5 minutes with... Grand Designs presenter Kevin McCloud

Kevin tells us about his hatred of ugly eco vehicles and why we’re living in the most exciting time for 150 years.

By Will Dron on December 24, 2011 10:56 AM

Kevin McCloud is a big household name in the UK thanks to his runaway success property show Grand Designs, which showcases some of the most ambitious housing projects in the country – basically, dream house builds.

Somerset-resident Kevin has also been spending recent years helping to highlight more environmentally responsible home building and, most interestingly for us, motoring. Kevin has been involved in events such as 2011’s RAC Future Car Challenge, which focuses on the most fuel efficient, low emission cars. We caught up with him for a quick chat and learned about his hatred of ugly eco vehicles and why we’re living in the most exciting time for 150 years. Read on.

TCP: So what got you into green motoring?

KM: Lots of reasons. I’ve been interested in environmental issues all my life, but I have a company building ecological housing (HAB), and the housing schemes we put in include things like car clubs, electric bike clubs… We have a project in Stroud, which has an electric bike club, and [is working] with Ecotricity [clean energy suppliers], who’re based in Stroud and are putting in electric car charging points.

So I’m very interested in transport as a strategy for one planet living, apart from anything else – being able to reduce our impact on resources and on energy.

TCP: So you have a holistic view?

KM: Oh yeah. I’m also a speed nut, and I’ve raced and I’ve had a whole series of completely unsuitable cars with big V8s, so in a way I’m atoning for my sins.

TCP: So in your view cars should be fun and fast as well as green?

KM: Do you know, I think ‘fast’ isn’t the issue for most people on the roads today. I think cars should be beautiful – I really object every time someone produces an eco car that looks like an invalid carriage, or one that has a really crappy interior. Or one that looks special and interesting as though it’s been hybridised between a Citroen 2CV and Star Wars troop ship. No! They should just look normal and lovely and elegant. And I was delighted to see BMW at the Future Car Challenge with the 1 Series [the ActiveE, driven by TheChargingPoint.com  report here], which is a really attractive, sexy car. And the Delta E-4, which I drove, I like not only because it’s rather attractive on the outside but also beautifully finished on the inside.

"I really object every time someone produces an eco car that looks like an invalid carriage, or one that has a really crappy interior"

TCP: So do you think electric cars are the way forward or are you backing another type of technology for the future of cars?

KM: I think they’re part of a strategy. It’ll be interesting, won’t it? This year [at the Future Car Challenge] they outnumbered petrol cars four to one; in two years’ time there may be none… who knows? We’re at this rather exciting point in history when the automotive industry – all those hundreds of little manufacturing companies all over Britain, the best in the world at all of that – when they are producing these exciting new ideas and prototypes. And some of them will fall by the wayside and some will succeed. And who knows whether the future is fuel cells, electric, hybrid, hydrogen… whatever it is, it’s an exciting time to be around.

Kevin on location for the Grand Designs TV show (photo: Channel 4)

TCP: So do you think every new home built should have charge points installed, ready for electric vehicles?

KM: Oh yeah – that’s what we’re doing. We’re putting in car clubs for shared ownership, and the homes we’re building are as technologically interesting as some of these cars. We’re experimenting with different materials – using hemp, putting in different insulating materials and trying new heating and ventilation technologies as we go. And as I speak, another solar panel manufacturer has produced an even more efficient and cheaper version of that technology; every week there’s some kind of new solar technology out.

So it’s a really, really fascinating time. I think we’re in the midst of a new post-industrial revolution, or second industrial revolution, and this is the most exciting time to be alive on the planet for 150 years.

Kevin drove the Delta E-4 pure-electric car on the 2011 RAC Futur Car Challenge (Photo: TheChargingPoint.com)

TCP: So how did your Future Car Challenge go this year?

KM: Great, but all those high-minded ideas of saving fuel and driving carefully… the moment you get out on the road, those go out of the window!

Editor’s note:
Actually, Kevin did rather well driving the Delta E-4 Coupe, finishing seventh in the 2011 Brighton to London Future Car Challenge – the car consumed just 11.5kWh of energy. For a full list of results, click through to this article about our drive in the BMW ActiveE.

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