The RAC Brighton to London Future Car Challenge is perhaps the foremost eco-car run in the world.
It is easy to see why. With more than sixty low and ultra-low carbon entries, ranging from production models available in the showroom to prototypes and concept cars, driving from the coast to the capital watched by hundreds of thousands of people, this is a showcase not just of the vehicles of tomorrow but also of today.
But what do the CO2 emission results and energy use data really tell us?
The RAC Foundation’s report The Green Charge has a few of the answers, which were explained and expanded on at the Royal Automobile Club earlier this week (watch a video of the event here). Looking solely at the data collected over the 57-mile course of 2011 Future Car Challenge:
- Electric vehicles used the least amount of energy, thanks to the superior efficiency of their power train.
- Tailpipe emissions were obviously non-existent for EVs, but on a well-to-wheel basis EVs also performed best, followed by plug-in hybrids, conventional hybrids and internal combustion engine cars.
- However these calculations depend very much on the grid carbon intensity and whether you take a rolling average, or take a figure for a specific time of day (at peak hours extra electricity demand is met through the burning of fossil fuels, whereas at night electricity is more likely to be green).
- In terms of fuel costs, EVs were the cheapest to run. This is not due to the supposed cheapness of electricity relative to petrol and diesel (which is not the case as they have roughly the same price per kWh) but due to EVs’ superior power train efficiency.
- An analysis of driving style suggests that average speed over the run had little impact on energy consumption, certainly not as much as variability of speed.
The overall winner was the Gordon Murray Design T.27. It is interesting to note that six out of the top ten most efficient vehicles were small EVs, with an average kerb weight of just under 1,000 kg, 23% less than the 1,300kg average of all participating vehicles.