Is It Time To Reinvent The Car?

A former race car designer, Gordon Murray, is attempting to reinvent the car. The creator of the road legal McLaren F1 started out with the intention of creating small, efficient cars to ease the congestion he experienced when driving to work in London, while still producing a car that is stylish and desirable.

The end result has been cube shaped city cars which are a mere 2.4 metres long, making them shorter than even the Smart car. Despite their small size, their chiselled side panels help give the impression of speed and agility. The T.25 has a 51 horsepower, three cylinder engine and can reach about 100mph. They can travel 60 miles on less than 3 litres of fuel, while the Smart Pulse Coupe needs 3.9 litres to travel the same distance. The T.27 is propelled by a lithium-ion battery and a 25 kilowatt electric motor, and will travel 100 miles on less than 70 pence of power.

The manufacturing process is vastly different to how most modern cars are built. These cars are built out of a lightweight composite material which is similar to the carbon fibre used in race cars. Less metal means that certain steps are missed out of the process – stamping the steel frame, welding the body together and then rustproofing it all are no longer necessary with Murray’s iStream system. This system would enable cars to be built more cheaply and using less energy. This super light but super strong bodywork naturally increases fuel economy. The engines will produce very low carbon emissions (tested as part of the MOT test), so would be very cheap to tax as well as insure.

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Maintenance Schedules – Service & MOT

When you own a car there are a few dates you have to put in your diary to remember; the date your insurance needs renewing and the dates your MOT and car service will be due. Your car insurance is obviously renewed yearly, but many people find the schedules of MOTs and car services more confusing.

The MOT is the easier one to explain. Your first MOT is due when your car is three years old, and you will then need to have an MOT carried out on a yearly basis. FastFit Station Milton Keynes will send you an MOT reminder each year following your first MOT at one of our garages.

Car services are a bit more complicated, and the service schedule for your particular car will be different from another type of car. It will tell you in your car manual what the service interval is, and it will be calculated on both age and mileage. For example, a common service interval is 10,000 miles or one year. This means that whichever you hit first is the one that applies; i.e. if you find you have driven 10,000 miles since your last service, even if a year hasn’t passed, you are due a service. Similarly, if it has been a year since your last service, you will need another whether or not you have driven 10,000 miles yet. Many modern cars have a service reminder warning light that will flash up a certain number of miles before it is due.

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Travelling Long Distances

As someone who has just returned from a very long drive all the way from Milton Keynes up to the northern parts of Scotland, I think I can safely say that driving long distances in a car is not much fun for most people! However, it does require a bit of planning, so if you do have a journey to make, it is best to take the time to make a few arrangements rather than just setting off and hoping for the best.

Firstly you need to prepare the car. You should check your oil and water levels, check the tyre treads and pressures, and ensure that you aren’t due a car service before you get back (don’t forget to check that the extra mileage won’t mean it’s needed sooner than you expect!). On a long journey, fuel efficiency is even more important, so you should try to empty your car of everything that you won’t be needing on your trip. Extra weight for your car to carry means extra fuel is used to move the car.

You also need to prepare a few supplies for yourself; some food and water for the journey is essential unless you want to risk motorway service station availability and prices. If you are travelling in winter you should also have some blankets and possibly consider a snow shovel in your car in case you get snowed in somewhere.

Finally you need to plan your journey. While we are in the age of the satnav, it is still a good idea to have a vague idea of which main roads you need to take, or which cities you need to head for. Once you know how many miles your journey is, you should work out how frequently you will need to refill with fuel. Your satnav really comes into its own here – while we were in deepest, darkest Scotland, we had no internet signal on our smartphones, but our satnav easily told us where we could find the nearest petrol station. And while you are on your car trip, don’t leave it to the last minute to fill with fuel unless you are travelling in well built up areas where you know there’s always a petrol station within 5 minutes. Long journeys are stressful enough without having to push your car the last few metres to the petrol station, or worse, have to phone out a recovery service just because you ran out of fuel!

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Red Bull To Make Changes To Their Car

Following the race in Monaco, Red Bull were informed by Formula One’s governing body, the FIA, that part of its design does not comply with a directive from the FIA technical head Charlie Whiting. More than requiring an intensive car service, Red Bull have had to redesign certain parts of their cars.

First the FIA told them that their floor design did not comply, despite the holes in the floor being fine during all the previous races. It seems that some rival teams said that the Red Bull car featured an illegal ‘fully enclosed hole’ although it was argued that they were slots rather than holes. Clarification was sought, and Charlie Whiting confirmed that holes could not be located in that area, so Red Bull have had to make some changes.

Next the FIA discovered an illegal detail in the brake cooling ducts of the Red Bull car. The ducts are supposed to be used solely for cooling, but the FIA felt they were being used as an aerodynamic aid. Of course, Red Bull denied this, but the FIA ruled they had to redesign them.

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7 Races, 7 Winners

There really is everything to race for in the remaining Formula One races of this season. So far, there are as many winning drivers as there have been races. Seven races = seven different winners. There are only three points between the top three drivers, so every single point really will count.

This season has been extremely competitive, particularly in respect of the new Pirelli tyres, and wins have been harder to achieve. It is more than likely that whoever wins the title will only have won two or three actual races, but will have performed consistently better than the other drivers. This year it isn’t the impressive wins that will win the season, but the ability to drive well in most of the races. The driver who works best with the technical team servicing his car, and makes the best tyre choices will have an advantage, but it is the drivers who achieve that elusive consistency on the track who should be watched in the next 13 races.

We are now over a third of the way through the season, and every race still changes the leaderboard. This has been the most exciting Formula One season yet, and we’ve a long way to go yet!

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Road Safety Budgets Decreasing

If you have spent any time driving around certain parts of England lately, you will know that money is desperately needed to be spent on the roads. Repairs are needed for the potholes scattered across the road surface like pepperoni on a pizza, and even more than that, we need money to be spent on maintaining the roads so that we don’t end up with yet more potholes as soon as the weather turns colder again (well, that’s if it ever warms up!). Sadly, it seems the opposite is happening. Many councils across England have been reducing their road maintenance budgets by 10 percent in 2011.

Road maintenance budgets are primarily used for road surfaces. Both maintaining them (although local councils are a long way behind with this), and repairing potholes and cracks (which, again, the councils are behind in achieving). This makes driving more dangerous, as poorly maintained road surfaces may not provide enough grip to stop your car in the event of an accident, while potholes and cracks should be avoided at all costs.

If you do drive over a crack or a pothole at speed, you run the risk of damaging your car’s tyres, wheels, and even chassis. A simple pothole could cause your car to be written off. It is not always easy, but the sensible thing to do is drive carefully so that no contact is made between any potholes and your tyres. Admittedly, on some roads, that can be quite challenging.

Road safety budgets have also been cut, with Camden Council in London cutting its road safety budget by a massive 70 percent in 2011. This budget covers things like rehabilitation courses for those who have committed a variety of motoring offences, and programmes to educate young drivers. Both of these have very likely been reduced, or axed completely.

it is understandable that budgets have been reduced in the current economic climate, but while the councils have been cutting their road related budgets rather dramatically, the average cuts for other council services has only been 6 percent during the same year. Also, while a lollipop person earns an average of £3000 a year, the cost of each road fatality is approximately £1.6 million. It makes no sense to cut these budgets.

So it looks like we will have to make do with the limited road care and safety services we have for the time being. By driving carefully, and safely, hopefully we can not only avoid needing any rehabilitation courses (no speeding!), but also avoid any damage to our cars. Making sure your car is in good condition by having a regular car service, checking the condition of your brakes and tyres regularly, will also help keep you safe on the roads this year.

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Electric Car Club Milton Keynes

Milton Keynes has been chosen as one of the pilot areas for the United Kingdom’s first wholly electric car club that should begin operating later on this year. The national pilot scheme will be started in Milton Keynes and North Oxford, and at first it will have up to five full-sized electric vehicles available for use.

Local residents and businesses can sign up for the scheme to hire electric cars or vans by the hour for around £6. A private company, E-Car: the Electric Vehicle Car Club is running the scheme and intends to make it simple and easy to use. Members will be able to book vehicles either online or by phone – weeks in advance or, if they are available, mere minutes before they are needed. Members can book the car for as little as a single hour up to multiple days.

Using their personal smartcard and pin code, members can then walk up to a local car, tap the card on a reader inside the windscreen, unplug the charging cable and drive away. When they bring the car back to its dedicated parking bay, all they have to do is plug it in.

As part of the company’s plan, they intend to provide the charging infrastructure, as without that, electric cars will just run to a stop. They are currently in the process of choosing sites, and hopefully they will be choosing carefully – the scheme could fail if members find it too difficult to charge the vehicles. As with any car share scheme, the bigger costs of car ownership will be paid for by the company running the scheme. All you would have to do is get in and drive; no more car servicing or repairs!

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Do You Text And Drive?

Nowadays, we all know the dangers of drink driving and drug driving due to delayed reaction times among other things. However, many drivers are unaware that texting, checking your emails, or checking on social networking sites can actually delay your reactions even more than alcohol?

The Transport Research Laboratory has been conducting a study on behalf of the RAC, and almost a quarter of motorists aged between 17 and 24 have admitted to checking both email and social networking sites while driving. Shockingly the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) has discovered that this practice can delay the driver’s reaction times by a massive 38 per cent. This makes it the most dangerous use of a mobile phone in the car. Let’s look at the figures:

  • A driver who opts to get in their car and drive while at the UK alcohol drink-drive limit (so after a drink or two, but not having been drinking heavily) will have reactions slower by around 12%.
  • A driver making a hands free phone call while driving will have reactions delayed by 26%.
  • Texting while driving slows reactions by 37%.
  • Checking email or social networking sites is the worst offender, slowing your reaction time by a massive 38%.

Government figures have attributed 1690 road accidents leading to an injury to mobile phone use between 2006 and 2010, of which 110 were fatal accidents. It is probable that there are many more accidents occurring which the police can’t prove were caused or exacerbated by mobile phone use, so the real figures are more than likely much higher.

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Why You Should Avoid Potholes

Potholes aren’t just unsightly, and inconvenient for motorists, they can cause damage to vehicles leading to expensive car repairs. Last year, councils in the England and Wales spent as much as £90 million on repairing roads, which may make you think our roads should be in fantastic condition. Sadly you would be wrong! It would take an estimated 10 years and a staggering £10 billion in order to get the roads into the condition they should be, and that is despite the costs of repair actually decreasing.

Unfortunately, potholes are a sign of poorly maintained roads, and the patch up jobs that are being done are not sufficient to prevent more potholes occurring after the next cold spell. Putting it simply, potholes are caused when water trickles through cracks in the roads (which may well be tiny, but in badly maintained roads, there will be cracks), then freezes. As it freezes, the space it takes up expands causing the crack to widen and the surface to buckle and break. A void is created which then caves in under the weight of many vehicles. Snowy conditions are the worst for pothole formation as naturally the temperature hovers around freezing point, leading to repeated freezing and thawing. Once a crack has formed, it will only get bigger if it isn’t repaired, and bigger cracks become potholes, and potholes themselves can become very large indeed.

What is the answer? More time and money needs to be spent maintaining our roads – repairing potholes is the ‘quick fix’. Properly maintained roads are less porous, and shouldn’t feature those tiny cracks that allow water to seep through. If the water can’t get in, it can’t form potholes, and money doesn’t need to be spent on repairs. Prevention is the best cure!

As a car owner, you need to try to avoid hitting potholes in the same way that you would avoid hitting the kerb. Hitting anything at speed, even if it is only a few centimetres high, is bound to cause some damage to your car. That damage may be simply to the tyres in the form of a gouge, a bulge or even a puncture. Occasionally, it can even cause a blow out which is potentially quite dangerous if you are travelling at speed when it happens. Bigger potholes can cause more serious damage to the wheels themselves, or the suspension system, which would require costly car repairs. In extreme cases, damage to your chassis could result in the car being a write off.

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Two Thirds Of Drivers Avoiding Driving!

A recent survey has found that almost two thirds of British drivers are choosing to reach their destination without getting into their cars! In order to save money they are opting to use public transport, walk, or avoid unnecessary journeys.

The research was carried out on behalf of Bridgestone UK and the results shouldn’t be that surprising when you consider that petrol prices have reached the dizzy heights of £1.40 per litre in some parts of Britain. As people can’t afford to fill up their cars, they are looking for different ways to make that full tank last longer. The most obvious, although not always the easiest, way is to avoid using the car as much. Walking in particular is good for the environment, the bank balance and your fitness level!

There are other things you can do to try to save fuel – from choosing the right car and keeping it well maintained with regular car servicing, to driving sensibly and shopping for the most fuel efficient tyres. Drivers must be looking into these things too as only 4 per cent would consider going without a car completely.

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