Fuel consumption tests

They are trying to change the rules for “official” fuel consumptions. Like the recent yes-no diesel fiasco it’s another example of a politicians’ fix. They created what they thought was an equable system, then discovered they really didn’t know what they were doing. As a road tester I found out how difficult it was to measure fuel consumption accurately. Frugal little saloons gulped fuel driven fast. Gas-guzzlers were surprisingly economical going slowly.

In the 1970s legislators decreed that manufacturers had been telling lies. A formula for working out fuel consumption was no easier for an official mind to work out than mine had been. A single mpg wouldn’t do. There had to be one at a steady slow speed, one at a steady motorway speed and one in traffic. It never worked very well. A slow-speed fuel-sipper could be a gushing drain going fast. Low-geared economy cars could be disappointing in town. A high-geared one could flatter only to deceive on the open road. Introducing Urban Cycle and Extra-Urban Cycle didn’t help much.

Even officials admit the figures are obtained under specific test conditions, “…and may not be achieved in ‘real life’ driving. A range of factors influence actual fuel consumption, driving style and behaviour, as well as the environment. Different variants or versions of one model are grouped together so the figures should be treated as indicative only.”

Averaging out the figures didn’t help. Last year testers were discovered taping up car doors and windows and driving on artificially smooth surfaces to gain a drop in “official” CO2 emissions, linked with fuel consumptions. Now, according to an anonymous EU official who blabbed to Automotive News, proposals for “a new real-world testing method,” are expected this year.

Delingpole on soapbox

James Delingpole’s blog is right about everything and today’s, following Ed Davey’s stupid speech about climate, is no exception. I can do no better than quote. “Here,” Delingpole says, “We have a minister of the crown reproducing a string of complete untruths at a deeply discredited, eye-wateringly expensive, taxpayer-funded rip-off institution long past its sell-by date (that'll be you, Met Office) as a desperate and cynical measure to try to push through an Energy Bill guaranteed to make every household in Britain considerably poorer, to make energy more ruinously expensive, to make British business less competitive, and to ruin our landscape with even more bat-chomping, bird-slicing eco-crucifixes.

“Ed Davey is a disgrace and an embarrassment – by some way (and it's not like there's any shortage of competition) the most damaging and dangerous minister in Cameron's Coalition of the useless. Why is he not being called to account for this farrago of nonsense? Why aren't the true Conservatives in the Coalition demanding that he be sacked? How can any government which genuinely cares about the state of our economy, our countryside and people's falling standards of living allow this anti-scientific, green ideological nonsense to hijack the political agenda?”

What will it take, I wonder, to convince the powers-that-were to cease this ruinous charade, pretending we can manipulate the weather? Politicians used to set up small wars to take our mind off taxes and their self-serving projects. Now they create a department of climate change. Canute knew better. He sat on the beach only to convince his nobles that the tide waited for no man.

Ah. Soapboxes. This Beatles-inspired yellow submarine, a police car and a black cab are making ready for the Red Bull Soapbox race at Alexandra Palace on 14 July. Apparently each took three weeks to make from BMX bicycle wheels, plywood, polystyrene and cardboard tubing. The covering is plastazote foam, the number plates vinyl.

It is nine years since the last soapbox race and 70 of the human-powered machines will compete. Winners will be assessed on speed, creativity and how much they please the crowds. Red Bull Soapbox Race 2013 is at Alexandra Palace on Sunday 14 July to book your £5 ticket visit www.redbullsoapboxrace.co.uk. It will be £5 better spent than the billions wasted in Ed Davey’s grotesque and wasteful vanity projects.


A “Growth Partnership Company (which) works in collaboration with clients to leverage visionary innovation that addresses the global challenges and related growth opportunities that will make or break today's market participants,” makes me suspicious. It “supports clients by addressing these opportunities and incorporating two key elements driving visionary innovation: The Integrated Value Proposition and The Partnership Infrastructure. (This) provides support to our clients throughout all phases of their journey to visionary innovation including: research, analysis, strategy, vision, innovation and implementation. (It) is entirely unique as it constructs the foundation upon which visionary innovation becomes possible. This includes our 360 degree research, comprehensive industry coverage, career best practices as well as our global footprint of more than 40 offices. For more than 50 years, we have been developing growth strategies for the global 1000, emerging businesses, the public sector and the investment community. Is your organization prepared for the next profound wave of industry convergence, disruptive technologies, increasing competitive intensity, Mega Trends, breakthrough best practices, changing customer dynamics and emerging economies?”

How do they expect to be taken seriously with such cliché-ridden verbiage? It almost goes without saying that it’s an agency engaged on selling us electric car stuff. It claims “the European Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Market is Becoming Increasingly Self Sustaining. Market to be bolstered by improved strategic access to charging stations and development of robust business models. The electric vehicle (EV) charging industry in Europe is in the midst of transformation, with the focus on ramping up EV charging infrastructure for the rapidly expanding EV market. Significant growth is on the cards as participants from various verticals such as industrial automation, utilities, parking operators and infrastructure operators enter the fray. This development is also set to help the EV market wean itself off government subsidies and incentives, while becoming increasingly self-sustaining.”

“I have seen the future, and it works,” trilled American journalist and social activist Lincoln Steffens (1866-1936). He had been to Russia in 1919 and the Revolution was still new. Many dotty luminaries followed, persuaded by Soviet minders that collectivism was a success, fulfilling their Fabian visions.

Well, Russia was not the future. It didn’t work.

Idealists only want their prejudices approved and electric car enthusiasts who only think that after a bit of research the battery “problem” will be solved are as deluded as the promoters of the electric car vehicle charging infrastructure. I’ve lost count of the Great Electric Car initiatives that have come and gone. Some have failed expensively and publicly once their glib opportunistic entrepreneurs have soaked up subsidies and investments by stupid governments and Greenie authorities.

“New analysis, Strategic Technology and Market Analysis of Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure in Europe, finds that the market for EV charging stations is expected to grow rapidly from 7,250 charging stations in 2012 to over 3.1 million by 2019 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 113.3 per cent over the period 2012-2019. France, Germany, Norway and the United Kingdom are expected to lead the market due to the high adoption rates of EVs in these countries. The availability of charging infrastructure plays a vital role in ensuring that EVs maintain their growth momentum. This, in turn, means easy access to charging stations to eliminate range anxiety and ensure that EV users have the freedom to drive for longer periods of time.”

I won’t bother you with the identity of the growth partnership purveyor. It wasn’t Elektromotive, whose charging stations are featured in the pictures. Search 360 degree, comprehensive industry coverage, career best practices, global footprint.

I see the “annual” London to Brighton electric car challenge has been cancelled.


Spin doctors and politicians – they are practically interchangeable. With such media hype it’s a wonder we ever get to the truth. Patrick McLoughlin the transport secretary told Sky News yesterday that electric cars were “fantastic”. Nobody contradicted him. Nobody said, “Get a life. It’s not true. It is a myth invented by greenies and political fellow-travellers. Electric cars are dead.”

He claimed: “They’re not town cars at all. They are fantastic cars; they’re built to a very high specification. Take one out and drive it.” Patrick McLoughlin aka Jim Hacker. Yes Minister was no comedy. It was a real life documentary. McLoughlin will be at the Ministry this morning making sure Sir Humphrey saw him on television, announcing a £37 million giveaway for plug-in chargers in homes, streets and railway stations.

The minister trumpeted that people would be increasingly attracted to electric cars, because charging batteries at home would be cheaper and faster than buying fuel at a filling station. What claptrap. He admitted confidence in electric cars would take time but the same was true of unleaded petrol.
“Buying a car is expensive, but I think if you look at the overall time and money you save by not having to put fuel in them, they are very serious competitors,” he said. “I’m pretty sure there will be a market. It’s a lot cleaner technology as well.” Who spun him all this rubbish? We have been listening to such bleats for a quarter of a century and there are still only a handful of electric cars.
He was careful to backtrack on numbers, “I’m not going to make a prediction of exactly how many cars are going to be on the roads or whether they’ll be electric or petrol. It’ll take a while to get the confidence about battery life. But it’s coming. They are fantastic developments and fantastic achievements by companies operating in Britain and being built by British engineers.”

Poor McLoughlin. He warbled on that since Nissan and Toyota are investing “huge amounts of money” in electric vehicles they would not be doing so if they did not believe a potential market existed. He obviously had no idea a Prius is a hybrid, and nobody told him Toyota has just scrapped plans for an electric minicar. Toyota said it had misread the market, didn’t believe battery technology was up to it and will go for hydrogen instead.

More weather

A Met Office crying wolf, flinging about yellow warnings like so many yellow cards, risks not being believed in emergencies. So obsessed with charges for not issuing cautions, forecasters now shower them like confetti. Averse to complaints by floodees or drivers who can’t tell it’s cold enough for ice, there is now a veritable rainbow of alerts, so that nobody can claim, “We didn’t know.” Five inches of snow were expected in Lincolnshire and hazardous conditions yesterday. We had a flurry or two but nothing to worry about.

Like the Ruritanian shepherd boy who liked to shout alarm, the Met Office should remember that when wolves do come, nobody pays attention and sheep perish.

Last year in Lincolnshire. We had real snow.

We have always been interested in weather but we haven’t always been scared of it. I blame attention-seeking climate-obsessives on television. “Gale Force Winds” sound more serious than “Gales”. Talk of “Blizzard” or “White-out” gains more attention than “snow”. Never mind the closures of airports with snowfalls their Canadian counterparts would laugh off, or frozen points paralysing railways, forecasters are terrified of writs, real or imagined, from compensation seekers.

As with the unfortunate Italian earthquake scientists, now serving six years for manslaughter after failing to predict the tremor at L’Aquila when 309 people died, there is little sense in it. Samuel Croxall (c.1690 - 1752) Anglican churchman, writer and translator noted for his edition of Aesop’s Fables, summed it up with a question on political alarmism, of which we should be as much aware in our time as he was in his: "When alarmed with imaginary dangers in respect of the public, till the cry grows quite stale and threadbare, how can it be expected we should know when to guard ourselves against real ones?"

Global Warming ends

Don’t mention global warming. Family taboo. Yet the blogosphere buzzes with its obituary. The matchless Christopher Booker on Sunday drew attention to, “The graph the Met Office didn’t want you to see… Last week it didn’t take long for the bush fires set off by Australia’s ‘hottest summer ever’ to be blamed on runaway global warming. Less attention was given to heavy snow in Jerusalem (worst for 20 years) or the abnormal cold bringing death and destruction to China (worst for 30 years), northern India (coldest for 77 years) and Alaska, with average temperatures down in the past decade by more than a degree. But another story, which did attract coverage across the world, was the latest in a seemingly endless series of embarrassments for the UK Met Office.”

The Met Office chose Christmas Eve to revise the graph posted a year ago showing its prediction of global temperatures, hoping nobody would notice. Climate bloggers soon saw how different it was. It was picked up by the Global Warming Policy Foundation and while the Met Office’s allies, “such as the BBC’s old warmist warhorses Roger Harrabin and David Shukman, were soon trying to downplay the story, claiming that the forecast had only been revised by ‘a fifth’, and that even if the temperature rise had temporarily stalled, due to ‘natural factors’, the underlying warming trend would soon reappear.”
In 2011 the Met Office’s computer model prediction showed temperatures soaring to a level 0.8 degrees higher than their average between 1971 and 2000, far higher than the previous record in 1998. The new graph shows the lack of significant warming for the past 15 years is likely to continue. “Apart from how this was obscured by the BBC, there are several reasons why this is of wider significance for the rest of us.”
The Met Office has promoted the worldwide scare over global warming. Its computer models, “through its alliance with the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia (centre of the Climategate emails scandal), have been accorded unique prestige by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, ever since the global-warming-obsessed John Houghton, then head of the Met Office, played a key part in setting up the IPCC in 1988.”
It was not going to abandon easily its belief that the main force shaping climate was the rise in CO2. Yet as I have pointed out before, its chief scientist, Julia Slingo, admitted to MPs in 2010, its short-term forecasts are based on the same ‘numerical models’ as ‘we use for our climate prediction work’, and these have been predicting ‘hotter, drier summers’ and ‘warmer winters’. The result was the fiascos that made the Met Office a laughing stock, from the ‘barbecue summer’ that never was in 2008, to the ‘warmer than average winter’ of 2010 that brought us our coldest-ever December, to its prediction last spring that April, May and June 2012 would probably be ‘drier than average’, just before we enjoyed the wettest April and summer on record.
Mr Booker has been joined by active blogger James Delingpole’s announcement that The New York Times has closed its Environment Desk. “Rumours that the entire environment team, headed by Andy Revkin, have volunteered to be recycled into compost and spread on the lawn of the new billion dollar home Al Gore bought with the proceeds of his sale of Current TV to Middle Eastern oil interests are as yet unconfirmed. What we do know is that it's very, very sad and that all over the Arctic baby polar bears are weeping bitter tears of regret.”
There family. I’ve mentioned Global Warming but I think I got away with it.

Quiet day at Silverstone

Two hundred and twenty five Nissan Leafs driving round the grand prix circuit doesn’t sound much of a spectacle. It’s apparently a Guinness World Record for the largest parade of electric vehicles. I would have thought a good morning at Unigate could match that. Or a biggish club with golf trolleys. Chrysler held the record until now. 218. Nissan Leaf owners travelled from around the UK from, “as far afield as Aberdeen and Belfast, to meet up at the world-famous circuit on Saturday 24th November.”

The stunt was organised by Nissan, “to bring together owners of the world’s best selling electric vehicle to share their ownership experiences and to gather information about how they use their cars.” Brave. Especially keeping all those lights on. How long did it take to drive a Leaf from Aberdeen to Northants? How many times did they charge the batteries? How long did it take in ampere-hours? They have only sold 499 Nissan Leafs so far this year, so 225 looks like getting on for half. Silverstone couldn’t accommodate half this year’s sales of, say, Minis. Nobody grudges the electric car industry some publicity, but “The multi-award winning Nissan LEAF has entered the record books again,” sounds like desperation. The Society of Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) says only 812 battery cars of all makes have been bought this year, notwithstanding the government largesse of £5,000 each. The Leaf is the most popular. None of the other five has sold a quarter as many. Citroën has managed only 21 C-Zeros. There’s one for the record books.

Bright Spark?

Some press releases are too good to ignore. Back in August the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) agreed to licence commercial rights of its Formula E Championship to, “a consortium of international investors, Formula E Holdings Ltd (FEH).” Formula E is for electric “Formula” cars, presumably open-wheelers. “It represents a vision for the future of the motor industry over the coming decades.”

Well, maybe. That's what Camille Jenatzy (right) thought in 1899.

Behind FEH is London-based entrepreneur Enrique Bañuelos, CEO and shareholder is former MEP and racing team owner Alejandro Agag. Also associated are Lord Drayson, Labour’s old Minister for Science, and Eric Barbaroux, Chairman of the French electric automotive company "Electric Formula". Demonstrations of Formula E cars start next year, followed by a championship in 2014 with an objective of 10 teams and 20 drivers. The races "will be ideally" staged in the heart of the world’s leading cities, around their main landmarks. Well, maybe.

With luminaries like Drayson and an ex MEP involved, they'll be looking for subsidies from greenies. Paying customers would never make an electric grand prix commercial, yet expect FEH to be awash with taxpayer cash. And expect more announcements like: FOUNDATION OF SPARK RACING TECHNOLOGY. OFFICIAL SUPPLIER OF THE FIA FORMULA E CHAMPONSHIP. PARIS, 12th November 2012: Frédéric Vasseur is pleased to announce the birth of Spark Racing Technology, a company dedicated to the creation and assembly of cars participating in the FIA World Championship Formula E. E for electric, exciting, efficiency, environment, and last but not least, a new era. Well, maybe.

Spark Racing Technology will be part of a newly founded consortium whose purpose is to design the most efficient electric cars possible, in regard to mechanical, electrical, electronics and engine. Frédéric Vasseur is proud to announce that McLaren is among the key players in the said consortium. The collaboration of Spark Racing Technology with a major car manufacturer whose reputation and success speak for themselves is a guarantee of success and innovation. McLaren will provide the engine, transmission and electronics for the cars being assembled by Spark Racing Technology.

The FIA Formula E Championship will be launched in 2014.

The press release waxes lyrical. It will run exclusively in major international cities and it has all the assets needed to reach a worldwide audience, becoming a bridge between the old and new era of industry and motorsport. Frédéric Vasseur (CEO, Spark Racing Technology): “I am proud and happy to give birth to this project that is innovative and extremely rewarding for a company both technically and philosophically. Personally, I can write a new chapter, regardless of my other ventures in motorsport. Confidence and commitment from our partner McLaren is a guarantee of quality and reliability without which this project would not have been possible. The association with a globally recognized car manufacturer is definitely the right way to go. Sport and society are evolving and Spark Racing Technology is proud to be the pioneer and leader in the new field of electric cars that will revolutionize the motor racing industry and attitude.”

You can only hope that Martin Whitmarsh (Team principal, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes) had his tongue in his cheek: “I’m a passionate believer in the role that motorsport can play in showcasing and spearheading the development of future technologies, and regard the Formula E concept as an exciting innovation for global motorsport. McLaren has worked with Frédéric Vasseur for many years, and our association has been very successful. Working together in Formula E, McLaren’s world-class technology and Spark Racing Technology’s expert knowledge will combine to allow both companies to stay at the forefront of technical innovation and hopefully open up great opportunities for the racing cars of tomorrow.”

Or maybe not. Thought of a London Grand Prix in 1981 for Sunday Magazine


e-mails, e-books (like Dove Publishing produces), and now e-ethanol and e-diesel. You can see now why Audi is racing e-tron quattro R18s (above at Bahrain). It is serious about alternatives to fossil fuels and for the first time I can remember it looks like a practical proposition. Audi e-ethanol and Audi e-diesel are made by combining salt or waste water with waste CO2, sunlight and microorganisms. They are making the stuff in a factory in the New Mexico desert with Audi's American fuels specialist Joule. It is an astonishingly simple process. Genetically modified microorganisms in pipes of brackish water react with CO2 and sunlight, producing ethanol and diesel-range paraffinic alkanes. It needs no biomass. I never really believed in the idea of growing vast crops of that anyway. Now Audi e-ethanol works in petrol cars with only minor changes and e-diesel will work in TDI clean diesels with no modification. Audi says production is “imminent”.

The virtue of these new fuels is in the simple and relatively cheap way they’re made and the materials to produce them are renewable. There is no need for crop-based biomass synthetic fuels have before, so a refinery doesn’t need to be near habitable or arable land. It is being made in the New Mexico desert (see below)and has the same chemical properties as bioethanol produced from biomass. You can blend up to 85 per cent ‘Audi e-ethanol’ with only 15% fossil-fuel petrol for cars running on E85 fuel.

Audi and Joule are starting to make sustainable and pure e-diesel fuel. Petroleum-based diesel is a mixture of a variety of organic compounds, e-diesel DERV is free of sulphur and aromatics and easy to ignite due to its high cetane value. Audi and Joule have had a partnership since 2011, Joule protecting its technology with patents, for which Audi has exclusive rights in automotive. Audi knows how to make the fuels work in engines, and is developing them so that they can be brought to market.

Makes sense. Audi has sometimes looked eccentric in racing. It has competed at Le Mans 14 times since 1999, made the podium every time, and won 11. In 2012 it made history by winning with the pioneering hybrid diesel Audi R18 e-tron quattro.

Audi R18 e-tron quattro #2 (Audi Sport Team Joest), Tom Kristensen (DK), Allan McNish (GB)at Bahrain