December 2008

New Car verses Old Car

As the economic climate collapses around us, many people are putting off their purchase of a new car and making do with what they already have. Old cars are bad and polluting, new cars are clean and efficient right? So this is a bad thing?

Not necessarily. The SMMT say that the average new car generates 1 tonne of CO2 to build (lets ignore the raw material / recycling arguments for the moment). We also know from the DfT that the average car in the UK travels about 10,000 miles per year.

Let’s say that you haven’t had to sell your children into slavery as a result of the credit crunch, and in fact you’re on the market for a new Mini. Well, let’s just imagine that those people still exist.

BMW as a company has become one of the leaders in the field of fuel efficiency improvement with their so called “mild hybrid” systems. The calculation is shown below:

Carbon Credentials of Minis

Carbon Credentials of Minis

The conclusion then is that to make the CO2 Savings for the base model MINI you have to drive more than 62,000 miles. So after 6 and a bit years you will have made a positive impact on the environment by buying a cleaner car.

So what about the fuel savings? The calculation for the mpg (fuel economy figures) are below as well:

Fuel Credentials of Minis

Fuel Credentials of Minis

Given that the average spend on fuel per year per car is about £1,000, how long would it take to save 10% of that, or £100? Well, 16,000 miles on the base model MINI.

Considering that a base model MINI retailing at about £11,000 and will lose just 15% of it’s value (£1,650) in the first year (it’s the slowest depreciating car you can buy currently), then saving £60 in fuel is pretty minimal.

2007 Mini One

2007 Mini One

Obviously if you decide to replace your 30 mpg petrol car with a similarly priced second hand 40 mpg petrol car, then you can expect to save about £340 and 880kg of CO2. Which is not to be sniffed at, especially when you consider the further savings in tax, insurance and so on.

So should you buy a new car for environmental reasons? Probably not. Buy a smaller second hand car instead. Or learn to drive more efficiently.

2008 Mini One

2008 Mini One

Should you buy a new car to save money on fuel? Definitely not. You’d have to madder than a box of frogs.

Should you buy a new car because you want to? Of course, that’s one the delights of living in a free country. In fact at the moment you’ll probably get a very good deal indeed as most car markers are looking down the barrel of bankruptcy. But just don’t try to justify it for money saving or environmental reasons…

After the previous revelation that the Cheeky Girls are going to save the earth due to Segway PT’s, their head of marketing for Europe called me up at the Clear office, and asked if I’d ever tried one. Rather sheepishly I had to say I hadn’t, so he put me in contact with arguably the keenest owner in the UK. Isidore Margaronis is a great chap who commutes from Notting Hill to Piccadilly every day on his Segway.Isidore on his Segway

Putting a staggering amount of trust in a complete stranger, Isidore gave me a quick lesson, then let me loose on his Segway i2. Even though I’d probably feel less self-conscious walking across the pitch at Wembley stadium wearing a chicken suit, it was a lot of fun. Extremely easy to ride, very smooth and a bizarre but very intuitive design. Lean forward, go forward. Lean back, go back. Simple as that.

Anyway, I was interested to validate the manufacturer’s claims for the battery performance / range to confirm it’s environmental credentials, and Isidore kindly took some measurements for his, and from this we’ve created a White Paper, which you can download here and gives all the justification and some comparisons with other modes of transport. Although our original figure of 13 g/km was slightly optimistic, a “real world” figure of 16.6 g/km is still highly impressive, especially when you consider taking the bus is about 94 g/km.The off road Segway

What’s also interesting is that the DfT are still maintaining that the Segway is technically illegal to use other than on private land under section 72 of the Highway Act 1835 (yes, that is 1835). Sutton Police are also trialling them (for use on patrol and I’m told that initial feedback is good. There is also a very active group
pushing for their legalisation and you get the feeling they’re not going to give up without a fight.

So will we one day see hordes of Segways prowling the streets? It’s hard to say. I suspect the DfT will eventually come to their senses, and class them as bicycles / electric bicycles and allow their use on the road / cycle lanes, as they are the most comparable form of transport.

I’m also glad to say that this story does not quite end here, as Clear are being lent a Segway i2 in the next month or so to further test and validate it’s environmental credentials (although we really fancied the off-road version the x2). So thank you Cheeky Girls, you may save the environment after all….segway_co2_white_paper_v12