Angela Rippon is working with the government and industry-back electric car campaign, Go Ultra Low, to find Britain's most passionate female car fan aged over 60. We caught up with her to talk about the project and when her own passion for driving began.
Please can you tell us about the new competition you're promoting with Go Ultra Low?
The campaign is very straightforward. It's for women who really love cars, love driving and love being behind the wheel. The competition is trying to find the most passionate female driver over 60 in the country and it's all part of the Go Ultra Low campaign which is funded by the government and eight major car manufacturers to get people much more interested and aware of electric and plug-in hybrid cars.
The challenge, which runs until 1 August, is open to any woman aged over 60 who has a love of cars. Entries can be made by emailing [email protected] or on the Go Ultra Low Facebook page at www.facebook.com/goultralow
Entrants are asked to simply describe their passion for cars, and why they should win, in no more than 50 words. The prize includes a VIP driving track day and performance driving lessons in an electric car. It's a terrific opportunity to drive one of these high performance cars and get tutoring from a really brilliant high performance driver!
You say you're a real driving enthusiast, so was it something you took to as soon as you started learning?
I learnt to drive at 16 in my school uniform with my dad in his Rover 90, over 50 years ago! In fact I very nearly took my driving test in my school uniform! He would tell me 'you've got a weapon in your hands' and that's always stayed with me. We all need to be a lot more considerate and better mannered. I'm a real driving fanatic and I just love a good driving experience in a car in which I feel comfortable and safe.
Why is it important we recognise the passion that exists among female drivers as well as male drivers?
We are all entitled to our own passions and why shouldn't women enjoy cars as much as men? There was a certain liberation for women in cars, when you learn to drive you can jump in your car and drive wherever you choose. Young or old, male or female, we are all responsible on the roads and I think perhaps the older we get the more likely we are to think about our effect on the environment. That's why so many of us are now driving electric cars and enjoying the savings, doing our bit to save the planet and the overall relaxing and powerful experience of driving electric.
You are a former Top Gear presenter so what was your most memorable experience from your time on the show?
I got to drive all the newest cars straight off the production line and they even let me on a section of the M6 before it was officially opened!
If you were to describe your own passion for cars in just a few words- what would you say?
Passionate, considerate and timeless!
Of all the cars you've owned which one still has a special place in your heart and why?
The Mazda MX-5 convertible is definitely one! Taking it out in the country is just a wonderful experience. My dream car, no expense spared would have to be my wonderful Triumph GT6 which I absolutely adored. It was bright yellow, long bonnet and it was very feminine sports car. I loved it.
Where is your favourite place to drive?
I love to drive in the country at my home in Devon and especially across Dartmoor. There's a wonderful feel to it, the colours are stunning across the moors and you can just see for miles and miles.
For those who have never driven an electric car, how does it differ?
It's thrilling! I've even driven one of the Formula E cars which was fantastic! And so quiet and peaceful, they really do have some get up and go! They sort of purr, which I think of sort of wonderful and rather feminine, actually. There's a certain appeal to that. It's a thoroughly exhilarating drive. There are 71,000 electric cars on the road right now, and one more added to that every 13 minutes. The performance is sensational, indeed the BMW i8 does 0-60mph in 4.5 seconds so we really are talking about high performance here. And add to that the fact that is costs on average just 2p per mile to drive electric compared to 12p for petrol or diesel engines. There are more than 10,000 charge points across the UK now so statistically, you're never more than 4 miles away from a charger. In London, there are more charge points than there are petrol stations.
As a car fanatic yourself, do you find that it's still a male dominated passion or are more women taking to it now?
Women have always taken to it! I think there are probably millions of women over 60 who learnt to drive when they were young, and just love to get out on the roads and enjoy that freedom and adventure. All the statistics certainly show that women over 50 are by far the safest on the road so Go Ultra Low's competition is a wonderful opportunity break down some of these stereotypes. There are many women of all ages who are real driving enthusiasts! For many, this would be a once in a lifetime opportunity. Electric cars have come a long way since the little milk floats trundling along.
What is next for you?
I have 50 more Rip Off Britain programmes to film, and many more specialist programmes with the BBC. It's also, excitingly, my 50th year in broadcasting for the BBC.
Find out more and apply at facebook.com/GoUltraLow