Audi A1 Citycarver: where is the urban jungle exactly?

Audi A1 Citycarver urban jungle

Audi says the A1 Citycarver is a car ‘for the urban jungle’. Not knowing where the urban jungle is, I Googled it, only to discover that it’s a garden centre and cafe near Norwich. And you thought the Honda Jazz was the choice of transport for garden centre enthusiasts.

I’m not entirely sure a jacked-up supermini dressed up to look like Baymax in armour is required for a trip along the A11, but Audi has a habit of discovering niches and filling them.

I jest. The Audi A1 Citycarver is actually a Rover Streetwise for people too young to remember the Rover Streetwise. You weren’t aware that you needed an Audi Streetwise, but the marketing commandos will be deployed to ensure you spend every waking hour wondering how you coped without one.

Citycarver? Depending on your age, you’re either thinking of a detective chief inspector from The Bill, or a media mogul from Tomorrow Never Dies. Or maybe you’re thinking it sounds like the name given to an unsavoury character on Crimewatch.

But don’t have nightmares, because the A1 Citycarver is little more than a city-friendly Audi A1 with 4cm of additional ground clearance, body cladding to make it look like an A1 Allroad, and front-wheel-drive to ensure that it’s not.

Audi A1 Citycarver

It costs from £22,040, which isn’t a lot for an Audi, but by the time you’ve added a few choice options and accessories, you’ll be knocking on the door of £30,000, which is a lot for a supermini. Even one with an Audi badge.

All of which is beginning to sound like the Audi A1 Citycarver gives me an irrational desire to throw a hot cake at the wall and mutter something about the days before Audi became as popular as a Kylie Jenner Instagram post.

But I’m feeling quite calm about the Jim Carver. I have a feeling it could steal sales from the Audi Q2, which could be the best thing to happen to our roads since the Romans brought a 12-inch ruler to these shores.

Carvery menu

Some people spend close to £40,000 on a Q2, which is a staggering amount of cash for a compact crossover. Let that sink in for a moment – £40k on a small crossover. There’s just something so unimaginative about buying a Q2. Why not spend £18,000 on the marginally less attractive Ford Ecosport and treat the kids to a good holiday?

An Elliot Carver costs £680 less than the Q2 and is only slightly smaller. You have to sacrifice 70 litres of boot space, but that seems like a small penalty when you consider the level of standard equipment.

Audi A1 Citycarver interior

LED headlights, LED rear lights , dynamic rear indicators, a 10.25 digital cockpit and 17-inch alloy wheels are must-have toys for the Audi driver, and they’re all fitted as standard.

The basic Q2 has to make do with halogen headlights, which, to your image-obsessed colleagues, will be a signal that you’ve given up on life. If you want LED lights and dynamic indicators, you’ll need to spend at least £26,370 on the Q2 S line.

If you’re after 17-inch alloys and the digital cockpit, you’ll require the Q2 Sport (£24,120), plus the optional Tech Pack (£1,495).

Audi says the A1 Citycarver is available with two engines, but its UK website is showing one. It’s a 30 TFSI, which sounds exciting, but you’ll need access to an Enigma machine to work out what it is.

What is clear is that the Citycarver will sell like pumpkins at Halloween. You may not want one, but I bet you know of at least a dozen people who would. A Honda Jazz remains a superior car for a trip to the Urban Jungle garden centre cafe, mind. Anyone for a slice of carrot cake?

BaT DeLorean DMC 12 Hovercraft

Great Scott, Marty! Buy this DeLorean-inspired hovercraft now

BaT DeLorean DMC 12 HovercraftMany people have probably dreamed about building the flying DeLorean DMC-12 from Back to the Future II, but one man has actually done it. Kind of.

A hovercraft, designed to resemble the famous DeLorean movie car, is now for sale on auction website Bring a Trailer. 

It represents the opportunity to acquire one man’s dedicated work of almost five years, and possibly one of the most dramatic ways to arrive on either water or land. 

“We don’t have enough road to get up to 88!”

BaT DeLorean DMC 12 HovercraftSan Francisco resident Matt Riese created the DeLorean hovercraft using blueprints from the popular Universal Hovercraft UH-13PT design kit. However, the vast majority of the construction is completely custom, and testimony to Riese’s personal dedication.

Styrofoam was used for the hull to ensure it remains afloat, with the remainder built from a combination of plywood and fiberglass. The DeLorean-inspired bodywork is said to be in scale to the original car, and features working headlights and gullwing doors

The recently refreshed exterior paintwork mimics the brushed stainless steel bodywork of a real DeLorean, whilst the hovercraft skirt is made of translucent material. This helps further the illusion of the DeLorean body ‘flying’ unsupported across water or land. 

“Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads!”

BaT DeLorean DMC 12 HovercraftPower for the DeLorean hovercraft comes from a pair of Briggs & Stratton engines. A single-cylinder unit provides the 24-inch lift fan with the ability to raise the craft off the ground. 

At the back, a two-cylinder 23 horsepower engine powers a 36-inch thrust fan, which pushes the hovercraft forward. Whilst it may not be a V-6 motor, it means this DeLorean replica is at least rear-engined, like the real thing. 

Riese states that a top speed of 31 mph is possible, falling some way short of the infamous 88 mph target in the Back to the Future films. Hovering in rough or choppy water is also discouraged, meaning this craft is best saved for calm days.

Fire up the Mr. Fusion reactor

BaT DeLorean DMC 12 HovercraftInside, Riese has created seating for two, and a full-width dashboard that houses all the switchgear. Switches on the central stack include ones labelled ‘Flux Capacitor’ and ‘Mr. Fusion’, helping add to the DeLorean Time Machine impression.

The rear fan rudders are controlled by a conventional steering wheel, whilst a foot pedal operates the throttle. Real instrument gauges are mounted on the internal A-pillar. 

A removable windshield helps keep occupants dry, although Riese notes that it can hamper visibility. The iconic gullwing doors do close, but water still enters the cabin around the door seals. 

“Synchronize your watches. The future’s coming back…”

BaT DeLorean DMC 12 HovercraftAlong with the DeLorean-shaped hovercraft, the lucky winner will also get a custom-designed trailer to transport their new toy. Recent work done to the hovercraft in 2019 includes a replacement battery, revised wiring, new fuel lines, and an updated engine cover. 

This incredible ‘craft was featured on Jay Leno’s Garage, with Leno taking a short trip in the DeLorean. The video from that experience, plus other videos, can be found on the Bring a Trailer listing. 

Riese previously advertised the hovercraft for sale on eBay, but an offer for $45,000 fell through before the sale completed. Judging by the number of comments placed on Bring a Trailer, bidding could be intense for this unique creation when the auction ends on November 4th.

Is expensive parking killing the high street?

Expensive high-street parking

The dwindling popularity of the local high street among shoppers is often blamed on the rise of online shopping. Now, however, expensive parking is copping some of the flack for the decline of local in-person shopping.

Even compared to a year ago, shoppers are spending less time on the high street. This, according to research by YourParkingSpace. Four in ten said they shop less frequently compared to last year, while one in ten said that the high street was just a once-yearly visit.

Expensive high-street parking

While 40 percent cited the ease of online shopping as a reason they don’t venture out, expensive parking came in as the second-biggest factor. Seventeen percent of respondents said that pricey parking put them off heading into town for a shopping visit.

However, cars are still the most popular way to get there, with over half saying they drive into town. That compares with just 12 percent that say they take the bus.

In spite of their aversion to it, respondents did seem optimistic about the future of the British high street. Three in ten said that would adapt and ultimately survive these trying times.

Parking for less

Expensive high-street parking

“Many British high streets have suffered a hard time recently, with small independent traders and large department stores all feeling the pinch,” said Harrison Woods, managing director at YourParkingSpace. 

“With most people driving to the high street, it’s no surprise that parking is a contentious issue. What they might not realise is that there are cheaper alternatives.”

There are a number of ways you can avoid extortionate parking costs. All it takes is a little bit of pre-planning. Research local parking vendors to find the cheapest locations. If you’re lucky, you might find spots local to your high street that are free. Failing that, you could hire a driveway.

Give it some stick: Porsche 911 now offered with manual gearbox

Porsche 911 manual 2020

When the new ‘992’ version of the 911 was revealed, Porsche promised a manual gearbox to complement the PDK paddle-shift automatic.

Now, although referring to US-market cars at present, details of the new stick-shift are starting to trickle out.

Manual 911 could be more exclusive

Porsche 911 Carrera Coupe

A seven-speed manual transmission will be a no-cost option in the 992. However, in the US at least, it will only be available on Carrera S, 4S and related soft-top variants. Standard Carreras won’t be available with a stick. Furthermore, choosing the manual box will necessitate having the optional Sport Chrono Package.

That means no manual 911 will come without dynamic engine mounts, PSM sport mode or a wheel-mounted drive mode selector. 

Lighter, but slower to accelerate

2019 Porsche 911 Cabriolet

As you might expect, the seven-speed manual ‘box does come with a weight benefit. Manual cars will be down around 40kg compared with PDK-equipped models. A standard Carrera S with a manual will be the lightest 911 on sale, at 1,945kg.

Also unsurprising are the slightly stunted acceleration figures in comparison with PDK-equipped cars. While 60mph comes in under 3.5 seconds in a Carrera S PDK, it’ll be closer to four seconds in the manual.

Room for a ‘back to basics’ 911

Porsche 911 T

Given you need to have a ‘specced-up’ 911 in order to have a stick and clutch pedal, there is room for a ‘back to basics’ variant. We expect something along the lines of the 991 Carrera T (pictured above) will fill that gap. Until the GT3 arrives, that is.

Expect UK specifications to be revealed imminently, with manual cars expected in dealers by next summer.

One in five drivers plans to go electric

One in five motorists plan to go all-electric

More than one in five say that their next car will be all-electric, meaning EVs have overtaken diesel and hybrid in buying intentions for the first time. The percentage of buyers planning to go electric is twice what it was two years ago.

That’s according to a survey of 7,205 motorists by Auto Express, published by DrivingElectric. Electric cars are now the second most popular choice of power for motorists’ next purchase.

Electric cars: going mainstream

One in five motorists plan to go all-electric

Two years ago, just one in 10 drivers said an electric cars was their preferred power option. That compares with 22 percent now. Diesel was the preference of 26 percent of drivers, but it’s now down to 19 percent. Petrol has also declined, from 43 percent to 37 percent.

“We’re now seeing a breakthrough in the perceptions of electric vehicles, from a niche phenomenon to a genuinely mainstream choice,” said Vicky Parrott, associate editor of DrivingElectric.

One in five motorists plan to go all-electric

“This is perfectly illustrated by the strength of interest among a non-specialist audience surfaced by our sister publication, Auto Express, and how closely it mirrored the buying plans of those who travelled from all over Britain to meet our team and look at the latest EVs.

“The views of car-buyers are clearly maturing as electric vehicles become more common. This means that the original chief selling points of EVs, such as very low running costs, are now being tempered by more traditional considerations around practicality, style, infotainment and comfort.”

The rise of the connected car – and what it knows about you

The rise of the connected car and what it knows about you

Right now, around two-thirds of new cars registered in the UK are connected. This means they’re sending data about the driver and the vehicle to the manufacturer.

The number will rise year-on-year until 2026 when 100 percent of new cars sold in the UK will be connected. That’s according to figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

As of late 2017, there were around nine million internet-connected cars on UK roads. The global number varies depending on the source, but a report by software company SAS says that the total will hit 152 million in 2020.

The combination of aftermarket devices and new car features could mean that this rises to TWO BILLION connected cars by 2025. According to IHS Automotive, the average car will will produce up to 30 terabytes of data every day.

In theory, this should benefit motorists, manufacturers, fleet managers and other road users.

For the motorists, there’s the promise of a personalised infotainment system, a car that learns their individual preferences, navigation systems that adapt to prevailing traffic conditions, and improved safety via car-to-car data sharing. Safe drivers could even be rewarded with cheaper insurance premiums and retail offers in exchange for good driving.

Whether the motorist needs or even wants this level of connectivity is up for debate, but the bigger issue is the lack of knowledge surrounding the data that’s being sent to manufacturers and third parties. Most of us have little understanding of what’s being collected and for what purpose.

Computers on wheels

Connected cars are computers on wheels

We need to start viewing new cars as computers on wheels. GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) has made us more wary of data harvesting – ticking or unticking boxes when we visit a website has become part and parcel of internet browsing.

It’s a similar story with smartphone apps. Last year, researchers at Oxford University analysed a third of apps available in the Google Play Store. The median app could transfer data to 10 third parties, with one in five apps able to share data with more than 20. The difference here is that there tends to be a much clearer line of communication concerning privacy settings and what your data is used for.

There are two primary issues: consumer understanding of what data being harvested and what happens to the personal data when the car is sold.

Tackling the first issue, Michael Alsemgeest, chief digital officer at LeasePlan, is calling for greater clarity. “It is madness that, in times of GDPR, your car can still collect virtually all the data it wants. Drivers need to be much better able to give informed consent or not to collect data from their vehicles.

“That doesn’t have to be difficult. After all, every time you download an app, you have the choice whether or not to agree that the data of the app is shared with third parties.”

Read the terms and conditions

Connected car terms and conditions

Regarding the ability to disable data when a car is sold, the National Cyber Security Centre says “many car manufacturers and dealers state this in their terms and conditions.

“However, some customers may not read them that closely and fail to delete their personal accounts and access. When the car is then sold on, the previous owner can track and monitor the car’s location and other data without the new owner’s knowledge.”

There are many examples of a previous owner remaining connected to a car weeks and months after selling it, along with instances of when dealers and manufacturers were less than forthcoming in the battle to disconnect the car.

It’s not just private cars. Data can be harvested by rental vehicles, pool cars and those in car-sharing clubs. Sync your smartphone or use an aftermarket app, and that knowledge is shared with the manufacturer and/or third party.

Michael Alsemgeest wants the data to be handled by a neutral third party. “The data of these smart vehicles must not end up in a black box that is controlled solely by the vehicle manufacturer.

“It would be better if the data were instead sent to an intermediary platform, a ‘neutral server’. These servers would then be operated and financed not by the manufacturers, but by an independent party.

“In addition, they only provide aggregated data insights, thus protecting the privacy of individual drivers. Using a neutral server would allow motorists to be able to decide for themselves what data they want to share and with whom, such as the manufacturer, the maintenance engineer or another service provider.”

Saving lives and creating jobs

There’s no doubt tconnected cars can benefit the automotive industry. The SMMT says the connected and autonomous vehicle (CAV) industry will save 3,900 lives, create 420,000 new jobs and generate £62 billion for the UK by 2030.

For organisations, the opportunities are immeasurable. From enhanced driver knowledge to on-the-move vehicle diagnostics, organisations will benefit from streamlined services, improved customer targeting and potential cost savings.

For the motorist, a greater awareness of data collection and privacy issues is required. This starts with more transparency of how, when and why the data is being used – and by whom. Consumers must also begin to treat a new car like a smartphone, tablet or any other connected device, especially when it is sold.

How future electric cars could charge in 10 minutes

Future electric cars could charge in 10 minutes

New technology could give electric cars the ability to gain 200 miles of range in less than 10 minutes, according to scientists.

This doesn’t rely on a futuristic type of battery or a pie-in-the-sky technology, either. Charging electric cars far more quickly could be a simple case of warming up current lithium-ion batteries.

Future electric cars could charge in 10 minutes

Extreme temperatures are generally understood to spell trouble for batteries. Colder temperatures reduce the range of electric cars with a full charge. And when a battery gets too hot, lasting damage can be done.

However, a warmer battery can be charged quicker, as higher temperatures stabilise conditions within the cells. The ideal, say scientists, is to heat the battery for no longer than necessary, to achieve charge speeds when they’re needed.

Prototype 10 amp-hour batteries with a thin nickel foil internal self-heating structure were able to charge to 80 percent in 10 minutes when heated to 60deg C, without being damaged. The results were repeatable, too. 

Future electric cars could charge in 10 minutes

“We can charge batteries of different sizes with the same [charging] time as long as the charge current increases proportionally with the battery size,” Dr Chao-Yang Wang, professor at the Pennsylvania State University, told The Guardian.

“For car battery of 150 amp hours, a fast charge station would have to provide a 900 amp current for 10 minutes.”

Volkswagen ID.3

What’s needed now is testing on bigger batteries, and in automotive applications. But in theory the technology could be in production vehicles in as little as three years.

“If we have a ubiquitous fast-charging infrastructure on the roadside, drivers need no longer to worry about the cruise range. After driving 200-300 miles per charge, one can pick up another 200-300 miles by charging for 10 minutes,” said Dr Wang.

Why can’t batteries stay hot for long?

Future electric cars could charge in 10 minutes

Over time, all batteries degrade and lose their capacity for charge. High temperatures create conditions within the battery that accelerate that degradation. The effects of charging too quickly at low temperatures are similar.

“At high temperatures battery active materials will react with the electrolyte to form passive surface films, consuming active lithium as well as causing high resistance,” continued Dr Wang. 

The difference is that the effects of high heat seem to mainly manifest over extended amounts of time. Using heat for a short amount of time, allowing for a quick charge, could be a win-win balancing act for future quick-charging cars.

Bristol could ban diesel cars by 2021

Bristol city could ban diesel cars

Bristol City Council could ban diesel cars from the city centre by 2021 to reduce air pollution. The measure would join a congestion charge for commercial vehicles covering taxis, lorries and buses.

If approved, Bristol will be the first city in the UK to implement a wholesale ban on diesel cars. London’s ULEZ, for example, only charges non-compliant vehicle users for entry. 

The latest suggestion is a more extreme version of a plan to ban diesel cars during peak hours. This was originally separate to Bristol’s proposed commercial vehicle congestion zone, but combining them could bring nitrogen oxide (NOx) levels down to within EU-mandated limits sooner. The previous plan would have seen those levels reduced to a satisfactory level no sooner than 2028.

The zone banning diesel cars would be ‘small’, while the area charging commercial vehicle drivers would be larger.

Remember, remember…

Bristol city could ban diesel cars

A decision on the plan is expected soon: the plan will put before the council on 5 November.

“These ambitious plans demonstrate our commitment to tackling air pollution so we meet legal limits within the shortest time, without disproportionately affecting citizens on lower incomes which would happen with a blanket approach to charging vehicles,” said Bristol mayor, Marvin Rees.

“Protecting the most vulnerable people from pollution is central to these plans and we have ensured that all impacts have been carefully considered. If approved, mitigation measures will support those most affected, especially those living in the most deprived communities.”

What will take diesel’s place?

Bristol city could ban diesel cars

Nicholas Lyes, head of roads policy at the RAC, has warned of an “unprecedented impact” on drivers reliant on their diesel cars, especially given how major routes in the area will be affected. He also warns of an underdeveloped public transport system unable to pick up the slack.

“Some drivers of diesel cars who are locked into finance packages may face a significant penalty to exit their contract early. There will also be drivers of older vehicles who are faced with having to give up their vehicles and switch to something different – which could be extremely costly.

“Bristol has bold plans to improve its public transport system, but major improvements like its mooted rapid transit system or even more park-and-ride sites are still many years from becoming a reality.

“In the meantime, many drivers are faced with having to use their car for journeys in and around the city simply because there are no affordable, reliable alternatives. This would become more difficult under these plans.”

Peugeot 208

Peugeot-Citroen and Fiat-Chrysler agree merger plan

Peugeot 208

Groupe PSA and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles have begun talks on a 50-50 merger that would create the fourth-largest car company in the world, selling 8.7 million vehicles a year.

The aim is to have a binding Memorandum of Understanding within a matter of weeks.

Bosses at the two firms believe combining the companies would result in annual savings of almost £3.2 billion, through large-scale efficiencies and sharing of technologies.

“These synergy estimates are not based on any plant closures,” say PSA and FCA in a joint statement.

Several unions have already insisted that plant closures would not be tolerated: the joint statement is intended to allay such concerns.

The new joint company will be based in the Netherlands, considered a neutral region. Of the proposed 11-member board, five will be nominated by FCA, whose chairman John Elkann will be chairman of the new company.

Carlos Tavares

Six will be from PSA, whose CEO Carlos Tavares (pictured above, speaking at a Vauxhall UK event) will be CEO of the new company, for an initial term of five years. Mike Manley, a Brit, is currently CEO of FCA and will become a board member of the new joint company.

“This convergence brings significant value to all the stakeholders and opens a bright future for the combined entity,” said Tavares.

I’m pleased with the work already done with Mike and will be very happy to work with him to build a great company together.”

‘Stronger together’

Driving the fast-paced merger talks is the desire to capitalise on the two firms’ strengths. FCA is big in North America and Latin America; PSA is an European powerhouse.

“The combination would unite the groups’ respective brand strengths across luxury, premium, mainstream passenger car, SUV and trucks and light commercial – making them stronger together.”

It would address FCA’s weaknesses in the passenger car market and accelerate PSA’s long-term ambition to reintroduce its brands into North America.

The merger will also help absorb the huge costs involved in a new era of sustainable mobility – the biggest of which is electrification. Here, scale is essential, which is why the merger is moving ahead at such a quick pace.

FCA’s alliance with PSA follows the collapse of earlier talks to merge with the Renault Nissan Alliance. FCA had previously also investigated a merger with GM.

Once complete, the new group will offer more than a dozen makes of car, including:

  • Peugeot
  • Citroen
  • Vauxhall
  • Opel
  • DS Automobiles
  • Fiat
  • Chrysler
  • Jeep
  • Alfa Romeo
  • Maserati
  • Lancia
  • Dodge
  • RAM

Brussels to ban ALL petrol and diesel cars

Brussels to ban petrol and diesel cars

Brussels is looking to set an example for the rest of Europe by banning petrol and diesel cars within city limits. 

It’s not happening overnight, though. Diesels will be outlawed by 2030, while access for petrol cars will be restricted from 2035. Motorcycles won’t escape either, with the most emissions-heavy bikes being banned from 2022.

The best-laid plans

Brussels to ban petrol and diesel cars

To encourage motorists out of polluting cars, Brussels’ infrastructure for electric cars, cyclists and public transport will be upgraded. Major investments are planned for such improvements, with pedestrian walkways, cycle routes, bus and tram services all due to benefit.

There’s a long way to go, though. Febiac, the Belgian automotive federation, says “specific plans, measures and the budget to work through all of it in such a time period are non-existent”.

“Already today, Brussels is lagging far behind, for example, in the deployment of the essential charging infrastructure.”

Fruits of change

Electric car markets unbalanced in Europe

If successful, the results will be impressive. It’s anticipated CO2 emissions inside city limits will be cut by 40 percent by 2030. In theory, Brussels will be fully de-carbonised by 2050, as per goals set out by the EU.

With a little more than 15 years before diesels are banned, there should be time enough for drivers to change vehicles, and for car manufacturers to adjust their offerings.