric versions of the VW Golf and Ford Focus come in at just over £30k. The benefits are that the vehicles are eligible for grant subsidy ranging from around £2500 up to £8000 but this is very model and usage specific and we won’t cover that level of detail in this guide. Lease options are varied and take into account range, usage and model as one would expect with any vehicle/fleet purchase.

Regarding practicality the situation is certainly now much more manageable. There are many, many more charging points across the UK and as one would expect they are heavily biased toward more urban and motorway laden areas. Good news for most businesses but a concern for anyone who needs to make a decent amount of rural trips. Charging times are improving and there are options to charge at home or at the workplace, where again a subsidy may come into play to help fund the costs. Other than charging the other main concern is range and that too is making leaps and bounds. Many models now have a range in excess of 100 miles and the top of the class version can manage more than 300 miles but, as ever, the price will reflect that and can push £100k at purchase point.

With environmental targets part of the legislative process electric cars are at the forefront. The Government forecasts that by 2027 up to 50% of new cars sold will be electric and whilst this may be ambitious it won’t halt the number of charging outlets, sweeteners, discounts and increase in the actual vehicles made. It is likely to be a boom industry over the next decade and you can be confident that the incentives will be materially significant for businesses.

Market leaders can provide specialist advice, charging station maps, finance options and just about anything else that you’d need to consider for your own corporate fleet. Electric cars are certainly no longer a running joke, they are out there already working for many businesses and if it suits you to have a low running cost based operation, with mainly urban or motorway usage then it’s definitely a realistic option.

Driving in Wet Conditions

As a result of the recent heavy rainfall, wet driving conditions and flooding are something many parts of the country have had to contend with. As well as being severely damaging for the homeowners affected, flooding can also be dangerous to drivers causing all sorts of problems on the roads which can lead to unexpected breakdowns. Below is some advice for how to deal with driving in severely wet conditions:

Heavy Rainfall

In heavy rainfall it’s really important to remember to at least double your stopping distance as road surfaces will be slippy and always use your headlights if visibility is less than 100m as stated in the Highway Code.

If you do breakdown in heavy rain, refrain from opening the bonnet if it’s possible as a significant amount of water on the engine can be damaging. Wait for the experts from Breakdown Direct to arrive before attempting to solve the problem.

Standing Water/Flood Water

Never drive through fast moving flood water

It’s always the best option to avoid driving through standing water if possible. However, if you have to go through it, always take it very slowly, drive in a low gear and do not stop until you have got through the water completely. Driving fast can cause water to get into your engine and have costly consequences.

Looking out for gullies or dips in the road where flood water will be deeper is wise and easier to avoid if you know the area. If it’s possible to do so, stop and see how other cars navigate the water before progressing – even if just a small amount of water gets into the engine it can be damaging.

Once through the flood water, always dry out your brakes by testing them gently.

Aquaplaning

Avoid Aquaplaning – where the pressure from the water outweighs the pressure of the tyres on the road surface. Aquaplaning can cause a loss of control when steering, braking or accelerating so can be very dangerous as you can potentially completely lose control of your vehicle. To prevent it, check your tyre pressure regularly, ensure you have sufficient tread depth and go very slowly through standing water. If it does happen and you’re effectively surfing on top of the water, resist the urge to break.

It’s always best to be prepared for all eventualities, and with more heavy rain forecast for the beginning of the year, ensuring you have the best breakdown cover from Breakdown Direct is essential.

What To Do If You Break Down?

Breaking down, whether you’re on the motorway or on the street, can be dangerous, which is why it’s important to know what to do when it happens.

Before You Set Off

Make sure that you have breakdown cover. If you’re going abroad, make sure that your cover extends to the country you’re visiting. Have all the relevant information handy, such as the number for your provider and your policy certificate. Put the number in your phone.

Look after your car. The better maintained your car is, the better it will perform.

Have a reflective jacket and a waterproof in your car, and in the winter, have a rug and some emergency food in the car too.

If You Break Down

If you’re on the motorway and your vehicle develops a problem that you’re concerned about, then you should leave the motorway at the nearest available exit or stop at the nearest service area. If you can’t, then you should pull on to the hard shoulder, ideally next to an emergency telephone.

You shouldn’t use the hard shoulder for using the toilet, using a mobile phone or to check a route or a map.

Once on the Hard Shoulder

Try to leave your vehicle as far to the left as possible and leave by the left hand door. Leave your sidelights on.

The Highway Code recommends that you leave any animals in the vehicle, or if you are confident that you can keep the animal under control, on the verge. Children should be kept well away from the carriageway.

Head to the nearest emergency telephone, following the arrows on the posts. The telephone is free to use and connects directly to the Highways Agency or the Police. Give as much detail as you can, letting them know whether you’re vulnerable, such as disabled or travelling alone.

Call your breakdown cover provider after you’ve talked to the Highways Agency.

Return to your vehicle, away from the hard shoulder on the verge. If you feel vulnerable, then get back in your vehicle and lock all your doors. You should leave your vehicle when you’re happy that the danger has passed.

Don’t try to fix the problem yourself.

If you are disabled and unable to leave the vehicle, then stay in the vehicle, seatbelt on, with hazard warning lights on.

Returning to the Carriageway

Build up speed on the hard shoulder before rejoining the motorway.

On Other Roads

When you realise that you have a problem, find a safe place away from traffic to park your car. Use your red warning triangle to warn any oncoming traffic about your stationary car. Call for assistance and then sit in your car and wait, assuming that your car is safely parked.

How does the VW Emissions Scandal Affect Me?

As the scandal that currently engulfs VW becomes clearer, it’s likely you’re beginning to wonder how it might affect you. With around 11 million cars affected worldwide, Volkswagen has stated it will fix the software used to cheat emissions tests fitted on diesel cars between 2009 and 2015. Here’s how it affects you.

Is the software fitted in my car?

The easiest way to know whether you’re affected is to check your V5C document and service books. The scandal affects vehicles with an EA 189 diesel engine. If you’re unsure, you can also call VW’s customer care centre.

Also remember that your car can be from a different manufacturer and still be affected. These manufacturers include Audi, Skoda and Seat. So, if you have one of these vehicles, check your engine, too.

Will my car be recalled?

VW expect to contact all the customers affected over the course of the next month as per their “action plan”. As part of this, they will fix the software free of charge. Crucially, however, there will not be a formal recall, as this only happens in the UK when a defect “could result in serious injury”.

Overall, the defect affects almost 1.2 million diesel cars in Britain, so fixing them all will take time. VW hope to have fixed all the cars affected by 2017, so don’t panic if you’re not contacted immediately. The defect doesn’t affect the car’s roadworthiness.

As the owner of the car, you’re also not obligated to have your car modified, and the Department for Transport have confirmed that not returning the vehicle wouldn’t be illegal. However, it is worth noting that a failure to return the car could affect the warranty of the car or its resale value. Ultimately, although not a legal requirement, it is in the interests of the owner to get the problem fixed.

Will this affect my resale value?

With VW’s stock market price plummeting following the news, it is perhaps unsurprising that early signs indicate that the resale value of VW’s has taken a slight knock. Data shows that the resale value of used VW cars fell 0.2pc in September versus a 2.8pc rise in the wider market. Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean that this will be a long-term trend, and it may be a short-term consequence.

If you think you may sell your VW in the future, it would be advisable to keep all documentation regarding the correction of the software. This way, when selling, you can prove to the new buyer that you’ve had the issue corrected.

Studies Show a Record High Turnover for UK Automotive Sector

According to the figures from a study by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) into the UK’s automotive production industry, 2014 saw an all-time record high in turnover. Here, we take a closer look at what some of these record-breaking figures are and why the UK has experienced such a positive step forward. Also we’ll consider what the future could bring for the industry and drivers alike.

Record-breaking Figures

The key stats released in the report itself included:

  • Turnover ‘hitting an all-time high of £69.5 billion’
  • Vehicle production being the ‘highest since 2008, with industry on track to produce a record 1.95 million vehicles in the next two years’
  • Across ‘each of the five years to 2014, an average of 11.5 vehicles were produced for every person employed in the industry’
  • That ‘international demand for British-made vehicles also continues to increase with total export value rising 1.8% to £34.6 billion – a staggering 103.8% uplift since 2000’

The Reasons for the Boom

While this is unquestionably positive for British industry, and indeed the workers involved in the production of vehicles, what has caused this to happen?

Firstly, as aforementioned, there’s the huge rise in international demand for British-made cars, engines and automotive components, as well as a rise in the demand for new cars here in the UK. Also, there’s the improvements in the effectiveness of industry facilities as this article from the Independent into the SMMT study details as ‘more efficient, high-tech manufacturing processes’ leading to ‘huge gains in productivity’.

A similar article into the study from Motoring Research, suggests another reason for the boom is because the work force is strong and dedicated. This is because of stats including how ‘staff turnover fell from 10% in 2000 to 5.6% in 2014’ and ‘Lost time incidents per 1,000 employees fell by nearly 29% in 2014 alone – a record low’.

Furthermore this article details how the UK automotive industry is one of the greenest in the world. It claims that production ‘used 10.4% less energy in 2014, 10.7% less water and sent a staggering 26.3% less waste to landfill. This alone is down over 90% compared to 2002’.

What this Might Mean for the Future

In the immediate future it’s safe to assume that we’ll be seeing more British-made cars on our roads, with the increased supply. Beyond this though, the SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes warned that more investment will be needed to ‘expand in a fiercely competitive global market’. The hope then is this will be realised and soon the UK could once again be a leading name in the vehicle industry.

Amazing Tech You Can Find in Modern Vehicles

While we may often wonder what the future will bring for our cars and what technologies will one day become a part of our driving experience, we sometimes overlook the incredible tech that’s available now. Many major vehicle manufacturers have some very impressive gadgets and features that you can enjoy today, some of which come as standard in certain models.

To give you a clearer idea of just what’s on offer, in this post you’ll find a selection of these technologies from a variety of different brands.

Land Rover

Land Rover are famed for their array of powerful and durable vehicles, however several also come with quite innovative ‘InControl’ systems. These connect to your smartphone or tablet device through an app and allow you to communicate and interact with your car in a number of ways. You can:

-          Check your fuel levels, locate your car and check if you’ve left lights on or windows open

-          Use other apps from your phone via the console inside the car

-          Track your vehicle location if it gets stolen

Volvo

In their new XC90 range, Volvo have introduced a new safety feature known as ‘Pilot Assist’. As you might have guessed from the name, this technology helps keep you a set time distance away from the vehicle in front. Using clever mounted cameras and distance readers on the front of the car (and also at the side to measure where road markings are) the car automatically maintains a certain speed to ensure you stay at your chosen safe distance.

BMW

Some of the new BMW range feature state-of-the-art laser headlight devices. They may look like normal headlights but the lasers used within them are claimed to improve visibility by up to 600 metres; making them much more powerful. At the same time, the lasers are more energy efficient than other LED headlights you can find.

The above is just a small selection of what’s available. With a little research you can find that the majority of manufacturers have some form of great gadgetry on offer. A final thing to bear in mind however is technologies aren’t always 100% failsafe; so as with any vehicle, comprehensive insurance and breakdown cover is something worth investing in, just to be on the safe side.

Biodiesel: The Future of Fuel?

In 2008 the UK Government introduced ‘The Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO)’ which is ‘intended to deliver reductions in carbon dioxide emissions from fuel used for transport purposes by encouraging the supply of renewable fuels’. Such reductions apply to all road vehicles and non-road mobile machinery and are in place to help ensure the country meets EU targets including the ‘Renewable Energy Directive’.

Now in the seventh year of its application, recent studies have shown that biodiesel accounts for half of the ‘1,356 million litres’ of renewable fuels that have been supplied so far. This would suggest that biodiesel could be a viable option to meet future demand. So what exactly is biodiesel and how is it used in the UK?

Biodiesel Explained

In a nutshell, biodiesel is fuel made from converting substances including crops, vegetable oil, cooking oil and animal fats into a form of diesel. This is done through a process called ‘transesterification’ where other chemicals are added to make the biodiesel appropriate for use in vehicles. You can find out more about the scientific methods here.

How does it Help Meet Emissions Targets?

While you still get some emissions from burning biodiesel, these are far lower than typical fossil fuels. Equally, biodiesel is considered ‘carbon-neutral’ rather than carbon free because the C02 it creates is balanced out by the amount absorbed by the crops used to create it. Also it is far less harmful than normal diesel and biodegrades much faster.

How Easy is it to Find?

Biodiesel is more readily available than you might think. There are already several established biodiesel producers in the UK and demand is continuing to grow. In this article for Biodiesel Magazine for instance, it shows how one firm, Greenergy, recently expanded their operations to ‘meet more of its obligations domestically’. There’s also a number of biodiesel filling stations nationwide, details of which can be found here.

Options for your Vehicle

Standard diesel engines built after 1993 can use biodiesel ‘without negative impacts to operating performance’ according to Biodiesel.com. The site’s FAQ also details some of the minor modifications that can be made to older vehicles and with a little research you can also find cars manufactured especially for biodiesel use.

While they might be more beneficial for the environment, remember alternative fuel-powered vehicles aren’t indestructible. So if you are considering investing in converting, or purchasing one specifically for biodiesel, then be sure you also have the right insurance and breakdown cover in place as well, just in case.

Preparing Your Vehicle for Wet Weather Travel

Despite the summer months drawing ever closer, we don’t seem quite able to say goodbye to the adverse weather conditions quite yet, and as such, ensuring your vehicle is prepared for the possibility of wet weather is crucial. As a result, whether you are simply making the daily commute to and from work, or are instead embarking on a lengthier journey than usual, it is essential to stay vigilant whilst on the road at all times.

Although it is often the preferred outcome of many to stay off the road entirely during such weather, this isn’t always possible or practical, and instead, other solutions must be sought to make the necessary journey safe. Here are a few helpful tips to keep in mind to reduce the outcome of an accident during particularly wet weather.

Take It Slow

Allow yourself more time than usual to travel, as it takes time to fully adjust to wet weather, and you may have to drive more slowly than usual in particularly wet areas. It is crucial that you do not drive through conditions such as flooding and severe hail, as these are more likely to cause an accident, or cause damage to your vehicle.

Accept Turning Back

Unless your journey is absolutely necessary, understand that there may be the possibility that you will have to forfeit your journey for another time if you feel the conditions might be too dangerous. If there are high winds, heavy thunderstorms and even lightening, traveling is a definite no-go, as it can lead to deadly driving conditions.

Prepare Your Vehicle

It may seem obvious, but giving your vehicle a regular check-up will help you judge whether if it is up for managing particularly wet weather. More specifically, checking tyres, window wipers and lights are key essentials to making sure your car is up to the standard required to handle such weather while driving.

Listen To Updates

Keeping up to date with current road works via radio and weather conditions is good way of judging whether or not your journey is going to cause issues. However, if you do happen to be already on the road then it is a good way of gauging which roads will be safer for your car to take.

While these are only a few tips on keeping safe on the road during wet weather, they should enable you to experience a journey that is free from anything too treacherous. So next time you are going on the road during such conditions, take these into consideration.

Petrol vs. Diesel: Which Should You Choose?

If you’re buying a new car, then you may be stuck with the decision between petrol and diesel. Both have advantages and disadvantages, and the one that you choose will depend on your circumstances and the type of driving that you’re doing.

The Advantages of Diesel

Diesel engines are being developed to be just as good in terms of performances, smoothness and noise levels – they are definitely quieter than they used to be. They are also able to produce high torque at low speeds, which means that they are good for overtaking and towing. Diesel engines will give you more miles per gallon, on average up to 15-20% more than petrol equivalents.

Diesel has lower CO2 emission levels, which means that they have lower road tax bands than petrol.

The Advantages of Petrol

Petrol is quieter, though there isn’t enough of a difference between them for this to warrant a real reason to plump for petrol instead of diesel. Cars with petrol engines are cheaper to buy, and petrol itself is cheaper at the pump too. Petrol vehicles are closing the gap in terms of efficiency and environmental impact too.

If you’re looking for a speedy car, then petrol may be the choice for you – petrol engines tend to weigh less than diesel.

How to Make the Decision

When making the decision, there are four factors that you need to take into consideration:

-          Mileage per year

-          Vehicle fuel economy (MPG)

-          Fuel cost per gallon

-          Road tax

Calculate these things with regards to potential petrol and diesel cars and you should be able to see which is better for you, and crucially which is more affordable, as a driver.

More often than not, if you intend to on driving a lot, then it is usually work paying more and going for diesel, but if you don’t drive that much, then paying less for the car itself will work better for you.

 Tip: Vehicle purchase price and resell value

If you’re looking to save money, then this is one of the best ways to do it. Buy a used car for a really good purchase price, then sell it a year later for a similar price, and you’ll eliminate a loss. You’ll need to buy competitively and sell it for its market value, which seems like a lot of work but it could save you thousands.