When I started this blog, I sold my much-loved Honda Civic because I was commuting to London by train and we didn't need two cars in the household. In 2009, I began volunteering as an expedition supervisor and assessor for the Duke of Edinburgh's Award scheme. This required a decent sized car, to carry 3 or 4 participants and their kit, together with my own camping gear, to and from the expedition sites. I chose an old Honda Accord with 80,000 miles on the clock and it has served us admirably - we have driven to the south of France in it, four times in five years, and it is a comfortable long-distance cruiser that gets 40+ mpg.
Now that the Accord is 10 years old, I feel it is time to pass it on while it is still an attractive proposition for a new owner. That leaves me with the question of what to replace it with. I need a large boot for my outdoor activities and to take my daughter and all her gear to and from university. I also want to minimise my contribution to fossil fuel emissions - both CO2 and black carbon, which is accelerating the loss of ice from glaciers and ice-sheets around the world.
The obvious answer is a plug-in hybrid, to achieve zero tailpipe emissions on local runs while still ensuring that we can complete a few hundred miles in remote country, without access to electricity, for Scout camps and DofE expeditions. However, it would be false accounting to buy a new car, with Tonnes of embodied carbon (the CO2 emissions commissioned by its manufacture), in order to cut the emissions from driving just a few thousand miles a year. In this scenario, an older car makes sound environmental and economic sense.
A third solution would be to rent a large car for the times I need it and use a low-emission town car for the rest of the time. I tried to do this when we wanted to drive abroad in 2009 and it was actually cheaper to buy the Honda Accord, so that's what I did.
Now, The Scout Association have partnered with "Go Ultra Low" to promote ultra-low emission vehicles. I have entered their competition to trial a plug-in hybrid for four months. If chosen, I will be able to demonstrate the capabilities of a clean, state-of-the-art vehicle for outdoor activities like Scouting and the Duke of Edinburgh's Award expeditions. If it works well for this lifestyle, I will champion this vehicle to others in the Scout Movement and will find it very difficult to go back to a conventional diesel or petrol engine for my voluntary activities. Fingers crossed!