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Motoring news

Audi’s new Q cars

April 12 2017

Another week, another new Audi. Two new Audis, in fact. The German car maker has announced a couple more additions to its Q line up of SUVs. The Q4 is a coupe-SUV hybrid that will go up against the BMW X4 and Mercedes GLC Coupe. As its name suggests, it’ll be positioned between the compact Q3 and bigger Q5. At the other end of the scale is the Q8, which will go head to head against the Range Rover. It’s lower and sleeker than the Q7 Audi is also producing. In concept form, it sat only four people, although it seems likely the production version will be a five seater. There’s a 630 litre boot as well. Eagle eyed Audi followers will notice the only SUV slots left to fill are the Q1 and Q6. Watch this space…

Road tests

Audi Q2 puts quality over size

March 21 2018

Audi’s Q2 was one of the first premium compact SUVs on the market. It sits below the Q3, Q5 and the gigantic, seven seat Q7 in Audi’s ever growing range. Although it’s about the same size as the Nissan Juke or Volkswagen T-Roc, its price is comparable with the much larger Nissan X-Trail or Volkswagen Tiguan. Even a basic Q2 will set you back more than £21,000 and top whack is £38,000. Then there’s the options list which is extensive to say the least. My 2.0 automatic diesel Quattro S Line model had a base price of £30,745 but tipped the scales at just over £40,000 once a plethora of additions were totted up. Size isn’t everything, however. In recent years there’s been a trend of buyers wanting a car that’s of premium quality but compact enough to zip around town. It may be a step down in size but the Q2 doesn’t feel any less classy than the rest of Audi’s SUV range. The interior looks great and is user friendly in a way that more mainstream manufacturers have never been able to match. The simple rotary dial and shortcut buttons easily trounce touchscreen systems, making it a cinch to skim through the screen’s menus. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4eQ5p5Z7-Ek&list=PLUEXizskBf1nbeiD_LqfXXsKooLOsItB0 There’s a surprising amount of internal space too. I took three large adults from Dundee to Stirling and no one complained about feeling cramped. As long as you don’t have a tall passenger behind a tall driver you can easily fit four adults. At 405 litres the boot’s big too – that’s 50 litres more than a Nissan Juke can muster. Buyers can pick from 1.0 and 1.4 litre petrol engines or 1.6 and 2.0 litre TDIs. Most Q2s are front wheel drive but Audi’s Quattro system is standard on the 2.0 diesel, as is a seven-speed S Tronic gear box. On the road there’s a clear difference between this and SUVs by manufacturers like Nissan, Seat and Ford. Ride quality, while firm, is tremendously smooth. Refinement is excellent too, with road and tyre noise kept out of the cabin. It sits lower than the Q3 or Q5 and this improves handling, lending the Q2 an almost go-kart feel. On a trip out to Auchterhouse, with plenty of snow still on the ground, I was appreciative of the four-wheel drive as well. The Q2 is expensive – though there are some good finance deals out there – but you get what you pay for. Few cars this small feel as good as the Q2 does. Price: £30,745 0-62mph: 8.1 seconds Top speed: 131mph Economy: 58.9mpg CO2 emissions: 125g/km

Business news

Major renewables energy boost from Contracts for Difference

October 3 2014

Offshore wind developers could be set to benefit from a new round of Government subsidies for renewable energy following a larger-than-expected Westminster funding commitment. UK Energy Minister Ed Davey yesterday announced a new tranche of support for renewable projects, with industry body Scottish Renewables saying the scheme, over 15 years and worth up to £300 million in its first year, could boost prospects for a sector still being courted by officials in Fife and Dundee. A competitive auction for the new Contracts for Difference will begin later this autumn, with up to £235m per annum available for offshore wind projects following large-scale reform of the energy markets. The subsidy agreements guarantee operators a minimum price for the power generated by their installations, providing certainty for investors looking for a return on their capital. Mr Davey and his colleagues at the Department for Energy and Climate Change expect the procedure to help deliver new green energy while lowering average annual bills by more than £40 by 2030. Solar and onshore wind projects will compete for a smaller yearly pot of £65m, reflecting their position as already viable technologies. “We are transforming the UK’s energy sector, dealing with a legacy of underinvestment to build a new generation of clean, secure power supplies that reduce our reliance on volatile foreign markets,” Mr Davey said. “By making projects compete for support, we’re making sure that consumers get the best possible deal as well as a secure and clean power sector,” he added. Scottish Renewables said that the budget boost “may potentially increase the likelihood of projects securing support in the first allocation round later this month”. But the industry body also called for DECC to reveal details of future funding rounds, and said the department must redouble efforts to secure European state aid clearance for special CfDs suited to the remote Scottish islands. In March, energy giant and major renewable developer SSE announced it would take the first phase of its huge Seagreen wind project in the outer Firth of Tay and Forth no further than the planning consent stage, amid a lack of confidence in the viability of the UK’s offshore wind sector. Its decision followed the exclusion of the project from UK Government subsidy schemes. But it also said it would continue to invest in the Beatrice prospect in the Moray Firth which did pick up public backing while cutting its equity interest from 75% to 50%. A spokesman for the group last night said its plans for Seagreen “remain unchanged”, but added that SSE would make no comment on its approach to the new CfD auction because of commercial confidentiality constraints. The three-phase 3.5GW development is by far the largest of three major wind arrays being pursued by developers within striking distance of Scotland’s east coast. At present rates, it would be expected to cost in excess of £10bn. Both the Neart na Gaoithe windfarm, off Fife Ness, and the Inch Cape prospect off the coast of Angus missed out on a subsidy award last year after DECC judged offshore wind projects elsewhere in the UK to be more affordable. Mainstream Renewable Power, developer of the 450MW Neart na Gaoithe, has since indicated it would seek approval for the project under the outgoing renewable obligation certificate system. No one was available for comment last night. Repsol Nuevas Energias, which owns a 51% stake in the 905MW Inch Cape windfarm, did not respond to The Courier’s request for comment. Meanwhile GDF Suez, which had backed plans for a £200m windfarm on Lewis, has pulled out of the project, citing delays to a subsea cable needed to carry the electricity generated to the mainland.

UK & World

This student took his Tinder profile to the next level by turning it into a PowerPoint presentation

February 21 2018

Standing out from the crowd on Tinder can be tough, but with the help of Microsoft PowerPoint a British student has managed just that – and gone viral in the process.Sam Dixey, a 21-year-old studying at Leeds University, made a six-part slideshow entitled “Why you should swipe right” – using pictures and bullet points to shrewdly persuade potential dates to match with him on the dating app. The slideshow includes discussion of his social life and likes, such as “petting doggos” and “laser tag”, and “other notable qualities and skills” – such as being “not the worst at sex” and “generous when drunk”.It even has reviews mocked up from sources such as “Donald Trump”, “Leonardo Di Capri Sun” and “The Times Guide to Pancakes 2011”.Sam told the Press Association the six-slide presentation only took about 20 minutes to make and “started off as a joke”.However, since being posted to Twitter by fellow Tinder user Gracie Barrow, Sam’s slideshow has been shared tens of thousands of times across social media.So, it’s got the seal of approval form Gracie, but how has the slideshow fared on Tinder? “I’d have to say it has been pretty successful,” Sam said. “Definitely a clear correlation of matches and dates beforehand to afterwards.“Most of the responses tend to revolve around people saying ‘I couldn’t help swipe right 10/10’ but I’ve had some people go the extra mile and message me on Facebook.“Plus some people have recognised me outside, in the library and on dates.”A resounding success.

Business news

Glasses raised to whisky-fuelled cars courtesy of Blackford’s Tullibardine Distillery

February 26 2015

A Scottish company has become the first in the world to produce biofuel capable of powering cars from whisky production leftovers. The breakthrough was born in Perthshire as the residues came from the Tullibardine Distillery in Blackford. Celtic Renewables is now seeking funding from the Department for Transport to build its first demonstration facility at the Grangemouth petrochemical plant by 2018. Company owners estimate it could be the market leader in an industry worth more than £100 million to the UK economy. The Edinburgh company, a spin-out from the Biofuel Research Centre at Edinburgh Napier University, has manufactured the first samples of bio-butanol from the by-products of whisky fermentation. It has spent the last year developing its process as part of a £1m programme funded by the Department for Energy and Climate Change under its Energy Entrepreneurs Fund. Celtic Renewables, in partnership with the BioBase Europe Pilot Plant in Belgium, produced the first samples of bio-butanol from waste, using a process called Acetone-Butanol-Ethanol fermentation. ABE fermentation was developed in the UK a century ago but died out in competition with the petrochemical industry. Bio-butanol is now recognised as an advanced biofuel a direct replacement for petrol and Celtic is seeking to reintroduce the process to Europe for the first time since the 1960s, using the millions of tonnes of annual whisky production residues as its raw material. The biofuel is produced from draff the sugar-rich kernels of barley which are soaked in water for whisky fermentation and pot ale, the copper-containing yeasty liquid left over from distillation. Professor Martin Tangney, Celtic’s president, said: “Showing the world our first sample of biofuel produced from whisky by-products is a proud moment. “We have successfully taken a defunct technology and adapted it to current market conditions, attracting the investment and partners required to scale up to industrial production and prove this works at scale.” Winners of the DfT’s £25m advanced biofuel demonstration competition will receive funding of up to £12m over three years to build an operational biofuel facility that can produce at least one million litres of biofuel a year. Chief executive Mark Simmers said “This historic sample could herald a new era in sustainable biofuel and the birth of a UK industry worth £100 million a year.” Professor Wim Soetaert, chief executive of BioBase Europe, said: “We are excited about the future with Celtic Renewables and we are committed to turn our collaboration into a major success.” Energy Secretary Ed Davey hailed the breakthrough.

Motoring news

Join the queue for littlest Audi Q

November 9 2016

Audi’s relentless release of new models continues with the launch of its smallest SUV. The Q2 goes on sale in the UK next week with prices starting at £22,380. There’s an extensive selection of petrol and diesel power trains as well as the option of front or Quattro four-wheel drive. More models will be added to the range later on, including powerful SQ2 and RSQ2 versions. Aimed squarely at a younger audience, the Q2 has bolder, sharper lines and a different shape to Audi’s bigger SUVs, the Q3, Q5 and Q7. Although it’s clearly meant more for buzzing around cities than growling across farmland, cladding and skid plates lend it an aura of ruggedness. Audi is also offering a range of vibrant colours to deepen the Q2’s appeal to youthful buyers. The interior is as plush as you’d expect from Audi, justifying its price hike over similarly sized SUVs like the Nissan Juke and Honda HR-V. The materials are high quality – softtouch plastics, leather on higher spec cars and brushed aluminium trim elements all blended into a smart-looking package. As standard, drivers get a seven-inch infotainment screen on top of the dashboard. It’s operated through Audi’s rotary dial system that’s far more intuitive and easier to use when on the move than rivals’ touchscreen systems. Among the many options is Audi’s excellent Virtual Cockpit – a 12.3in screen that replaces the manual instruments behind the steering wheel. Overall, the Q2 is 4.7in shorter than the A3 hatchback, but Audi says there’s enough leg and headroom for two adult passengers in the back. Boot space comes in at 405 litres – 50 more than you’ll find in the A3 hatchback and rival Nissan Juke, although it trails the Mini Countryman by the same amount. To begin with, the only diesel option is a 1.6 litre with 114bhp, although a more powerful 184bhp 2.0 litre unit will be added to the range soon. Similarly, the petrol engine range is limited for now but will be expanded by the end of the year. The 1.4 litre, 148bhp unit offered now will be joined by 1.0 litre, 114bhp three cylinder turbo and 2.0 litre, 187bhp options – the latter coming with an S-Tronic automatic gearbox. When it arrives the 1.0 litre petrol version will be the cheapest model in the range with a price tag of £20,230. Courier Motoring has yet to get its hands on the car but early reviews have been very positive and Audi looks to have yet another winner on its hands. jmckeown@thecourier.co.uk

Motoring news

Form an orderly Q for Audi SUV

August 10 2016

First there was the Q7. Then the Q5 and Q3. All have been a phenomenal success for Audi. I’d be surprised if that script changes when the Q2 arrives in November. Audi’s baby SUV is available to order now with prices starting at £22,380. Can’t quite stretch to that? Don’t worry, an entry level three-cylinder 1.0 litre version will be available later this year with a cover tag of £20,230. From launch, there are three trim levels available for the Q2 called SE, Sport and S Line. The range-topping Edition #1 model will be available to order from next month priced from £31,170. While the entry-level 113bhp 1.0-litre unit isn’t available right away, engines you can order now include a 113bhp 1.6-litre diesel and 148bhp 1.4-litre petrol unit, both with manual or S tronic automatic transmissions. Also joining the Q2 line-up from September is the 2.0-litre TDI diesel with 148bhp or 187bhp. This unit comes with optional Quattro all-wheel drive. A 2.0 litre petrol with Quattro and S tronic joins the range next year. Standard equipment for the new Audi Q2 includes a multimedia infotainment system with rotary/push-button controls, supported with sat-nav. Audi’s smartphone-friendly interface, 16in alloy wheels, Bluetooth connectivity and heated and electric mirrors are all also standard for the Audi. Along with the optional Audi virtual cockpit and the head-up display, the driver assistance systems for the Audi Q2 also come from the larger Audi models – including the Audi pre sense front with pedestrian recognition that is standard. The system recognises critical situations with other vehicles as well as pedestrians crossing in front of the vehicle, and if necessary it can initiate hard braking – to a standstill at low speeds. Other systems in the line-up include adaptive cruise control with Stop & Go function, traffic jam assist, the lane-departure warning system Audi side assist, the lane-keeping assistant Audi active lane assist, traffic sign recognition and rear cross-traffic assist.

Centrica shares plunge to 14-year low after customer exodus

November 23 2017

British Gas-owner Centrica has lost £1.6 billion of its market value and seen shares plunge to a 14-year low after the energy giant shed 823,000 household energy accounts and warned over profits. Shares in the energy giant closed down more than 15%, or 25.3p to 138p, as investors digested the impact of a customer exodus, warmer-than-normal weather in October, and woes in its North American arm. The sharp drop dragged on the wider market, with the FTSE 100 Index finishing down 1.78 to 7,417.24. Little bit of bid at the death, but biggest fall on record for #Centrica #CNA pic.twitter.com/fTvFWAsjqN— Neil Wilson (@neilwilson_etx) November 23, 2017 The move by British Gas to hike electricity prices by 12.5% in September contributed to the loss of customers between the end of June and end of October. British Gas – Britain’s biggest energy supplier – now has 13.1 million customer accounts and 7.9 million customers. George Salmon, Equity Analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “After a dilutive share placing last year, and considering the challenges in the retail business, investor confidence in the Centrica turnaround story was already fairly brittle. “That meant the group could ill-afford having to break more bad news, but unfortunately, that’s exactly what it’s done. The real kick in the teeth is that few anticipated the source of the latest trouble.” Across Europe, Germany’s Dax edged lower and the Cac 40 in France rose by 0.5%. On the currency markets, the pound was down 0.1% versus the US dollar at 1.33, as profit taking and the latest slew of official economic data weighed on the UK currency. Sterling was also trading 0.4% lower against the euro despite economic growth picking up pace in the third quarter thanks to a rebound in household spending. In its second estimate, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) confirmed gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 0.4% between July and September, rising from 0.3% for the first and second quarters. #UK #GDP growth confirmed edging up to 0.4% q/q in Q3 from 0.3% q/q in both Q2 & Q1. Up 1.5% y/y. Marked pick up in #consumer spending growth (0.6% q/q) & modest rise in #business #investment (0.2% q/q). Net #trade negative by 0.5pp as #imports up 1.1% q/q & #exports fell 0.7%— Howard Archer (@HowardArcherUK) November 23, 2017 Consumer spending proved resilient over the period, bouncing back to 0.6% from 0.2% in the second quarter despite the persistent squeeze on household finances from higher inflation and dismal wage growth. The resurgent performance was driven by new car sales, which had slumped between April and June after people forked out money in the first three months of the year to escape tax changes on high-polluting vehicles. In oil, Brent crude was marginally lower at 63.22 US dollars as traders factored in rising output from US producers and a Canadian crude pipeline going offline. Turning to UK stocks, All Bar One owner Mitchells & Butlers saw its shares plunge after warning that it could scrap its next shareholder dividend payout on the back of lower profits. The pub group was down more than 6% on the second tier – 17p lower at 241p – after reporting a fall in pre-tax profits to £77 million for the year to September 30, compared to £94 million the previous year. It comes as the company works to offset a spike in buying costs on the back of the Brexit-hit pound, saying it expects those pressures to continue into the next financial year. The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 Index were Mediclinic International up 16.5p to 525p, Sage Group up 24p to 806p, ITV up 3.6p to 152.4p, Berkeley Group up 73p to 3,3730p. The biggest fallers were Centrica down 25.3p to 138p, Babcock International down 23p to 682.5p, National Grid down 25.2p to 866.1p, Johnson Matthey down 73p to 3,068p. (function(i,s,o,g,r,a,m){i['GoogleAnalyticsObject']=r;i[r]=i[r]||function(){ (i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o), m=s.getElementsByTagName(o)[0];a.async=1;a.src=g;m.parentNode.insertBefore(a,m) })(window,document,'script','//www.google-analytics.com/analytics.js','ga'); ga('create', 'UA-72310761-1', 'auto', {'name': 'pacontentapi'}); ga('pacontentapi.set', 'referrer', location.origin); ga('pacontentapi.set', 'dimension1', 'By Ben Woods, Press Association Chief City Correspondent'); ga('pacontentapi.set', 'dimension2', '6c9f0f3c-3978-4853-92fa-d3fe5db77db1'); ga('pacontentapi.set', 'dimension3', 'paservice:finance,paservice:finance:city'); ga('pacontentapi.set', 'dimension6', 'story'); ga('pacontentapi.set', 'dimension7', 'composite'); ga('pacontentapi.set', 'dimension8', null); ga('pacontentapi.set', 'dimension9', null); ga('pacontentapi.send', 'pageview', { 'location': location.href, 'page': (location.pathname + location.search + location.hash), 'title': 'Centrica shares plunge to 14-year low after customer exodus'});

Business news

How do I reduce my energy bills?

April 10 2018

Switching to a new energy company or even to a new tariff with the existing supplier is the single most effective way to get a cheaper deal.Here is a guide to reducing your energy bill.Q. How do I start the switching process?A. The process of switching supplier can take as little as 10 minutes. You only need your postcode, a recent energy bill or to be able to answer questions regarding the size of the house, its heating system and how many people live there.You can switch your gas and electricity energy supplier by phone or online. It is recommended that you use an Ofgem-accredited energy comparison website, which means it gives a free and comprehensive overview of the market that meets the regulator’s standards.Q. How do I decide if it’s worth moving supplier or if I should stay where I am?A. At this point it is best to speak to your current supplier and ask them for the cheapest tariff you can sign up to, if you are not already on it. This is a helpful benchmark for comparing prices with other suppliers.It is then worth searching around comparison websites, which are now legally required to show all tariffs available in the market unless customers actively choose to see a smaller number.Q. I’ve decided to switch. What next?A. It is then a simple matter of contacting your chosen new supplier. You should have your bank details to hand if you decide to switch and want to pay by direct debit.Your new supplier will organise the switch. You will need to submit meter readings to them when requested, and settle outstanding bills with your old company.Q. How long will it all take?A. Your new supplier will contact you after the two-week cooling-off period with follow-up information about your service switchover date.The entire process takes 17 days (three days plus a two-week cooling-off period).Q. Can I switch suppliers again?A. You can switch suppliers every 28 days, but it is important to check for cancellation charges. It is recommended that bill-payers check to make sure they remain on the best deal once or twice a year.Q. I’m already on the cheapest deal I can find. How else can I lower my bills?A. Turning down the thermostat, replacing lightbulbs with energy-saving LEDs, and installing draught-proofing and home insulation can all result in significant savings. A simple handheld energy monitor gadget estimates in real time how much energy you’re using, so you can see where to cut back.

Business news

SSE sheds more customers as talks on Npower merger begin with regulator

January 31 2018

SSE has started talks with the competition watchdog over its merger with rival Npower, as the energy supplier revealed that it lost thousands more customers with households continuing to switch to cheaper rivals. The group confirmed on Wednesday that it, along with Npower’s parent firm Innogy, are in pre-notification discussions with the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), with the deal on course to be completed by the last quarter of 2018 or the first quarter of 2019. The merger, which will create a combined £3 billion energy supplier and turn the Big Six energy suppliers into five, has come under fire from MPs, who fear it will spell bad news for energy consumers. But SSE insisted that the deal will “serve the needs of customers, employees and other stakeholders in the long term”. The merger will reduce the Big Six to the Big Five (PA) It came as SSE revealed that it lost another 40,000 accounts over the past three months as households continued to switch away from the Big Six to cheaper rivals. The group pointed to “complex challenges” in the energy market after total customer accounts in the UK and Ireland dropped to 7.68 million from 7.72 million. Boss Alistair Phillips-Davies said: “The energy sector continues to present a number of complex challenges to manage but, throughout this financial year, we have kept our focus on delivering the best possible service. “There will be a greater focus on creating value from owning, operating and developing assets and infrastructure, and we will contribute to the creation of a new energy supply market model that combines the resources and experience of two established players with the focus and agility of an independent supplier.” Britain’s energy market is going through a period of change, with Royal Dutch Shell recently acquiring First Utility in a move that will see the oil and gas giant become a direct energy provider to 825,000 British homes. It will present another challenge to the Big Six, which are bracing for a raft of regulatory changes after the Government announced that a price cap will be imposed on poor-value energy tariffs. They have also come under recent pressure from smaller rivals who have been taking customers and market share. SSE added that it expects to deliver full-year adjusted earnings per share in the range of 116p to 120p, which is down from last year’s 125.7p. (function(i,s,o,g,r,a,m){i['GoogleAnalyticsObject']=r;i[r]=i[r]||function(){ (i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o), m=s.getElementsByTagName(o)[0];a.async=1;a.src=g;m.parentNode.insertBefore(a,m) })(window,document,'script','//www.google-analytics.com/analytics.js','ga'); ga('create', 'UA-72310761-1', 'auto', {'name': 'pacontentapi'}); ga('pacontentapi.set', 'referrer', location.origin); ga('pacontentapi.set', 'dimension1', 'By Ravender Sembhy, Press Association City Editor'); ga('pacontentapi.set', 'dimension2', 'ac3b3ad0-916f-416c-b6de-c7d37a5ee6aa'); ga('pacontentapi.set', 'dimension3', 'paservice:finance,paservice:finance:city,paservice:news,paservice:news:uk'); ga('pacontentapi.set', 'dimension6', 'story'); ga('pacontentapi.set', 'dimension7', 'composite'); ga('pacontentapi.set', 'dimension8', null); ga('pacontentapi.set', 'dimension9', null); ga('pacontentapi.send', 'pageview', { 'location': location.href, 'page': (location.pathname + location.search + location.hash), 'title': 'SSE sheds more customers as talks on Npower merger begin with regulator'});

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