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Future Car Challenge 2011 - driven

  • Low emissions challenge
  • Brighton to London run
  • We drove Nissan Leaf and Peugeot 3008 Hybrid4
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What Car? took part in the second Future Car Challenge on Saturday, November 5.

In 2010, the overall winner was an electric prototype Volkswagen Golf e-motion, driven by then What Car? magazine editor Jim Holder. This year 64 vehicles both production and prototype models - completed the 60-mile route from Brighton to London, all aiming to use as little energy as possible.

This year, we drove two cars: the all-electric Nissan Leaf and the diesel-electric hybrid Peugeot 3008 Hybrid4.

Nissan Leaf
Driven by deputy web editor, Leo Wilkinson

For photographer Will Williams and me, the first part of our Future Car Challenge was to get from Teddington, south-west London, to Brighton, in the first place. The Leaf has an official range of around 100 miles, but we knew from experience that this trip would test that to the limit.

We agreed that we could do without air-conditioning, or listening to the stereo, in the interests of draining the battery as little as possible. Despite my best efforts to drive carefully we got there with just 7 miles of range left. The phrase range anxiety summed things up pretty well.

After a full charge overnight, we set off from Brighton with a maximum range of 109 miles, according to the Leafs information readout. Within a few miles taking in the hills of outer Brighton and a short stretch of the M23 this had dropped dramatically, to 83 miles. We felt confident that wed make it, though, and by this stage I was getting the hang of driving the Leaf as efficiently as possible.

Much of the route didnt suit the Leaf, though. Although it was impressively swift and refined on country roads and dual carriageways through Sussex and Surrey, the range was reading just 29 miles by the time we crossed the M25, with around 19 miles left to our destination in Regent Street, and a further 12 from central London to Teddington. At this point, the maths didnt add up.

Fortunately, this was when the Leafs regenerative braking came into its own. Slow, stop-start traffic is where it is most efficient: the moment you lift off the accelerator pedal the electric motor acts as a generator, recharging the battery as it slows you down.

Thanks to this we managed to complete the trip. We didnt win a prize, although, in different hands, a Nissan Leaf won two categories in the event.

Peugeot 3008 Hybrid4
Driven by staff writer, Tom Webster

A diesel engine up front, and an electric motor to power the rear wheels, meant the Peugeot 3008 Hybrid4 seemed ideal for the variety of roads on this years RAC Future Car Challenge.

The engine would take care of the rural roads in the early stages, before the battery took over in the city.

Unfortunately we hadnt banked on a couple of factors. The extra weight of the 3008s hybrid system (around 200kg more than the standard diesel) meant it struggled up the many hills of outside Brighton.

The other issue was the Peugeots battery-regeneration system, which was all-too-keen to replenish power at inappropriate times.

This meant the engine struggled to top up the electricity while also lugging the big car up steep inclines.

The result was a trip computer showing instant fuel consumption readings as low as 18mpg at times and an average of 56mpg for the first half of the challenge.

Once the roads flattened, and the system had been mastered, the economy rose. Our urban leg produced a reading of 74mpg, meaning an overall average of 65mpg. Good enough to come second in the Hybrid class, but still some way short of the official average of 74.3mpg.