How to self-isolate your electric or plug-in hybrid car

Buy a car battery in lockdown

Road traffic levels are now ‘akin to those in the early 1970s’, as millions of motorists stay at home during the lockdown. As a result, many cars will be left unused for weeks on end.

Leaving a car untouched can lead to problems with the battery, tyres, brakes and bodywork, but there is specific advice for electric and plug-in hybrid cars. Here, we reveal the tips for electrified vehicles when not in regular use.

The advice comes from Bob Taenaka, senior technical leader for battery and cell system development at Ford. He says the most important thing is to make sure your car’s 12-volt battery remains charged and the high-voltage battery has adequate charge. At least 10 percent is required to prevent it draining to zero.

If you have driven or had your electric/plug-in hybrid vehicle on charge for at least eight hours within the past month, the 12-volt battery should be adequately charged.

When storing a battery electric car for longer periods, a charge of between 10 percent and 80 percent is recommended. A high-voltage battery above 10 percent state of charge can go for more than six months without charging, but the 12-volt battery will drain much faster.

Ford Kuga plug-in hybrid

Taenaka recommends disconnecting the negative terminal of the 12-volt battery. Alternatively, leave the electrified vehicle plugged in and connect the 12-volt battery to a trickle charger.

 “If you are storing your vehicle for longer than 30 days without use, we recommend disconnecting the negative terminal of your 12-volt battery,” says Taenaka. “This avoids depletion and potential damage to the battery, which runs the internal systems such as heating – without the need for monthly maintenance.”

Disconnecting the 12-volt battery

Car battery

Remember the following points when disconnecting a 12-volt car battery:

  • Make sure you have the key fob outside of the car, because you may need to use the physical key to lock and unlock the vehicle.
  • If the vehicle is in a locked garage and the 12-volt battery is in the boot, leave the boot lid open.
  • Once the 12-volt battery is disconnected, use the key to unlock and lock the doors.
  • If the battery is in the boot and you’re not storing the car in a garage, you will require another 12-volt source. Follow the ‘jump start’ instructions in the owner’s manual to restore 12-volt power to the vehicle in order to open the boot.

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Tesla Store

New car sales collapse to 1946 levels – but Tesla Model 3 is UK number 1

Line-up of new Lexus carsUK new car registrations plunged more than 97 percent in April 2020 to levels not seen since early 1946, official figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders reveal. 

The UK lockdown announced on 23 March saw car dealers close their showrooms, effectively pausing registrations and deliveries for all but a handful. 

Companies accounted for 71.5 percent of the registrations, a much greater proportion than normal. This indicates most deliveries were bulk fleet car orders, arranged well before lockdown. 

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said the April 2020 figures were “hardly surprising”. 

Tesla Model 3

Incredibly, the Tesla Model 3 electric car was the best-selling vehicle in April, well ahead of another all-electric car: the Jaguar I-Pace

In January, Jaguar signed a deal to supply 700 I-Paces to the NHS

Zero-emissions battery electric cars easily took their highest market share ever, accounting for almost 1 in 3 new cars sold. 

Vauxhall was third with the all-new Corsa, the AUTOBEST Best Buy Car of Europe 2020. Vauxhall also offers an all-electric version, the Corsa-e

New rules were introduced in April 2020 meaning EV company car drivers pay ZERO Benefit-in-Kind tax

In another first, there were two passenger vans in the top 10 best-sellers list as well, the Ford Tourneo Custom and Peugeot Rifter. 

Just 4,321 cars

April new car registrations 2004 to 2020

A mere 4,321 new cars were registered in April 2020, a decline of 97.3 percent in a year.

In April 2019, more than 161,000 new cars were registered, illustrating the scale of the fall. 

That itself was the second-worst April for new car sales since 2012, due to a 10 percent decline in private buyer demand. 

The SMMT has responded by downgrading its full-year estimate for new car sales to 1.68 million vehicles. This would be a level last seen in 1992. 

Last year, 2.31 million new cars were sold

New car registrations had already fallen 44 percent in March. European registrations were down 55 percent

In February 1946, just months after the end of World War II, just 4,044 new cars were registered. 

Top 10 best-selling vehicles: April 2020

1: Tesla Model 3 (658 cars)

2: Jaguar I-Pace (367 cars)

3: Vauxhall Corsa (264 cars)

4: Vauxhall Crossland X (143 cars)

5: Ford Tourneo Custom (108 passenger vans)

6: Peugeot Rifter (94 passenger vans)

7: Seat Leon (80 cars)

8: Mercedes-Benz A-Class (72 cars)

9: Nissan Leaf (72 cars)

10: Peugeot 308 (67 cars)

‘Worst in living memory’

Mr Hawes from the SMMT said the market performance was the worst in living memory. 

“These figures… make for exceptionally grim reading, not least for the hundreds of thousands of people whose livelihoods depend on the sector.

“A strong new car market supports a healthy economy and as Britain starts to plan for recovery, we need car retail to be in the vanguard.”

April 2020 car sales: industry response

Auto Trader commercial director Ian Plummer said some brands had been able to sell remotely, but a lack of infrastructure meant only a few – most prominently, Tesla – were able to capitalise. 

The new car marketplace is still receiving 1 million visits a day, though. Mr Plummer says data shows only 2 percent of consumers say they will no longer be buying a new vehicle. 

“25 percent said they wanted to buy as soon as they could, and 57 percent said they’d still buy in 2020.”

Data suggests the market “has been paused, rather than stopped, and [is] ready to return to health quickly once restrictions have been lifted”. 

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Public invited to recreate famous Honda ‘Cog’ TV ad

Honda 'Cog' advertHere’s a task to keep you occupied during lockdown: recreate Honda’s famous Cog television advert from 2003.

The challenge has been set by ITV programme The People’s Ad Break, which will air the best effort in a TV advertising spot on Saturday 23 May.

The original Cog film required 606 hours of testing and filming before the final cut, so let’s hope you’re feeling patient…

Honda 'Cog' advert

Cog was a carefully – and beautifully – orchestrated chain reaction between a series of car parts. It lasted two minutes and was broadcast just 10 times (due to the high cost of lengthy advertising slots) in April 2003.

Nonetheless, the car it promoted, the Honda Accord Tourer, remained something of a niche offering, despite public and critical acclaim for the commercial.

Cog was chosen alongside popular adverts from Aldi, Haribo, Walkers and Weetabix for viewers to remake at home.

Read the rules before you start filming (you must avoid other brand names on camera, for example), then submit your entry via the The People’s Ad Break website before 8 May.

The winners will be judged by a panel of senior ITV staff and broadcast during the break for Britain’s Got Talent – one of the channel’s most popular shows.  

Honda 'Cog' advert

Jean-Marc Streng, president of Honda UK, said: “We are really looking forward to seeing how ITV’s viewers recreate Honda’s precision engineering in producing their version of our iconic Cog advert.  However, we would not recommend them taking their car apart to do so!”

You can share your ad-making progress on social media using the hashtag #HondaCog.

Can car air filters protect you from coronavirus?

Driving with a mask on

Chinese carmaker Geely recently unveiled its new Icon SUV. Its headline feature is an ability to ‘isolate and eliminate harmful elements in the cabin air, including bacteria and viruses.’ 

Geely’s claim centres on the Icon’s air purification system, which is certified to CN95 – or 95 percent filtration of particles down to 0.3 microns. A series of anti-bacterial filters then ‘kill the escaped virus’, says Geely. 

Other Chinese marques have followed suit, including SAIC, which owns the MG brand. Its solution includes an ultraviolet lamp to sterilise passing air. But are such claims merely a marketing ploy?

Sealing a car ‘almost impossible’

Geely Icon

Werner Bergman, research director at Aerosol Science, is sceptical. He told SAE International: ““I would be suspicious of any claims for effective ambient filtration that does not involve slightly pressurising the cabin with filtered air”.

However, “It is almost impossible to have a sufficiently sealed cabin or room,” he adds. 

Electric carmaker Tesla has also made bold claims about cabin filtration. Its Model X and Model S have a ‘Bioweapon Defence Mode’ that is claimed to remove ‘at least 99.97 per cent of fine particulate matter and gaseous pollutants, as well as bacteria, viruses, pollen and mould spores’.

Putting Tesla to the test

Tesla Model X

In reality, though, the protection Bioweapon Defence Mode offers from coronavirus may be limited.

Speaking to Gizmodo, Michael Buchmeier, deputy director of the Pacific Southwest Regional Center for Biodefense and Emerging Diseases at the University of California, said: “[Filtration to] 0.3 micrometre won’t hold back viruses. It will hold back most bacteria, but it won’t hold back viruses”.

The good news is that a corona-proof car probably isn’t necessary. “I can’t think of any circumstance where the outdoor COVID-19 concentration is so high that one needs a vehicle filtration system,” explained Bergman.

Time to buy that cheap summer convertible?

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The car brands that have NOT fixed keyless theft risks

The car brands that have NOT fixed keyless theft risks

keyless car theft

Fourteen car manufacturers have failed to tackle keyless car crime. That’s according to consumer group Which?.

Keyless car theft involves two criminals working together using electronic signal relay devices to steal a vehicle. Typically, this takes place outside the owner’s home.

One criminal stands by the car, while the other one stands close enough to the house to pick up the signal from the key fob. This signal is transferred to a second box, effectively fooling the car into ‘thinking’ the key is present.

Only Tesla and Mercedes-Benz have fixed the problem across new and existing cars, says Which? A shocking 14 manufacturers have taken no action.

Citroen, DS, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Lexus, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Peugeot, Renault, SsangYong, Suzuki and Vauxhall/Open told the consumer group they have failed to tackle keyless car theft. Fiat Chrysler didn’t respond to the Which? questions.

The likes of Ford, Land Rover and Volvo have upgraded their security systems on newer models, but aren’t planning to roll this out for older vehicles.

‘Done nothing about it’

Mazda CX-30

Which? editor Lisa Barber said: “It’s unacceptable that several manufacturers have still done nothing about it. While we’re glad to see some are already implementing tougher security measures, too many are still ignoring the risks.

“More must be done to protect the thousands of insecure cars already on the road.”

Earlier this year, four cars were rated ‘poor’ in security assessments published by Thatcham Research. The Mazda CX-30, MG HS Excite T-GDI, Subaru Forester e-Boxer XE Premium and Vauxhall Corsa Ultimate Turbo 100 were slammed for having ‘inherent security vulnerabilities’.

Meanwhile, the Tesla Model 3 and Hyundai i10 Premium were rated ‘basic’.

There was better news for seven cars rated ‘superior’ by Thatcham. The BMW X6 M50d, BMW 218i Gran Coupe M Sport, Land Rover Discovery Sport D150, Mini Electric, Porsche Taycan Turbo, Skoda Superb and Toyota Supra were praised for their all-round security.

‘Missing commonly accepted security measures’

MG HS

Richard Billyeald, chief technical officer at Thatcham Research said: “The keyless vulnerability continues to be a concern to car owners. However, it is not the only factor behind recent increases in vehicle theft.

“Our assessment found that the rated Hyundai, MG and Tesla models are missing some commonly accepted security measures. These measures were introduced to improve core car security and represent the minimum today’s drivers should expect, whatever the vehicle price point.

“The number of carmakers now offering relay attack counter-measures with new vehicles is steadily increasing and should be applauded. However, all new cars with keyless systems ought to have a solution to this long-standing vulnerability in place.

“It’s also important to remember that the motion-sensor fob, while a good short-term fix, is not the ultimate solution to the keyless vulnerability, which should be designed-out of new vehicles completely in the future.”

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Tesla supercharger

Does Tesla want to become a UK electricity provider?

Tesla supercharger

Tesla has applied to the British energy market governing body for a licence to generate electricity in the UK.

The electric car company filed the application on Tuesday 28 April.

Tesla is well known for its electric cars but also has a growing solar panel and battery energy storage business.

In North America, it even sells solar roof tiles.

Sky News revealed details of the application, adding it is not clear why Tesla applied to the Gas and Electricity Markets Authority for the licence.

Tesla has previously built a huge lithium ion battery for the Australian state grid, in response to blackouts in 2016.

Chief executive Elon Musk bet the company would install the battery within 100 days of the $50m contract being signed, or it would be given for free.

Mr Musk won the bet.

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LV is latest car insurer to offer lockdown refunds

LV insurance refunds

LV has followed Admiral’s lead by offering refunds to car insurance customers.

The company says it can afford the refunds due to fewer claims made during the coronavirus lockdown.

The LV refund scheme differs from Admiral’s £25 flat-rate approach. To qualify for LV’s refund of £20 to £50, a customer must meet the following requirements:

  • Have not yet received the 80 percent payment scheme from their employer, or;
  • Are self-employed and are unable to work or trade due to the coronavirus, and haven’t received the 80 percent payment, or;
  • They were made unemployed at any point after 1 March 2020

Customers who arranged insurance via a broker are excluded from the scheme. 

‘Right thing to do’

Steve Treloar LV

Steve Treloar, chief executive of LV general insurance said: “Right now, there are millions of families across the UK who are facing unforeseen pressures on their finances as a result of coronavirus.

“Our research shows that a third of people with motor insurance are currently concerned that they will struggle to pay bills such as insurance premiums over the next three to six months with 1 in 10 saying they are very concerned at their ability to do so.

“So, we believe it’s vital and the right thing to do to concentrate the additional financial support we can offer on those who are really struggling.

“We spent a lot of time thinking about the best way to help customers and this enables us to give between £20 and £50, which to some families will make a real difference.”

LV’s package ‘a step down’

LV car insurance refunds

James Blackham, CEO of By Miles, says the LV scheme doesn’t go far enough. “While another major insurer, LV, offering refunds to customers is a good thing – what they are offering is actually a step down from Admiral’s support.

“While Admiral gave an automatic £25 refund to all customers, LV is only offering refunds of between £20 – £50, but only to those who can prove they are financially worse off due to coronavirus.

“And they’re making policyholders do the leg work – asking drivers to contact them directly to apply for a rebate.

“We hope this is just the first step, and LV is prioritising customers who’ve experienced financial difficulties before offering refunds to all their drivers who have not been getting their money’s worth from their policy.

“Those who are driving less, you should pay less. It’s as simple as that. Any customers who are looking for refunds from their insurer (if they haven’t been already) should contact their insurers and make this point.

“We forecast traditional car insurers will save in excess of £1 billion due to the lockdown and hopefully today’s guidance from the FCA will see more car insurers do the right thing and pass on these savings – to all of their customers.”

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Pothole-related breakdowns up by nearly two-thirds

Worst pothole in the UK

The RAC responded to 3,426 pothole-related breakdowns in the first three months of 2020. That’s an increase of 1,337 (64 percent) compared with October to December 2019.

It’s also 150 more than during the same period in 2019 – a rise of 4.5 percent.

Damaged shock absorbers, broken springs and distorted wheels accounted for 1.6 percent of all RAC breakdowns in the period. The company said ‘these are most likely to be attributable to poor road surfaces’.

The country experienced a mild but tough winter. High winds and flooding hit many parts of the UK, with Storms Ciara and Dennis piling more pressure on the beleaguered road network.

In the last Budget, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the creation of a £2.5 billion pothole fund to be spent over the next five years. He said it would be enough to tackle 50 million potholes by the end of the parliament.

‘Storms and floods were major factors’

Motorists aren't confident driving in stormy conditions

RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes said: “The jump in pothole-related breakdowns from the last three months of the year to the first quarter of the next year is always the largest as winter weather has the greatest effect of all in wearing down our roads.

“Many parts of the country suffered very wet weather conditions throughout February, though the winter overall was generally mild. While the wet conditions mercifully gave way to much drier weather as we headed into March, it’s still likely that the storms and floods were major factors in why the number of pothole-related breakdowns was higher than the same period last year.

“While millions of cars are mostly confined to streets and driveways during the coronavirus lockdown, people are more reliant than ever on their vehicles to buy food and important household items. The last thing any driver needs on the way to do their essential weekly shop is to suffer a nasty pothole-related breakdown that puts their car out of action, especially with fewer garages open than usual. This means the quality of local roads is, ironically, is as important as ever.

Worst pothole in the UK

“In his Budget in March, the Chancellor committed to funding our local roads and it is clear that the economic recovery as the UK emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic will need to be built on solid infrastructure – which of course needs to include good quality roads.

“Moreover, it will also be interesting to see if lower traffic volumes during the UK’s lockdown will help prevent further deterioration of roads as fewer wheels going over weaknesses in the asphalt should contribute to less surface wear.”

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Car insurance prices fall to five-year low

Car insurance prices fall to five-year low

car insurance quote

The price of car insurance has fallen to its lowest level in five years. That’s according to new research published this week.

Although the year-on-year cost of a fully comprehensive policy increased in the first quarter, data from April shows a steep decline. A policy in Q1 (January to March) cost £485, but had fallen to £462 by the end of April.

Prices fluctuated during 2019, starting the year at £480, then rising and falling, before settling at £503 by the end of the year.

RAC data shows the volume of vehicles on the road had fallen by 40 percent by the second week of the lockdown. This has led to speculation that insurance companies will reduce premiums in the second half of 2020.

Last month, Admiral announced that it was refunding policyholders to the tune of £25.

There are still regional price variations in the UK. For example, a customer in East London is likely to pay an average of £986 for cover, while somebody in Llandrindod Wells will pay just £300. 

Insurance is also three times more expensive for drivers under 25 than it is for motorists over the age of 50. Drivers aged 65 or over pay £289 on average.

‘Don’t let your policy automatically renew’

Best car insurance companies

Dave Merrick, car insurance spokesman at MoneySuperMarket, said: “Our research shows car insurance premiums in the first quarter of 2020 increased marginally year on year. This is partly attributable to price rises in the final quarter of 2019 in response to a change in the discount rate – a figure applied to large personal injury compensation claims – which triggered premium inflation.

“But our latest research shows that April’s prices are at their lowest levels in five years. Whether there’s any link to the coronavirus crisis is difficult to say for certain, but it is likely to be a factor. An unintended consequence of the lockdown has been fewer cars on the roads and fewer accidents, so it’s fair to assume that this could result in reduced prices.

“Whatever happens to premiums in the coming months, make sure you don’t let your policy automatically renew as you’ll likely see your costs increase. Always switch your provider before your policy renews – doing so can save you up to £270.”

Top 10 most expensive locations for car insurance

  • Location
  • 1. East London
  • 2. Ilford and Barking
  • 3. North West London
  • 4. Southall and Uxbridge
  • 5. North London
  • 6. Harrow
  • 7. Bradford
  • 8. South East London
  • 9. Manchester
  • 10. London West End
  • Q1 2020 cost
  • £986
  • £900
  • £887
  • £858
  • £825
  • £762
  • £760
  • £752
  • £746
  • £740

Top ten least expensive locations for car insurance

  • Location
  • 1. Llandrindod Wells
  • 2. Kirkwall
  • 3. Dorchester
  • 4. Exeter
  • 5. Truro
  • 6. Torquay
  • 7. Dumfries and Galloway
  • 8. Inverness
  • 9. Taunton
  • 10. Galashiels
  • Q1 2020 cost
  • £300
  • £302
  • £303
  • £306
  • £306
  • £311
  • £313
  • £314
  • £318
  • £319

Click here to find out how to save money on your car insurance.

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Audi extends new car warranties by three months

Audi extends new car warranties

Audi is offering an extension of its new car warranties in the wake of the coronavirus crisis. This is to help customers who are unable to visit an Audi dealer during the lockdown.

The extension applies worldwide to all cars produced in Europe, Brazil, Mexico or India. Specifically, it applies to warranties due to expire between 1 March 2020 and 31 May 2020.

Warranties will be extended by three months after the original date of expiry, at the latest on 31 August 2020. Mileage restrictions remain unchanged.

Audi says that in the case of any overlap, the start of an extended warranty will be postponed for three months.

Horst Hanschur, vice president retail business development and customer services at Audi, said: “We are reaching out to our customers in these trying times and are enabling more flexibility in order to organise visits to Audi dealerships.

“Many of our dealer partners worldwide are still closed or just in the process of opening their doors again.

“We are therefore making adjustments in a number of areas in order to ensure our customers still have a premium experience with the Audi brand, as well as to ensure the future of our dealerships.”

Audi dealer in Reading

Audi announced a temporary suspension of production at its European sites in mid-March, but says it expects to “gradually initiate the restart of production” over the coming weeks.

Vehicle production will be ramped up from the end of April onwards according to a fixed plan.

Peter Kössler, board of management member for production, said: “The focus is on the employees, because they need a safe working environment.

“Audi teams of experts have therefore adapted processes with a view to health protection in consultation with the specialist departments and works councils.”

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