February 4th, 2011
By: Nick Triggle
Some patients are getting so fat that ambulance bosses are having to revamp their fleets to cope, the BBC has learned.
Every service in the UK has started buying specialist equipment, data from freedom of information requests show.
This includes wider stretchers, more lifting gear and reinforcing existing vehicles.
Many have also bought specialist “bariatric” ambulances – costing up to £90,000 each – to ferry the most obese.
These are designed so that double-width trolley stretchers for patients up to 50 stone (318kg) can be accommodated. They also tend to include hoists and inflatable lifting cushions.
But the rising rates of obese and overweight patients mean even standard ambulances are having to be stocked with specialist equipment.
While these vehicles cannot take the full-range of kit that a bariatric ambulance can, they can often carry heavy-duty wheelchairs and stretchers as well as the lifting cushions on newer models.
Prices vary depending on how many and what make a trust orders.
Cushions tend to cost about £2,500 and stretchers anywhere between £7,000 to £10,000, while reinforcing an ambulance tail-lift can set a trust back £800 per vehicle.
One ambulance trust – South Central – has spent more than £1m in the last three years to upgrade nearly two thirds of its 180-strong fleet.
West Midlands is another area which has started upgrading its fleet. It has also bought four specialist bariatric ambulances at a combined cost of more than £300,000.
Nigel Wells, an operations manager at the trust said: “It is all about safety for our patients and safety for our crews. We have got a greater number of patients who are larger in size.
“A few years ago – probably only 10 years ago – your average patient was 12 to 13 stone, now that’s probably 17 to 18 stone. And we quite regularly see patients around 30 stone in weight and even bigger than that.”
Jo Webber, director of the Ambulance Service Network, agreed ambulance bosses had been left with no option.
“The fact is patients are getting larger and larger and ambulances need to be able to respond immediately to what could be life-threatening situations.
“Every service is having to invest money in this. It shows that some of the lifestyle changes we are seeing have a range of costs. It is not just about treating them, but the infrastructure costs as well.”
The data obtained by the BBC showed the speed and pace of the approaches vary from place to place.
However, every ambulance trust in England as well as the services in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland confirmed changes were being made.
August 6th, 2010
By: Laura Roberts
The Bio-Bug has been converted by a team of British engineers to be powered by biogas, which is produced from human waste at sewage works across the country.
They believe the car is a viable alternative to electric vehicles.
Excrement flushed down the lavatories of just 70 homes is enough to power the car for 10,000 miles – the equivalent of one average motoring year.
This conversion technology has been used in the past but the Bio-Bug is Britain’s first car to run on methane gas without its performance being reduced.
It can power a conventional two litre VW Beetle convertible to 114mph.
Mohammed Saddiq, of sustainable energy firm GENeco, which developed the prototype, claimed that drivers “won’t know the difference”.
He said: “Previously the gas hasn’t been clean enough to fuel motor vehicles without it affecting performance.
“However, through using the latest technology our Bio-Bug drives like any conventional car and what’s more it uses sustainable fuel.
“If you were to drive the car you wouldn’t know it was powered by biogas as it performs just like any conventional car. It is probably the most sustainable car around.”
The Bio-Bug is a conventional 2 litre VW Beetle convertible, which has been modified to run on both conventional fuel and compressed methane gas.
The car is started using unleaded petrol but automatically switches to methane when the engine is “up to temperature”.
If the methane tank runs out the Bio-Bug reverts back to petrol.
Around 18 million cubic metres of biogas is produced from human waste every year at Wessex Water’s sewage treatment works in Avonmouth, Bristol.
The gas is generated through anaerobic digestion – where bugs which are starved of oxygen break down biodegradable material to produce methane.
However, before the gas can be used to power vehicles it must undergo “biogas upgrading” where carbon dioxide is removed to improve performance.
The Bio-Bug does 5.3 miles per cubic metre of biogas, which means that just one sewage works could power 95,400,000 miles per year saving 19,000 tonnes of CO2.
Lord Rupert Redesdale, chairman of The Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas Association, believes that the Bio-Bug could prove to be the future of green motoring.
He said: “This is a very exciting and forward-thinking project demonstrating the myriad benefits of anaerobic digestion.
“Biomethane cars could be just as important as electric cars, and the water regulator Ofwat should promote the generation of as much biogas as possible through sewage works in the fight against climate change.”
GENeco, which is a sustainable energy company owned by Wessex Water, plans to convert its fleet of vehicles if the Bio-Bug trial proves to be successful.
The Bio-Bug emits three tonnes of carbon dioxide in an average year whilst a conventional vehicle emits 3.5 tonnes.
However, the Bio-Bug is carbon neutral because all of its CO2 would have been released into the atmosphere anyway in the form of methane gas.
Conventional vehicles use fossil fuels, a non-renewable, finite source of energy, and the CO2 they emit would not otherwise have been released into the atmosphere.
April 12, 2010
By Hannah Elliott
If you want to drive something dependable and long-lasting, steer clear of these vehicles.
With a 22% improvement in sales last month, and despite the six-month, $4.3 billion loss it announced Wednesday, General Motors is likely to have its strongest spring and summer in years. Plus, the automaker had critically acclaimed new products at the recent New York Auto Show and the much-anticipated Chevrolet Volt is due out this fall.
Year-over-year sales of GM’s Cadillac division alone are up almost 76%; sales in the Buick, Chevrolet and GMC divisions were each up more than 40% for March. The industry as a whole was up 24.3%.
Unfortunately just because GM’s cars are selling well now doesn’t mean they’re the best bet for durability or value — yet. It’ll take awhile before GM’s new direction shows up in tangible new products at the dealership.
Four of the seven vehicles on our list of the worst-made cars on the road come from GM brands. And all of the cars on the list — including Chrysler’s Dodge Nitro and Jeep Wrangler — are made by Detroit’s Big Three. Only one car on the list is made by Ford Motor (NYSE: F).
Behind the Numbers
To determine our list of the worst-made cars on the road, we started with the lowest-rated vehicles from four reliability and performance studies conducted this year. Those studies are all from Consumer Reports: The Most Reliable Cars Report; Best and Worst Values Report; Best and Worst Safety Performance Survey; and the CR overall scores for 2010 vehicles.
We then added to the list any vehicles that received fewer than three out of five power circles in this year’s Vehicle Dependability Study from J.D. Power and Associates. Any car, truck or SUV named among the worst in at least three of those five total studies made the final cut to be on the “Worst-Made” list.
The biggest surprise on the list, given recent automotive news: It includes no Toyota (NYSE: TM) made vehicles. In fact, Toyota reported a 40.7% gain in sales last month over March 2009; its Lexus division was up 42%. (Generous buyer incentives greatly contributed to those numbers.) And although Consumer Reports has removed its “recommended pick” distinction from Toyota vehicles involved in the current recall, many analysts are standing by their previous assessments of Toyota’s well-made products.
“Toyota and Lexus both were fairly steady on their quality” in the dependability report released last month, says Dave Sargent, J.D. Power’s vice president of global vehicle research. “Toyota has both good quality and a high consumer perception of their quality — so Toyota is very much in line.”
GM’s Chevrolet hasn’t fared as well. Overall sales at Chevrolet are up, but sales of the $16,985 Chevrolet Colorado were down 21.9% year-over-year. Sales of the truck are down 32.2% for the year to date.
The $11,965 Chevrolet Aveo made our list too — but probably won’t in the very near future. When the 2012 Aveo comes out next year, it’ll feature styling improvements (large vents in the front, 19″ wheels, circular headlights) and performance upgrades (likely a 1.4-liter, four-cylinder turbo-boosted engine with 138 horsepower and a six-speed manual transmission). Early photos and speculation from experts like Jake Fisher, the senior automotive engineer at Consumer Reports, indicate it’ll hold its own against Nissan’s Versa and Honda’s Fit — two reliable, affordable, strong sellers.
Aside from the Aveo, though, most of the worst-made cars on our list aren’t cars at all — they’re trucks and SUVs. Besides the Colorado, GMC’s $16,985 Canyon and Ford’s $28,020 F-250 received some of the lowest scores of any vehicles we considered. The Canyon SLE, for instance, was listed by Consumer Reports as one of the worst values of any 2010 vehicle and as one of the least reliable new vehicles on the market this year. It received just two out of five power circles on J.D. Power’s overall dependability rating.
The F-250 Lariat earned both the “worst value” and “worst safety performance” distinctions from Consumer Reports this year. It received an overall score of just 37 out of 100 points for predicted reliability, fuel economy, depreciation, ride, owner costs, accident avoidance, front-seat comfort, acceleration and owner satisfaction.
November 5, 2009
By Neely Tucker
You rip open the envelope and there it is: Another darned photo-enforcement traffic ticket.
The photograph, the zoom-in on the tag, it’s you, baby. Your car. Two weeks ago. Forty-one in a 30-mph zone.
It’s from your favorite municipality. You can pay $40 now or $80 later. You can also contest it, the infraction letter says, and that’s a laugh. You remember seeing that the folks who went down to fight their automated tickets in Montgomery County got convicted 99.7 percent of the time. Like a Soviet election, you think, a sham, a joke, and you, the chump in the parade.
There’s something that doesn’t smell right about these tickets, but you’re not quite sure what.
Is it the huge profits the government and their cohorts, the camera manufacturers, make on them? The District doubling the number of tickets it issued just two years ago, raking in $36 million last fiscal year? The fact that Redflex, one of the big manufacturers of these cameras, posted a 48 percent jump in revenue last year while the rest of the economy tanked?
People get worked up. Put these cyborgs on a ballot, and the voters beat them to the pavement.
Three cities Tuesday — two in Ohio, one in Texas — voted to rip the things down. In College Station, Tex., the camera manufacturer and their subcontractors reportedly spent $60,000 campaigning to keep them in place, more than five times the amount raised by the opposition, and lost anyway. Voters in Chillicothe, Ohio, went against the cameras at a rate of 72 percent. In Heath, Ohio, the mayor got caught removing anti-camera campaign signs from an intersection. He, and the cameras, got sent packing.
“I’m ecstatic,” Jim Ash, the guy in College Station who led the anti-camera campaign.
Nationwide, there have been something like 11 elections on automated enforcement. Your vote total: Revolting Peasants 11, Machines 0.
Yet the cameras multiply like something out of science fiction, like that robot Mr. Smith in a sequel to “The Matrix,” like the red weed in “War of the Worlds.”
A handful of cities used them a decade ago. Now they’re in more than 400, spread across two dozen states. Montgomery County started out with 18 cameras in 2007. Now it has 119. Maryland just took the program statewide last month, and Prince George’s is putting up 50. The District started out with a few red light cameras in 1999; now they send out as many automated tickets each year as they have residents, about 580,000.
“They make too much money for cities to just stop using them,” says Joe Scott, a D.C. entrepreneur who has developed Phantomalert, a downloadable software for GPS units and an app for smart phones that is updated by subscribers who spot new cameras sprouting up. He started it a few years ago by logging in a couple of hundred cameras in the D.C. region. Subscribers have since uploaded 200,000 more. It’s like “Terminator,” humans against machines.
But wait a minute. Maybe the cameras are a good thing. Cars can be deadly. It’s not a joke.
Something like 37,000 poor souls killed in traffic accidents last year. Year in and year out, studies show speed is a factor in about a third of all traffic deaths, and road accidents are the leading cause of death for people ages 4 to 34, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
“We have the need to effect a change in motorist behavior,” says Tom Brahms, executive director of the Institute of Transportation Engineers, and a champion of automated enforcement. “We mostly don’t look at the car we drive as something that can create fatal impact. Reducing speed is one of the aspects that can lower that.”
“The one thing we know, you put a camera in the ground and the violations drop,” says Mark Talbot, an executive vice president at Affiliated Computer Services, which supplies the cameras to about 60 jurisdictions across the country, including the District and Montgomery County. “That can’t help but have some positive effect on safety.”
Who could argue with that?