The first ever RAC Future Cars Challenge ran this weekend, the reverse of the historic London to Brighton veteran car run in both direction and age of car. Toyota invited teams from Motoring Research to take the three generations of Prius hybrid on the route to show how their history had evolved.
The entry list for the event was deeply impressive. As well as cars you could buy now – largely hybrids – there was the new all-electric Nissan Leaf, on sale in a few months, plus other electric cars from Mini, Tesla and Volkswagen.
Honda brought over a fuel cell car from the US, complete with hydrogen power source, Gordon Murray of McLaren F1 fame had his deeply interesting T.25 prototype city car and there were several state of the art diesels from the likes of BMW and Skoda.
Our mission at Motoring Research was to see just how development of the Prius had improved the economy. In that we failed to get the expected result. I was driving the original Prius and managed 63mpg. CJ in the latest version got 77mpg, and Dan in the middle version just 57mpg.
What's clear with these hybrids is that any slight change in driving behaviour make a massive difference to the economy. I started by driving at no more than 30mph. Then I upped it to 40mph where possible and it seemed to drop the economy by just a couple of mpg.
When all the hullaballoo was over, we left the Regent Street display of future and veteran cars to drive up the A1 to Hertfordshire. Resetting the trip as we left London, the oldest Prius managed 73mpg over the 17 miles home. Which just goes to show it takes time and experience before you can maximise the hybrid experience.