Category Archives: News, Reviews and Comment

‘The shelves looked wonderful, perfect, almost clinical, as though invented in a lab in my absence; but there was no smell.’ (Image: A. Britton/PA)

The Supermarket Food Gamble May Be Up

Brexit, migration and climate pressures mean our ‘too big to fail’ global food chain could unravel

The UK’s clock has been set to Permanent Global Summer Time once more after a temporary blip. Courgettes, spinach and iceberg lettuce are back on the shelves, and the panic over the lack of imported fruit and vegetables has been contained. “As you were, everyone,” appears to be the message.

But why would supermarkets – which are said to have lost sales worth as much as £8m in January thanks to record-breaking, crop-wrecking snow and rainfall in the usually mild winter regions of Spain and Italy – be so keen to fly in substitutes from the US at exorbitant cost?

Why would they sell at a loss rather than let us go without, or put up prices to reflect the changing market? Why indeed would anyone air-freight watery lettuce across the whole of the American continent and the Atlantic when it takes 127 calories of fuel energy to fly just 1 food calorie of that lettuce to the UK from California?

‘The shelves looked wonderful, perfect, almost clinical, as though invented in a lab in my absence; but there was no smell.’ (Image: A. Britton/PA)
‘The shelves looked wonderful, perfect, almost clinical, as though invented in a lab in my absence; but there was no smell.’ (Image: A. Britton/PA)

The answer is that, in the past 40 years, a whole supermarket system has been built on the seductive illusion of this Permanent Global Summer Time. As a result, a cornucopia of perpetual harvest is one of the key selling points that big stores have over rival retailers. If the enticing fresh produce section placed near the front of each store to draw you in starts looking a bit empty, we might not bother to shop there at all.

But when you take into account climate change, the shortages of early 2017 look more like a taste of things to come than just a blip, and that is almost impossible for supermarkets to admit.

Add the impact of this winter’s weather on Mediterranean production, the inflationary pressures from a post-Brexit fall in the value of sterling against the euro, and the threat of tariffs as we exit the single market, and suddenly the model begins to look extraordinarily vulnerable.

Read more: The Guardian

Selfridges Green Free all-electric BMW i3 Chauffeur Service

Selfridges boosts it’s green credentials with free all-electric BMW i3 chauffeur service

BMW has loaned a fleet of all-electric BMW i3s to Selfridges in Manchester for the next three months as part of the department store’s Material World initiative to encourage consumers to think more sustainably when shopping. Customers can choose to be chauffeured with their shopping free of charge by a BMWi Genius or get behind the wheel themselves.

The store is also celebrating the permanent installation of charging points within their car park as London looks to improve the charging infrastructure in high footfall locations plagued by poor air quality across the city.

As air pollution continues to rise at an alarming rate around the world and cities like Paris, Milan and Rome impose driving bans during the worst periods, Manchester is now also being urged by officials to implement similar rules with the possibility of introducing a congestion charge.

Big brands are now taking steps for change including the likes of leaders in sustainable innovation, BMWi and Selfridges. In recent months BMW’s all-electric i range has been used in a range of initiatives across the city to encourage sustainable driving solutions with the likes of DriveNow – the brand’s car sharing service, London’s police force and now as part of a complementary chauffeur service to Selfridges in London and Manchester.

Read more: Female First

EV Charging Station (Image: Foter)

Vattenfall To Switch Its Entire 3,500 Vehicle Fleet To Electric Vehicles

Vattenfall is one of the largest utility companies in Europe, with operations in Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, and the United Kingdom.

It is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Swedish government. Not surprisingly, it has a lot of vehicles in its fleet, including 3,500 cars and light trucks. The company has just announced it plans to switch all of those vehicles to electric cars and trucks within the next 5 years.

EV Charging Station (Image: Foter)
EV Charging Station (Image: Foter)

Vattenall has been a leader in renewable energy and sustainable mobility solutions since 2009. It operates nearly 6,000 EV Level 2 and DC fast charging charging points in Sweden, Germany, and the Netherlands. Those facilities supplied enough electricity in 2016 to circumnavigate the world almost 1,000 times. It is also a front runner in developing wireless and smart charging technology as well as systems for charging public transit vehicles.

“We already help our customers drive electric by supplying charging points. With the decision to switch our own fleet we do not only contribute to reducing CO2-emissions in Europe, but we also want to set an example for other companies,”

says Martijn Hagens, head of E-mobility for Vattenfall.

Read more: G2

Tesla Model S is one of the cars spearheading the electric car booms (Image: Getty)

Motorists are moving away from diesel cars and opting for alternatively fuelled cars

Tesla Model S – why its diesel–powered rivals should be very afraid: motorists are moving away from diesel cars and opting for alternatively fuelled cars such as electric or hybrid, suggests new research

New car registrations in the UK achieved a 12-year high in January with 174,564 cars being registered – a 2.9 per cent increase on January 2016.

Figures collected by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and traders show that diesel car sales were down by 4.3 per cent in January.

The reason for the dip in interest for car buyers purchasing diesel cars could be due to the recent emissions scandals that have embroiled companies such as Volkswagen.

The government is now planning a diesel scrappage scheme to encourage motorists to ditch cars that are heavy polluters.

In total there were 78,778 diesel cars registered in January.

It is good news for electric car companies however as the alternatively fuelled vehicle segment grew 19.9 per cent to take a record 4.2 per cent market share.

Tesla Model S is one of the cars spearheading the electric car booms (Image: Getty)
Tesla Model S is one of the cars spearheading the electric car booms (Image: Getty)

Electric cars are becoming increasingly popular as car companies are looking to vehicles powered by alternative and sustainable fuel sources.

Figures show that 7,270 AFVs including hybrids, were sold in January.

Read more: Express

A new UK diesel car and van scrappage scheme could be launched in the 2017 Budget

Diesel scrappage scheme: Sadiq Khan warns diesel cars could be BANNED

MAYOR of London Sadiq Khan refuses to rule out a driving ban for the most polluting diesel and petrol cars in central London in a bid to reduce air pollution.

Sadiq Khan has warned that diesel cars could be banned from Central London in a bid to reduce air pollution.

This comes just a week after the Mayor announced a £10 toxicity charge for the oldest and most-polluting cars in the city, which will become effective in October.

Diesel cars that enter the congestion charge zone in central London will pat an additional T-charge of £10 on top of the £11.50 congestion charge.

A new UK diesel car and van scrappage scheme could be launched in the 2017 Budget
A new UK diesel car and van scrappage scheme could be launched in the 2017 Budget

Early predictions by the Mayor’s team believe that four in ten motorists will change their behaviour and stop entering the city centre.

In an interview on ITV’s Peston on Sunday the London Mayor claimed that “nothing is off the table” in relation to banning diesel cars.

“Well, I want to address the issue of poor quality air 365 days a year, not only on those days where the air is dangerous.”

“I’m using all the tools that i’ve got and we’re being innovative but the government has to do more.”

Air pollution contributes to the deaths of 9,000 Londoners annually and the level of harmful toxins in the air have exceeded legal limits regularly in the capital.

Read more: Express

The Nissan Leaf (L) and Kia Soul on charge on a London street (Image: M. Willis/Getty for GUL)

Electric cars and cheap solar ‘could halt fossil fuel growth by 2020’

Solar power and clean cars are ‘gamechangers’ consistently underestimated by big energy, says Imperial College and Carbon Tracker report

Falling costs of electric vehicles and solar panels could halt worldwide growth in demand for oil and coal by 2020, a new report has suggested.

A scenario that takes into account the latest cost reduction projections for the green technologies, and countries’ pledges to cut emissions, finds that solar power and electric vehicles are “gamechangers” that could leave fossil fuels stranded.

The Nissan Leaf (L) and Kia Soul on charge on a London street (Image: M. Willis/Getty for GUL)
By 2035, electric vehicles could make up 35% of the road transport market, and two-thirds by 2050 (Image: M. Willis/Getty for GUL)

Polluting fuels could lose 10% of market share to solar power and clean cars within a decade, the report by the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London and the Carbon Tracker Initiative found.

A 10% loss of market share was enough to cause the collapse of the coal mining industry in the US, while Europe’s five major utilities lost €100bn (£85bn) between 2008 and 2013 because they did not prepare for an 8% increase in renewables, the report said.

Big energy companies are seriously underestimating the low-carbon transition by sticking to their “business as usual” scenarios which expect continued growth of fossil fuels, and could see their assets “stranded”, the study claims.

Emerging technology, such as printable solar photovoltaics which generate electricity, could bring down costs and boost take-up even more than currently predicted.

Luke Sussams, a senior researcher at Carbon Tracker, said:

“Electric vehicles and solar power are gamechangers that the fossil fuel industry consistently underestimates.

“Further innovation could make our scenarios look conservative in five years’ time, in which case the demand misread by companies will have been amplified even more.”

Read more: The Guardian

Isis has made huge profits from captured oilfields (Image: Getty)

Electric Cars Could Cause Big Oil This Much Damage

The growth of battery-powered cars could be as disruptive to the oil market as the OPEC market-share war that triggered the price crash of 2014, potentially wiping hundreds of billions of dollars off the value from fossil fuel producers in the next decade.

About 2 million barrels a day of oil demand could be displaced by electric vehicles by 2025, equivalent in size to the oversupply that triggered the biggest oil industry downturn in a generation over the past three years, according to research from Imperial College London and the Carbon Tracker Initiative, a think tank, published Thursday. A similar 10 percent loss of market share caused the collapse of the U.S. coal mining industry and wiped more than a 100 billion euros ($108 billion) off the value of European utilities from 2008 to 2013, the report said.

(Image: Razzouk/Shutterstock)
(Image: Razzouk/Shutterstock)

Major oil companies are waking up to the potential disruption plug-in vehicles could have on their industry. BP Plc says electric vehicles, or EVs, could erase as much as 5 million barrels a day in the next 20 years, while analysts at Wood Mackenzie say they could erode as much as 10 percent of global gasoline demand over that time. Global oil demand could peak in as little as five years, according to Royal Dutch Shell Plc Chief Financial Officer Simon Henry.

By 2040 16 million barrels a day of oil demand could be displaced, rising to 25 million by 2050, a

“stark contrast to the continuous growth in oil demand expected by industry,”

according to the report. The impact on the oil industry could exceed price slump of 2014 to 2016 that “wiped hundreds of billions off capex,” Stefano Ambrogi, a spokesman for the Carbon Tracker Institute, said by e-mail.

The cost of EVs is already falling faster than previous forecasts and they could reach parity with conventional internal combustion vehicles by 2020, eventually saturating the passenger vehicle market by 2050, the report said.

EVs may take 19 to 21 percent of the road transport market by 2035, according to the researchers. That’s three times BP’s projection of 6 percent market share in 2035. By 2050, EVs would comprise 69 percent of the road-transport market, with oil-powered cars accounting for about 13 percent.

Source: Bloomberg

Does Not Compute (Image: J. Raedle/Getty)

A Climate Change Economist Sounds the Alarm

Some people who study climate change believe that addressing it later — when economic growth has made humanity wealthier — would be better than taking drastic measures immediately. Now, though, one of this group’s most influential members appears to have changed his mind.

In the early 1990s, Yale’s William Nordhaus was among the first to examine the economics of reducing carbon emissions. Since then, he and colleagues have mixed climate physics with economic modeling to explore how various policies might play out both for global temperatures and growth. The approach attempts to weigh, in present-value terms, the costs of preventative measures against the future benefit of avoiding disaster.

Nordhaus has mostly argued for a small carbon tax, aimed at achieving a modest reduction in emissions, followed by sharper reductions in the medium and long term. Too much mitigation now, he has suggested, would damage economic growth, making us less capable of doing more in the future. This view has helped fossil fuel companies and climate change skeptics oppose any serious policy response.

Does Not Compute (Image: J. Raedle/Getty)
Does Not Compute (Image: J. Raedle/Getty)

In his latest analysis, though, Nordhaus comes to a very different conclusion. Using a more accurate treatment of how carbon dioxide may affect temperatures, and how remaining uncertainties affect the likely economic outcomes, he finds that our current response to global warming is probably inadequate to prevent temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius above their pre-industrial levels, a stated goal of the Paris accords.

Worse, the analysis suggests that the required carbon-dioxide reductions are beyond what’s politically possible. For all the talk of curbing climate change, most nations remain on a business-as-usual trajectory. Meanwhile, further economic growth will drive even greater carbon emissions over coming decades, particularly in developing nations.

Nordhaus deserves credit for changing his mind as the results of his analyses have changed, and for focusing on the implications of current policies rather than making rosy assumptions about the ability of new technologies to achieve emission reductions in the future. Many other analyses — including those of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — don’t demand such realism.

Nonetheless, the shift in his assessment is stark. For two decades, the advice has been to do a little but mostly hold off. Now, suddenly, the message is that it’s too late, that we should have been doing a lot more and there’s almost no way to avoid disaster.

Perhaps the main lesson is that we shouldn’t put too much trust in cost-benefit calculations, the standard economic recipe for making policy decisions. In the case of climate change, they are inherently biased toward inaction: It’s easy to see the costs of immediate emissions reductions, and much harder to quantify the benefits of avoiding a disaster likely to materialize much farther in the future. By the time the nature and impact of that disaster become clear, it may be too late to act.

Source: Bloomberg

Renault ZOE Z.E. 40 in Mars Red (Image: NGC)

Renault Zoe Z.E. 40 first drive

Renault’s new Zoe Z.E. 40 promises the greatest range of any mainstream EV on the market today.

With an official range of up to 250 miles depending on model, only Tesla’s line-up can beat that range figure, but they cost far more than twice the amount of the little Renault. Next Green Car got behind the wheel of the new longer-range EV to see how it performs on a cold and misty winter’s morning in the UK.

Review by Chris Lilly

WHAT’S CHANGED?

Renault ZOE Z.E. 40 in Mars Red (Image: NGC)
Renault ZOE Z.E. 40 in Mars Red (Image: NGC)

We’ll start with the biggest and most significant change to the Zoe – the battery. Previous models were equipped with a 22 kWh battery which is good for an official range of 149 miles on a single charge. The new version now packs a 41 kWh battery with a quoted range of 250 miles. The previous 22 kWh model is still available in one specification, but it is the Zoe Z.E. 40 with almost double the battery capacity that is the big news and the model being pushed.

The extra range has been achieved by ‘chemical wizardry’ according to the presentation from Renault’s PR team, but essentially the engineers have made a battery with greater energy density through tweaking and improving the materials used. All of this means that the extra capacity battery is the same physical size, so it fits in the Zoe without the need for costly re-engineering.

Other changes include a new top-of-the-range trim level Signature Nav, which includes leather upholstery, bronze highlights inside, rear reversing camera, new alloy wheel design, and Bose stereo. All models get slight design tweaks inside and out, though you will be hard pushed to list them.

Charging has changed only in the sense that it now takes longer to top up the battery. Available in both rapid charge-capable 230 mile specification, and non-rapid 250 mile trim, the Zoe Z.E. 40 will take varying amounts of time to charge. The 250 mile model tested can connect to a 43kW rapid charger, but will only be charged from 0-80% in one hour and 40 minutes. A 7kW home charger – which comes free with a new Zoe Z.E. 40 – will complete a full charge in a little under seven and a half hours. The 230 mile model cuts rapid charging time to just over one hour, but increases the 7kW charge time by an hour. This is compared to the one hour rapid charge, and four hour 7kW charge offered by the 22kWh model.

Read more: Next Green Car

Renault #EV day, 2017 – Zoe Z.E.40 & Twizy

Renault has launched its latest Zoe version, with a new 41kWh battery that promises 186-miles (real world) range, 124-mile worst case range and 250-mile official NEDC range. The new car also introduces new motor and charging options plus new colours and trim levels including BOSE sound system.

Meanwhile, the ever-enjoyable Twizy continues to provide on road open-air thrills (via a lack of windows) and a great way to travel the Cotswolds.