Former Blue Peter presenter Konnie Huq tried out the ultra-low emission BMW i3 and gave her thoughts on how it performs as a car for transporting her and her two young children.
“It feels very safe and sturdy and powerful”, Konnie explained. “I’m a bit of a control freak and so especially with children it’s ideal.”
Konnie was also impressed with the BMW i3’s looks and performance. “When I first saw the BMW i3 I thought ‘Wow, that’s swanky!’ Driving this car is a dream – it glides, it’s so quiet and so peaceful. You really relish that when you’ve got screaming children.”
The Go Ultra Low ambassador also hoped the i3 would be practical and frugal – and wasn’t disappointed. “It’s very economical, charging up is really easy and I can get my kids in it – it’s really fitted in well with my family lifestyle. You can leave it charging and go off and do your own thing.”
As well as saving on fuel costs, Konnie enjoyed the extra benefits of driving an ultra low emission vehicle: “You’re saving on Congestion Charge, car tax and there are many benefits with free parking provided in all sorts of places.”
Mitsubishi has joined the Go Ultra Low campaign with its pioneering Outlander PHEV – the world’s first plug-in hybrid SUV. The Outlander PHEV combines a battery that provides an all-electric range of up to 32.5 miles, with a 2.0-litre petrol engine that allows the car to be driven a further 530 miles if stopping to charge the battery is not convenient.
The Outlander PHEV can deliver an average fuel economy figure of 148mpg on the combined cycle, with ultra low CO2 emissions of just 44g/km. This means annual Vehicle Excise Duty of £0 and only 5% benefit-in-kind for company car drivers.
The Outlander PHEV can be charged at home via a domestic mains outlet or a dedicated home charging unit, with charging time from empty to full taking between 3.5 and 5 hours.
Beyond the home, the car can use both AC and DC public charging points. By using a charging lead available from authorised Mitsubishi dealerships, drivers can use AC charging, which is available at the majority of charge points in the UK. Charging from empty will take around 3.5 hours. Rapid charging is also possible and can provide an 80% charge in about 30 minutes.
The Outlander PHEV is a highly practical ultra low emission vehicle, with 463 litres of cargo space and towing capacity of 1,500kg, which is about the weight of a medium caravan. In electric mode, the car can be driven at speeds of over 60mph and it provides permanent four-wheel drive via a twin-motor system.
The dashboard touchscreen system displays energy usage and remaining range so drivers always know how far they can go. Mitsubishi also offers a multi-function app for the Outlander PHEV, which allows users to remotely control the climate control, view the current charge level and time left to charge, as well as the ability to set a timer for the car to charge.
First impressions of the all-electric Nissan Leaf were very positive for Belinda Parmar OBE, whose day job is being CEO of Lady Geek, a campaigning agency which aims to make technology more appealing and accessible to women. “I loved the silky, quiet way it slips into traffic. I loved the audio integration, the quality of the dash electronics and the sheer science-fiction delight of driving an all-electric car.”
Belinda could see that cars like the Leaf are “great for regular use, like the school-run, the daily commute or the weekly shop. They can also infiltrate London’s congestion-charge zone for free. These cars are the perfect vehicles for people who have a regular driving routine.”
As well as being six times cheaper to run than her current petrol car, Belinda also loved the enjoyment the Nissan delivered. “The Leaf is a fun car to run around in, and with a high-speed charging point fitted at home, I would certainly consider switching to an ultra low emission vehicle for my next ride.”
Telegraph reader Sarah Mansbridge had done a lot of research into electric vehicles prior to driving the Nissan Leaf: “I was looking forward to a seamless, hi-tech, nippy ride. I was not disappointed.”
She added that: “The Leaf could not have been simpler to drive. It is literally touch and go. One press of the start button and the silent, fun, guilt-free motoring began. The result was a simplified, one-pedal fun drive, like riding a go-kart. But there was not anything second-rate – it was cutting-edge, a natural driving experience from the beginning and a joy in traffic.”
As for charging, Sarah found charging at home incredibly easy: “It was as simple as plugging in any normal household appliance.”
Ruth Arnold, who runs the geekmummy blog, tried out the Nissan Leaf for 1,000 miles to see how well it would fit into her family life. The first thing that struck her was how similar the car was to her existing one: “It is pretty much just like a normal car. It is a normal car. It simply runs on battery power rather than petrol or diesel.”
Ruth found out that the Leaf is a “good sized family car” with a boot that “easily held a full week’s shopping.” As for charging it up, just like people plugging in mobile phones, she easily got into the habit of plugging the Leaf in when she got home. “In general we found that a single charge lasted us for our daily activity, and if we plugged the car in to charge overnight it would be back to 100% by the morning.” The Leaf impressed Ruth’s family so much that it’s on the shortlist for their next car.
The Toyota Prius Plug-In is an ultra low emission vehicle that lets drivers go further with the addition of an internal combustion engine that can power the car beyond the battery range. As rugby star Ben Cohen found out when he tried one out: “The range of the Toyota Prius Plug-in is not really a concern because it’s dual fuel, using petrol and electric power.”
The Rugby World Cup winner found driving around in an ultra low emission vehicle “very rewarding” and as someone with twin girls, loved its practicality: “It’s a family car – I use it all the time.”
Ben found recharging the Prius Plug-In battery “very easy”, saying: “You have a charge point put in at home and you plug it in and leave it – it takes two hours to charge up.”
So, would Ben recommend an ultra-low emission vehicle to other people? “Absolutely. I’ve had an incredible experience with it. I would recommend it to anyone and I would shout it out from the rooftops.”
Audi has become a partner of the Go Ultra Low Campaign, offering its A3 Sportback e-tron to UK buyers. The car is a plug-in hybrid, with an all-electric range of 31 miles and the ability to travel up to 584 miles thanks to the additional 1.4 TFSI efficient combustion engine.
The A3 Sportback e-tron is a five-door, five seat car and has an average fuel economy figure of 176.6mpg with ultra low emissions of just 37g/km. The lithium-ion battery works with the 75kW motor to deliver impressive performance and efficiency. The battery can be fully recharged, using the socket concealed behind the Audi four-ring grille, in just over 2 hours using a fast charger or in about 4 hours using a standard household supply.
The new Audi also benefits from fantastic connectivity via the e-tron connect app, which is available to download for smartphones. The app gives drivers immediate access to important information about the vehicle, including current battery charge level, remaining electric range and even the location of your car.
The Audi e-tron app also enables drivers to use their smartphone as a remote control, allowing them to start the charging function with the push of a button, or to set a timer so that the car recharges automatically at a specific time – for example to take advantage of cheaper electricity tariffs. The app even allows drivers to activate the climate control remotely to get the cabin to the ideal temperature for when they get behind the wheel.
Television chef and restaurateur James Martin is known for his love of fast cars, and wasn’t sure that the BMW i3 was right for him – until he drove one.
“I like the way it feels so solid. It’s built like a hi-tech racing car, with a lightweight carbon-fibre bodywork wrapped around an aluminium frame, complete with durable plastic body panels.”
James was also very impressed with the i3’s performance, saying: “This is one quick car, because it’s super-light, has 170hp and no gears. It becomes addictive.” The car-loving chef managed to drive for more than 90 miles on electric power until the range-extender kicked in to allow him to drive further.
So, what was his conclusion? “It is brilliant. I couldn’t fault it, so much so that I’m going to buy one for work, and this from a Yorkshire man whose last purchase of a battery-powered car was when I was four years old.”
Telegraph reader and chartered engineer John Lennaghan was equally impressed with BMW’s ultra low emission vehicle. “There’s a lot of glass so it’s bright and airy and my two sons, nine and 11, had plenty of room in the back. The wide-screen media centre was excellent; the screen was clear, and the sat nav, Bluetooth and entertainment system were all easy to use.”
However, what got John’s attention even more than its looks and usability was the way the i3 drove: “The first thing you notice is the lack of noise, but when you put your foot down the response is startling.” The i3 also changed John’s behaviour behind the wheel, who is now sold on electric vehicles: “I found I drove more considerately and conservatively than in my own car. The display shows consumption in real time and makes you more aware of driving style.”
Marianne Weekes, who writes the Mari’s World blog, also got behind of the i3, but for six weeks rather than just a few days. Her first impressions were good: “There is no denying that the BMW i3 is a gorgeous car, a lot of care and attention has gone into the design making this an object of beauty.”
“For some reason I had assumed that Electric cars wouldn’t have a lot of power in them and boy was I wrong. My second amazing discovery is there is no engine noise.” Marianne also worked out that a full charge was costing her £2.67 in electricity and was lasting up to 10 days, compared to spending £60 per month on diesel with her current car.
The most common question she was asked was whether she liked it, to which she always answered: “I love it. It’s a dream to drive.”
Research by Go Ultra Low has found that millions of drivers could be missing out on savings of up to £860 per year in fuel and tax, much of which is due to believing myths about electric and plug-in hybrid cars, and not switching to an ultra low emission vehicle.
More than a third of drivers said the furthest they drove in a single journey during 2014 was 80 miles – well within the range of all Go Ultra Low vehicles on sale in the UK – meaning that 11.5 million drivers could potentially benefit from the lowest cost, tax-free motoring.
In addition, millions more could benefit from other ultra low emission vehicles that can travel between 150 and 700 miles between charges thanks to range-boosting assistance from engines that work alongside the battery and electric motor.
A majority of those surveyed, 61.8%, still believe myths about electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, including myths about range and charging, rather than believing the facts about them being cheap to run, hugely practical and available from almost every manufacturer.
For example, nearly half of drivers questioned were unaware that rapid-charging for plug-in vehicles can provide almost a full charge in roughly 30 minutes. One in ten believe that electric cars cannot be driven on motorways, while nearly five percent wrongly believe that it is dangerous to charge a plug-in vehicle when it is raining.
Despite potential fuel savings for the average motorist of £660 per year and car tax savings of around £850 over five years, more than a quarter of motorists believe that ultra low emission vehicles are more expensive to run than conventional diesel or petrol cars.
Drivers in London can also avoid paying the London Congestion Charge, whilst company car tax levels are 5% for zero-emission vehicles compared to up to 20% for vehicles with emissions more than 75 g/km. Beyond London, ultra low emission vehicles benefit from a nationwide network of charging points.
Three new car manufacturers have signed up to be partners of the Go Ultra Low campaign, which launched a year ago to encourage people to consider an ultra low emission vehicle. Audi, Mitsubishi and Volkswagen have joined BMW, Nissan, Renault and Toyota, to create a line-up of 11 ultra low emission vehicles, ranging from small city cars to four-wheel drive SUVs.
All of the ultra low emission vehicles produce 75g or less of CO2 per kilometre from their tailpipe and a minimum 10 miles of zero-emission driving. The new models include the Audi A3 Sportback e-tron plug-in hybrid, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV plug-in hybrid and from Volkswagen, the all-electric Volkswagen e-up!, e-Golf and the plug-in hybrid Golf GTE.
The seven manufacturers will undoubtedly help the Go Ultra Low campaign get the message across to consumers that there really are ultra low emission vehicles for everyone, no matter what type of car they need or the daily journeys they undertake.
Go Ultra Low has made more motorists consider an ultra low emission vehicle, with 23,083 claims now having been made through the Plug-in Car Grant scheme. The impact of tens of thousands of ultra low emission vehicles on UK roads is helping to reduce CO2 emissions and improve local air quality.
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