Drive my car

Beep beep’m beep, beep yeah. Having driven a couple of hundred miles back in the UK, it’s remarkable to compare the experience to my now normal Texas drives. I rented a Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer, manual shift, of course. Overall a pretty decent car although not comparable to my normal drive, at least a decent size car.

First of there is the whole Petrol and refueling thing. You can’t pay at the pump. This makes no sense at all. Second, the pumps have no auto-fill setting, which mean you have to stand and hold it, breathing in the fumes. 3.When you go inside to pay the cashier, you almost always have to wait. 4. They always ask if you need a vat receipt(yes, I know why, its still weird). 5. Sticker shock. I paid 87.20 UK pounds to fill the Insignia with diesel. Thats a whopping $142 for approx. 18 US Gallons. That makes the price $7.88 per gallon. Compare that to $3.45 average currently in Austin for premium gas/petrol, and $3.25 for desiel.

There are some benefits though. 1. Compared to my current US (premium gas/petrol) ride which has averaged 21MPG over 15,000 miles, the Insignia (2.0 manual 6-speed desiel) does 60MPG. Taking the price per mile

  • $7.88/50MPG = 16c per mile in the UK, desiel.
  • $3.45/21MPG = 16c per mile in the USA, petrol
  • $3.25/42MPG = 8c per mile in the USA, diesel(hypothetical, see below)

The price per gallon, and the miles per gallon for the UK figures are both divided by 1.20095 due to the smaller size of a US Gallon.

Now, its late, nearly 2 a.m. so it’s quite possible I’ve made a mistake. But that seems counter intuitive, especially as the UK Price includes a huge amount of tax. Tax/VAT is included in both price per gallons. Yes, I know I drive a big car in the US, but the MPG is actually not bad for a US sized engine. Taking a similar GM diesel car, the Chevy Cruise with a similar GM 2.0 diesel engine, the EPA combined estimate is 42MPG, which based on the EPA estimated MPG is half the price per mile, still sticker shock then.

Other advantages in the UK include much clearer signs, although way too many on many junctions. Driving on the A361 towards Trowbridge, I lost count at 26 signs facing me as I drove towards the traffic circle/roundabout at Cepen. The signs are more reflective, and more descriptive, also more prescriptive.

The best thing though was being able to set the cruise control to 78MPH, and then driving 80-miles on the M42, M5, M4 and not having to worry about getting stopped for exceeding the speed limit. The limit is nationally 70MPH on motorways/Interstate roads in the UK. Compare that to the confusing 50/60/65/70 MPH speed limits on Mopac and I35 in Austin. Yes, I was speeding in the UK, but for the most part you wouldn’t get stopped unless you were going faster than 80MPH, and yes, you get passed by people doing 90MPH+ – I’ve had 5-tickets over 7-years since living in Austin, all of them on either Mopac or Instate roads, only one was for exceeding 75MPH on I10.

Despite their inherent narrow traffic lanes, the higher volume of vehciles, and especially commercial trucks, and the fact most motorway/Interstate have fewer lanes than the US, the UK lane discipline, level of driver skill, and overall driving experience is better. Much of this is down to the no passing on the slower, inside lanes law, some to the fact that where there are more than 2-lanes, trucks are NEVER allowed in the fast lane.

Baby you can drive my car
Yes I’m gonna be a star
Baby you can drive my car
And maybe I’ll love you

Author: Mark Cathcart

Formerly an Executive Director of Systems Engineering and a Senior Distinguished Engineer at Dell. Prior to that, an IBM Distinguished Engineer working for the Systems Group in NY and Austin. I’m currently “retired until further notice”.

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