Hot dogs

As the weather hots up in anticipation of the summer, motorists might want to remember the suncream and a bottle of water for trips out. 

However another very important thing to keep in mind are the needs of any canine friends accompanying a driver on a journey. 

Dogs might not be able to vocalise the fact that they’re getting a bit too warm and dehydrated, but if your top is stuck to your back and the faint breeze from the window isn’t enough – the likelihood is that your dog is also feeling the effects of the hot weather. 

Humans and dogs can suffer from heatstroke, so keep your pet hydrated on a long journey, take breaks so that you can both breathe some fresh air, and find a shady patch to cool down in – even if it’s in an un-picturesque motorway services car park.

The RSPCA are warning car owners of the dangers of leaving dogs in hot cars too.  Apparently, within an hour the temperature inside a vehicle can be twice that of the temperature outside, so leaving an animal there could have disastrous consequences. 

They may not need suncream – but dogs still need to be kept safe on sunny days!

Image by malias via Flickr, under Creative Commons Licence

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Burning up the highway

A few posts ago we brought you a car which ran on leftover Indian restaurant vegetable oil – now we bring you a 25-year-old wood-powered Chevrolet pick-up truck.

The Finnish vehicle owner has modified his truck so that it now has a wood-burning stove in the back, just behind the rear window.

The car is run on the gas produced by the wood, which is burned in an oxygen-deprived environment. Although this might sound as if it would produce a lot of emissions, in fact this process is relatively eco-friendly and emission-low.

Apparently the vehicle can travel 125 miles on 76.2 kg of wood chips, and if the motorist wants to drive further than that – the pick-up can still fit enough timber in the back for an extra 800 miles, despite the stove taking up some room.

Plus, the man claims that he can still reach a top speed of around 90mph with this unconventional fuel.

After the wood has been burned the ash can be used to make fertiliser, so that nothing is wasted – however one disadvantage is that it can take around 20 minutes for the stove to become hot enough to produce gas and get the car moving.

No last minute dashes to get dinner before the shops close then – or spur of the moment cinema outings just as the trailers are set to begin.

Image by Creativity103 via Flickr, under Creative Commons Licence

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Time for the cool bus

We may not see buses as being exciting and futuristic – but a new Dutch creation could change all that.

The Superbus, now on show at the World Exhibition of the International Association of Public Transport in Dubai, is 15 feet in length (about a standard London bus), has six wheels, can seat 23 passengers, and apparently reaches a top speed of 155mph.

You might think that this vehicle cannot get any better – but wait – it runs using an electric motor and lithium batteries, so it’s eco-friendly too!

Oh, and did we forget to mention that the exterior is futuristic and aerodynamic, and the interior boasts a TV and internet access, as well as one air bag for every passenger?

A former Dutch astronaut, and member of the TU Delft University design team for the vehicle, stated, “The strength to the concept is that the Superbus can drive everywhere where a normal bus can drive.

“It has adjustable height, rear-wheel steering and a turning circle of roughly 10 metres.”

If the vehicle passes inspections by the government in the United Arab Emirates, then it could go into service there, just like any other bus!

If it does pass we’re going over to The Emirates to try it out and experience the most comfortable and stylish bus journey we’ll probably have ever been on – then we’ll send a letter to Boris Johnson explaining how the Superbus will improve London’s transport problems no end!

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British pride, it’s… Chinese

It’s a sad thing that the days of British manufacturing are long gone but it’s also true that these days being a mature and developed nation, invariably means having only very limited heavy industry.

In the heyday of British manufacturing almost all families contributed in one way or another to sectors such as aviation, pharmaceuticals, textiles and tobacco.

Perhaps none was more ingrained in the national identity than motor vehicle manufacturing. Names like Vauxhall, Leyland, Rover, Mini, Metro, MG, Aston Martin, Bentley, Lotus and Jaguar all became synonymous with British pride and excellence in automotive engineering.

These days very little motor manufacturing lives on. Yes, many major names still have a presence – Ford, Honda, Nissan, Mini, Morris and Jaguar Land Rover are just some of the companies which still retain UK vehicle production plants – but it is a scaled down presence and the industry does not employ anything like the hundreds of thousands of workers it used to.

At least Nissan, Toyota and Jaguar Land Rover can lay claim to decent levels of vehicle production, as all produce over 200,000 vehicles a year, but it certainly isn’t the same, particularly when there is only a limited level of British ownership.

Still, that didn’t prevent me from feeling excited at the news that MG is to produce its first completely new vehicle in 16 years. Yes, it is a now a Chinese owned brand, but MG is one of the most iconic of all British brands and the new model, the MG6, has been engineered in Britain and will be assembled over here at the famous plant in Longbridge, the West Midlands. I certainly won’t allow myself to make tired jokes about MG going all MSG.

My first thoughts on seeing pictures of the new vehicle? Well, I’m disappointed to say that I think it looks a bit samey, so I very much doubt I’ll be seeking a cheap car insurance quote for an MG6 any time soon, but I will reserve final judgement until I see it up close and in the metal.

Image © dok1 via Flickr, under Creative Commons Licence

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Take that, petrol station!

One 58-year-old man from Northampton has become so frustrated with fuel prices, and damage to the environment caused by petrol and diesel emissions, that he’s started making his own bio-fuel instead.

The former mechanic uses leftover vegetable oil from various Indian restaurants in his area. He explains, “Indian restaurants have the best vegetable oil because they don’t fry so many fatty meats. I just leave my tub with them and then come back a few weeks later and it is full up. I am looking at some fish and chip shops which only fry fish and chips, no meat.”

Apparently he only pays the restaurants “between 15p and 24p for a litre,” and even after he mixes in a few other ingredients it still costs him less than 40p per litre of fuel.

He adds that, “since 2007 the Government has allowed every home to make up to 2,500 litres of bio-fuel tax free for a year. You will never use this much, it is an excellent way to combat the fuel crisis.”

Although the equipment he uses to make the fuel cost him £350, he is confident that it will soon have paid for itself with all the money he’s saving.

The man is now running his Vauxhall Corsa using home-made vegetable-oil bio-fuel…and we think we’re going to pop out to the Indian restaurant with an empty bucket.

Image by not_so_silent via photobucket

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Don’t try to pack too much in this Easter

The Easter holidays are here at last and for those of us who are lucky enough to be able to afford a holiday, perhaps because we’ve saved on our car insurance, it’s time to pack our bags and load up our cars.

The problem is that, much like overloading your body with sweets, treats and booze, overloading your car with holiday goodies is not very healthy.

New research by a motor insurance company has revealed that many Brits are unaware of the dangers of overloading their vehicles, with 20% of drivers even oblivious to the fact that it is possible to overload a car.

Yet the safety risks are manifold: reduced vision caused by chock-a-blok boots; unsecured items falling onto drivers and passengers and reduced performance caused by over-strained vehicle suspension.

In worst case scenarios, overloading your car this holiday may even cause a breakdown or an accident. So, it’s moderate packing for maximum safety then.

Wherever you are this Easter, may it be a good one.

Image by stringer_bel via Flickr, under Creative Commons Licence

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ducks2water, duck2waters or duck2water?

Sat-navs are purported to make enough mistakes already without street signs adding to the complications.

One road in Tamworth, Staffordshire has three road names along its 137 metre length – and all of them have a different spelling and no punctuation.

According to Tamworth Borough Council the road was originally called Ingram's Pits Lane from the 1890s to the 1950s.

And despite maps stating that the road is called Ingram Pit Lane, as it has officially been known since the 1950s, there are two other signs on the road which read “Ingram Pits Lane” and “Ingrams Pit Lane”.

So, there’s quite a bit of confusion, still it’s a bit of a silly mistake to make.

One of the residents of a connecting street said, “I don't see why it [the road] needs to have so many [signs] anyway, it's only a small street!"

It’s been a long time coming, since according to inhabitants all three signs have been up for more than 35 years, but Tamworth Borough Council is now looking into sorting the problem out.

Image by Colin_K via Flickr, under Creative Commons Licence

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Unleaded, and premium…water?

Warning: this is not an April Fools – no, really, it isn’t.

A Japanese company called Genepax has apparently created an eco-friendly car which runs on water alone.

Unbelievable? Yes. True? It’s up on the firm’s website and looks thoroughly credible. 

On just one litre of water, the vehicle makers claim that the car can run at 50mph for an hour.  According to the proud firm, you can even fuel the vehicle with tea or fizzy drinks and it’s emission free!

It works by breaking the water down into its composite parts, using an energy generator located at the rear of the car. Using the hydrogen contained in the liquid, electric power is produced when it enters a generator. also located in the vehicle. 

Reports say that inventors of the water-powered car, aim to enter into collaboration with Japanese car manufacturing firms and begin to mass produce it. 

Who knows, maybe in a few years water cars will be the norm and we’ll all be complaining about how wasteful those old electric, battery-powered vehicles were.  Alternatively, we may all be anticipating a world-wide water shortage. 

Image by Greg Reigler Photography via Flickr, under Creative Commons Licence

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