Jun 30 2012

The Cars are the Stars: the past and future of motoring.

There is a gem of a museum tucked away in the back streets of Newburn.

Housed in the former 4th Northumberland Fusiliers headquarters is a collection of cars marking landmark moments in motoring history in Newburn Hall Motor Museum. Finding the museum can be a challenge, as there is little in the way of signage..a waste of money that can be better spent restoring cars. The map below shows the location with a red “X”.

As a family we admired the well-preserved and restored vehicles and I lusted over the VW camper van. We were surprised at the size of the area housing the cars, and the size of the collection. A cosy tea room and the smell of a baking cake gives the front area a very homely feel. This makes for a pleasant visit and I do urge you to have a look round.

In contrast, I was invited, by Renault to Newcastle Centre For Life to have a look at some electric cars and have a test drive. As an enthusiast for anything that might get us out of this fossil fuel trap, I decided to go along. Renault have taken the bull by the horns and are producing cars at a price comparable with the equivalent diesel. I had a tootle around the “agility course” in the Renault Twizy. This is really a quad bike with a roof. My son was strapped into the back seat (canny for the school run in a unichild house, I thought) and I was shown the controls. There weren’t many. The car works like an automatic, and is very easy to drive. People say the top speed of 82mph isn’t enough. In a country with a top speed limit of 70mph, I say “Why not?” . I liked the Twizy. It is definitely fun. To be honest the idea of bombing down a motorway in this little thing made me a tad nervous.

I also had a drive the “proper family car”, the Fluence. Boasting air con, sat nav and a decent sound system, and looking very much, like a car, I like it. The acceleration was impressive, the car was very quiet. So far so good.

The question was, “Is this car for me?”. The outright cost of buying the car, as I said once the £5K government incentive is taken off, between £17 and £18k for a new fluence..not far from the cost of a diesel. Battery hire is £76 a month, so you needn’t worry about the battery wearing out. I spend about £140 per month on fuel, so this seems ok to me. The biggest thing holding me back was my love of long drives on the motorway, visiting friends, family and places of interest a long way from charging points. If I was mainly a town driver I would be very keen on getting the Zoe. Clio sized, efficient around the doors. Braking energy is converted to charge, so the stoppy starty roads of Newcastle and Sunderland are perfect and the number of charging points is impressive…80%charge in half an hour.

I’m waiting for battery range to increase to a 300 mile level… I may have a long wait, or for battery switching at fuel stations. I think things are really moving in technology and I’ll be watching to see what they come up with next. The Renault ZE Facebook page is regularly updated



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