RAC Future Car Challenge 2011

This year saw myself participate as driver of the Peugeot 508 eHDi in the RAC Future Car Challenge on Saturday November the 5th 2011 from Brighton to London.  My very able co-pilot Sam Burnett, Editor at Driving Magazine, set the tone for the day by asserting our overall victory and ultimate goal of beating Damon Hill, soon to be Chariman of the Guild of Motoring Writers, driving the exact same car!  Rivalry aside the day began dull and early on Brighton’s Madeira Drive, cars lined up with data monitoring equipment installed and yogic 'oms' being hummed.  For RACFCC is not a race involving speed and life threatening manoeuvres but rather fuel efficiency, vehicle weight, and a lot of patience!  The participants had to get from Madeira Drive in Brighton to Pall Mall in London using the least energy possible within 3hrs and 30 min.

Sam Burnett

Damon Hill

Engines and motors on everyone set off to the midway point of Crawley for a PR stop, a quick charge if driving electric and food refuel.  Celebrities always bring panache and awareness to these events and aside from Formula One legend Damon Hill OBE there was Quentin Willson, Kevin McCloud (Grand Designs), actor Robert Llewellyn, and DJ Mark Goodier.  However, it was Kevin McCloud who is the real enthusiast and speaking to him midway he gave us a sense of his ‘Big Idea’,  “You have to think of our lifestyles as a whole, and that is why eco cars matter.  Just as I build eco-houses (his business is called HAB – Happy Architecture Beauty) and experiment with new materials the automotive industry is doing the same with new eco technologies creating a new automotive culture.”  He was driving the Delta Motorsports E4 that won the People’s Choice Award.

Delta Motorsports E4

The actual racing was interesting, my less appreciative competitors just called it boring.  Herein lies the real-life issue and barrier of eco-driving, it is not a naturally entertaining, nor stimulating, driving experience.  Driving at an efficient pace – 35 mph in our case – leads your mind to wander and look for other things to do…specially when driving a sophisticated machine such as the Peugeot 508 eHDi.  The on-board computer system analyses and communicates every single ml of fuel being used to the point that when we had figured out our most fuel efficient pace Sam and I spent most of our time checking out the strange gentlemen photographers who had lined up alongside the road throughout the course.  They were like car spotters, with mega lenses and super honed panning shot skills.  Paparazzi aside, eco-driving is not glamorous! 

It is prestigious events like the RAC Future Car Challenge, and the Bridgestone Eco-Rally, that inform the general population about automotive eco options.  You may not be able to get your hands on the Best Overall Entry RAC Future Car Challenge Winner T.27 built and designed by Gordon Murray Design but on Regent Street, at the end of the race, you could appreciate how many levels of eco cars there are in production already.  Electric, Hybrid, Hyrdogen, Diesel, Petrol, and any combination of the above are available in one form or another on the market now.  If you are extra conscious and harness your own solar power go for a Smart Electric Drive, Nissan Leaf or Tesla Roadster; if you are one of those people who forgets to recharge their phone stick to the super efficient VW Golf BlueMotion, Toyota Prius Plug-In Hyrbid, or BMW 320d Efficient Dynamics; if you are at the cutting edge and resourceful try and get on one of the few government funded trials of new electric vehicles such as the recently ended trial of the MINI EV.

With 50 cars in the race and 17 categories of prizes to win almost everyone got some recognition in the end.  Even my car no.42 Peugeot 508 eHDi was given the honour of receiving the Most Energy Efficient Large Car (Production) Award at the evening Gala dinner at the beautiful RAC building on Pall Mall.  Thank you thank you…will I enter next year?  Stay tuned!

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