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Friday, 18 November 2011

Electric cars on the UK roads.

After decades of empty promises ZEV’s [Zero Emission Vehicles] such as Electric Cars, Hydrogen Cars, Hybrid Cars etc. are slowly beginning to ply our roads. This short entry will focus mostly upon EV’s – Electric Cars and how they teeter on the edge of public acceptability.

Fear of acquiring a ZEV still rides in the British psyche. These are just some of the expressions I have recorded off normal everyday people in the last five years alone ….. (yet equally have heard the same terms reiterated through the last three decades from many different people.)

“I don’t want one – I’d be ridiculed!” (Technological unfounded prejudice)
“Bloody milk float!” (Poor design and socially unacceptable vehicle appearance)
“I don’t want to run out of juice in the middle of nowhere!” (Dead battery syndrome)
“It’s took expensive!” (maybe!)

For most it is basely assumption based on no real empirical evidence. People need to have access to ZEV’s in order to understand their durability. BMW’s testing stage of the Mini-E is such a demonstration project that allows selected members of the public to gain acceptance of the EV’s.

There are some incentives to drive electric: Free parking and low car tax? This may be available now – yet with more EV’s on the road prices inevitably will creep up – yet not just yet; maybe 2020 onwards.
Running costs:
Petrol per mile costs Versus Electric per mile costs – the main issue. In 2011 the 40 litre (relatively small tank) petrol/diesel capacity costs almost £60 to fill up to cover 300-360 miles per tank. An electric charged up car would cost Less than £1 with a 150 mile capacity (this takes into consideration domestic electric charge increases) … people can easily understand the savings.
So what holds us back? An electric car will cost between £20,000 to £100,000 which at present the average family cannot afford. Celebrities, trend setters or industry are the only ones at present to really get their hands on electric cars the last few years. They all set the example though and inevitably prices will fall giving wider access to the rest of us.
Will the UK Governments £5000 incentive to purchase a new ZEV help more of us to buy electric?
Will the insurance cause us concern or detract us from going EV?
Recharging / Refuelling:
The main issue is charging – be it domestic/in-house or on-street charging points. It will have some potential issues to rise before all is harmonious. People who live with on-street parking may suffer charging issues (people pulling cables out for tomfoolery) when trying to juice up their EV.
Many homes can be designed with garages in mind. Safer security, lower premiums on charging and peace of mind as you can charge your car from the home sockets in a locked safe environment. By using common sense design we will overcome all these issues. More research needs to be done – perhaps a small incentive for all EV purchases to undertake several surveys over 2-3 years of ownership where they can feedback in all [positive and negative] issues raised.
Recharging points are becoming a reality as the megacities around the world are embracing on-street charging to keep our national fleets of ZEV/EV’s juiced up and running. Charging can be done (trickle style) overnight of 4-8 hours or quickly a 30 minute burst which would charge 50-80% … enough to get you home !
Many will complain that in the UK our electricity sourcing is from fossil fuels, which if we all suddenly own electric cars and start charging up overnight we will throw emissions up a hundred fold (thousand fold?) ….. yet there are opportunities ahead.
Yet nocturnally we have mild over production of electricity in night generation (we can’t just switch off the coal/gas power stations) this could easily feed our overnight charge without necessarily increasing emissions.
The potential of the Off-Shore Wind Farms adding another 2-3 GW capacity over the next few years would easily meet our ZEV demands for the next decade of evening chargers – so we’d not be reliant on coal, oil or gas electricity generation whatsoever.
Could it be things are actually falling into place as a large minority of us become electric car users over this new decade?
The UK is gradually getting there. Since electric cars were being discussed and experimented on in the mid-20th century (some functional models in the early 1900’s too!) with occasional viable models like the GM Impact (1990) which became the doomed GM EV-1 – things have progressed further.
It’s not just about technical fixes and good innovation; it’s about human behaviour, responsibility and rational contemplation. It is a new era and now many will become EV owners how do we ensure it won’t be another crash and burn EV-1 episode again?
We are optimistic the stumbling blocks are lessening and getting further apart. What can you do?
The following list is not comprehensive – we actively encourage the public and industry to research further the options available to us.
Nissan Leaf:
Tesla motors:

Toyota Hybrids:
Synergy -
Auris -
Prius -

Electric 7.5 tonne Lorries/Trucks:

Government incentives:

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Installing domestic renewable systems (Post RIP of FiT's)

With so many companies and organisations reporting the reduction of the FiT’s [Feed in Tariff] incentives many fear that renewable energy generation on the domestic front will come to a grinding halt. Basically explained the FiT incentives were a Government initiative to pay people to sell their domestically installed renewable electricity to the national grid. What you don’t use – you sell and get an agreeable premium for. Sounds great eh?
As one brushes through the journals from 12-18 months ago of blogs, adverts and circulars of AECB, CAT, FFF etc. you will see and read a prolific amount of adverts selling small scale renewable energy systems like PV [electric solar panels] or a small Wind Turbine on your roof. The real selling point was the virtues of FiT’s [Feed in Tariffs] and why now is the ripe time to install PV [Photovoltaic] REF cells on ones’ roof. Perhaps we should have all paid more attention in 2010 to investing and installing …. As now it would seem the party is over now and the carpet ripped out from under our feet.

The Davius groups immediate reaction to the impending December 2012 FiT’s cut’s were “what will be cut in December 2012/2013/2014 etc to the point that FiT’s would be so miniscule and worthlessly ineffective” however if you read the various articles some anticipate further cuts, others believe it will stabilise on a lower rate of incentive support no matter what promises are on the table for now. Has the UK PV industry become so dependent upon this support mechanism that did not even exists when the first PV roofs, or other domestic renewable energy systems were being installed 1990-2009, Pre-FiT?

Although thousands of keen sustainable orientated professionals and enthusiasts may have had their hopes dashed – there is a still potential area’s for growth and development. We do need incentives; indeed the nuclear industry could not have got anywhere without subsidy – nor would much of UK and global industry got anywhere without a few decades of subsidy and incentive support…..

So where do we progress now …. ? To be blunt we [Davius business] are partially relieved that FiT’s were slashed for 2012/13 as it will stop some developments from running out of control and beating the smaller scale regular house owner to the pip of claiming incentives.

·         Free solar roofing – These mass installers who just whack a PV array on your roof ‘for free’ will be minimised now – this probably is for the best as you don’t actually use the ‘free solar energy’ unless you are actually in the house (and most people are at work during the day and obviously the PV cells are not producing energy for consumption at night!) so they can sell the majority of the product / clean energy to the grid whilst you are out the house and get paid handsomely for it. The reduced FiT may reduce such mass scale PV butchers now.

·        Solar Farms? This is a contentious issue which we would have embraced in 1970’s yet now in the 2010’s/2020’s when land becomes an increasing premium in price and much needed space for agriculture, nature or building we should encourage the PV panels to be kept on roofs to make efficient use of our designed space – not just put on land on a low level structure when the land really should be used for something more important – OR integrated alongside with the PV based electricity production.

These may be negative points to raise – yet what about potential positives? There is still great potential to expand PV/Solar roofing throughout UK and the world without necessary, or albeit incredibly reduced incentives or subsidies.

·        Solar Clubs – a social phenomenon that has been around since the turn of the century which encourages communities to band and save together and get several installations in one go. This leads to reduced costs, engages people to work together and has been successful to install both solar (water heating) and PV (electricity production)

·        Why have PV skyscrapers not become prolific in our mega cities? The scale of PV installed would have made a significant contribution to building performance with or without any support/FiT incentives. If industry came forward and offered a large scale PV installation programme, the PV modules would inevitably reduce in costs by larger scale and encourage their neighbouring skyscrapers to adopt such an approach which would look good on their business good practice and CSR profiles.

·       Perhaps if Vertical Farming finally takes off after fifty years of design or practicality proposals, with land costs increasing; if we cannot grow outwards – we can grow food upwards in a building multi-layered style. Covering the side of a five-ten storey building/farm with PV modules would bring costs down and facilitate more on-site good energy management.

Adhering to the Schumacher Colleges philosophy of “Small is beautiful” sustainable clean energy should be initiated, like any sustainable methodologies on a small entry level scale of domestic housing. Not massive overpriced demonstration platforms.

If there’s a will – then we all know there’s a way forward. PV installations (and many other sustainable methodologies) can still go ahead and if everything starts at home – on low costs, on practicality, on pure guts and determination. Truly then sustainability will branch out to every other aspect of our lives in profession, in community, in our humanity.

The FiT tariffs may be going through a slow death, yet we should not be so dependent upon them. Renewables and housing integration will have to find another way forward …. What can you do?