Monday, 31 July 2017

French Road Trip - A micro car for all...?

We're not used to seeing micro cars in this country, but in France there are many on the roads from several different manufacturers.

They are very common and seem very popular especially in the countryside.

I suppose the nation that gave us the 2CV and Renault 4 WOULD favour little cars for use in the towns and country.

All seem to have common elements... 4 wheels... 2 doors... 2 seats... a small boot... and most seem to be powered by 250cc motorcycle engines driving some form of clutchless gear system.

So, very low energy, take up little space, only carry 1 or 2 people for small distances... It all seems very laudable in these environmentally aware days...

These VSP, 'voiture sans permis', mini cars exist due to a quirk of French law and can be acquired and driven by teenagers and the elderly. Equally, both groups either unable to begin driving due to age or unable to carry on driving due to advancing age and perhaps a degree of infirmity.

But, there is also a darker side to these cars existence and seeming popularity.

France has long had a serious drink driving problem which it is making strenuous efforts to overcome.

I understand that if you are banned from driving - which can be 12 months or more - then this same quirk of law allows you buy a micro car and start driving again within hours of your full licence being taken away. It would certainly explain some of the popularity of them.

Perhaps WE should adopt these little cars in our towns and cities, but certainly not with virtually unrestricted use as in France.

The UK has regained some control over drink driving in the last decades. The numbers are certainly well down, and it's no longer socially acceptable to drink and drive.

However, with fewer police patrols, it seems to still happen in the countryside. It certainly does around where I live. All of the pub car parks fill up and then empty again late at night... and, judging by some of the appalling driving and accidents I have seen in recent years, not all of the drivers are drinking orange juice.

Graham Benge

French Road Trip - Sticking to the rules

More French observations...

There have been many scare stories recently of how the new traffic laws are allowing French police to target British motorists. A Post-Brexit scare perhaps?

In 1250 miles we saw probably only 4 or 5 police cars, all en route to, or at, accidents.

In the many villages there are lots of Speed warning signs, sometimes backed up by cameras but many fewer cameras than in the UK.

However, unlike most here, the French cameras are generally unmarked, although there are always prior warning signs.

Some of the cameras look like leftovers from the Maginot Line, low, grey, squat and would stop a tank!!

Keep near the limits, ensure you have the legal requirements on board, don't drink and drive and 'les flics' won't trouble you.

Graham Benge

French Road Trip - A Traffic Light Innovation

More jottings from our French road trip...

We all find it frustrating waiting at temporary traffic lights while uncontrolled utilities dig yet more holes in our pepper pot roads.

We have no idea how long we will need to wait while these heroes dig frenziedly .... or more likely sit in their vans until overtime starts.

We were therefore impressed by the French temporary traffic lights...

No pointless and ignored amber, but, in its place, a timer showing exactly how long you have to wait before they change to green. The information certainly should help keep the amount of time you are waiting into perspective!

Ok, probably only the first half dozen cars can see it clearly but I rarely saw more than that in any queue.

No more badly aimed, slow to change lights, with too many fools rushing through red lights as though they had something really important to get to...?

Graham Benge

French Road Trip - Where are the potholes??

A driving holiday in France... Pounding down a near perfect traffic free motorway? 

No, not this time...

We set out on a road trip, travelling the length of France but using only N and D roads, the equivalent of mostly single carriageway B roads with just a few dual carriageway A roads.

We managed a 1250 mile journey in 11 leisurely days, staying a few days with friends who live in an idyllic farmhouse in the south of France.

So why am I telling you this? (To make everyone left back in the office jealous? - Ed)

Like the old exam 'compare and contrast' question, I was intrigued by the many differences in the quality of the French roads and our roads.

Our B roads are full of potholes... Poorly maintained by incompetent and unsupervised contractors.

The French have a deserved reputation for the high quality of their motorways/autoroutes, albeit many are toll roads.

BUT, the French N and D roads are paid for out of taxation, the same as ours.

The difference is there are NO potholes!! All of the roads we travelled on were in excellent condition, well maintained, and pothole free!

Perhaps French taxes are used more directly for the purpose they are raised, unlike in the UK where the billions you and I pay in road fund license, vat, fuel duties, etc, just disappear into the Chancellor's lucky dip bag.

We motorists are (at the very least treated like) the scourge of the nation, but in reality the economy would collapse without us.

Graham Benge

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Michael Gove out on a limb?

On the BBC this morning Michael Gove announced the government's new strategy of banning all petrol and diesel cars by 2040 .... or did he..?

I suspect, as Environment Minister,  Mr Gove is kite flying .. that's ultra low energy ... and doesn't have the agreement of either the Prime Minister or his cabinet colleagues to such a far reaching plan.

He also mentioned local councils being expected to provide and fund scrappage schemes... bet that came as news to them.

But might it be possible for such a plan to reach fruition by 2040?

Well for a moment let's set aside the many billions the Chancellor of the Exchequer would lose in fuel duties and vat and the obstructionism of the oil companies to any change ... oh and a certain Donald Trump who doesn't believe in global warming...

All those aside, could the car makers do it?

Yes, they could. Volvo recently announced it would only produce electric cars by 2020, BMW will offer electric versions of all of its cars by 2020 and Mercedes is close behind.

All of the car makers are rushing to get into Formula E as fast as possible to accelerate their own battery development programmes, the PSA group and Renault and Jaguar Land Rover are in there already, BMW and Mercedes are joining in 2019 and 2020 respectively.

Mercedes are even withdrawing their dominance of DTM to focus on Formula E..! 

Williams F1 are at the forefront of battery development in the UK, Tesla are the same in the USA with zero government support. The all electric Mini was revealed yesterday to commence production in 2019.

So in answer to the question will they be ready if asked... Yes definitely. 

Paris and Madrid have already announced car bans from their city centres within a couple of years. Currently only very new low emissions diesels are allowed into Paris. Surely London will follow very soon under the guidance of Saddiq Khan...

Of the 35 million cars on UK roads just 3 per cent are hybrids or all electric - just a few thousand - and the infrastructure is not even adequate to support that number.

In the last 2 years the sophistication and range of electric cars has improved greatly the typical range doubling or trebling to 200-300 miles, more than adequate for most average mileage drivers and the range improvement is exponential.

So there is much still to be done and the government would need to stump up big time to make it happen, to improve the infrastructure perhaps developments in induction charging like mobile phones will soon make the drive over recharge a possibility.?

Oh and then there is autonomous vehicles ....! 

I didn't hear any mention of money by Michael Gove ... but then perhaps he's already wind powered?

Graham Benge

Friday, 7 July 2017

Bernie Ecclestone - A Festival of Speed tribute

To conclude the Festival of Speed 2017, Mark Webber spoke to Bernie Ecclestone, whose career was featured on the Goodwood centrepiece sculpture, on the balcony of Goodwood House.

UKMotorTalk - Bernie Ecclestone - A Festival of Speed tribute

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Jonathan Williams - What makes an F1 team so successful?

In the working environment of the back of a Williams F1 truck, Mike Turner asks Jonathan Williams about the ingredients that go into making a Formula One team with the heritage, successes and longevity of Williams...

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A quick word with Nico Rosberg

Amidst his whirlwind of commitments at the Festival of Speed, Nico Rosberg took (literally) 30 seconds to speak to Mike Turner... before being whisked away!

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Nick Heidfeld talks Formula E

An old hand at the Goodwood Hill, and current record holder, Nick Heidfeld talks to Graham Benge about the excitement in Formula E, and how it differs from Formula One.

UKMotorTalk - Nick Heidfeld - Mahindra Racing - Formula E

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Monday, 3 July 2017

Williams F1 Heritage - Dickie Stanford

It's not every day that you see a six wheeled F1 car... but the Williams FW08B from 1982 is a great example.

Graham Benge talks to Williams Heritage's Dickie Stanford about the work they are doing to preserve these classics.

UKMotorTalk - Williams F1 Heritage - Dickie Stanford 

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