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China’s green example to the world March 13, 2009

Posted by Richard Aucock in What I've mused upon today.
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Earlier in the year, I had dinner in London with visitors from China’s motoring media. They were here on a fact-finding mission, and were keen to touch base with like-minded sorts from the UK.

It was a superb evening, full of lively debate and contrasting viewpoints. I tried to give them lots of insight, but reckon I took just as much from the evening, if not more. I promised in particular to follow one tip-off closely: mark my words, said several of our Chinese guests – new car sales back home are going to skyrocket.

This was in complete contrast to the dreadful 2008 gloom we in the UK had been suffering. What made them so confident? Over to Kevin Chen, CEO of Gasgoo: ‘From January 20, the Government will cut the sales tax on cars 1.6-litres and under, from 10 percent to 5 percent…’

In other words, smaller, more eco-friendly models were to be given an incentive: they’d carry half the tax of thirstier ones.

chinas-green-example-to-the-worldAnd how it’s worked. From being in the doldrums, China’s new car market was up a startling 25 percent in February. A quarter! To get a measure on how many cars this is, consider that in February alone, over 600,000 new cars were sold…

The net effect is huge. Massive. Even though 1.6-litres and under doesn’t sound that green compared to UK green schemes, it’s a big difference for China. Over there, the European ‘downsizing’ trend has yet to catch on. This is thus an admirably green and eco move – and, with the promise of more cash in its back pocket, has seen a generally save-not-spend society hit car dealers in droves.

Why do I mention this? Well, I’ve just been called by City Talk Liverpool, to speak on their Sunday morning show with Edward O’Hara MP. Rob McLoughlin is the presenter, and we’ll be debating this week’s potential good news for Land Rover Halewood, plus the implications of what Mandelson’s been saying.

The relevance of China, then? Well, the car tax reduction is a useful case study of  how the world’s biggest car market responded to green new car sales incentives…

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Clever cars? We ‘aint seen nothing yet March 9, 2009

Posted by Richard Aucock in What I've mused upon today.
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Land Rover, Orange and the Ordnance Survey aren’t known for being particularly complementary bedfellows.

But, with the TRL smoothing the waters, they’ve come up with something that’ll make yet another potential big difference to car CO2 emissions. The Sentience test bed.

This is the Clever Car. It uses smart sat nav to plot a route, see what traffic conditions are ahead, moderating engine accordingly. Clever, aye? You’re suspicious. Well, (for now) fear not. This is not (intended to be) ‘dumb waiter’ style speed restriction.

clever-cars-we-aint-seen-nothing-yetRather, it is the car using adaptive cruise control to idealise the acceleration and deceleration – as per traffic up ahead, the necessary speed gain needed to scoot between point and – get this – counter the gradient of the road in the most eco way possible.

Like the driver who looks ahead, and adjusts the throttle accordingly, rather than the less clever ‘point ‘n squirt. Oh, and then brake’ merchant.

Orange provides the ‘net-enabled telecommunications, but it’s OS’s mapping data, detailing gradient, bens in the road, roundabouts, even speed bumps, that really gives it intelligence.

An example. Green drivers know that accelerating at the bottom of the hill creates momentum for ascending it. So, uses less fuel. This is what the Sentience car does. Ingenious. And generating claimed fuel savings of nearly a quarter.

What’s more, with real-time navigation systems, it can alter profiles according to traffic flow as well as road conditions up ahead. It can even vary and restrict speed, according to the probability of something slowing the car at a junction up ahead, and meter speed for best flow through traffic lights.

There’s been a lady from Brake today, banging on across all the news channels that speed kills. Yes, speed. Not a single other factor, just speed. Make everyone drive at the speed limit and accidents will be cut to zero.

What utter guff. Luckily, companies such as this quartet are being a damn sight more intelligent, and developing mobile comm cars that will both save the world and a few lives in the process.

Their only problem is, the degree of autonomy they’re calling upon drivers to hand over. With the Brake woman in mind, that’s maybe a debate for another day…