Just over 20 years ago, a 17-year-old with a passion for engineering won the prestigious ‘Young Inventor of Great Britain’ award. Ben Hindsley, from Hexham, Northumberland, devised a new type of LED bicycle light that gave 23 times longer battery life.
That was 1992. Today Ben is Lead Attribute Engineer on the New Peugeot 308 and his creative past has stood him in good stead. The car has full LED headlamps as standard on higher trim levels, a world-first innovation. Together with the LED rear lights, they give the striking new compact family hatchback a strong and expressive signature.
Ben, now 37, is one of only three Brits based at Peugeot’s state-of-the-art R&D centre in Belchamp, France. That’s from a total of some 16,000 staff. He explained,
“When I started in 1999 I was the only Brit there. The joke is I still have a Geordie accent… but not when I speak French!”
Ben’s role means he has been in charge of every aspect of the New 308’s development. Being at the very heart of the project for more than four years means the car is more potentially suited to the needs of UK motorists than ever before.
For example, the car has the perfect pedal layout whether it’s in left-hand drive or right-hand drive. That’s because Ben was present at the first meetings to make sure it was never going to be just a ‘LHD converted to RHD’ car.
Ben also oversaw prototype testing on UK roads to make sure every aspect of the New 308 was right. An example is the car’s Adaptive Cruise Control technology. Ben explained,
“The radar is set into the left of the bumper so we needed to know it worked properly for right-hand drive cars. We had done most of the work on the track, but nothing replaces real-world testing.”
After several thousand miles of driving on UK roads, the results confirmed those established on the track with zero faults.
Ben’s rise from teenage inventor to Lead Attribute Engineer has been impressive. He studied a Masters degree in Aeronautic Engineering at Imperial College London, during which he spent a year in France as part of an exchange programme and fell in love with the country. A further Masters degree in Engine Design in Paris led to a work placement with PSA Peugeot Citroёn, and he was offered a job when it concluded. That took Ben to Belchamp and into the world of car development he had been aiming for and he’s been there ever since.
Ben runs a team of engineers covering every aspect of vehicle development, including acoustics, aerodynamics, fuel consumption, dynamic performance, and crash-testing.
He said the team had aimed high on all aspects of the New 308 and was thrilled with the final result.
“If I were to choose just one thing, I’d be most proud of the car’s perceived quality, both inside and out. We aimed, and reached, the level of the segment’s best. But I wouldn’t want to choose just one when I know we have a very strong product with many class-leading virtues. I look forward to our customers discovering them.”
The New Peugeot 308 is available to order now, with first deliveries due in January 2014. The 308 is one of the cars likely to receive the new PSA developed HYbrid Air system which will give excellent fuel economy and performance by using a compressed air system. However, the 1.6-litre BlueHDi 88kW/120bhp giving 91.1mpg with 82g/km CO2 will be available as the most economical 308 offering.