Saturday, July 31, 2010

Hello John! Gotta New Motor?

Not one but two new arrivals today! Having traded in a 2007 Subaru Forester, our driveway is now gleaming with German and Japanese technology.

Having just started a new job 30 miles away - I'm now doing 300 miles a week, which was about 60 litres of petrol in the Subaru Forester. Realising that was just not fuel efficient enough, to justify keeping it, it had to go.

So in one simple transaction it was swapped for a VW Golf TDi and a Nissan Micra - both of which achieve better than 50 mpg.

Whilst the Forester was a very comfortable car, and very low mileage, it certainly liked the taste of petrol. On the windy lanes of my cross-country route, it was returning at best 25mpg. Petrol is about £5.30 a gallon right now, so it was costing me almost £13 per day in fuel. So for reasons of economics, plus my desire to cut down on fossil fuel consumption, the Subaru had to go.

The Golf is a 105hp TDi with about 49,000 miles on the clock. When driven economically, it should return close to 50mpg. Around town, I have seen the mpg meter show better than 56mpg.

The bitter irony is that I have now started a job in renewables engineering, and I will have to expend an additional 1250 litres of diesel fuel solely on my daily commute. This is about 12,500kWh of fossil fuel energy, which is about the same in energy terms as my 15,000kWh annual gas heating consumption. Biodiesel is a possibility - it's certainly a little kinder on the planet, provide that it is made from waste vegetable oil - and not new oil crops - grown purely for biofuel use.

By way of comparison, a return flight to Hong Kong (in a 747-400) works out at about 850 litres of fuel per passenger, or about 73mpg per passenger!

I did consider (and try) the public transport option, but found it to be unworkable. I live a mile from the station, but my new company is 2 miles from their nearest station, so a folding bike would be a good idea. The journey involves 1 change (at East Croydon) a lengthy wait, and then catching the one train per hour to Crowborough. The journey takes at best 2 hours and costs £20 in fares - which in my book is wholly impractical - since I start work at 7:30am. By car, the journey time is a comfortable 50 minutes, door to door.

So I'm back in car-commuter mode, not great when we are striving for a more sustainable lifestyle - but there is a recession on, and we have to do what we can to make a living and pay the bills.

Update: Drove the Golf to work for the first time today. Once the engine has warmed up after the first 4 miles or so (and that appears to be critical), the mpg meter seldom went much below 53mpg. The route to work involves several hilly sections and winding back roads. It will cruise at 60mph on the level in sixth gear at 51.8mpg, rising to 53.5mpg if you keep the speed to around 50mph - that's good enough for me.

The fuel tank is 55 litres with a 7 litre reserve. The "reserve" lamp came on about 5 miles from work - so being early, I filled the tank up at the local garage, with 50.47litres. I'm rather hoping that I won't have to do that again until the end of next week. If it averages 50mpg, the 55 litre tank should be good for about 600 miles.

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