Monthly Archives: June 2015

Kia Soul EV (Image: Kia America)

2015 Kia Soul EV + Long-Term Arrival

Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride

“So the question is — what next? I’ve driven the Tesla for so long that returning to a gas car feels like backward time-travel. Do I say giddyap to these things?”

That’s a line I wrote late in my 38,000-mile odyssey at the wheel of our long-term Model S P85+. Which, when it was recently returned — rolling silently (and cruelly) away without me in it — left me feeling as if my beloved starship from the future had abruptly dropped me back in the ordinary-old circa 2015. Plunk, there I am on the ground — amid a small puff of dust.

And there I bewilderedly sat, an alien from Elon Musk’s future returned to the primitive present.

No more giant multi-touch screen? No more magical over-the-air updates? No Superchargers? Back to driving mere ordinary cars? Never!

But even the irrepressible Mr. Toad in me had to face the fact that I needed a way to get around. So I started typing emails.

After coming up goose eggs in my attempts to coerce either Hyundai or Toyota into letting me sample their hydrogen fuel cell wares (the first, stymied by internal corporate barriers, the second, just premature timing), I made a list of available battery-electric cars. Based on what? One thing, baby. Range.

My round-trip commute is a minimum of 76 miles (a bit more when the 405 is closed for late-night construction, which it usually is). So, conservatively, let’s say its 80. Adding a 10 percent fear factor makes it 88. OK, now let’s run through the list of available non-Tesla BEVs out there:

  • Smart ForTwo: 68 miles — too short.
  • Ford Focus Electric: 76 miles — nope.
  • BMW i3 BEV: 81 miles — nope, but cool carbon-fiber tech.
  • Chevrolet Spark EV: 82 miles — nope.
  • Volkswagen e-Golf: 83 miles — nope, but certainly fun to drive.
  • Nissan Leaf: 84 miles — we’re inching closer.
  • Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive and Fiat 500e: 87 miles — ack, short by 1 crummy mile.
  • Kia Soul EV: 93 miles — eureka!

So the Kia is actually my one and only pure battery-electric choice since Toyota discontinued its slow-selling, 103-mile RAV4 EV ($49,800 — no wonder). The sole quasi-alternative was the BMW i3 with Extended Range, which would have amusingly punctuated my trips with brief firings of its two-cylinder engine-generator, needing refueling (with gas) every week and a half or so. Unfortunately, our slow-motion BMW-courting hasn’t resulted in a date; disappointing, but simplifying things.

Read more: Motortrend

Market share (new sales) of electric passenger cars (Image: Business Spectator)

Fuel price turbulence hasn’t pulled the plug on EVs

Among the biggest stories of 2014 was the crash in global oil prices. Just when it looked like the world had started to take $100/barrel oil for granted, prices plunged by 50 percent. Some speculated that lower oil prices would translate into reduced consumer enthusiasm for electric vehicles (EVs). Now that we have EV sales for 2014 tallied up, let’s look at how the story actually played out.

As it turns out, EVs, including battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), continued to sell consistently around the world. The EV market share in Norway is still far ahead of other countries, at 13.8% of new car sales in 2014. However, in Sweden, the United Kingdom, Denmark, and China the EV market tripled, while in Austria and Germany the EV sales share nearly doubled. The Netherlands is the only country that saw a big drop in EV sales, from 5.6% to 3.4%, likely due to a decline in fiscal incentives. Electric vehicle market share in other countries, including the US, France, and Japan, remained consistent in comparison to 2013.

Further, compared to the first half of 2014, the dramatic drop in global fuel prices during the second half of 2014 did not have any measurable impact on EV sales, and some markets even saw EV sales spike towards the end of the year. There are two main reasons for this: (1) Savings from fuel/electricity costs are only part of all EV incentives, which mainly consist of a variety of fiscal or non-fiscal benefits, and (2) in some countries, particularly in the European Union, fuel taxes already account for a large share of total fuel price, so even during times of fluctuation in global oil price the price at the pump remains relatively stable.

Market share (new sales) of electric passenger cars (Image: Business Spectator)
Market share (new sales) of electric passenger cars (Image: Business Spectator)

Read more: Business Spectator

While electric vehicles only make up for a tiny percentage of total vehicles manufactured, its popularity is soaring. This is no surprise given the inherent advantages of electric vehicles. Here is a graph illustrating electric vehicle growth over the past six years (Image: Clean Technica)

The Electrification Of The Transportation Industry And Its Implications

Summary

  • Petroleum has been the main transportation fuel for over a century, which has spawned one of the largest industries as a result.
  • Despite petroleum’s pervasive influence on society, the energy industry may be changing irrevocably with the rapid electrification of transportation.
  • The shift toward electric transport will likely happen faster than most anticipate given the inherent advantages of electric transport, leading to several investment opportunities in the electric industry.

For the last century or so, the energy industry has largely been segmented. While energy sources such as coal, natural gas, nuclear, and renewables have primarily been used for electricity generation, petroleum has mainly been used as a fuel for transportation. Ever since oil drilling technologies were invented in the mid-19th century, petroleum has become the superior choice for transportation. Petroleum has become so vital to the transportation industry that oil supermajors, i.e. Exxon (NYSE:XOM), BP (NYSE:BP), ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP), etc, have become some of the most valuable corporations in the world.

While these corporations also have interests in other forms of energy such as natural gas, petroleum still consists of a huge portion of these companies’ business portfolios. Despite the increasing energy diversification of such firms, the influence that petroleum plays on these companies is undeniable. This is not surprising as the transportation industry is notoriously energy intensive. In fact, only the industrial sector beats out the transportation sector in terms of energy usage in the U.S., with the residential and commercial sectors coming in third and fourth. Overall, transportation accounts for nearly one-third of total energy consumption, making petroleum an incredibly important commodity.

An Inevitable Convergence

With the thousands of trillions of BTU’s used for transportation alone, petroleum has become a huge component of the energy industry. Despite petroleum’s historical and current importance, its relevance may soon be limited. With the rising trend of electric transportation, the transportation industry may start to converge with the rest of the energy industry in terms of fuel sources. As petroleum is not a competitive source of electricity generation in the majority of the world, petroleum may have an increasingly hard time maintaining relevance moving forward.

While this is nowhere near apparent given that the vast majority of transportation is still petroleum-based, a massive shift toward electrical transportation could happen much sooner than most expect. This, of course, would have detrimental effect on companies with heavy crude oil interests, such as the aforementioned supermajors like Exxon. On the other hand, the electrification of transportation will only increase the need for other electricity-based energy sources, raising the prospects of coal companies, natural gas companies, renewable companies, etc.

While the solar PV industry will likely be the biggest winner in the long-run for its own reasons, other electricity-based energy industry’s will also undoubtedly benefit. A paradigm shift towards electric transportation will essentially give traditional electricity-based energy companies a huge influx of demand. To put this into perspective, an average person uses more energy for transportation than for residential purposes. Needless to say, the electrification of transportation will drastically alter the energy landscape.

Signs Of A Transformation

Given that electricity based transportation, namely motor vehicles, have inherent advantages over ICE-based transportation (e.g. superior safety, superior design potential, less pollution, and less noise), the only real debate lies in how fast electric cars will decrease in price. The cost-effectiveness of energy storage technology has always been the major barrier in the mass adoption of electric cars. With Tesla’s (NASDAQ:TSLA) massive investment into energy storage technology, the biggest barrier to mass adoption of electric vehicles should all but disappear in the near/mid-term. This is not to say that Tesla is alone in this pursuit, as many other major corporations are starting to funnel money into electric transportation R&D.

While Tesla itself will likely have a limited direct impact on the electrification of the transportation industry, the rise of the company has catalyzed an industry-wide movement towards electric vehicles. With Tesla’s stunning success thus far, major automotive companies such as General Motors (NYSE:GM) are beginning to put previously unimaginable emphasis on the development of electric vehicles. By proving that electric transportation is not only viable, but a theoretically superior alternative to ICE-based vehicles, Tesla has drastically accelerated the trend towards electric transportation by reigniting interest in this arena.

Industry Shift Likely To Occur Much Sooner Than Expected

Currently, far less than 1% of all transportation is electricity-based, with approximately 800,000 highway-capable electric vehicles sold worldwide thus far. On top of this, only about half of this figure is from purely electric vehicles, as opposed to hybrids. Given this information, it seems ludicrous to assume that a mass transformation toward electric transportation is possible even within the next few decades. While this line of thinking is certainly justified without the context of growth potential and technological advancements, the reality is that the electric vehicle industry is still in its extremely early stages of development. This implies that the electric transportation industry as it currently stands is nowhere near its potential.

The fact is that electric vehicle demand has been dramatically ramping up over the past few years, with the global electric vehicle market growing by approximately 76% in 2014. In addition, growth only seems to be accelerating, which is not surprising given the surge in electric vehicle popularity. What makes this growth even more amazing is that electric vehicles are still not yet cost-effective with ICE vehicles, implying that the inherent advantages of electric vehicles are powerful enough to overcome a severe cost disadvantage in the eyes of consumers. With the acceleration of electric vehicle innovation (mainly in the battery arena), even cost should no longer be a barrier a decade or so down the road.

Given the current roadmap of electric vehicle technological improvements, electric vehicles should easily become cost-comparable to ICE vehicles in a 5-10 year timeframe. In fact, Tesla is slated to unveil a $35,000 electric vehicle with at least 200 miles of range in approximately one years time, showcasing the speed at which electric vehicle technology is improving at. Given all the advantages that electric vehicles hold over ICE vehicles, growth will likely explode once the average price point of electric vehicles reach parity with those of ICE vehicles. While there will still be a huge fleet of petroleum consuming vehicles that will take decades to get rid of, a large-scale electrification of transportation seems inevitable in the mid/long-term. This, of course, will have huge implications on a number of industries, notably the crude oil industry.

While electric vehicles only make up for a tiny percentage of total vehicles manufactured, its popularity is soaring. This is no surprise given the inherent advantages of electric vehicles. Here is a graph illustrating electric vehicle growth over the past six years (Image: Clean Technica)
While electric vehicles only make up for a tiny percentage of total vehicles manufactured, its popularity is soaring. This is no surprise given the inherent advantages of electric vehicles. Here is a graph illustrating electric vehicle growth over the past six years (Image: Clean Technica)

Massive Industry Impact

The mass electrification of transportation will have an enormous and irrevocable impact on several major energy industries as was mentioned before. The petroleum industry will likely be severely crippled as a result of the transportation industry’s shift away from oil. Electricity-based energy industries, i.e. coal, natural gas, nuclear, wind, and especially solar PV, will end up taking in the energy demand of the transportation industry. This implies that at current valuations, oil companies are overvalued while the general electric industry is undervalued. While there is certainly a debate about which type of electricity-based energy source will get most of the benefits in the long run, be it coal, natural gas, solar PV, wind, etc, there is no doubt that the electricity industry as a whole will benefit.

Conclusion

The electrification of transportation may be one of the most impactful transitions in modern day history. Not only will it drastically alter the landscape of the energy industry, but it should also have enormous geopolitical ramifications (think the Middle East). Supermajors like Exxon, Chevron (NYSE:CVX), or any petroleum-based company for that matter will be severely negatively effected by this likely transition. At current, companies will a heavy focus on petroleum are valuated as if oil will make up for the vast majority of transportation fuels for the long-term future (with P/E ratios in the range of 10-20).

This is far from a foregone conclusion given the exploding popularity and inherent advantages of electric transportation. Given the nascent stage of electric transportation, it makes for an opportune time to sell oil holding. Many find it absurd to think that transportation will make a such a large transition in a decade or so, which is completely understandable given the huge and unchanging influence petroleum has played in transportation for over a century. Despite this, only a few basic assumptions about technological progress need to be made in order to take on the thesis that transportation will primarily become electricity-based much sooner than most expect.

Source: Seeking Alpha

Will Tories offer climate policy competence or chaos?

The green economy faces significant uncertainty as a Tory government with a wafer thin majority faces a host of energy and climate policy challenges

[From 8 May] Something truly historic and genuinely shocking has happened in the past few days. That’s right, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) confirmed the monthly global concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere passed 400 parts per million for the first time in human history.

Meanwhile, on a small archipelago off the coast of Europe, David Cameron pulled off the biggest political shock in a generation and is now odds-on to deliver the first Tory majority government since that last electoral surprise in 1992, albeit with a wafer thin majority that may eventually see him long for the parliamentary stability of the Major years.

For all the immense challenges Cameron now faces – delivering his promised EU renegotiation and referendum, holding the union together when it is pulling apart at the seams, identifying the unfunded spending and tax cuts he promised, navigating ever louder (and entirely justified) calls for electoral and constitutional reform – it is the response to the ongoing global climate crisis that will one day be seen to define his generation of world leaders.

There are plenty of climate scientists who reckon by the end of this parliament global greenhouse gas emissions need to be peaking in readiness for a vertiginous decline.

Cameron knows this and in those quieter moments when he is allowed to present himself as the One Nation Tory Moderniser he instinctively remains – and this morning promised to become once again – he is committed to playing his role in delivering the global green industrial revolution. But green businesses and campaigners will this morning look at the result and wonder how many of those quieter moments he will be granted over the next five years. Cameron’s commitment to the Climate Change Act may be solid, but his commitment to the policies required to deliver on it has already been shown to be flaky.

Does he have the nerve, the authority and the political nous to face down climate sceptic backbenchers whose votes could be crucial? That is one of the many unanswered questions of this election for green businesses.

But first, the good news. Even if GDP is not, in the words of Boris Johnson, going gangbusters, there are signs the green economy is. Renewable energy capacity trebled over the past five years and is on track to hit a 20 per cent share by 2020. The electric car market is booming and a host of low carbon infrastructure projects, from new nuclear reactors, to CCS demonstration projects and giant offshore wind farms are in the pipeline.

The Conservatives remain committed to expanding the ultra-low emission vehicle fleet, rolling out rail electrification programmes, delivering smart meters to every building, and enhancing biodiversity protection rules, especially for marine habitats. The Tory manifesto may not have been as overtly green as the Lib Dems or Labour’s, but it is not without its strengths. Moreover, the bulk of the energy industry is celebrating this morning (and share prices are jumping) as the prospect of a potentially investment-disrupting energy price ‘freeze’ is buried with Ed Miliband’s political career.

However, if businesses can see investment and policy certainty on a number of fronts, it is tempered by chronic uncertainty on a host of other important issues.

Whoever takes up the reins at the Department of Energy and Climate Change (assuming of course it is not merged back into another department in pursuit of George Osborne’s steep Whitehall spending cuts) faces one of the most daunting in-boxes in Westminster.

Within the next 18 months they need to finalise a new carbon budget for the late 2020s, secure a new Levy Control Framework for supporting clean energy projects beyond 2020, tackle the ongoing problems with UK energy efficiency policies and the scandal that is fuel poverty, sort out the future of the Renewable Heat Incentive, clarify the detail of the Tory ‘halt’ to onshore wind farms, address fracking protests and planning objections, support the reform of the EU emissions trading scheme, ink the long-awaited deal with EDF to deliver a new nuclear power plant, dish out the similarly long-awaited £1bn of CCS demonstration funding, execute a smart meter rollout that has many informed observers worried, weigh in on debates about the UK’s illegal air pollution, potential airport expansion, and resource insecurity, and represent the UK at an international summit that plenty of people regard as the most important in the history of human civilisation. No pressure, then.

Each of these policy debates could yet be resolved in favour of a more environmentally sustainable, climate resilient, and technologically competitive economy. But there is little doubt the battle will be intense and there are legitimate fears that if the right wing media continues to position action on climate change as an unjustified cost a Conservative government will throw green policies to the fossil fuel addicted wolves. Will the party focus on a competent programme of cost-effective decarbonisation or a chaotic programme of contradictory policies and climate politicking?

These hard policy choices will be further complicated by three over-arching realities that promise to repeatedly dilute Cameron’s best intentions towards the green economy and further undermine investment certainty: Europe, austerity, and the Tory backbenches.

The first two years of the parliament will be dominated by the build-up to an EU referendum and, if the Scottish referendum is anything to go by, the following two years will be dominated by the fallout. Emissions targets, air pollution rules, waste and recycling directives, biodiversity and habitat protections, all face an ambiguous future. The likelihood is the UK will stay in the EU or leave and be forced to keep many of these rules through a trade agreement, but for now uncertainty rules.

Meanwhile, cuts to unprotected departments mean DECC, Defra and related departments such as Transport, Business, and Communities will all face extremely tough decisions over what green initiatives remain and which will be cut. They will all be wary of the backlash that results when cuts to something like flood protection are shown to be ill-conceived.

Finally, every green policy or programme the Conservative government pursues will face vocal opposition from those on its own benches who cling to the idea that anything to do with climate change is a Commie plot. Add in the fact that if Cameron does need additional votes his first port of call is likely to be the DUP and party management becomes as crucial to the Tory green vision as the formation of that vision in the first place. Will the Lib Dems and Labour be responsible enough to work with the Conservative leadership on some of these issues to sideline the few climate sceptic voices in parliament or will they be granted influence that is in complete disproportion to their numbers?

What, if anything, can green businesses do to navigate this uncertainty and deliver the policy victories that will help the low carbon economy build on its recent successes?

As always, more needs to be done to demonstrate that clear majorities of the public support clean technologies and are in favour of decarbonisation. Yesterday may have proven once again that you can form a government with the support of barely a third of voters, but a true One Nation Conservative Party has an obligation to represent the country as a whole on these issues.

Similarly, green businesses need to recognise policy is only part of the story and not get too disheartened if some green policies are shelved. It is a scandal the Conservatives will now scupper a popular, successful and cost-effective industry in the form of the onshore wind energy sector. But the march of clean technologies is a global trend whereby costs are falling and green products are becoming normalised all the time. Divestment, community energy, smart grids, solar cells, these are trends and technologies that continue to go from strength to strength, regardless of the political weather.

Finally, those Conservatives tasked with presenting the party’s green policies in recent months have repeatedly declared that their focus is on cost-effective decarbonisation. Green businesses need to take this at face value, reach out to those remaining green Tories (they may seem as rare as a happy badger this morning, but they do exist) and demonstrate how decarbonisation is already being delivered in a cost-effective manner and will only become more cost competitive in a way fossil fuels will not. They could start by pointing out how the Conservatives are missing a trick in failing to take action on energy efficiency much more seriously. The Tory manifesto says they will improve one million homes over the next five years; Labour claimed to have a plan to upgrade 2.5 million homes at negligible extra cost – regardless of the final result, it is worthy of consideration.

Most of all though, green businesses and campaigners need to cling to the hope that the David Cameron who once declared that climate change is one of the most serious challenges the UK faces, who once declared he wanted the UK to be the most energy efficient economy in Europe, who once declared he would lead the greenest government ever, has it in him to tackle the climate challenge that will one day define the history books of this most unpredictable of political eras.

Source: Business Green

Volkswagen Golf GTE first drive: Hotting up the hybrid

You’ve heard of the Golf GTi. Now say hello to the Golf GTE. That’s E for electric, in case you were curious.

To readers of a certain age, GTE in the context of a performance car might be associated with another brand. When Pocket-lint was still in baby grows, it was Vauxhall that owned the GTE moniker, as seen stuck on the back of cars like its hot Astras.

But Vauxhall’s loss is clearly Volkswagen’s gain, as it gives the German maker a neat and easy-to-understand badge strategy for its range of performance cars. So in Golf world, it’s GTi for (injection) petrol, GTD for diesel, and GTE for plug-in hybrid electric – although this isn’t a purely battery powered Golf (you’ll need an e-Golf for that).

The Golf GTE mates together a chunky battery pack that you can plug in and recharge (unlike a regular hybrid like, say, a Toyota Prius) with a 1.4 TSi petrol engine. This engine sometimes keeps itself quiet and lets the battery do all the work, sometimes works together with the battery and (if the battery’s drained) can propel the car on its own. It depends on what mode you put the car in, state of charge and so on.

The benefit to you of all this? Well, 31 miles of range on the battery alone – which VW figure is enough to get most of us to work and back each day. But then the sort of performance you get from the regular GTi when the battery and petrol motor are working together and producing their combined total power output of 204hp. In between times – and depending how often you charge the battery up, the GTE promises much greater economy than its petrol equivalent – officially, 166mpg and 39g/km of CO2.

We could bore you at length about the GTE’s numerous modes (pure electric, GTE, charge battery etc) and various degrees of super cleverness. Instead we’ll simply talk about how it drives.

Set off with e-mode pressed, and the Golf travels under the power of just its battery, so long as you keep the speed below 81mph. It’s quiet, serene and nippy without feeling outright fast in a way that so many electric cars do. Both the electric motor and engine drive through the standard 6-speed DSG automatic gearbox, but in electric mode it’s very difficult to discern any real kind of stepping, gear-changing feel. And that’s all part of the appeal. It’s a fuss-free experience.

Read more: Pocket Lint

The Renault ZOE will benefit from a 35% discount from 1st April 2015

Electric cars: wave goodbye to the petrolhead

A zero-emissions Renault Zoe gave David Williams’ twins a taste of the future of driving, providing a very different approach to the way we drive

No sweat: first-time learner drivers Joe and Anna found the all-electric Renault Zoe a relaxing car to drive on the closed circuit (Image: L. Csernohlavek)
No sweat: first-time learner drivers Joe and Anna found the all-electric Renault Zoe a relaxing car to drive on the closed circuit (Image: L. Csernohlavek)

Lurching down the road in a series of kangaroo hops after each change of gear as you teach your son or daughter how to drive could soon be a thing of the past as the calm, quiet, more mature nature of the electric car promises to usher in a new generation of learners with a very different approach to the way we drive.

I’ve put my daughter and son into the driving seat to find out. With a melodic but barely audible sci-fi-style hum, of which Trekkies would surely approve, we inch slowly away from the kerb and glide ethereally towards a row of cones set out in the car park.

There’s no crashing of gears, no angrily revving engine and little stress. Anna beams as the sleek all-electric Renault Zoe quietly picks up speed and she deftly push-pulls the steering wheel to negotiate the first bend. It almost seems too easy.

As I sit in the back to watch my 15-year-old twins’ first “proper” driving lesson at Bluewater’s Young Driver facility in Kent, it seems a million miles away from my first attempts to co-ordinate juddering clutch, throttle, non-synchromesh gearbox and (yes, let us admit it) semaphore-arm indicators on my parents’ ageing, polluting Morris Minor Estate, some 35 years earlier. Even Gary Webber, the driving instructor whose familiarity with this special practice circuit is finely honed thanks to many hours teaching budding learners aged 11-17, is impressed with the calm, fuss-free zero-emission Zoe.

“Amazing – the loudest thing you can hear is the indicators,” he says, scarcely disguising his astonishment as he helps Anna insert the smartcard into the dashboard and press the Start button to “fire” up the car. Instead of the staccato bark of exhaust pipe, rattle of cam chain, puff of emissions and vibrations through the steering wheel, there’s a gentle synthesised “bong” and a cheerful “ready” message lights up in the space-age instrument panel.

“You certainly won’t be able to stall it,” adds Gary. “There’s no clutch and as it’s automatic, there’s no gear-changing to worry about, either.”

We’ve joined Gary at the Admiral Young Driver arena in Bluewater to see what it’s like to learn to drive in an electric car, and it’s a great location to grapple with the basics of getting behind the wheel — and while they still have to master manual gear changes and the like, a wealth of new technology, such as sensors and cameras, makes learning to drive easier.

The rest of the year, the instructors have made it more challenging, using hundreds of cones to represent lay-bys, cul-de-sacs, vehicles, traffic lights and buildings. Normally, there’d be six other cars on the circuit, as youngsters get a taste of motorised freedom, accompanied by a fully qualified ADI driving instructor – and with the benefit of dual- control cars.

Today, for our electric Renault Zoe acid test, we have the place to ourselves and Joseph and Anna are loving every moment. Even Gary seems relaxed about the lack of a spare brake pedal on the Zoe – for emergencies.

As Anna tackles her first roundabout, crossroads and T-junction, the Zoe is fully charged; we know this as it was topped up overnight at an electric socket; the dashboard readout tells us we have enough amps stored in the batteries to cover 78 fume- free miles for around £1.50. We won’t need them, but it’s comforting to know there are two charging cables in the boot – one for public charging points or dedicated home chargers (which will fully charge in four hours), the other for three-pin domestic electric points, which charge the car up overnight.

After Anna has negotiated the fake but sunny town centre for 45 minutes – grinning as she improves her steering technique, impressing Gary with her reversing – it’s Joe’s turn, and the readout now tells us we still have 76 miles of motoring time left. That is enough to get us to the seaside at Margate if we wished.

Joe – who has spent hours observing the finer points of car control from the Stig on Top Gear – is perfectly happy on our closed circuit. He has a heavier right foot and whizzes away, quickly acclimatising to the Zoe’s smooth power delivery, light powered steering and deft handling.

When he’s asked to park parallel to a kerb and reverse in a straight line for about 50 feet, he swiftly spots the high- tech reversing camera and demonstrates his prowess with brake and throttle, as well as the electrically controlled door mirrors. That’s the computer generation for you.

“It’s really good fun. Much smoother than the diesel car we tried earlier,” says Joe. “There’s less to think about as it’s an automatic so it’s perfect to learn in. You just put it into gear and go; it seems to put you in a really calm mindset.”

Anna adds:

“It’s less scary than the manual diesel car we tried earlier, even though it accelerates fast. I like the fact that it’s quieter and, because you just have to slide the automatic gear lever into Drive, it’s simpler.”

It’s all good fun, but there’s a serious point, too. Stacked in the Young Driver bus, where they dole out drinks and Drive Diaries to the novices who turn up are leaflets outlining what novices should expect. It asks: “Why do we encourage 11 to 17-year-olds to drive?”

“Being taught to drive away from the road, at a younger age, is a big benefit,” says Gary. “It means they hit the ground running when they start lessons on the road. It gives them a valuable advantage.”

With sales of electric cars up by more than 300 per cent in the first five months of this year and manufacturers bringing more and more models to market, from city runarounds and family hatchbacks to 4x4s and sports cars, surely the cleaner, greener future of driving is gliding smoothly and securely into place.

Source: The Telegraph

Church Of England Divests From Coal And Tar Sands

[From 1 May]The official Church of England announced Thursday that it had divested its holdings of all investments in tar sands and thermal coal companies.

The mother church of the world’s Anglican Communion divested a total of $18.42 million in coal and tar sands investments from its holdings, a move that the church said is part of a larger goal of helping the globe make the transition to a lower-carbon economy. From now on, the church — which counts about 26 million baptized English residents as its members — will not invest in companies that generate more than 10 percent of their revenue from thermal coal or tar sands.

“Climate change is already a reality,” Reverend Canon Professor Richard Burridge, deputy chair of the church’s Ethical Investment Advisory Group, said in a statement. “The Church has a moral responsibility to speak and act on both environmental stewardship and justice for the world’s poor who are most vulnerable to climate change.”

The church’s investment portfolio totals about $12.1 billion. According to the Guardian, if the church divested its portfolio of all fossil fuel stock, including oil and gas companies, it would be the largest institution in the world to do so.

Bishop Nick Holtam, the Church of England’s lead Bishop on the environment, said in a statement that climate change “is the most pressing moral issue in our world.”

“Change is happening rapidly, I therefore particularly welcome the commitment to regularly review the policy recommendations in the light of our knowledge and experience,” he said.

This isn’t the first strong statement the Church of England has made on climate change. In 2014, when the church was deliberating over whether or not to divest its holdings, it said that it would stop investing in companies that fail to fight the “great demon” of climate change. The church also made clear, however, that it believed divestment was a “final option,” and that ultimately, humans must examine their way of life, which relies on “plentiful, cheap energy,” if climate change is to be addressed.

The church said last year that it sees tackling climate change as a way to engage with younger generations.

“At the moment, the church is perceived by most young people as supremely irrelevant,” Canon Giles Goddard said. “This is a significant opportunity for churches to engage with a new constituency, and it’s important that we take it.”

Though the church has divested its holdings from some fossil fuel sources, at least one of its prominent members has ties to the oil industry. Justin Welby, who worked for 11 years in the oil industry, became the Archbishop of Canterbury in 2013. In that role, Welby serves as the Anglican church’s spiritual leader and is also the senior bishop in the Church of England.

The Church of England’s announcement comes during a week of focus on climate change by the Catholic Church. On Tuesday, scientists, policy-makers, religious leaders, and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon held a summit on climate change. The summit was held in the lead-up to Pope Francis’ encyclical on climate change, an influential church document that’s expected to be released this summer.

At the end of the summit, leaders released a statement emphasizing that “human-induced climate change is a scientific reality” and “its decisive mitigation is a moral and religious imperative for humanity.” It also warned that the November U.N. climate talks in Paris may be the world’s last chance to negotiate a deal to limit climate change to 2°C.

“In this core moral space, the world’s religions play a very vital role,” the document states. “These traditions all affirm the inherent dignity of every individual linked to the common good of all humanity. They affirm the beauty, wonder, and inherent goodness of the natural world, and appreciate that it is a precious gift entrusted to our common care, making it our moral duty to respect rather than ravage the garden that is our home.”

Other religious institutions have made commitments in recent years to tackle climate change. The World Council of Churches, a global coalition of 345 churches including the Church of England, announced last year that it would pull investments of all fossil fuels. Union Theological Seminary in New York also announced it would be divesting from fossil fuels last year, becoming the first seminary to do so.

Some Evangelicals, too, want to see more action on climate change: the Evangelical Environmental Network emphasizes that, because God created the Earth and its creatures, humans have a duty to look after that creation — and action on climate change is part of that care.

Source: Climate Progress

Long Termers: Renault ZOE

After six months and almost five thousand miles, our ZOE has gone back to Renault. But, in that time, it’s answered the question I’ve been asked so many times since it was delivered: what’s it really like living with an electric vehicle?

It’s much easier than you’d expect. We usually carry hundreds of miles of unnecessary fuel in a conventional car, but the ZOE shows a typical range of between 80 and 100 miles is quite generous. It’s enough to comfortably get from my house in Cardiff to Bristol and back, and the electricity costs less than half the price of the Severn Bridge toll. At each end, I can plug in while I do other things.

Of course, long trips take planning. The range drops to around 75 miles on the motorway, not helped by my impatience at the Eco mode’s 60mph speed limiter. At a steady 70mph, with the blowers on but air conditioning off, it comfortably gets between Ecotricity’s Electric Highway network on an 80% charge, reached in 20 minutes. Range anxiety is usually down to bad planning.

It’s hard not to love the technology, too. R-Link is fiddly at first but easy to get used to, setting cabin temperatures from your bed is a useful feature, and the Chameleon Charger means it takes the fastest charging speeds from whatever you can plug it into. Domestic sockets are the painfully slow exception, though, and the three-pin cable is really only a backup.

The more you live with it, the more it becomes a normal car. It’s stylish, comfortable, has a generous boot, folding seats and ISOFIX points in the back, plus the refinement is blissful. For mostly urban driving and occasional motorway trips, do you really need a plug-in hybrid?

Source: EV Fleet World

Britain's best-selling plug-in electric car has sold 10,000 vehicles in the last year: Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

Almost 20% Of Mitsubishi Sales In Europe Are Plug-Ins

Almost 20% Of Mitsubishi Sales In Europe Are Plug-Ins; Outlander PHEV Sales Exceed Regular Outlander

A few years ago, Mitsubishi set a goal of 20% plug-in electric car sales by 2020.

Well, in Europe Mitsubishi has almost reached the target five years ahead of schedule.

2014 fiscal year ended in March with Mitsubishi reporting total European sales at 153,747 vehicles, out of which 44,963 Outlanders.

Outlander is available in a plug-in hybrid version and that is the version that’s most popular with 25,266 sales! Regular Outlander didn’t even reach 20,000.

Outlander PHEV accounted for 16.4% of all Mitsubishi sales in Europe.

On top of that, the Japanese company can add at least a few hundred i-MiEVs.

In Japan, Outlander PHEV had some 8,629 sales in the most recent fiscal year.

Source: Inside EVs

Electric cars charging in Central Milton Keynes

‘Electric taxis’ could now join the electric buses in Milton Keynes

DEPUTY Prime Minister Nick Clegg has announced Milton Keynes will receive government funding of £1,875,000 towards installing a network of 50 rapid charge units for electric vehicles, capable of fully charging a vehicle in 30 minutes or less.

[From January 2014] The faster speed of charging opens up electric vehicle charging as a possibility for private-hire vehicles for the first time.

As private-hire vehicles can cover very high daily mileages, they would need several re-charges during the working day.

But the speed of rapid electric vehicle charging posts makes recharging ‘electric taxis’ a practical possibility.

Building on the recent launch of the UK’s first wirelessly charged all-electric bus route, Milton Keynes Council is working with organisations including Arup and ChargeMaster alongside local private hire companies as plans are developed to make sure the new rapid charge posts are installed in the best places for use by taxi drivers.

Electric cars charging in Central Milton Keynes
Electric cars charging in Central Milton Keynes

Private motorists will also be able to use the 50 rapid charge posts, which are expected to be installed in Milton Keynes by mid-2015.

There are currently 170 different types of electric vehicle charge posts in Milton Keynes which provide more than 4,000 charges to vehicles each year and this is growing more than steadily and has doubled this quarter since the end of the last quarter.

The rapid charge project will be delivered by a consortium in partnership with Milton Keynes Council, with funding coming from consortium partners and government.

Councilllor Keith McLean, Milton Keynes Council’s cabinet member responsible for transport, said:

“This funding is more good news for Milton Keynes.

“We’re already leading the way on electric transport, having launched the UK’s first all-electric bus service this month, and being among the first places to introduce an electric vehicle charging network.

“These faster charging posts will be appealing to electric car drivers and commercial users, and we’ll continue to work with partners to introduce new and innovative transport schemes locally.”

Source: MK Web