BACK TO THE FUTURE OF CAR SECURITY?
Hope all at Diesel Car are well and staying safe. In reference to the above, my wife has a car which may fall within the vulnerable category, albeit not on the top ten most stolen listings.
I recall my youngest brother-in-law owning a Citroën Xantia many moons ago, which in order to start required the driver to key in a numeric coding to a keypad in the centre console. From memory, it required four digits.
Surely the keyless entry and go systems of today could utilise such a system. After all, there is an electronic keypad in such cars as part of the telephone Bluetooth system. Technology must be available to ensure that on vehicle entry the keypad comes up on the information screen requiring the input of say at least four, but up to eight digits, to activate the steering unlocking and live ignition.
I appreciate that the cretins stealing cars are now much more adept with technology, but surely any additional barrier to them should be examined.
Kind regards to all at Diesel Car.
Thanks for your best wishes – I hope you’re keeping well.
Your memories of the Peugeot-Citroën keypad struck a chord, because I ran a ZX diesel for a period of time in the 90s. It had the same numerical keypad as your brother-in-law’s Xantia, and although it was a pain at the time, it worked very well. You just had to ensure you didn’t forget the code.
You’re right to consider alternative ways to beat keyless car theft. It’s no coincidence that sales of steering locks are at their highest since the car crime boom in the 1980s and 90s, when some cars could be broken into by coughing on the locks. You may or may not be aware that Tesla’s ‘Pin to Drive’ feature allows you to set a four-digit code for an added layer of security. Once set, a prompt appears on the screen when you put your foot on the brake. The Tesla will not operate without the correct code, which strikes me as a little bit of history repeating. With apologies to Dame Shirley Bassey.
There are other systems in development. Although it’s a bit ‘James Bond’, I always thought a fingerprint device for the door locks and ignition would work well. Imagine my surprise when Halfords launched a fingerprint steering lock earlier this year. It holds up to 20 fingerprints at a time, which will be useful if it’s a pool car or a vehicle used by other members of the family. This is just the start of it. Apple is working with developers and manufacturers to allow iPhone users to lock, unlock and start their car with their smartphone. A convenient option, but how long before the hackers work out a way of breaking the system?
Maybe we should just buy an old Peugeot 306 diesel with a keypad and be done with it?
Thanks again for your message. Stay safe and well Eddie.
A TAXING ISSUE
I hope this email finds you well. Please pass on my congratulations to the Diesel Car team for continuing to provide an excellent read during the lockdown. Your magazine provides a much-needed link to the outside world!
I’m writing because I’m a little confused by the amount of road tax I would pay if I bought a Kia Niro plug-in hybrid. I was led to believe that I’d pay nothing to tax a car with low CO2 emissions, but I’m not sure if this is still the case. I had a look on the internet, but was left feeling a little bamboozled and flummoxed by the whole thing. I figured you might like something to write about, so here’s your chance.
Out of interest, would you recommend the Kia Niro plug-in hybrid? I might trade-in my Avensis diesel for one, as I need something with a large boot. I’d also favour something with a high driving position, as I can’t see over the top of most cars on the road these days.
Thank you, as always, Doctor. Stay healthy.
Hello again, Tony,
Good to hear from you. Thank you for your kind words about the last issue. I can’t take a lot of credit, but the team did a great job of keeping the home fires burning.
I’d like to congratulate you on the use of ‘bamboozled’ and ‘flummoxed’ in the same email. I think that’s a first.
Right, road tax. More specifically, Vehicle Excise Duty (VED). I remember getting told off for calling it ‘road tax’, so I won’t be making that mistake again. You’re right to be confused by VED – a lot has changed since things shifted to rates based on a car’s CO2 emissions in 2001. There’s also the issue of ‘showroom tax’, which was introduced in 2010, although this only applies when buying a new car.
I think your confusion stems from the days when VED was free for cars with CO2 emissions up to 100g/km. It’s one of the reasons why buying a car registered from 1 March 2001 to 31 March 2017 makes so much sense, because anything up to 120g/km means you’ll pay next-to-nothing in tax – sorry, VED. It’s free for cars up to 100g/km, £20 for 101 to 110g/km, and £30 for 111 to 120g/km. There’s even a £10 discount for alternative fuel cars. It’s actually cost-effective to buy a car with anything up to 140g/km CO2, because the rate is the same or similar to how much you’ll pay for a new car.
If you’re buying a new Kia Niro plug-in hybrid, you’ll actually pay nothing for VED in the first year. Alternative fuel cars are exempt from the so-called ‘showroom tax’, which puts them in line with pure electric cars. However, you’ll pay £140 from year two, which is £10 cheaper than the cost to tax a petrol or diesel car. In short, your Niro plug-in hybrid isn’t exempt from VED. Sorry.
I have to confess, I haven’t had the pleasure of driving the Kia Niro plug-in hybrid, but it comes highly recommended by some of my colleagues. If you read issue number 402, you’ll know that it finished a credible 23rd in the Diesel Car Top 50 of 2020, scooping three category awards in the process. Best hybrid, best plug-in hybrid and best medium electric car – that’s quite a haul. That said, I have a soft spot for the Toyota Avensis, which is one of the most reliable cars in the country.
I hope this helps. Keep me posted with your plans. I trust your decision won’t be too taxing…
There was an interesting story on the BBC website about an electric plane that took its first test flight from Cranfield. It’s a bit short on details, but probably a fuel-cell. Only question is, where is all of the hydrogen going to come from? Because if we have drones, planes, cars, HGVs, all supping from the tank, they will need a clean and low-cost way to make it.
Hello again, David,
I hope you’re keeping well. Thanks for sharing the information. I must confess, I missed this one.
The biggest challenge facing hydrogen-powered aircraft is the weight of the batteries. You could say that the weight is a reason why the technology will never take off. However, the work of ZeroAvia and the like proves otherwise.
You’re right to question where the hydrogen will come from. Did you catch the news last month that industry consortium Norsk e-Fuel is planning Europe’s first commercial plant for hydrogen-based aviation fuel? The plan is to convert Norway’s renewable electricity resources into renewables for the aviation industry. All being well, it should be up and running within three years. Depending on the success or otherwise of the project, we could see further hydrogen stations appearing at airports across the world.
Not that this solves the problem. There are other things to consider, such as the range of hydrogen-powered aircraft, the use of lightweight materials to counter the weight of the batteries, the potential rethinking of aircraft design, and getting a commercially viable passenger aircraft off the ground.
In a bizarre twist of fate, hydrogen technology could be assisted by the Covid-19 outbreak. The world is rethinking the way it travels, works, and consumes energy. With a clean slate, hydrogen could take off.
Another one to watch, David.
ASK A SILLY QUESTION?
You recently wrote that there is no such thing as a stupid question. Well here’s one: What is the difference between a self-charging hybrid and a plug-in hybrid?
It isn’t the WHAT that I don’t understand but the WHY. I have read lots of articles in Diesel Car over the years relating to hybrids, and many writers refer to the benefits of hybridisation and other various features, but I can’t recall seeing anybody comparing the two systems, albeit they are similar in function. The manufacturers would not go to the expense of making two systems for no good reason, after all, it’s simpler to create just one.
My understanding of how things work is that the plug-in’s traction battery can only be charged from an external electric source, while the self-charger is charged from the engine. I can’t see any practical reason for making two systems when one would do the same job. I think I would choose the self-charger, which in theory will never run flat, while the other will need to be stopped and charged at a charging point.
I have never owned or lived with a hybrid, so maybe the answer would become obvious if I did. I like the idea of a hybrid, although I would be loath to leave diesel after 28 years, but as I get older I find I am doing fewer miles and maybe the diesel engine will suffer from lack of use.
As I said, there may be an obvious answer, but it eludes me and I would have to consider it if I ever buy a hybrid.
As usual thanks again for listening.
Well, this is far from a stupid question. Although you say you’re more interested in the ‘why’ than the ‘what’, it’s probably worth covering some old ground here. The ‘self-charging’ tag is a bit of a red herring, so I’d rather refer to these vehicles as hybrids. In such a vehicle, the electric motor is there to make the car more efficient while providing a limited amount of electric range. We’re talking one or two miles, tops. A hybrid car cannot be plugged into the mains, so the battery is topped up via the combustion engine and/or regenerative braking.
A plug-in hybrid can be plugged in like a fully electric car to provide enough electric driving range for a typical daily commute. We’re talking 30 or so miles, depending on the car. Once the electricity has gone, the petrol or diesel engine takes over. I had to laugh this month when Volvo issued a press release labelling plug-in hybrids as ‘part-time electric cars’. Although I get what the company is saying about providing a stepping stone to a fully electric car, the ‘part-time’ thing is a bit comical. I wonder what a plug-in hybrid car gets up to on one of its days off?
I digress. Going back to your original question, I do see a reason to offer a hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicle in the same range, especially during the early stages of electric car development. The Hyundai Ioniq is a good case in point, as it’s a car that can be ordered as a hybrid, plug-in hybrid or full electric vehicle. Consider the costs: the hybrid in Premium specification is priced at £25,740, while the plug-in hybrid costs £30,250 and the full electric costs £30,950. What’s the common component in the plug-in hybrid and electric versions? A large battery pack. I read a report by Munro Associates in the U.S. which shone a light on the cost of the battery pack. Although it was focused on a pure electric car, the data showed that the powertrain accounts for 51 per cent of the cost of building an electric car. In comparison, the powertrain represents just 18 per cent of a car with an internal combustion engine. That’s an incredible difference. The fact is: battery packs are incredibly expensive, and they’ll remain this way for a good while yet. It’s a lot cheaper for Hyundai to put a small battery pack and electric motor in an Ioniq hybrid than it is to furnish the plug-in hybrid version with a larger battery and electric motor, plus the associated technology required for charging. It’s closer to a fully electric car in this regard, so the ‘part-time’ tag might not be so daft after all.
The other reason for offering both versions is overall emissions. By next year, all manufacturers must average 95g/km
CO2 across the range, which will lead to some cars disappearing from price lists. It’s why we’re saying goodbye to cars like the Suzuki Jimny. Have you noticed how many manufacturers have launched hybrid and mild hybrids over the past months? Even efficient cars, like the Fiat 500 and Suzuki Swift have gone down the mild hybrid route. Many manufacturers are likely to miss the CO2 target, so they’re facing some eyebrow-raising fines. I read a report in another car magazine earlier this year which suggested that the Volkswagen Group is in line for a €1.4 billion penalty. The fact is, it’s cheaper for a manufacturer to fast-track a hybrid or mild hybrid than it is to launch a plug-in hybrid or fully electric vehicle.
Does this answer your question?
Although you haven’t asked me, I’d favour a plug-in hybrid over a hybrid. I like the idea of popping into town on electric power, but with the option to use a traditional engine to visit the family at weekends. A hybrid makes little sense if you’re pounding the motorways on a regular basis – diesel is still king of the road in this regard.
Keep me posted with your plans, Max. I’d be interested to see what you decide to buy after a quarter of a century of diesel loyalty.
Once again, a truly comprehensive answer, thank you.
I have to say that you have swayed my opinion away from a hybrid towards the plug-in for the reasons you give. I was partially influenced by a taxi journey I took in Rome not too long ago. We were taken from the airport to the city centre. The driver was typical of a young male Roman and drove like a thing possessed in his hybrid Toyota. I was privileged to sit in the front and thoroughly enjoyed every minute. He overtook and undertook at will and seemed totally oblivious to all around him, and to completely ignore any road safety regulations.
The point is that this was my first journey in a hybrid of any kind, and I have to say that it was impossible to tell whether the engine or electric motor was driving us. I suspect his fuel consumption was not too healthy either. I thought the gearbox would make its presence felt in that the engine would rev without the concomitant acceleration, but there was none of it. I was so impressed that I decided there and then that should I ever buy a hybrid, then a Toyota it would be. However, I recently bought a common old Qashqai, which I really like. It will probably have to do for a while. I do regular tip trips, so a good carrying capacity is required, and this car fulfils that function nicely. So, for now at least, it’s diesel for me, but you have given me food for thought.
Thanks again for the trouble you take to explain at such length and with great interest and impartiality.
PASSAT POOL PROBLEM
I drive a 2002 Volkswagen Passat 1.9 TDI. As I’ve been furloughed for the past few months, the car has stood outside my house with little use. The MOT is due next month, so I thought I’d check if everything is working. I discovered a big pool of water in the passenger footwell and a musty smell in the cabin. The car doesn’t have a sunroof, so I was wondering where the water is coming in. Do you have any thoughts?
Aha – the famous Passat footwell problem! Don’t worry, you’re not alone. This issue has affected countless Passat B5.5 models over the years. The good news is that it can be sorted in less than an hour, but you’ll have to get your hands dirty. It’s probably worth investing in some disposable gloves.
If it’s on the passenger side, the most likely cause is a blocked drainage hole. It’s located beneath the battery, which is a bit of pain to remove as it’s at the back of the engine bay. It would be easier if you could remove the plastic cowling below the windscreen, but my experience suggests it can be hard to remove the wiper arms. Don’t worry, it’s possible to remove the battery with the plastic cowling still in place, but it’s a tight squeeze. With the battery removed, you should see a rubber bung, probably below an inch of water. The first thing you need to do is remove the bung, at which point a load of water should gush out from below the car. There’s also another drainage hole beneath the brake servo, next to the front wing, but this one is harder to get to.
While the battery is out, clear the leaves and debris that caused the hole to clog up in the first place. I’d recommend giving the area beneath the battery a coating of wax, just to give it some long-term protection against the elements. There’s a school of thought that suggests leaving the rubber bung out, but I’d suggest putting it back in. Once it’s clean and clear of the debris, replace the battery and you should be good to go. It’s a job you should do sooner rather than later, because water in the footwells is only part of the problem. You could find yourself needing a new ECU or having to replace broken electrical items if you don’t investigate and solve the problem.
As for the musty smell, if you drive around with the heaters on and the air directed to the footwells, you should at least be able to dry it out. Cleaning and vacuuming the mats will also help. Then it’s a case of using carpet shampoo to remove the smell, and buying one of those cheap single dehumidifiers to clear any lingering dampness. They cost less than a pound in Asda and are ideal for cars, caravans and campers. After six weeks, you should be high and dry.
I hope this helps. If it doesn’t solve the problem, come back to me and I’ll provide some alternatives.