Category Archives: Opinion

Electric Cars and why this technophobe has one

I’m a 34 year old woman who is not naturally drawn to technology and yet I am an early adopter of the electric car.

I try to live a simple life, and there is little I enjoy more than a bit of nostalgia and switching off from the modern world, so it was a bit of a surprise to some of my friends and family when I decided to get an electric car.

The truth is, that it’s actually not much different to driving a regular car, except you’re considering your fuel consumption differently and of course you are saving the environment, and those are good things to concern yourself with, right?!

I took my mum and sisters to the spa the other week, it was the first time my older sister had been in the car and she was sceptical “are we going to get there and back OK, is there enough charge” she must have said this at least 4 times before she forgot about range and concerned herself with other aspects of the car. She was like a kid with a new toy, pressing the touch screen display, asking “what does this do”, “what does that do”, then noticing how silently the car moves and yet how quick it is off the mark. She was impressed. On the way home she noticed the remaining range “36 miles, oh we’ll get home on that” – she was getting it.  More at ease and enjoying the ride she asked if I wanted any money towards fuel, I laughed and said “well the journey cost less than £1, so I think I’ll let you off” – she was speechless.

‘Getting over’ the technology aspect of the car is very easy, there isn’t actually much to learn, in fact the car itself makes driving and running it very simple, and I do love a simple life 😊

Windfarm (Image:UNK)

Google set to reach 100% renewable energy in 2017

In December 2016, Google announced that they are set to reach 100% renewable energy to power everything such as their offices and server farms. 

Every year people search Google trillions of times and upload over 400 hours of YouTube every minute! All of that takes a very large amount of processing power which means a lot of electricity is needed.

Windfarm (Image:UNK)

“I’m thrilled to announce that in 2017 Google will reach 100% renewable energy for our global operations — including both our data centers and offices. We were one of the first corporations to create large-scale, long-term contracts to buy renewable energy directly; we signed our first agreement to purchase all the electricity from a 114-megawatt wind farm in Iowa, in 2010. Today, we are the world’s largest corporate buyer of renewable power, with commitments reaching 2.6 gigawatts (2,600 megawatts) of wind and solar energy. That’s bigger than many large utilities and more than twice as much as the 1.21 gigawatts it took to send Marty McFly back to the future.”

Urs Hölze, Google’s Senior Vice President of Technical Infrastructure.

Google operates in an environmentally sustainable way which is one of its core values since its founding. This is a very good value and one we should all follow. Whatever your thoughts are on global warming, we all know that pollution is a bad thing for us and the environment.

Science tells us that tackling climate change is an urgent worldwide issue and that we must take steps in doing our own individual bit for the environment.

Read more: Medium. Phil Leach

Zoe Battery Recovery (Image: Jo Pegram-Mills)

Driving style (example shown in Renault ZOE 22kWh)

One thing any existing or soon to be, Electric Vehicle driver should always bear in mind is ‘Driving Style’, this can sometimes, quite dramatically, impact your expected range.

Electric Vehicles are smart, they analyse your driving style and take this into account when estimating your expected range. If you are a rapid accelerator and tend to brake hard, you might find that your estimated range will drop quite low. I certainly have a tendency to forget this and simply enjoy the ride a bit too much when I’m doing short journeys, I find myself in this situation quite a lot.

But it can easily be rectified, you simply need to adjust your driving style, drive more economically and with a bit more consideration, soon you won’t realise you’re doing it and the car will give you better range expectations. The good news is that this is easy to do by just reacting to the feedback that the acceleration indicator on the dashboard gives you.

Your Visual Guide to Acceleration

Zoe Accelerating (Image: Jo Pegram-Mills)
Zoe Accelerating (Image: Jo Pegram-Mills)

When you use rapid acceleration/peddle to the metal, it shows as many Yellow bars.

If you find you are constantly in yellow, be prepared to see your estimated range drop quite considerably.

ZOE gradual acceleration (Image: Jo Pegram-Mills)
ZOE gradual acceleration (Image: Jo Pegram-Mills)

When you start driving more economically, with gradual acceleration, you can see this as fewer Green bars.

Get the most out of your range, try and stay within the green bars. If you switch to Eco mode the car will help you do this by restricting your maximum acceleration.

Success! Your range will become more predictable and consistent.

Your Visual Guide to Regenerative Braking

Regenerative Braking, also known as Battery Recovery is the clever trick where an Electric Vehicle reverses the behaviour of an electric motor. Instead of using electricity from the battery to create car motion, it uses the motion of the car to create electricity and recharge the battery. This results in the car slowing down.

Zoe Battery Recovery (Image: Jo Pegram-Mills)
Zoe Battery Recovery (Image: Jo Pegram-Mills)

So, the battery recovery allows the car to slow itself when the road allows, and shows visually as Blue bars.

You will also notice the battery bar on the left gives a visual indication that a recharge is taking place. As a result, your range will sometimes increase the longer the car is moving without acceleration.

ZOE Display (Image: Jo Pegram-Mills)
ZOE Display (Image: Jo Pegram-Mills)

An especially nice surprise is finishing your journey with more range than you started with. This can actually happen if you dramatically change your driving style during your journey, or if you do short trips. It’s a very satisfying moment and often results in excessive smugness.

ZOE on Charge (image: UNK)

The beginning of the end for the infernal combustion engine

WHAT WE LEARNED IN 2016: After many false dawns, 2016 was the year electric cars showed they are on a path to rapidly replacing the infernal combustion engine.

There are now more than half a million battery electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles on Europe’s roads, and annual sales are expected to top 1.5% of the market for the first time. While the figures are modest, Dieselgate has created an EV earthquake, shaking carmakers from their complacency.

Renault ZOE
Renault ZOE

The Paris Motor Show was a turning point. Volkswagen launched its “revolutionary” I.D concept and announced it aspired to a quarter of its sales being electric by 2025. Mercedes launched an equivalent Generation EQ concept range, announcing it was “flipping the switch”, which was backed up with an €11 billion investment. Opel confirmed the launch of the 300km range Ampera-e; Renault and BMW announced upgrades of the Zoe and i3, both with significantly longer ranges; and Renault commented:

“Our vision of the electric market is that it is not a niche market.”

Also, around a quarter of Mitsubishi sales can be plugged in and 7% of Porsche’s.

The U-turn in European carmakers’ attitude has resulted from a combination of market, technology and policy changes. Dieselgate has brought about much needed realism that outside Europe the tiny 5% share of new diesel cars will in the future decline, not grow.

In Europe, the scandal is stiffening the resolve of regulators to effectively enforce better tests that commence in 2017. Several countries, including France, are also increasing fuel excise duties and cities are proposing to ban or charge diesels or all combustion cars. UBS shockingly forecast diesel sales will fall to just 10% of the market by 2025 from 50% today.

Read more: Transport & Environment

Kia Soul EV on charge on a London street (Image: M. Willis/Getty/Go Ultra Low)

The Guardian view of the car industry: an electric future

The world is moving faster than we think towards more automated vehicles powered by renewable energy

Gone are the days when cars made in Britain were British. Monday’s sale of Vauxhall/Opel to Peugeot meant only the transfer of two large English factories from the German subsidiary of an American firm to a French company, accompanied by the ritual promises that jobs would be safe. These seem insubstantial, given that the new management plans to save €1.7bn a year from the old Opel operation, while the Vauxhall factories made a heavy loss after the pound’s post-referendum slide. Yet the contortions of government policy which once accompanied threats to the car industry went quite unseen this time. But there is one small aspect of the deal in which it appears that Mrs May’s industrial strategy might be an intelligent deployment of very limited resources. The future of the car industry is clearly electric, and the development of battery technology – something the government plans to support – will be vital.

Kia Soul EV on charge on a London street (Image: M. Willis/Getty/Go Ultra Low)
Kia Soul EV on charge on a London street (Image: M. Willis/Getty/Go Ultra Low)

Against the protectionism practised by the Chinese government, which is determined to dominate the world market, and to supplant the Japanese and Korean firms which now provide most of the world’s batteries, any effort by the British government is likely to prove inadequate. Especially a British government which has ended its own participation in the single market; but at least it is playing in the right game.

At the moment, wholly electric cars are still a tiny minority of those on the road, but their number is growing very fast as they become more affordable and more practical. Their advantages to society are obvious: they pollute far less than internal combustion engines, and use less energy too. A city of electric cars will be cleaner and quieter than our present stinking streets. And at some stage in the next decade, their advantages to private drivers will become overwhelming. The electric car will become a mainstream status symbol and it is the buyers of internal combustion vehicles who will feel like weird outsiders. The Dutch parliament has considered a measure which would make all cars sold there electric by 2025. A recent thinktank report suggests that 10 years after that a third of all the vehicles sold in the world will be electric.

New electric cars must travel further and need less time to recover from their journeys than those that can be bought today, when long journeys are still fraught with anxiety. This means lighter batteries that hold more charge and can be charged more quickly; they are appearing already and the huge amounts of global investment make it likely that progress will continue and technology will supply what the market needs.

Stepping back for a moment, the rise of electric and largely automated cars might change the world around us almost as profoundly as the internal combustion engine did. Part of this is their obvious role in transportation. All-electric traffic will be faster, reversing the trend of the last century. Lighter cars will accelerate and brake more quickly, while increasing automation will mean traffic moves more freely. If those trends continue, the private car might disappear altogether, replaced by a network of hired autonomous vehicles, at least within cities. The beginnings of this development are already visible in the reluctance of young people to learn to drive.

Less obvious, but just as important, are all the symbolic values of cars. It’s not just for Bruce Springsteen that they embody freedom, autonomy and power. The car that you own says almost as much about your social position and your aspirations as the clothes you wear. Car ownership was for much of the world a mark of status in the way that owning a horse made you a knight. The coming revolution threatens far more than the vehicle manufacturing industry. If cars do come to be valued for their usefulness, not as means of ostentation, the motor car would become only a status symbol for the rich, as useless, if still as loved, as the private horse now is.

Source: The Guardian

Vauxhall Ampera EREV

UK budget announcement on electric vehicles doesn’t go far enough

Specialist management consultancy Baringa Partners has responded to the UK Chancellor’s Budget announcement of support for electric vehicles (EVs) saying the support doesn’t go far enough.

Policies should be designed to support the roll-out of rapid charging access across the UK, according to Baringa. While the Chancellor’s announcement of support for the development of batteries for electric cars will go some way to alleviating customers’ fears about range, more work is needed to change the perception that electric vehicles are not as reliable as their petrol and diesel peers.

Vauxhall Ampera EREV
Vauxhall Ampera EREV

“The Chancellor’s announcement of funding for research into batteries for electric vehicles is a positive first step, but it doesn’t go far enough” said Natalie Bird, Senior Consultant at Baringa. ““The transport sector trails the energy and industrial sectors on decarbonisation. Despite significant uptake in electric cars since 2011, the rate of eligible vehicle registrations slowed substantially last year. Although the UK’s 2050 Greenhouse Gas target theoretically allows for later action, the combination of pressing air quality issues, consumer interest in electric vehicles and advances in self-driving technology provides a real opportunity today to kick-start the decarbonisation of the transport sector, which will reap long-term benefits.”

Ms Bird added that in these early stages, bolder policies that reduce costs and influence public perception are needed if the Government wants to see more people get behind the electric wheel. This means providing more certainty to investors, producers and consumers about the vision for the future of the market. In the longer run, the Government may need to shift the balance of policy away from direct subsidies and towards more technology neutral mechanisms such as a wider carbon tax for the transport sector, to discourage the use of conventional vehicles.

The Government should also recognise the ongoing evolution of the wider transport landscape and the potential shift away from private vehicle ownership towards greater use of ‘on-demand’ flexible modes of travel such as car sharing schemes, and ensure policies take this into account. This may be accelerated by self-driving technology, which in turn could dramatically transform road transport demand patterns, and it would be good to recognise that link in the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.

Source: Renewable Energy Magazine

EV Charging Station (Image: Shutterstock)

We’re probably underestimating how quickly electric vehicles will disrupt the oil market

Unpredictably rapid growth happens pretty predictably

Just about every analyst agrees that the electric vehicle market is poised for rapid growth. But how rapid?

It’s not an idle question. The rate of EV growth will have huge implications for oil markets, auto markets, and electric utilities. Yet it is maddeningly difficult to predict the future; forecasts for the EV market are all over the place.

I don’t think the wide range of projections means that we’re blind here, though — I think we can make educated guesses. Specifically, I think history justifies optimism, the belief that the high-end projections (like those in a new study I discuss below) are closer to the truth.

Let’s walk through it.

EVs could do serious damage to oil — or not much

Transportation accounts for a huge portion of US carbon emissions. As recently as 2014, it was behind the electricity sector — 26 percent of US emissions to electricity’s 30 percent. But as Vox has reported, and the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) just confirmed, as of 2016, they have crossed paths. “Electric power sector CO2 emissions,” EIA writes, “are now regularly below transportation sector CO2 emissions for the first time since the late 1970s.”

This is happening because power sector “carbon intensity” — carbon emissions per unit of energy produced — is falling, as coal is replaced with natural gas, renewables, and efficiency.

The only realistic prospect for reducing transportation sector emissions rapidly and substantially is electrification. How much market share EVs take from oil (gasoline is by far the most common use for oil in the US) will matter a great deal.

EV Charging Station (Image: Shutterstock)
EV Charging Station (Image: Shutterstock)

However, as Rice University’s Dan Cohan explains in The Hill, EV forecasts are all over the map.

The EIA’s “Annual Energy Outlook 2017” is much more bullish about EVs than in previous years — its forecast for the EV market is “nearly double its forecast from last year, and nearly 10 times its forecast from 2014.” It no longer thinks hybrids or plug-in hybrids will play a major role. It believes EVs are ready.

Read more: Vox

Ten ways the electric car revolution will transform the global economy

The world has begun a rapid switch to electric vehicles. In the first half of this year, worldwide sales were up 57 per cent to 285,000, despite low oil prices, and there are now more than 1m electric cars on the world’s roads for the first time ever.

Last February, Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) forecast that electric vehicles would account for 35 per cent of new car sales by 2040, and perhaps more under certain scenarios.

The reason for this bullishness is not just that battery costs are plummeting – down 65 per cent in the past five years – it is also that electric vehicles outperform internal combustion cars in so many key areas. They drive more smoothly and accelerate better; they can be charged without a trip to the petrol station; they require less maintenance; they help solve air quality problems; and they increase the autonomy of oil-importing countries.

The rapid uptake of electric vehicles has given established car companies a huge shock. Tesla, the upstart technological leader, expected to produce 85,000 vehicles this year, has a market value of $32bn. That’s more than half of the value of General Motors, which makes nearly 120 times as many vehicles.

All of the incumbent car companies are racing to adjust their strategies, putting electric vehicles at their heart. Volkswagen, still reeling from the “Dieselgate” scandal, is intending to invest $11.2bn over the next decade to push electric vehicles to 25 per cent of its sales.

Read the full list of ten: LinkedIn

Car exhaust pollution (Image: Wikipedia)

The Solution to Air Pollution is Already Here

The overwhelming cause of air pollution in large cities is vehicle emissions (see DEFRA Website), and the answer is already here. Accelerate adoption of Electric Vehicles (EVs), including cars, buses and ancillary vehicles.

For any EV driver, you will already know that traffic jams are much less stressful than in a petrol or diesel car. Each time you stop, you just stop. You don’t produce any emissions or waste any further energy. This was a delightful and unexpected insight to me when I got my first EV; that part of the stress of a traffic jam for me was the sheer sense of waste – not only was I burning fuel but it was achieving nothing.

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

A government genuinely committed to delivering clean air could achieve an enormous amount by designing fiscal “carrots” to allow serious growth of EVs to actively reduce air pollution. For example:

Come on Theresa. I know you are busy, but this is too important to leave to chance.

Source: LinkedIn

Volkswagen ID Concept electric car (Image: VW)

Hybrids ‘likely to be a passing phase’ as EV technology advances quickly

Hybrids are likely to be a passing phase in car technology that will be surpassed by electric vehicles in a matter of a few years, predicts Glass’s.

The vehicle data provider says that EV technology is advancing so quickly that a new hybrid vehicle being bought today could be effectively obsolete by the time it reaches the end of its normal life.

Volkswagen ID Concept electric car (Image: VW)
Volkswagen ID Concept electric car (Image: VW)

Rupert Pontin, director of valuations, said:

“Hybrids are designed to solve two of the problems that EVs have faced in recent years – high cost and low range.

“However, there are very clear signs that these issues are being resolved very quickly. For example, the revised Renault Zoe announced at Paris Motor Show has a 250-mile range and costs £17,000.

“Similarly, the new battery in the BMW i3 lasts around 190 miles and Volkswagen is claiming that its ID, which will come to market in 2020, will go up to 373 miles between charges and be priced competitively.

“The fact is that vehicles such as this effectively remove the rationale for hybrids. Within a few years, hybrids could be seen as little more than a curiosity and this will undoubtedly affect their values.”

Read more: Fleet News