Much of Britain’s car industry, as it was in the past, is based in the Midlands and the north. But London was once home to a number of car, truck and bus makers — factories that have never returned to the capital.
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Dr Mike Esbester
Small convoys of partially self-driving lorries will be tried out on major British roads by the end of next year, the government has announced.
A contract has been awarded to the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) to carry out the tests of vehicle “platoons”.
Up to three lorries will travel in formation, with acceleration and braking controlled by the lead vehicle.
But the head of the AA said platoons raised safety concerns.
In the platoons, the lead vehicle will be controlled by a human driver and will communicate with the rest of the convoy wirelessly.
The following vehicles will be instructed to accelerate and brake by the lead vehicle, allowing the lorries to drive closer together than they could with human drivers.
Lorries driving close together could reduce air resistance for the following vehicles, as the front lorry pushes air out of the way.
This could lead to fuel efficiency savings for haulage companies, which Transport Minister Paul Maynard hopes will be passed on to consumers.
The following vehicles could also react more quickly to the lead lorry braking than human drivers can.
However, human drivers will still steer all the lorries in the convoy.
The TRL will begin trials of the technology on test tracks, but these trials are expected to move to major roads by the end of 2018.
The government has been promising such a project since at least 2014.
Last year, for example, it announced its intention to carry out platooning trials but was later frustrated after some European lorrymakers declined to participate.
A Department of Transport spokesman told the BBC that the experiments are now expected to go ahead as the contract had been awarded.
The TRL has announced its partners for the project:
- DAF Trucks, a Dutch lorry manufacturer
- Ricardo, a British smart tech transport firm
- DHL, a German logistics company
Platooning has been tested in a number of countries around the world, including the US, Germany and Japan.
However, British roads present a unique challenge, said Edmund King, president of the AA.
“We all want to promote fuel efficiency and reduce congestion but we are not yet convinced that lorry platooning on UK motorways is the way to go about it,” he said, pointing out, for example, that small convoys of lorries can block road signs from the view of other road users.
“We have some of the busiest motorways in Europe with many more exits and entries.
“Platooning may work on the miles of deserted freeways in Arizona or Nevada but this is not America,” he added.
His comments were echoed by the RAC Foundation.
Its director, Steve Gooding, said: “Streams of close-running HGVs could provide financial savings on long-distance journeys, but on our heavily congested motorways – with stop-start traffic and vehicles jostling for position – the benefits are less certain.”
Campaign group the Road Haulage Association said “safety has to come first”.
Transport Minister Paul Maynard said platooning could lead to cheaper fuel bills, lower emissions and less congestion.
“But first we must make sure the technology is safe and works well on our roads, and that’s why we are investing in these trials,” he said.
Moving one heritage bus can sometimes prove difficult, but relocating a museum full of them is about to present a mammoth challenge for one group of South Wales-based road transport enthusiasts.
Swansea Bus Museum is planning to relocate its collection and displays as part of a major development plan and that means a huge logistical task for its small band of regular volunteers.
Before the end of the year the museum will leave the former industrial building in Swansea’s SA1 Business Park that has been its home for many years and relocate to a modern property in Swansea Enterprise Park.
The move comes as the lease on its current home ends and the museum seeks to expand its road transport restoration and preservation activities into the future as well as improving facilities for the storage of its unique collection of vehicles and also those for visitors and educational purposes.
Chairman Alan West, one of those who have helped nurture the museum from its early beginnings, welcomed the move along with the wide-ranging future opportunities it offers.
“We have an important collection of vehicles at Swansea Bus Museum and the move will allow us to extend this as well as creating a more welcoming environment for visitors who are very important to our survival.
“There is no doubt the transfer of our collection will present an array of problems particularly with vehicles awaiting restoration and heavy or bulky parts in our stores. The logistics are a nightmare and we are hoping that our predicament will attract some favourable support from at least one of our local haulage companies.
“Interest in the museum is on the increase both with volunteers and visitors. Shortly we will be welcoming a party of transport enthusiasts from Ireland keen to view our collection and others are set to follow. Members want the museum to grow and provide an additional point of interest for visitors to the city.
“The move is a mammoth task, but one we are confident we can achieve within the timescale,” he said.
The museum houses an array of passenger transport vehicles. Among them are a number of rarities like the oldest surviving AEC Regent V and the world’s only AEC Regent V single deck vehicle, built to tackle low bridges in Llanelli’s New Dock area.
The museum is planning to complete the move in the run up to Christmas, but in the meantime is organising a farewell running day at its current site at SA1 Business Park, Langdon Road, East, Swansea, SA1 8PB, on Sunday October 29 from 10am to 4pm.
Further information from David Roberts, SBM Secretary Tel: 01792 732832.
Putney Bridge: CCTV of jogger ‘pushing’ woman in front of bus
The Times, October 27 2016,
It was after midnight and the executive director of the Colorado Department of Transportation was at the back of a convoy escorting an articulated lorry loaded with beer down the motorway.
“It looked like a truck going down the road. It had to respond to [traffic], vehicles passing it, merging in front of it, curves in the road,” Shailen Bhatt said. “The only thing that looked off was when you passed the vehicle and you looked in to see the driver and there was no driver.”
The future of cargo hauling may have arrived on Thursday morning when a driverless 53ft lorry travelled more than 120 miles along Interstate 25, including through the city of Denver. It was delivering 2,000 cases of Budweiser from the Anheuser-Busch brewery in Fort Collins to Colorado Springs.
“This milestone marks the first time in history that a self-driving vehicle has shipped commercial cargo, making it a landmark achievement for self-driving technology, the state of Colorado and the transportation industry,” the brewer said in a joint statement with Otto, the San Francisco-based company owned by Uber that developed the technology for the experiment.
The test run was carried out between 1am and 3am. The lorry travelled in the centre lane as part of a convoy that included four police vehicles, two tow trucks and four Otto vehicles.
The lorry was on a familiar route. It had already done the same run hundreds of times before with someone in the driving seat to survey the route.
On this occasion a driver was in the sleeper berth of the lorry to monitor the system. He was not required to take over at any point, Otto said, although he drove the truck onto the motorway and away from it.
Uber, which paid almost $700 million for Otto shortly after the company was set up in February, tested self-driving cars in Pittsburgh last month, but the technology is expected to take longer to come into widespread use than driverless lorries.
The hope is that the technology will allow long–haul drivers to sleep on main roads so that they are fresh for the more complex parts of the journey, making roads safer. About 400,000 lorries crash every year in the US, killing about 4,000 people, and human error is to blame for almost every case.
“We think that self-driving technologies can improve safety, reduce emissions and improve operational efficiencies of our shipments,” James Sembrot, head of logistics for Anheuser-Busch, said.
The Times, July 31 2017,
Oil investors are getting worried. Electric cars have accelerated on to the front pages. Sales are surging, carmakers are unveiling plans for all-electric models and this week Britain vowed to ban sales of petrol and diesel cars by 2040.
Yet if Big Oil believes that death is about to pull up in a Tesla, it’s doing a good job of hiding it. On Thursday, Ben van Beurden, the boss of Royal Dutch Shell, welcomed Britain’s plans and declared that his next car would be electric. And earlier in the year Spencer Dale, BP’s chief economist, bluntly described the arrival of electric vehicles on the oil majors’ lawn as “not a game-changer”, adding that not even “enormous” growth in sales of such vehicles would make a big dent in global oil demand.
That’s partly because the world needs oil for much more than just cars. BP reckons that fuel for passenger vehicles accounts for about a fifth of the 95 million barrels consumed globally every day. Most of the rest is used in industry, plastics manufacturing or to fuel heavy goods vehicles, aircraft and ships. Such sectors do not have easy non-oil alternatives and companies believe that some, especially petrochemicals, will keep growing strongly for decades.
Oil companies also believe that the substantial fuel demand for cars won’t disappear overnight, whatever the growth in electric vehicles sales. “You have still got a big [existing] car fleet that is going to be on traditional fossil fuels for quite some time,” Lydia Rainforth, an oil analyst at Barclays, said.
Then there is basic geography. In emerging economies, petrol sales are expected to continue rising because, in Mr van Beurden’s estimation, these countries “cannot simply make that switch [to electric vehicles] because they do not have the electrical infrastructure to do so and do not have the wealth to do so”. Indeed, while BP estimates that there will be 100 million electric cars on the road by 2035, up from two million today, this will equate to only about 6 per cent of an enlarged global fleet, dampening global oil demand by just 1.5 million barrels a day.
To some, perhaps inevitably, that seems optimistic, at best. Bloomberg New Energy Finance forecasts that steep battery cost reductions will make electric vehicles cheaper than their traditional internal combustion engine peers by late next decade and expects 530 million of them on the road by 2040, a third of all cars.
That could destroy eight million barrels a day of oil demand, with “very strong implications for refiners”, Colin McKerracher, BNEF head of advanced transport, said. “It is safe to say this would have a negative impact on the oil companies.”
Even this bullish forecast assumes that only 80 per cent of UK car sales will be electric by 2040. Britain’s new policy was significant because it pointed to even faster progress, Mr McKerracher said, with the government intent on pushing this “even further and faster than the economics alone would”. Crucially, “it isn’t just the UK doing this”, with France announcing similar plans last month and China and India also looking at targets.
“We could be wrong,” Bob Dudley, BP’s chief executive, admitted to shareholders at its annual meeting in May. But no matter. “We have a very resilient portfolio,” Mr Dudley added. “We can shift our activities as a company.”
Mr van Beurden makes the same case. In the most aggressive scenarios, oil demand could peak as soon as the late 2020s, he said this week. “Is that an issue for us? We have to adapt to it.
“Every year we invest between $25 billion and $30 billion. We are a $280 billion company, so every decade we build a new Shell all over again. We are not some sort of sitting duck that has nowhere to go with only one business model or only one asset base. We continuously reinvent ourselves.”
When peak oil demand will occur may be a matter for debate, he said, but “that it will happen we are certain”.
“The idea that they are energy companies rather than oil companies will be very much the mantra from all of them,” Ms Rainforth said.
Shell and BP have already increased their focus on cleaner-burning gas. They have also started to develop renewable energy businesses to tap into rising global power demand.
And they are finding ways to capitalise on the rise of electric vehicles. Shell is already preparing to install charging points at its service stations around Britain, which it says represents an opportunity to sell drivers more products at its convenience stores while they wait.
As Big Oil evolves into Big Energy, the sight of Mr van Beurden behind the wheel of an electric vehicle might not seem so crazy, so long as he’s charging it up on a Shell forecourt.
Cost of batteries will decide the future of petrol and diesel
Analysts differ wildly in their forecasts for the future growth of electric vehicles, but they seem to agree at least on why.
“It all depends on what you believe will be the rate of decline of battery costs,” Alan Gelder, a senior vice-president at Wood Mackenzie, said.
The oil consultancy expects relatively modest growth in electric cars, which it believes will account for only one in three British vehicle sales by 2035. That is far below Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s estimate of 80 per cent by 2040, let alone the UK’s plan to end petrol and diesel sales by that year. Bloomberg says that battery costs have fallen by 73 per cent since 2010 and it expects improved energy density and increased scale in manufacturing to drive further cost reduction. Yet Mr Gelder questioned whether costs could keep coming down, given the huge requirement for lithium and cobalt. “It’s hard for that to increase in scale significantly and still become cheaper,” he said.
Colin McKerracher, of Bloomberg, believes that this risk is overplayed. “Today, if lithium prices went up 300 per cent, that would increase the cost of a battery pack about 2 per cent,” he said.
The Times, September 1 2016,
Team GB’s world-beating cyclists from the Rio Olympics have written to Theresa May to demand that 5 per cent of the transport budget be spent on cycle lanes on Britain’s roads.
Jason Kenny and Sir Chris Hoy, Britain’s most decorated Olympians with six gold medals apiece, have signed the letter, along with Laura Trott, Britain’s most decorated woman Olympian.
Other signatories include Joanna Rowsell Shand, Elinor Barker and Owain Doull, who won team pursuit golds in Rio; Mark Cavendish, who won silver in the omnium; Rebecca James, who took silver in the keirin and the sprint; Katy Marchant, who won bronze in the sprint; and Chris Boardman, a gold medallist in 1992 and policy director of British Cycling.
Budgets for bikes
- £450 million Minimum annual budget for cycling in England outside London recommended by a parliamentary inquiry, the Commons transport committee and the Times campaign.
- £60 million Average annual amount committed by the government.
- £1.39 per head What the Department for Transport will spend on average.
- £24 per head Spending on cycling in The Netherlands.
The letter, which will be sent today and has been seen by The Times, tells the prime minister: “You were widely reported in the media as saying that there will be ‘no limits’ on the honours that could be bestowed on our medal winners. But the best way to honour the achievements of our athletes would be a legacy of everyday cycling in this country — a place where cycling is the choice form of transport for people to get around in their daily lives.”
It reminds Mrs May that the Conservative manifesto pledged to double the number of cycle journeys and that her predecessor promised a “cycling revolution” for commuters.
The stars draw attention to the government’s “cycling and walking investment strategy”, a draft of which was condemned by campaigners for committing a “derisory” amount of funding.
It pledged £300 million over five years to cycling in England outside London, worth £2.07 per capita in 2016-17, falling to 72p by 2020-21. This is less than the £10 per head recommended by a cross-party Commons inquiry and the Times Cities Fit for Cycling campaign, backed by the AA.
The letter adds: “We need 5 per cent of the government’s transport spend allocated to cycling. This is the only way that cycling will be integrated into transport strategy and given the priority it deserves. Investment in cycling . . . will pay off for the nation’s health, wealth, transport infrastructure and the vibrancy of our towns and cities.
“Our athletes have inspired the country and now we urge the government to take cycling seriously as a transport option for everyone.”
Boardman said that he had applied to chair the government’s expert committee for its cycling strategy and that Mrs May must give funding for cycling the same guaranteed status as for roads, rail and aviation. He warned against “positive indifference” from government.
THE LETTER IN FULL
Thursday 1 September 2016
Dear Prime Minister,