Monthly Archives: August 2016

The i3 on our drive (Image: T. Larkum)

BMW i3 Family Test Drive

BMW i3 at Wollaston BMW, Northampton (Image: T. Larkum)
BMW i3 at Wollaston BMW, Northampton (Image: T. Larkum)

In June I took the family for a test drive in a BMW i3 as the PCP for our Renault ZOE was into its last few months. I had had two i3 drives in the previous couple of years, with cars from BMW at Warwick and Milton Keynes, but this was a chance for the rest of the family to try it out.

The i3 waiting for us (Image: T. Larkum)
The i3 waiting for us (Image: T. Larkum)

We arranged the test drive at our local BMW dealer this time, Wollaston BMW in Northampton. As well as the i3 charging up ready for our drive it was nice to see an i8, the i3’s pricier brother.

BMW i8 on charge (Image: T. Larkum)
BMW i8 on charge (Image: T. Larkum)

I had a good drive, as did my wife, and neither of us could see any objections. Our daughters also seemed happy with the ride, and the eldest felt that it was bigger in the back than our ZOE. That may partly be due, of course, to the i3 having just two seats in the back rather than three.

Jess demonstrating use of the rear ‘coach’ doors (Image: T. Larkum)
Jess demonstrating use of the rear ‘coach’ doors (Image: T. Larkum)

We took the i3 home as Wollaston had given us a generous time allowance for the test (about two hours). It looked good on the drive, but the main purpose was to confirm that it fitted fine in the garage and that it was happy to charge on the Chargemaster charge point installed for the ZOE.

The i3 trying out our garage (Image: T. Larkum)
The i3 trying out our garage (Image: T. Larkum)

We had a good look around the car. The boot is a bit smaller than we’d like, certainly smaller than that in the ZOE, but unlike in the ZOE the rear seatback splits allowing for some flexibility when carrying large loads with just three people.

The i3’s ‘froot’ (front boot) (Image: T. Larkum)
The i3’s ‘froot’ (front boot) (Image: T. Larkum)

The i3 has a ‘froot’ – the UK ‘front boot’ equivalent of the US Tesla’s ‘frunk’ or ‘front trunk’ – but it’s not large enough for most purposes. It does, however, handily take the usual car-specific bits – warning triangle, first aid kit, charging cable, etc. – that would otherwise be rolling around the boot. It exists, of course, because the i3 is rear-wheel drive.

The i3 on our drive (Image: T. Larkum)
The i3 on our drive (Image: T. Larkum)

Overall the i3 was a big hit, and we ordered one for the family soon after; we went for the longer-range i3 94Ah but that’s a story for another day.

A Cumbria road destroyed in floods during storm Desmond, which scientists found had been made more likely by climate change (Image: A. Cooper/Barcroft Media)

UK poorly prepared for climate change impacts, government advisers warn

A 2,000 page report by Committee on Climate Change predicts global warming will hit UK with deadly heatwaves, more flooding and water shortages

The UK is poorly prepared for the inevitable impacts of global warming in coming decades, including deadly annual heatwaves, water shortages and difficulties in producing food, according the government’s official advisers.

A Cumbria road destroyed in floods during storm Desmond, which scientists found had been made more likely by climate change (Image: A. Cooper/Barcroft Media)
A Cumbria road destroyed in floods during storm Desmond, which scientists found had been made more likely by climate change (Image: A. Cooper/Barcroft Media)

Action must be taken now, according to the report from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) published on Tuesday, with more widespread flooding and new diseases among the risks in most urgent need of addressing.

The CCC further warns that climate-stoked wars and migration around the world could have very significant consequences for the UK, through disrupted trade and more military intervention overseas.

The 2,000-page report is a comprehensive assessment of the dangers of climate change to the UK, produced over three years by 80 experts and reviewed by many more. The main analysis is based on thetemperature rise expected if the global climate agreement signed in Paris in 2015 is fully delivered and also takes account of plans already in place to cope with impacts.

The worst case scenarios in the CCC report – if action to tackle climate change completely fails – foresees searing heatwaves reaching temperatures of 48C in London and the high-30s across the nation.

“We are not sufficiently prepared and we need to do more now, even for the [Paris deal] scenario of 2.7C of warming,”

said Lord John Krebs, chair of the CCC’s adaptation sub-committee.

“Many impacts are affecting us now, as climate change is already happening.”

“What we now think of as an extremely hot summer, where people are dying of heat stress and it is extremely uncomfortable in homes, hospitals and much of transport, that is likely to be a typical summer by the middle of the century and would be a cool summer in the 2080s,” he said.

Read more: The Guardian

15,000 free parking spaces for electric vehicles created in Milton Keynes

Go Ultra Low Cities funding used to encourage the uptake of EVs in Buckinghamshire town

Fifteen thousand free electric vehicle-only parking spaces have been created in Milton Keynes.


The scheme is the first in a series of UK initiatives designed to give people more reason to buy electric vehicles, and was funded using the Government ‘Go Ultra Low Cities’ funding.

The parking spaces come as the first part of a several stage plan for Milton Keynes, which includes adding charging hubs that can fast charge some EVs in just 30mins, destination chargers that are located at places such as residential areas, restaurants and shops, and giving EVs access to bus lanes in the town.

Transport Minister Andrew Jones said:

“The Go Ultra Low Cities grant will also help to create an Electric Vehicle Experience Centre in the city.

“We are investing £600 million in cleaner, greener vehicles by 2020 to improve air quality, create jobs and achieve our goal of every car and van in the UK being zero-emissions by 2050.”

The other cities involved in this new EV initiative are Bristol, London and Nottingham, with each receiving £40 million in funding to encourage residents to buy and use EVs. Milton Keynes is the first to allocate much of its grant money to such a large-scale scheme.

Earlier this week, London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced plans to introduce an emissions-tackling ‘T-charge’ in central London. Unlike the Milton Keynes scheme, however, it doesn’t directly reward EV drivers for driving zero-emissions vehicles, instead penalising drivers of high-emissions vehicles.

Source: Autocar

Kia Optima PHEV

2016 Kia Optima PHEV review

Plug-in hybrid Optima is a practical, tax-efficient PHEV that undercuts rivals and fulfils its main remit well

Kia Optima PHEV
Kia Optima PHEV

What is it?

Kia’s first plug-in hybrid, complete with the credibility-stretching fuel economy and emissions figures we’ve come to expect from cars of this type. The Optima PHEV combines the efforts of a normally aspirated 2.0-litre petrol engine and a 50kW electric motor to deliver a peak system output of 202bhp.

There will be more interest among company car drivers in the Optima’s price and CO2 figure. At £31,495 after the UK government’s £2500 plug-in incentive, it undercuts both the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV and Volkswagen Passat GTE, the VW by nearly £5000. The 9.8kW/h lithium ion polymer battery, which is located underneath the rear of the car, is powerful enough to deliver a claimed 33 miles of electric-only range, and because the official EUDC consumption test allows plug-ins to start with a full battery and finish with a depleted one, the Optima scores a 176.6mpg rating and 37g/km of CO2.

Getting anywhere close to those figures in the real world will mean lots of short journeys between charging stations, of course, and a little patience. Kia says the battery pack can be replenished from flat in three hours by a 240V domestic supply.

Although it is Kia’s first plug-in, the Optima PHEV is mechanically pretty much identical to the Hyundai Sonata PHEV already on sale in some markets. Like its sister, it uses a six-speed automatic gearbox rather than a CVT, with the electric motor effectively replacing the torque converter at low speeds. Thereafter it can either supplement the petrol engine or, in EV mode, power the car by itself at up to 75mph.

Read more: Autocar

A 3.7kW Chargemaster or Pod Point unit will be fully fitted for free as part of the deal (Image: Chargemaster)

Free homecharge units offered to Nissan Leaf buyers

Nissan is offering free homecharge units to new Leaf buyers, giving new owners a ready-made charging set-up.

A 3.7kW Chargemaster or Pod Point unit will be fully fitted for free as part of the deal (Image: Chargemaster)
A 3.7kW Chargemaster or Pod Point unit will be fully fitted for free as part of the deal (Image: Chargemaster)

The offer is part of a nationwide campaign with the Japanese manufacturer’s official charging partners – Chargemaster and Pod Point.

Buyers of new Leafs on one of Nissan’s finance packages will be eligible for a free Pod Point or Chargemaster unit if the car is bought before Friday 30th September. The deal is on all models and specifications of Leaf, the best selling pure-EV in the UK.

With all buyers of Plug-in Car Grant (PiCG) eligible cars – of which the Leaf is one – able to claim the Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme (EVHS) grant too, there has long been help for buyers of new EVs to easily add a home charge point at the same time. The grant offers up to £500 off the cost of buying a unit and having it installed.

Chargemaster and Pod Point are offering 3.7kW Nissan-approved home charge units fully installed as part of the offer, saving customers just under £400 compared to if they had bought an EVHS-backed unit from the installers directly.

The process needs no input from the buyer once they say that they would like to take Nissan up on the offer. The dealership notifies the installers, which then take over, organising home visits and arranging for engineers to fit the unit free of charge.

David Martell, Chargemaster CEO, said:

“Our relationship with Nissan GB has evolved since we announced that Chargemaster was an official charging partner in the UK. We are delighted to be able to offer Nissan’s finance customers a trouble-free home charging solution free of charge. Chargemaster is committed to making charging easy and accessible for every EV motorist, and the team can’t wait to get started on the campaign and future homecharge installations.”

Erik Fairbairn, CEO and founder of POD Point, said:

“We are very pleased to continue our close partnership with Nissan GB by providing its electric car customers with free home charging points. The ability to charge an electric car at home is a key part of the EV experience and we are excited to help Nissan ease the transition into the world of electric driving.”

Visit the Pod Point and Chargemaster websites for more information on the charge points provided.

Source: Next Green Car

An area of Arctic sea ice about twice the size of Texas has vanished over the last 30 years, and the rate of that retreat has accelerated (Image: NASA/Reuters)

Arctic sea ice crashes to record low for June

From mid-June onwards, ice cover disappeared at an average rate of 29,000 miles a day, about 70% faster than the typical rate of ice loss, experts say

An area of Arctic sea ice about twice the size of Texas has vanished over the last 30 years, and the rate of that retreat has accelerated (Image: NASA/Reuters)
An area of Arctic sea ice about twice the size of Texas has vanished over the last 30 years, and the rate of that retreat has accelerated (Image: NASA/Reuters)

The summer sea ice cover over the Arctic raced towards oblivion in June, crashing through previous records to reach a new all-time low.

The Arctic sea ice extent was a staggering 260,000 sq km (100,000 sq miles) below the previous record for June, set in 2010. And it was 1.36m sq km (525,000 sq miles) below the 1981-2010 long-term average, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

That means a vast expanse of ice – an area about twice the size of Texas – has vanished over the past 30 years, and the rate of that retreat has accelerated.

Aside from March, each month in 2016 has set a grim new low for sea ice cover, after a record warm winter.

January and February obliterated global temperature records, setting up conditions for the further retreat of the Arctic summer ice cover, scientists have warned.

Researchers did not go so far as to predict a new low for the entire 2016 season. But they said the ice pack over the Beaufort Sea was studded with newer, thinner ice, which is more vulnerable to melting. Ice cover along the Alaska coast was very thin, less than 0.5 meters (1.6 ft).

The loss of the reflective white ice cover in the polar regions exposes more of the absorptive dark ocean to solar heat, causing the water to warm up. This goes on to raise air temperatures, and melt more ice – reinforcing the warming trend.

Scientists have warned the extra heat is the equivalent of 20 years of carbon emissions.

From mid-June onwards, ice cover disappeared at an average rate of 74,000 sq km (29,000 sq miles) a day, about 70% faster than the typical rate of ice loss, the NSIDC said.

Sea ice loss in the first half of the month proceeded at a lower pace, only 37,000 sq km (14,000 sq miles) a day.

The overall Arctic sea ice cover during June averaged 10.60m sq km (4.09m sq miles), the lowest in the satellite record for the month, according to the NSIDC.

There was more open water than average in the Kara and Barents seas as well as in the Beaufort Sea, despite below average temperatures, the NSIDC said.

Read more: The Guardian

The new model intends to offer a more affordable Tesla for customers

Electric cars could rule the road in just over 10 years

Sales of the vehicles are surging so fast the market looks set to meet government forecasts for the end of new diesel and petrol cars by 2040

The new model intends to offer a more affordable Tesla for customers
Tesla Model S

Electric cars could out sell diesel and petrol models by 2027, according to industry experts.

Surging sales of electric vehicles suggest the market is on course to meet government forecasts for all new cars and vans to be electric by 2040.

And current trends put electric vehicles on the road to accounting for more than half of all new registrations – around 1.3m a year – by 2027.

The figures are revealed in a new automotive industry forecast by Go Ultra Low, the government and industry-backed campaign.

The electric car revolution began in 2011 with the launch of the plug-in car grant with just over 1,000 annual registrations.

Since then, record-breaking volumes of electric vehicles have been registered every year – 2015 saw more than 28,000 electric cars registered.

This year started with the best period for EV uptake since records began, with UK buyers registering the equivalent of one electric car every 13 minutes.

With vehicle manufacturers introducing more and more electric and plug-in hybrid models, the new car market is accelerating towards a point in the future where plug-in power overtakes petrol and diesel models.

Steve Fowler, Auto Express editor-in-chief, said:

“The positivity and appreciation of electric vehicles by their owners is suggestive of a step-change in public perception of these vehicles.

“We are moving towards a tipping point for electrically powered cars, so it’s entirely possible that by 2027 these vehicles will dominate the market as the top choice for new car buyers.”

Source: Mirror

Diesels even more polluting at low temperatures

Pollution from many popular diesel cars is much worse when it is colder than 18C outside, new research suggests.


Testing company Emissions Analytics told the BBC it has measured a significant rise in poisonous gas emissions from a wide range of models as the temperature drops.

It found the problem is worst among the Euro 5 category of cars, which became mandatory in 2011.

The firm tested 213 models across 31 manufacturers.

The finding means millions of vehicles could be driving around much of the time with their pollution controls partly turned off.

But it seems many cars are deliberately designed that way and it is all perfectly legal.

Taking advantage

European rules allow manufacturers to cut back on pollution controls as long as it is to protect the engine.

Engineers agree that hot and cold weather can damage components.

But some suggest car companies are taking advantage of the rule to switch things off, even in mild weather, because it improves the miles per gallon of the car.

“I would say from the Euro 5 generation of cars, it’s very widespread, from our data. Below that 18 degrees [Celsius], many have higher emissions… the suspicion is, to give the car better fuel economy,” Emissions Analytics CEO Nick Molden told the BBC.

“If we were talking about higher emissions below zero, that would be more understandable and there are reasons why the engine needs to be protected. But what we’ve got is this odd situation where the [temperature] threshold has been set far too high, and that is a surprise”.

Read more: BBC

The welcoming entrance of Disney’s magic kingdom (Image: L. Larkum)

How Far Behind is the US in General, and Disney in Particular?

Culture Shock

With apparently ever-increasing globalisation most of us have an expectation that we can travel to other Western countries and find facilities and a culture similar to our own – after all, a McDonald’s Big Mac bought in Paris is recognisably the same as one from New York.

Occasionally, though, we find things to be suddenly different from what we expect. The difference is marked because it is not just a different food or architecture. It is marked – a culture shock – because it arises from very different assumptions about how a culture should be. I had such a feeling twenty-five years ago when, as a member of the British armed forces, I moved into married quarters in Germany. For the first time ever I encountered a culture with sustainability as a core value – we found recycling facilities all along our street, and were given full instructions on how to recycle our waste as part of moving in.

Such an approach was entirely absent in the UK, there we were still wondering whether we should consider starting to recycle some waste, and so returning to the UK felt like going back in time. Of course, since then the UK has caught up, at least to a large extent. For example, there are weekly collections of plastic and metal/can containers, of paper and cardboard, of glass, and of food waste, plus fortnightly collections of garden waste.

I write this as I approach the end of a vacation in Disney World and Florida, having experienced another such step back in time. Things are so far behind here it has been another culture shock. We last visited twenty-five years ago and it seems that the culture in general and Disney World in particular are virtually unchanged over that time.

Conspicuous Consumption and Pollution

It began with our accommodation – a lovely rented villa in a community estate in Davenport, half an hour outside Orlando. It’s huge and well-appointed with a very nice small pool and patio. However, it feels like living in a ‘consumption machine’. I write this in the open-plan kitchen/lounge area. Behind me upstairs the air conditioning system rattles away providing welcome cooling throughout the house – but it seems to be on permanently, 24/7, set to a temperature of 76°F (24°C). The energy consumption must be enormous, but its controls are locked away so we don’t have the choice to turn it off and save energy.

Behind me just outside the wall is the monstrous pump and filter system for the pool, whirring away. In front of me is a massive fridge which almost never goes quiet. Later today we’ll have men coming round making noise along the road (strimmers, leaf blowers, etc.). This evening we’ll have the sprinklers coming on to disturb our sleep. Not just carbon pollution, but noise pollution seems to be an accepted part of life here.

Even the cars of our neighbours coming and going seem inordinately loud, and why must they beep their horns every time they lock the doors? Everything is just so noisy (in this house we even watch TV in the same large living space as the dishwasher, washing machine and tumble dryer). The whole concept of noise pollution seems alien here, as though it were something to be embraced rather than avoided. I can’t imagine how hard it would be to try and get some peace and quiet. Yet in the UK people put a premium on quietness whether it’s buying a quiet car (such as an electric) or a house in the country – here the preference seems to be for cars and houses that are as big and noisy as possible.

The big irony, of course, is that the massive carbon footprint of this house is entirely unnecessary. A big chunk of it is for air conditioning because of the powerful sunshine here, yet it is precisely that excess of solar power that could be powering the house with solar energy for free. Instead, it is using fossil fuels and their associated carbon emissions to try and offset the energy being dissipated on the roof. I’ve only seen one house in the area with solar panels, and I noticed that precisely because it was an isolated example in a sea of blank rooftops.

Part of that irony is that we have solar panels on our home in England, even though we are at a much higher latitude than Florida and so get correspondingly less solar energy. Nonetheless, even with our supposedly cloudy and rainy climate the panels produce more than half the energy used by the house over the course of a year. In Florida a similar setup could potentially power the entire house, and with some left over going into the grid to reduce its overall footprint, or used to fuel an electric car.

It was good to see that our housing estate had a weekly recycling collection, even if it was just a mixed box (and many of our neighbours’ wheelie bins were overflowing with cardboard boxes and other items that could have gone in recycling).

No Leadership From Disney

So on to Disney. Over the last two weeks we have visited Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studio and Animal Kingdom twice each, and Epcot and the Typhoon Lagoon water park once each. We had a good time on the roller-coaster and other rides, and at the various shows. However, it felt like very little had changed in the last quarter century.

A tram with its diesel exhaust just a few feet from waiting passengers (Image: T. Larkum)

After parking up we were transferred to the park entrances via vehicles referred to as ‘trams’. While in Europe that name implies electric trolley buses, and given their workload and fixed routes these vehicles could have been electric, it was immediately obvious they were not. You didn’t have to get very close to them to hear the roar and smell the nauseous and toxic fumes that gave away that they were powered by massive diesel engines. And this, in the 21st century, and with half the passengers being young children.

Read more: Linked In