Friday, January 18, 2013


Snow's hit today.

It's actually worse than I can remember for a while, there's more come down than there has been for years and I think it's actually worse than the period a few years ago when barely anyone got into work.

Here's the BBC take on it ... (link)

Lots of cancellations - schools, buses, trains and the airports. For me, Plan A was to come in on the bus today because I didn't know how the car would handle the uncertain grip. I'd have been ok with walking the 3.6 miles home but not to do that both ways (We're expected to walk up to 3 miles). One problem - buses are cancelled. I can understand that too because the roads were somewhat treacherous this morning.

(It's not that bad, I've experienced worse)

After a little bit of um and arr, I headed in anyway in the car. I'd not driven the hybrid on ice before ... It behaves a bit differently to a conventional car :

It is driven by motor and/or engine, so it doesn't need a clutch
Therefore there's no matching of engine speed to road speed which is one source of wheelspin on ice
But, the motor is very powerful when it's at low speeds.

In my car, the motor and engine are all brought together in the one axle, without the driver needing to worry about matching them up. But, there's a very active traction control system looking after it all. The traction control is where the concern comes, as reports say that it can totally stop the car from moving if you attempt to start on ice.

Ok, what did that actually mean for the drive in today ?

Car actually handled it quite well. The traction control was only obvious with flashing its light twice and one of those saw the car slipping sideways. I'll allow traction control interference there :-). The automatic gearbox helps out a lot as you can start off more gently and more controlled than trying to match engine speed to low road speed with a clutch.

The traction control behaves differently with the motor. When it fired a second time, I could hear lots of ticking from the front. With an engine, traction control works through either applying the brakes on the slipping wheel or by making the engine give less power. I think I was getting that power limiting happening as well today, although the car wasn't letting. Could have been my boots :-)

Roads actually weren't too bad and they'd cleared up by lunchtime too. What happens is that the grit that's laid down will clear little pockets which then refreeze but the road won't clear until cars drive over it. This morning, the roads were a mix of ice and slush, with them clearing to wet tarmac in the afternoon.

What was surprising was the amount of respect the drivers were showing the conditions. At 35 on a 40mph limit, I was one of the faster cars on the road. I suspect the idiots had stayed at home.

I wasn't really surprised that I was one of the few who made it in. And I made the trip partly cos I wanted to experience the conditions. Yep, I'm one of those people who when given a "do not travel, it isn't safe", I'll think about heading out anyway just to see what it's like. And seeing as I didn't know how that car would handle the ice ? ;-)

Oh - I've also picked up a laptop and a few documents as well in case I get stuck at home on Monday. If the snow does continue and the buses don't run on Monday, I will not be taken the car. I'm banned from the car park except for on Fridays ...

So yeah - conditions = quite poor. We've only had about 3 inches of snow but it's enough to shut down a lot of the infrastructure and to keep many people at home.

PS Next time I take the car out when covered in snow, I'll clear the parking sensors ;-)

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