Monthly Archives: November 2016

A group of self driving Uber vehicles position themselves to take journalists on rides during a media preview at Uber's Advanced Technologies Center in Pittsburgh (Image: GJ. Puskar, AP)

Why most self-driving cars will be electric

As our urban transportation landscape becomes automated over the next decade, it could spark an electric car revolution.

Spend enough time around these early self-driving vehicles and you notice that nearly all are hybrids or pure electric vehicles. They include Ford’s automated Fusion, the similarly equipped Fusion hybrids that Uber is deploying in Pittsburgh, the Google cars bopping around the peninsula of northern California, the Chevrolet Bolts being tested in San Francisco and suburban Phoenix.

A group of self driving Uber vehicles position themselves to take journalists on rides during a media preview at Uber's Advanced Technologies Center in Pittsburgh (Image: GJ. Puskar, AP)
A group of self driving Uber vehicles position themselves to take journalists on rides during a media preview at Uber’s Advanced Technologies Center in Pittsburgh (Image: GJ. Puskar, AP)

Today, hybrids, plug-ins and pure electrics are a marginal piece of the U.S. market, accounting for a scant 2.8% of all new vehicles sold in the U.S. through the first eight months of 2016, according to

But a decade from now, electric cars will appeal far beyond the granola-eating, tree-hugging, climate-change evangelizing base that has sustained them thus far. You may not own one, but you will have ridden in them. The change won’t be instant, but it will be steady.

So why will our autonomous future likely be an electric one?

First are the regulatory reasons, namely gas mileage requirements. Then there are engineering reasons — electric vehicles are easier for computers to drive. And, of course, ride-hailing services will increasingly make up a higher percentage of daily miles driven, and it will be easier, cheaper and safer to recharge an unmanned car than to gas one up.

“One of the biggest changes will be in the growing difference in cost of ownership between electrified and internal combustion engines,”

Ford CEO Mark Fields said last week, repeating his company’s pledge to spend $4.5 billion to introduce 13 new electric vehicle nameplates by 2020.

A competition, of sorts, between Silicon Valley and Detroit has been ongoing in the past decade for the engineering and computer programming talent needed to create the next generation of smart, connected and ultimately self-driving vehicles.

The two sides will likely have to work together — either through mergers and acquisitions or strategic partnerships — and electric cars will be the platform.

The federal government’s corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards will vary depending on the mix of trucks, SUVs and passenger cars a manufacturer sells, but a substantial portion of electrified vehicles will be needed to achieve the goals.

And then there are the engineering reasons.

“There are a lot fewer moving pieces in an electric vehicle. There are three main components — the battery, the inverter and the electric motor,”

said Levi Tillemann-Dick, managing partner at Valence Strategic in Washington, D.C., and author of “The Great Race: The Global Quest for the Car of the Future.”

“An internal combustion engine contains 2,000 tiny pieces that have to be kept lubricated and they break every once in a while.”

Read more: USA Today

Smoke from exhaust pipe of blue vintage car illuminated by sunlight against tarmac (Image: O. Richards/Getty)

Many car brands emit more pollution than Volkswagen, report finds

Diesel cars by Fiat, Suzuki and Renault among makers emitting up to fifteen times European standard for nitrogen oxide

Car exhaust pollution (Image: Wikipedia)
Car exhaust pollution (Image: Wikipedia)

A year on from the “Dieselgate” scandal that engulfed Volkswagen, damning new research reveals that all major diesel car brands, including Fiat, Vauxhall and Suzuki, are selling models that emit far higher levels of pollution than the shamed German carmaker.

The car industry has faced fierce scrutiny since the US government ordered Volkswagen to recall almost 500,000 cars in 2015 after discovering it had installed illegal software on its diesel vehicles to cheat emissions tests. But a new in-depth study by campaign group Transport & Environment (T&E) found not one brand complies with the latest “Euro 6” air pollution limits when driven on the road and that Volkswagen is far from being the worst offender.

“We’ve had this focus on Volkswagen as a ‘dirty carmaker’ but when you look at the emissions of other manufacturers you find there are no really clean carmakers,” says Greg Archer, clean vehicles director at T&E.

“Volkswagen is not the carmaker producing the diesel cars with highest nitrogen oxides emissions and the failure to investigate other companies brings disgrace on the European regulatory system.”

Read more: The Guardian

Revealed: Exxon’s Lobbying Against Electric Vehicles in the UK

“Switching transportation from petroleum to renewable or alternative fuels is not the most cost-effective way to reduce GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions.”

This is the message that ExxonMobil has delivered to the UK Department for Transport (DfT) in three separate presentations since the Paris climate deal was agreed last December, reveal documents obtained by DeSmog UK.


Exxon appears to be the only major fossil fuel company currently heavily lobbying the British government against greener transport policies, according to the DfT’s response to DeSmog UK’s Freedom of Information (FOI) request.

The presentations by Exxon and correspondence between Peter Clarke, a director at Exxon, and the Department Secretary Patrick McLoughlin show the oil giant lobbying on biofuels, transport and carbon reduction, and the Fuels Quality Directive – all policy issues that impact the decarbonisation of our transport system and up-take of electric vehicles.

The document release comes as the government’s environmental audit committee warned the UK is “falling behind” on its electric vehicle targets.

The committee criticised ministers for failing to implement the proper incentives and infrastructure needed to encourage the growth of the sector. Increasing the number of electric vehicles is critical if the UK is to tackle both climate change and harmful air pollution.

Read more: DeSmog Blog

Renault ZOE from eCar Club

The event yesterday went well, after which it was time to head back north. There was just about enough charge to get back home but I called in to Newport Pagnell services for a 10 minute top-up rather than take a chance .

Since my i3 was damaged in an accident last week, I had booked the ZOE from E-Car Club so that we would have something to show. I had previously made use of their Nissan Leafs a couple of times, but not a ZOE before. Anyway it was very easy and I recommend them.

It was interesting to drive a ZOE again after a few months in the i3. While the ZOE doesn’t have the range or performance of the i3, it certainly does some things better – like the touchscreen multimedia system and satnav, and having a reversing camera as standard.

Anyway I got the ZOE back to its home (Berrywood Hospital in Northampton) with no problem. It was a simple matter to unload it, lock it up with the eCar card, and put it to bed (on charge).

Car exhaust pollution (Image: Wikipedia)

Renault considers killing off diesel engines

Renault, the French car maker, may stop offering diesel engines in most of its cars sold in Europe.

Pollution in Paris

The move is a reaction to the cost of ensuring that diesel engines comply with tighter emissions regulations.

The crackdown follows last year’s diesel emissions scandal involving German car maker Volkswagen.

Renault’s move was reported by Reuters and has not yet been officially announced.

Senior Renault executive Thierry Bollore has said that tougher emissions standards and testing methods would make diesel engines uneconomic to make.

He told a meeting of Renault bosses in July that diesel engines had already been removed from the company’s smallest cars, such as the Twingo, even before the Volkswagen scandal.

By 2020, when more stringent EU emissions standards come into force, larger Renault cars such as the Clio and the Megane are unlikely to have diesel engine variants.

More than 60% of the 1.6 million cars Renault sold in Europe last year were diesels.

Volkswagen’s chief executive, Matthias Mueller, said in June that his company was now wondering

“whether it still makes sense to invest a lot of money in further developing diesel”.

Read more: BBC

Oil Discoveries at 70-Year Low Signal Supply Shortfall Ahead

  • New finds at lowest since 1947 and headed even lower: WoodMac
  • Explorers replacing just 6% of resources they drill: Rystad

Explorers in 2015 discovered only about a tenth as much oil as they have annually on average since 1960. This year, they’ll probably find even less, spurring new fears about their ability to meet future demand.


With oil prices down by more than half since the price collapse two years ago, drillers have cut their exploration budgets to the bone. The result: Just 2.7 billion barrels of new supply was discovered in 2015, the smallest amount since 1947, according to figures from Edinburgh-based consulting firm Wood Mackenzie Ltd. This year, drillers found just 736 million barrels of conventional crude as of the end of last month.

That’s a concern for the industry at a time when the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that global oil demand will grow from 94.8 million barrels a day this year to 105.3 million barrels in 2026. While the U.S. shale boom could potentially make up the difference, prices locked in below $50 a barrel have undercut any substantial growth there.

New discoveries from conventional drilling, meanwhile, are “at rock bottom,” said Nils-Henrik Bjurstroem, a senior project manager at Oslo-based consultants Rystad Energy AS.

“There will definitely be a strong impact on oil and gas supply, and especially oil.”

Read more: Bloomberg

Evolt wins first Go Ultra Low City contract to install EV Charge Points across Dundee

 Evolt, the SWARCO Group’s eMobility brand, has received the first phase of works estimated at £1.8 million by Dundee City Council to support three new charging ‘hubs’ in the city, along with an additional regional charging infrastructure. This follows its success in being awarded a place on a Framework and aims to boost the number of plug-in cars on Scottish roads.


The contract confirms Evolt as the dominant supplier to the Scottish market, having installed over 1,000 charge points and been selected to the Energy Saving Trust’s national framework to deliver public and private EV charging.

As one of the Go Ultra Low Cities, Dundee is creating three new charging ‘hubs’ that will become dedicated areas for the charging of electric vehicles. Each hub will be equipped with Evolt’s well proven charging technology, including a combination of Rapid and Fast charging units that can charge two EVs simultaneously to 80% battery life within 30 minutes and an hour respectively.

To harness the benefits of renewable energy, each hub will have solar panels installed to feed Evolt’s energy storage solution, which harnesses the power of second life EV and hybrid battery packs. Storing energy for future use reduces the heavy demand placed on the power grid when EVs are charging simultaneously.

A further four Rapid chargers and 14 Fast chargers will be installed at additional locations outside of the City centre to provide a wide network that supports existing EV users and to encourage further take up. All of Evolt’s units will be connected to the national ChargePace Scotland network

Dundee is the first of the eight Go Ultra Low Cities to award a contract following the announcement of £40 million of Government funding earlier this year. Evolt was successful with its bid following a competitive tender exercise, and is working with British Gas as its installation partner.

Fraser Crichton, Transport Manager for Dundee City Council, says:

“We have worked with Evolt for the last five years on charging infrastructure within Dundee and are delighted to continue our relationship to develop some exciting and innovative charging hubs across the city and surrounding area.”

Justin Meyer, General Manager for Evolt, says this Framework Contract is a key win for the company and builds upon Evolt’s successes in Scotland:

“The quality and proven reliability of our hardware coupled with dedicated local servicing expertise makes us a driving force within the Scottish eMobility marketplace,” he explains.

“We are very pleased to be playing a part in the Go Ultra Low initiative, and with more Evolt chargers in key locations across Dundee we hope to see the take up of EVs continue to increase.”

Among the 14 Rapid chargers delivered, Dundee has chosen six of Evolt’s next generation Raption 50 model that includes a 47-inch LCD screen to offer the council a further revenue generating opportunity. The Raption 50 Rapid was unveiled in September at the Cenex-LCV exhibition, and this will be the first time the new units have been installed in the UK, with multiple units already installed across Europe.

Evolt has supplied 24 of Scotland’s 32 local authorities, with its model for continued success based on the provision of highly reliable hardware combined with a strong and localised after-sales service.

Flooding in the village of Aberfeldy, Perthshire, Scotland, 2015. Critical infrastructure, such as water and telecoms, are at serious risk from floods (Image: C. Webster/PA)

Flooding: UK government plans for more extreme rainfall

National review prompted by severe flooding in recent winters anticipates 20-30% more extreme downpours than before

Flooding in the village of Aberfeldy, Perthshire, Scotland, 2015. Critical infrastructure, such as water and telecoms, are at serious risk from floods (Image: C. Webster/PA)
Flooding in the village of Aberfeldy, Perthshire, Scotland, 2015. Critical infrastructure, such as water and telecoms, are at serious risk from floods (Image: C. Webster/PA)

The UK’s new flood defence plans anticipate significantly higher extreme rainfall, after new research was published as part of the government’s National Flood Resilience review.

The government, which had been criticised for not taking full account of the impact of climate change in driving up flood risk, will now plan for 20-30% more extreme downpours than before.

The review, prompted by severe flooding in recent winters, also found that 530 critical infrastructure sites, such as water and telecoms, are at serious risk from floods, each potentially affecting at least 10,000 people. Utility companies have pledged to have new protection in place by the end of the year.

The government’s official climate change advisers recently warned that flooding could cause a cascade of emergencies by knocking out energy, transport, water and communications links.

The review allocates £12.5m for more temporary defences, such as barriers and pumps, at strategic locations around the country. By this winter, the government said, four times more temporary barriers will be available.

“Last winter we saw just how devastating flooding can be. This review sets out clear actions so we are better prepared to respond quickly in the event of future flooding and can strengthen the nation’s flood defences,” said the environment secretary, Andrea Leadsom.

Ben Gummer, Cabinet Office minister, said:

“The government has made clear that we expect water and telecoms companies to work ever closer together to improve their preparation and response to flooding, making sure lifelines such as mobile phone masts and water treatment works continue to function.”

Bob Ward, policy director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change at the London School of Economics and Political Science, said:

“This review was launched because the government was caught out by [recent] flooding. It deserves credit for admitting that ministers have previously misunderstood and significantly underestimated the probability of flooding.

“However, it is disappointing that the government chose to ignore surface water flooding during the review, even though it poses a threat to more properties in the UK than does coastal and river flooding.”

Read more: The Guardian