Thursday, 8 September 2016

Never mind the Batteries…

Myths and Mysteries - The Electric Car - Future or Fallacy?

So let me fess up straight away, my name is Peter Banks, I drive an electric car and, since my conversion, I want to share the good news about EVs (Electric Vehicles) with everyone! So am I biased? Of course! My carbon footprint is less, I am now practising what I preach and I’m saving money. Whilst the last point will be highly important to many, for me making a personal, yet token, action towards saving the planet is reason enough.

My second confession is I have been concerned about our environment for some time and nailed my colours to the mast by joining the Green Party in 2008. Sadly, in this country, addressing climate change is not given the urgent and critical priority it warrants.

So, how did I get here?

Until recently I drove a diesel car, rather than a petrol version, because I was led to believe that was the most environmental option. In September 2015 I was horrified to discover it could have far worse emissions than specified after the ‘Diesel Gate’ revelations. When I started the tricky task of researching my next car the massive amount of jargon and rhetoric was overwhelming to my non petrol head grey matter! Then came the epiphany...

From a Twitter post I followed a link to a talk by Robert Llewellyn, he of Red Dwarf and Scrapheap Challenge fame, and a clearer light started to dawn. Whilst he now has his own YouTube channel, Fully Charged, all about news relating to EVs, it was his TEDx talk, as above, that summarised his own journey. Whilst he claims not to be a scientist, and he is shockingly poor at mental arithmetic, his layman’s approach to explaining sometimes difficult concepts in straightforward, non jargonised language - with a generous helping of humour - is compelling.

Unfortunately there is much mis-information bandied about concerning Electric Cars, ostensibly referred to as research, which, on closer inspection, proves to be data provided by vested interests in the status quo, aka the fossil fuel industry. So let’s banish five myths to start with.

Myth One - EVs are slow

Essentially petrol and diesel engines utilise Victorian technology. They employ the same principle as a good old Steam Locomotive: pistons, cylinders, valves and connecting rods but obviously use a more efficient fuel. Now, despite fossil fuels being very energy dense, electric cars do not have to convert energy to such extremes: the battery powers a motor that drives the wheels which is highly efficient and makes them extremely nippy. In fact the prestige Tesla cars can achieve an impressive 0-60 mph performance of under 3 seconds!

Myth Two - EVs are expensive

Yes, the List prices of EVs are higher than an equivalent petrol or diesel car, however, there is currently a £4500 pound government sponsored discount, zero road tax, no congestion charges and, along with manufacturer's deals, this actually makes the cost competitive. On top of all that even if you have a relatively low mileage of say 20 miles a day (the average daily car commute is 26 miles) you will save £1600 per year!

Myth Three - EVs are heavier and cause more pollution

I could think of ruder words but let’s just go with ‘Tosh’! Come on, they are NOT heavier than trucks, buses or heavier than thou 4 x 4s for goodness sake?! EVs utilise something called Regenerative Braking which reverses the use of the motor to slow the car down whilst also recharging the battery. Similar to changing gears to slow down it means brake wear is much less and, taking Tesla, Nissan and BMW, for example, their manufacturing plants have each committed to providing renewable energy on site. Another challenge raised is that the electricity when charging is never ‘Green’. Well, even if all electricity used l was non-renewable, CO2 emissions are reduced by more than 50%, and we are producing more electricity from renewable energy all the time – although we could do more!

Myth Four - If everyone drove EVs the Grid couldn’t cope

The founder of Ecotricity has carried out detailed research and the numbers are such that if every car in the UK was an EV an increase of 12% of grid capacity would be required. However most charging is carried out at home overnight when the demand on the grid is at its lowest which actually helps reduce the overall costs of shutting down power stations and turbines to reduce output. On top of this the massive amount of electricity used to refine crude oil to diesel or petrol would be recovered.

Myth Five -The batteries might explode

I’ll make this one short! Batteries can overheat but there is sophisticated technology to cool and control that. So how long have you driven a car around with a far more explosive medium just behind you? Petrol / diesel cars are all potential bombs…

There’s so much more I could share - suffice to say I am entering an exciting new world which fulfils my environmentalist standpoint and is proving to be a very pleasant pilgrimage!

You can share the start of this journey at 3pm Sunday, September 18th in FirstSite, Colchester. CO1 1JH. The Colchester Green Party are holding an Electric Vehicle Workshop with a Guest Speaker Darren Smith from Glyn Hopkin Nissan, daily video blogger James Cooke and yours truly in the Chair. Electric Vehicles will be on display and you can even sign up for a test drive.

First published in the Regional Life magazines - used with permission and with minor edits!
Ref: Robert Llewellyn on TEDx


Anonymous said...

I had to try drive it on telly whilst being interviewed, after only previous practice drive I hoped I wouldn't prang it.

Still using the electric van, plus we have two public charging sites and one private site for the van. Two of these sites have elec generated by solar panel infrastructure, the third later this year planning willing). This is part of the virtuous circle. We are definitely seeing a growth in usage from ev vehicles at our car parks (free fuel helps and BMW paid for everyone's ev parking for a year.)

I thought our staff would be a difficult sell, but they all preferred to the diesel.

As Bill McKibben said at GB - looking after the world is on the first page of the Bible.

Keep up the interesting environmental journey and let's make Life in the City with a bit cleaner air and keeping the carbon in the ground.


Unknown said...

Ok Peter, sounds like you are really into your Leaf.

Actually, the other day I went out in a neighbours' and I was "sold". It was great, very Startrek in many ways. I will deffo be going EV next year.

Well done for putting the money where the mouth is. Trust you enjoyed GB this year.

Come to stay sometime.

We're on hols in Croatia right now. Back on the 19th

Peter Banks said...

Cheers guys!

Well done Rod, respect to Lincoln Council... didn't spy you at GB, I was in the Bill McKibben talk too, brilliant stuff.

Yes, John, once you drive one you won't want to go back, great driving experience and tech too. Yes, Greenbelt was really good this year, think they have found their feet as this was the third one at the new site.

Keep it Green!

Anonymous said...

I was outside the GB climate change but caught a good slice of it. My daughter was inside and impressed by the content. Only a day visitor, where it went from sunny to lightening in a few hours. Nice site though and nearer to my neck of the woods.