Due to surprisingly pleasant weather conditions and unusual travel routines, over the last couple of days I have driven 196 miles in my Nissan Leaf using only renewable energy. How do I know? Well, I was the only one to plug it in and I know where and when I plugged it in and for how long.
To explain why this might be interesting I'll brush up on some recent history.
When electric cars first emerged as a viable alternative to fossil burners a few years ago, ‘range anxiety’ was the chief criticism, along with initial purchase cost and the fact that ‘they look ugly.’
When those reasons got boring, it was suddenly ‘the silent menace,’ the fear that thousands of pedestrians would be mown down by silent electric cars prowling the streets, clearly driven by psychopaths who heard voices in their heads telling then 'kill them all!
Then it was 'after a couple of years the batteries will be useless and will clog up our landfill sites’ which has again been proven to be utterly false.
More recently it's been ‘the electricity that charges them comes from coal so electric cars emit more CO2 than a dirty old diesel.’
Again this is a fatuous argument that omits out two massive and vitally important things called facts. We burn a huge amount of coal to make electricity that is consumed by oil refineries to produce petrol and diesel, and, because of the efficiencies of an electric motor and the fact that it’s fuel agnostic. An electric motor doesn’t care how the electricity is produced or where it comes from. It can use electricity from multiple sources that, yes, can include coal but as most people charge electric cars at night in the UK when the least amount of coal is burnt the argument collapses in a heap of angry hot air.
So, in the last 2 days as I said, I have driven, 196 miles with no CO2 output, I mean zero, not a molecule.
I drew the power from two sources, firstly, solar PV at home. Normally I charge at night, but last Friday I got home, battery low, didn't plug the car in and waited until the sun came up the following morning. I'd checked the forecast and it was sunny and clear. The car absorbed 14.6 kWh of electricity, the solar panles produced 17.2 kWh on Staurday. I re-charged the car for nothing. Zero fuel cost.
The following day I went to see my old pal Charlie on his boat.
We had lunch, went for a stroll and discussed family, age, death and technological breakthroughs in engineering, materials science and transportation systems.
On the way home I had to make a detour of almost a mile and then spend 20 minutes topping up the batteries to ensure I has ample range to get home. What with?
Filthy coal power? ‘Natural’ gas power? Imported nuclear power?
No, a bloody blot on the landscape, a ridiculous 'they don't work!’(™ Daily Express) wind turbine outside Stroud in Gloucestershire. This particular monstrosity, among other things, feeds the rapid charger pictured. So I drove 196 miles using the sun and wind as fuel. Nothing else.
Okay, so scream and shout and stamp your feet and bellow about the carbon footprint of the manufacture of car, solar panel and wind turbine. I will lightly tap my stocking foot back and gently whisper, the carbon footprint of the car when it’s made, the oil well, the oil tanker travelling around the ocean (burning the dirtiest oil we can produce) the carbon footprint of the oil refinery, the electricity used to refine it, the carbon emitted to transport said fuel to the gas/petrol station and finally the one tiny part of this massive impact that we actually acknowledge, the CO2 output from the tailpipe/ exhaust.
196 miles producing zero CO2, it’s not common, it’s not always convenient, but it is becoming increasingly possible.