It's about time we Ditched Die-sel

As some regular readers may know I live out in the sticks. Other than the odd tractor or 2 ton SUV that rumbles past my humble abode the atmosphere is relatively benign.

I’m currently in London for a few days and apart from constantly sneezing (I think I’ve developed some kind of allergy to Plane tree pollen) the air really honks.

As I walked along some of the cities busier streets during the morning rush, I was surrounded by literally hundreds of static diesel taxis, buses, trucks, delivery vans and large saloon cars, all their engines running, all of them spewing toxic, carcinogenic particulates into the supposedly breathable air that we lowly organic life forms have to deal with.

Even though most of these vehicles now have expensive ‘particulate filters’ fitted to their enormous and complex exhaust systems, London consistently comes out as the city with the worst air quality in Europe.

So why are we so far behind other European cities?

Surely it can’t have anything to do with the staggering number of diesel vehicles on our roads.

The answer is a stark, ‘yes, that is exactly the reason.’

Because, ladies and gentlemen, we have been encouraged to buy diesels by good old Gordon Brown who fell for the hype (I can’t imagine who told him) that diesels produce less CO2.

The merchants of doubt must have had a field day when he fell for that old chestnut.

Now we are paying the price, an estimated 7,000 deaths a year directly attributed to particulates from diesel engines.

I normally don’t like to criticize people who drive diesel cars, I take the position that it’s not the individuals fault, it’s the fault of manufacturers, the government and the fossil extraction companies.

But as I looked at the drivers in their big diesels sitting in a traffic jam I started to lose my equanimity.

Diesel is dirty, dangerous, destructive and dated. We need to get rid of the damn things as fast as possible.

Later today as I walked past a pile of London Evening Standards I actually picked one up, not something I do very often. The headline story caught my eye, my old boss, Tory MP Zac Goldsmith (I used to write a column for The Ecologist which he owned so I’m stretching the boss title a little) is busy pitching to be the next London Mayor.

Yes he has the full force of BoJo behind him, yes, the Standard hangs on his every utterance because 95% of the UK press are ultra conservative in contrast to the general population who are not, but let’s leave that aside.

Zac wants to turn London into the ‘Green’ capital of the world, with 3,000 electric car share cars and 6,000 charge points across the city.

Before we get all snide and cynical, before I point out that under Boris the much vaunted street charging system in London is a teeny bit unreliable, 1,400 charge points so far with 40% out of order at any one time, before all that, I just want to say wooppee.

Okay, call me a blinkered old hippy optimist, but what I’m seeing is a Tory MP, probably on the left of what is a very right wing party, saying we need less cars, more car sharing and the cars we share should be electric.

So should the taxis and delivery vans.

So I’ve just had a little daydream, I walk down the same busy street in a couple of years time, there is still a queue of traffic, it’s a bit quieter, it smells much better and there are more bikes and more people walking or using public transport.

Oh yes, and less people dying early because the air they are breathing is no longer chock full of carcinogenic particulates.


How electric vehicles are changing the world

I've just been sent this wonderful infographic by Joe Sherviell at



Periscope and Electric Cars

One of the entertaining aspects of Periscope is that, very unlike Twitter, you make contact with people who randomly choose your live stream and watch for a bit.

These people can be from anywhere on the globe, they are watching at different times of the day and, as I have discovered not surprisingly they have no idea who this old bloke is who’s waffling away and why so many people are asking him questions.

I get asked ‘who are you?’ and I’m told ‘you’re old!’ or ‘you’re ugly’ or most amusingly the other day ‘you’ve got bad teeth.’

Thankfully I’m thick skinned enough not be offended, in fact I’m highly amused by such accurate observations.

However today I did a Periscope session from the motorway services on the M40 just outside Oxford while my car was charging.

I got asked so many questions about the car, the charging system which was not surprising because I had titled my session ‘A short waffle while I charge my car.’

What that could mean to a 16 year old from Arkansas who might be sitting in a hot attic room in mid morning America is anyone’s guess, I don’t imagine ‘waffle’ means anything other than a pressed dough product covered in corn syrup and whipped cream.

Anyway, I thought it only polite to explain about charging electric cars in as basic terms as I can.

I drive a Nissan Leaf, this is a pure electric car, it doesn’t have an engine, i.e. it’s not a hybrid or plug in hybrid, it only uses electricity.

I normally charge it at home using a dedicated socket I had installed 4 years ago, this is fed (during daylight) by a 2.6 kilowatt array of solar panels, which, on a sunny day produce around 24 kilowatt hours of electricity. That’s more than enough to fill the battery on the Nissan Leaf.

However in the last two days I have driven 304 miles with the electricity mostly coming from public charge points around the country.

On Wednesday I drove to Hay on Wye, a distance of 67 miles from my home. While I was there I used a 32 amp charger at a wonderful bed and breakfast guest house called Westview, this was installed by a charity that fits the sockets and the owners don’t charge for the power if you stay with them.

I’ve stayed with them in the past and they very kindly let me charge while I attended the festival to take part in a discussion panel about the general public attitude to renewable energy.

When I got back to the car it was full and I drove home.

Today I drove from my home in Gloucestershire to a meeting in Denham, just outside London.

I stopped about half way there and used a rapid charger that had been installed by a company called Ecotricity.

They are a renewable energy company in the UK, they have installed hundreds of these chargers at what we call motorway services or highway rest stops.

I charge the car for about 20 minutes and that gives me about 70 miles range.

Ecotricity don’t charge for the use of this service, you do need a card to use it but there is no charge for the card.

They produce a great deal of electricity from wind turbines and solar panels and are currently not demanding payment drivers to use the system. I am confident they will charge eventually.

I had charged the car the day before I left for Hay on Wye using power from the solar panels.

I have a meter on the wall that tells me how much power is used.

The panels produced 19.4 kilowatt hours, the car consumed just over 8 kilowatt hours. The Nissan Leaf has a 24 kilowatt hour battery but when I plugged it in, it wasn’t empty.

I didn’t pay to charge during the day while I was taking part in the discussion at Hay festival.

I came home and charged again overnight.

I plug the car in but the timer built into the car only starts charging after midnight when I pay 5 pence per kilowatt hour on a night time tariff.

I used 14.1 kilowatt hours to fill the battery.

That cost me 70 pence.

Today I used 3 rapid chargers to complete my journey, all free, one of those was while I attended a meeting, so yes, I had to wait for 20 minutes two times, one of those times was when I was Periscoping and being asked if I was famous.

To sum up, I drove 304.9 miles for a total fuel cost of 70 pence.

I agree this is absurd, financially unsustainable and temporary, however it is possible at the moment.

But even if I had to pay the current daytime average amount for all the power I used, about 73 kilowatt hours, it would still only have cost £13.87, still, considerably less than any petrol or diesel car.






Oil Price drop kills electric car sales?

Cheap Oil and Electric Cars


You are probably aware of the massive drop in the price of crude oil. It started before Christmas and it continues to fall.

This can only mean one thing, electric car sales will plummet, people will start buying bigger cars with bigger engines because petrol and diesel will be dirt cheap. Forever.

We all know that, once the price of oil goes down, it stays down, forever.

Oh wait, I’ve just remembered, no it doesn’t. It goes up again just as sharply, then down again, then up.


It’s a highly volatile market which keeps financial journalists busy so that’s good for them.

So why did the price of oil go down?

Oh yes, fracking. Of course, if only the namby-pamby-greenie-weeny-nimbies would allow this government and their mates to frack the hell out of Berkshire we’d have almost free oil and gas forever.

Except of course we wouldn’t, and now it seems even more unlikely.

Here’s an idea.

The tar sands in Alberta, the gas and oil in shale rock thousands of meters beneath the surface, geologists and oil companies have known about that stuff for decades, it’s only recently been financially viable to extract it because the oil price has been so high.

So extract it they did, they had a bonanza! Woop-de-doodie.

Then some chaps in Saudi Arabia noticed a bit of drop in demand for sweet crude (that’s a proper term by the way) and they said, ‘either we turn off the taps and make do with several billion dollars a day less than we’re used to, or we flood the market and put all the tar sands dudes and frackers out of business overnight.’

They did the latter.

It is now economically ridiculous to spend the amounts of money and energy to extract tar sands, fracked oil and all the associated problems that go with this absurd, last gasp effort to keep burning fossils. The fossil companies are moaning, they want more tax breaks or they’ll go out of business. Naturally they have the full support of the public….. not.

And interestingly this massive temporary reduction in the oil price has had no effect on electric car sales, they just keep going up.

It’s still tiny, it’s still a fraction of the total but the increases are in the 100’s of % per year.

Because as anyone with two brain cells is aware, people don’t buy electric cars just because petrol is expensive or cheap. There are hundreds of reasons, the main one being that the technology is more interesting, impressive, reliable and it is possible to make your own fuel.

That’s disruptive, that’s upsetting to the entrenched and well defended monopolies that govern us…. via the governments they pay for.

So I would suggest that electric car sales will not be affected by the drop in the price of oil.

As I always say, electric cars won’t save the world, but they might be pointing in a direction we should all be looking at.




Nissan seem happy

This is a recent press release from Nissan, I thought it made interesting reading so I have posted it verbatim.


  • More than half of owners say the LEAF outperforms traditionally-powered alternatives
  • Financial savings free up spending on everything from holidays to eye surgery
  • One owner sells his Aston Martin to buy two Nissan LEAFs

More than nine in 10 owners (93%) use it as their main family car, 64% say it's better to drive than a petrol or diesel vehicle and one man even sold his Aston Martin to buy a pair of them in order to avoid domestic fights.

These are just some of the insights from a sample of the 6,500 plus Nissan LEAF owners now in the UK.

The brand new research naturally points out the significant financial savings made by owners, but it also highlights how living with the Nissan LEAF in the real world has turned it from a second car into the main family car for many motorists.

With a cost per mile of just two pence or less, it is understandable that the majority (89%) of those surveyed reported significant savings against more traditionally-fuelled cars.  One driver calculated that he had spent just £400 travelling more than 22,000 miles in his Nissan LEAF, with many reporting savings of £200-250 per month.

With the savings made, LEAF owners have been treating themselves to little luxuries including a 3D printer, a vintage synthesizer, holidays and many installing solar panels on their homes for virtually free motoring.

Nissan Motor GB Limited Managing Director, James Wright, said: "Electric car ownership was a big step for motorists to take when we launched the LEAF in 2011 but we are now seeing that owners who were bold enough to take that step are reaping the benefits.

"The issues that the naysayers said would hinder ownership have not materialised and, in fact, the feeling from LEAF owners is that they would never go back to a traditional combustion engine. We were the first to bring a mass-produced electric car to market, so it stands to reason that we are also the first to prove the genuine viability of electric motoring."

More than one in two owners admitted they would not go back to a conventionally-powered car, 41% said the car has positively changed the way they drive and a unanimous 95% of them were happy to recommend it to a friend.

Nine in 10 now use it as their main family car, citing everything from practicality to simple enjoyment of driving. One owner ended up ditching his Aston Martin to buy a second LEAF to avoid arguments with his wife about who would take the Nissan to work every day.

More than a third said that they do not have to plan journeys in advance any more than they did before owning an electric car, especially as 89% of them charge up their LEAF overnight at home.

Only recently, Nissan Motor GB Limited Managing Director, James Wright, said sales of the British-built model were "reaching tipping point", with ownership now doubling month-on-month. Boasting 64% Pure EV market share, more than 3,599 cars have been sold in 2014 - almost double the volume sold in 2013 (1,812 in total). In September alone, Nissan's all-electric family car sold a record 851 cars - more than double the number sold in the same month last year and the largest volume ever sold in one month in a European market.

Nissan's Sunderland factory has built 24,000 LEAFs, with 147,000 sold globally since launch.