RAC Brighton to London Future Car Challenge 2010


London is a very special place for green car design at the moment.  It seems that any vehicle that is green and aiming to become a success story must go through its paces in London.  The city is appropriately congested, limited by space, and has a variety of parking problems to make it one of the best testing grounds for alternative fuelled cars in the world.  To steal a proverb from New York in its hey day, “if you can make it here you can make it anywhere!”.

And so the challenges continue, this time on a grander scale London was the finishing line to RAC’s, Royal Automobile Club, Brighton to London Future Car Challenge (BLFCC).  Presented the day before the famous London to Brighton Veteran Car Run (LBVCR), a pioneering race that began in 1896, the first ever BLFCC ran in reverse – from Madeira Drive, Brighton to Pall Mall, London.  Entrants were invited from all walks of life as long as their vehicle was road-legal, concept, development, pre-production and production passenger motor cars, light commercial vehicles (3.5 tonne) and motorcycles that feature new/alternative energy Electric (EV); Hybrid (HEV) and Internal Combustion Engine up to 110g/km CO₂ emission fuelled by any legal means (ICE) categories.  On the day over 60 cars participated, only a fraction of the 505 veteran cars that took off the next day, but a start nonetheless.

All participating cars lined up on Regent Street in Central London after having finished the 57-mile run and had their data recorders removed and scrutinised for performance stats on arrival at Pall Mall.  Regent Street, decked out with Christmas lights and hoards of shoppers was a unique and unprecedented market place to show off tomorrow’s technologies.  Driver’s awaited anxiously around they cars to hear the final results of their drive for the results were entirely up to efficiency, not speed! And the overall winner is…Volkswagen Volkswagen Golf blue-e-motion prototype electric car, driven by Jim Holder, Editor of What Car? and Volkswagen engineer Folko Rohde.  The public Choice was awarded to Vauxhall Ampera
Extended Range EV, driven by Andres Duerden, and the Best Overall Private Entry As Chosen By The
Event Judges was the Lotus Elise S1 Electric driven by Russ Sciville.

But what about design?  This was a real litmus test ground for what design can do to promote green technology.  As you came up onto the exhibition it was clear that people were gravitating towards the old, traditional, perhaps more rare vehicles that were on show before their run the next day.  There was an old movie quality about them enhanced mostly by some of the owners wearing period costumes.  This really turned people on to the cars, made them want to sit in them and get their picture taken. 

The reaction was no-where near that excitement on the East side of the road.  If it were not for the eco stickers or open bonnets showing off some space age technology people just walked by the cars with a few exceptions.  These were of course the sports car entries, mostly Lotus based Tesla’s and Ecotricity’s newly unveiled Nemesis (also based on Lotus Exige).  The low, compact, and sporty look appealed to almost everyone that passed, but funnily enough neither Tesla nor Ecotricity received any awards from a possible list of 15 categories!

RAC promoted this event to reassure ‘the people’ that new low carbon solutions are viable in real life situations, that the uncertainty and anxiety towards range and performance will soon be a thing of the past.  At what cost?  In juxtaposition to the almost 100 veteran cars gleaning with beautiful design details and plenty of street appeal the eco-cars looked truly commonplace (with the afore mentioned few exceptions).  Is this what customers really want?  While architecture and product design break boundaries and create innovation automotive design has fallen behind in terms of visual progress.  Offered a breathe of fresh air, so to speak, we ask, why has no-one taken to the podium!  The new should be as rare and beautiful as the old…not more of the same.

The list of winners in each category were:

A1 – Most Economic Small Passenger EV –

TATA Motors Ltd, TATA Indica Vista Electric (Simon Clarke)

A2 – Most Economical & Environment
Friendly Small Passenger EV – TATA Motors Ltd, TATA Indica Vista Electric
(Simon Clarke)

B1 – None

B2 – None

C1 – Most Economical Small Passenger ICEV –
Gordon Murray Designs Ltd, T.25 City Car (Gordon Murray)

C2 – Most Economical & Environment
Friendly Small Passenger ICEV – Gordon Murray Designs Ltd, T.25 City Car (Gordon
Murray)

D2 – Most Economic & Environment
Friendly Regular Passenger EV – Volkswagen Golf blue-e-motion Electric (Jim
Holder)

E2 – Most Economic & Environment
Friendly Regular Passenger HEV  - Toyota
Auris Hybrid (Matt Sanger)

F2 – Most Economic & Environment
Friendly Regular Passenger ICEV – BMW 320d Efficient Dynamics Diesel (David
Ward)

K2 – Most Economic & Environment
Friendly Sports EV – Lotus Elise S1 Electric (Russ Sciville)

L2 – Most Economic & Environment
Friendly Sports HEV – Honda UK - Honda CR-Z Hybrid (Edd China/Dan Roberts)

N2 – Most Economic & Environment
Friendly Multi-Purpose Electric vehicle – Zytek Mercedes-Benz Vito Taxi
Electric (Neil Heslington)

R – Most Economic Light Commercial EV –
Nicholson McLaren Citroen Nemo Van Electric (Neil McIntree)

T – Most Economic Light Commercial ICEV –
Ford Fiesta Van 1.6TDCi ECOnetic Diesel (Jay Nagley)

The Public Choice – Vauxhall Ampera
Extended Range EV – (Andres Duerden)

Best Overall Private Entry As Chosen By The
Event Judges – Lotus Elise S1 Electric (Russ Sciville)

Best Overall Entry As Chosen By The Event
Judges – Volkswagen Golf blue-e-motion Electric (Jim Holder)