Most of you will recognise Robert from Red Dwarf and Scrapheap Challenge. He currently presents a weekly vodcast called Carpool, in which he interviews other celebrities whilst driving them somewhere in his Toyota Prius. He also presents another vodcast called Fully Charged, which takes a more specific look at alternative energy vehicles.
First car: BMC FGK 40 three ton furniture truck, converted into mobile home, complete with running water, wood burning stove, window boxes with flowers, upstairs bedroom, curtains, and bookshelves.
Current car: Toyota Prius, Nissan Leaf, Land Rover 90 SV (2.5 diesel TDi rattler)
Dream car: ATM Tesla Model S
Driving style: Relaxed, middle aged, dull, as safe as possible, unless I’m on a track in which case, mildly adventurous.
What were your earliest motoring memories?
Standing in the footwell of my dad’s Vauxhall Victor, must have been in the early 1960’s. As he drove through the country lanes near our home, I was pretending to be on a motorbike. The brakes on the Victor would have been rubbish, the metal dash board was inches in front of my face, there were no seat belts, my dad was laughing.
Have you always taken an interest in engineering and the environment, or has your interest in these fields developed over time with your work on Scrapheap Challenge, Carpool and Fully Charged?
Always taken an interest, it’s sort of the other way around. I was interested which is how come I ended up doing shows like Scrapheap, How Do They Do It, Fully Charged etc. I really enjoy and appreciate the way engineers work things out, I was fascinated with steam engines as a kid. I still have a massive Meccano set although I haven’t touched it in 30 years. My son showed no interest when he was younger.
How did Carpool first come into existence?
It was very technology led. We used little cameras on Scrapheap, I wanted to do an experimental talk show on the internet to see if it would work. I knew I couldn’t do it in a studio with multiple cameras, lights and a production team and suddenly I realised I could put little cameras in the car and pick people up from their houses. Far more chance of getting a guest that way.
Were you surprised by its success?
Very, I simply could not believe how fast it picked up viewers, no PR, no launch, no nothing. Tiny budget but with very simple production made it possible to keep going until sponsors approached me. I feel very blessed with it.
What are your future plans for Carpool?
Essentially to keep it going, keep the simple non flashy production feel, record episodes overseas, meet amazing people and have a natter. That’s all there is to it really.
The subject of electric vehicles (EVs) appears to have polarised some of your interviewees. Where do you stand? Have any of your passengers made you question your faith in EVs?
Carpool isn’t about cars, it’s really about the people in the car. I’ve had plenty of people in the car who are highly skeptical about battery electric cars, if they are ‘car people’ like Quentin Willson then we do talk about cars, but then again, he’s a big supporter of EV’s. I don’t think I’ve had anyone yet who is a rabid petrol head and hates anything that isn’t a gas guzzler. I would love to get someone like that in the car. Know anyone?
Your video blog, Fully Charged, has taken a more specific look at the development of EVs. In your view, what are the main challenges that EVs face in todays world?
Main challenge is ignorance and assumptions based upon that. It is ridiculous how many people are instantly converted as soon as they drive an electric car. However there are big differences more than drawbacks. Range was the most common anxiety up until recently, now it’s battery replacement cost. It’s emerging technology but it’s emerging very fast, developments in battery tech are amazing, I’m very optimistic about it. There’s going to be set backs, skepticism, that’s good, there should be, but there is no doubt in my mind that electric cars will come to dominate sooner rather than later.
As your work on Fully Charged has shown, EVs vary greatly in price, performance and effect. Would it be safe to assume, therefore, that you dislike the use of the term, electric vehicles, as many people hear of one rotten apple and then want nothing to do with the rest of the barrel?
I dislike the term ‘electric vehicles’ because it’s a mouthful and unspecific. Many people suggest to me that ‘hydrogen is the future, not electric.’ They forget of course that hydrogen fuel cell cars are electric, but I won’t go on. I quite like the term ‘car’ for electric vehicle, and ‘old fashioned smelly car’ for anything with an internal combustion engine as its only power source.
Finally, if you had to give someone three reasons to own an electric car, what would they be?
The main reason I would suggest it’s worth being an early adopter if you can afford it and have somewhere to charge it overnight is, massive fuel cost savings, ease of use, longevity and you are taking a step towards a sustainable form of transport, it’s nothing to do with being ‘eco’ or ‘green’, it is a car after all, made in a big factory etc. However, you can fuel a ‘car’ without burning anything, it’s not easy now, it will get easier and it is worth the effort.
To find out more about Carpool and Fully Charged, visit www.llewtube.com
If youd like to hear Roberts thoughts on electric motoring, among other things, visithttps://llewblog.squarespace.com/electric-cars/