Tuesday
Jan132015

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.

 

 

Thursday
Dec112014

Nissan seem happy

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

NISSAN LEAF OWNERS SAY THEY WILL NEVER BUY CONVENTIONALLY-POWERED CARS AGAIN

  • 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.

Monday
Dec082014

It's Hardly News.

 I don't wish to come across smug and knowing, but the many unpleasant effects of tailpipe emissions aren't exactly news, are they?
When I first visited Los Angeles in the mid 1980's during its period of bearing the 'most polluted city in the world' moniker, there was a great deal of talk about local area pollution and the dire effect this toxic smog had particularly on the old and very young.

On a bad day in LA you could barely see or breath, this pollution was anything but subtle.
20 years of legislation by the Californian government and in particular the California Air Resource Board, (CARB) encouraged the introduction of things like unleaded petrol, catalytic converters and of course hybrid and electric cars.
Now it's in the news again, like the fact that tens of thousands of diesel cars in London being a bad thing is a sudden shock to everyone.
In a recent BBC report it was stated that "...traffic is responsible for 42% of carbon monoxide, 46% of nitrogen oxides and 26% of particulate matter pollution."
Not sure what that means?
Try cycling around London with an air filter face mask and have a look at the filter after a half hour pedal. It's properly black. I first noticed that in about 1979.
So, the sooner we get rid of all diesel taxis, busses, trucks, vans and cars the better.
'But,' say the fossil defenders, 'that could have a huge negative effect on the economy.'
I would like to suggest that it could have a huge beneficial effect on our economy and indeed cut down on the annual estimate of 29,000 deaths that are as a direct result of traffic related air pollution.

 

Wednesday
Dec032014

A Little Out of My Depth

Last night I took part in a lively and fascinating debate in London organised by Ecoconnect and hosted by BDO LLP .

I was invited to attend by a delightful man called Michael Ware.

Long time readers of this blog with better memories than me may find this description surprising, Michael and I had a little spat over an article he wrote and the response I posted on here back in 2013.

But that’s all in the past, I was invited to join a panel of genuinely distinguished guests.

Chaired by the urbane and charming Tom Heap who is the Rural Affairs Editor at the BBC, the panel was made up of Chris Huhne who was a Liberal Democrat MP and until fairly recently Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change.

Then there was the previously mentioned Michael Ware, next to him Matt Ridley who is a conservative member of the House of Lords and a highly intelligent and subtle critic of climate change policies, and indeed the very notion of climate change as a scientific reality.

Oh yes, and then there’s that old bloke off the telly, that numptie who drives around in electric cars and drones on about renewable energy.

So I was a little nervous, the audience was made up of people who work in the renewable energy sector, some journalists and a quite a large number of people who work in the investment trade.

Many of the topics were well above my pay grade, what should governments do about subsidies to the renewable energy sector, how do we address the issue of intelligent demand response, grid balancing, the increase in coal use since Germany steered away from nuclear.

All fascinating but for me, challenging stuff.

I’m not going to lie, I held my numptie flag high.

I couldn’t begin to argue with such intellectual luminaries as Matt Ridley, Michael Ware and Chris Huhne.

So I tried to argue the very fundamentals. The notion of genuinely long term planning, the notion that the longer we are reliant on fossil fuels, the more vulnerable we are to the vagaries of international crisis and market speculation. The very airy-fairy notion that as the human race, we should aim towards the end of burning stuff to quite the same degree we do now. The fact that the idea of climate change has spurred incredible technological innovation in the last 20 years. You know, the usual.

Chris Huhne’s grasp of the realities of renewables, the challenges they face both technological and political was encyclopedic, he could counter the rather childish claims of Matt Ridley with his own set of facts and figures.

I just got a bit shouty which is always self defeating.

However, it was the spin on climate change denial that Matt Ridley came out with that was fascinating. He’s not denying that increased man made CO2 is having an effect on the climate, just that ‘it might not be a bad thing and if we spent the money on protecting ourselves and adapting to this change then we can go on extracting and burning without a second thought.’

That isn’t a direct quote, but believe me that’s the gist.

Just for the record, Matt Ridley is without question a brilliant scientist, successful author of such books as The Rational Optimist, Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters and many others. He’s a hereditary peer who went to Eton and Oxford.

Okay, and he was Chairman of Northern Rock at the time the bank that went seriously and disastrously pear shaped a few years ago but let’s brush over that.

He is more importantly an advisor to The Global Warming Policy Foundation that was set up by Nigella Lawson’s dad, Nigel.

Their shtick is that we are wasting money trying to mitigate the impacts we’ve been making for the past 150 years, these ideas are very carefully couched and can seem at a glance to be quite a reasonable response to the sometimes mildly hysterical warnings coming out of the IPCC.

However, the slightest nudge reveals their true colours, terms such as ‘ugly stupid wind turbines,’ ‘ridiculous ugly solar panels’ and ‘electric cars powered by coal.’

He used all those terms last night.

But best of all coming from someone with such a supremely privileged background as Matt Ridley, ‘poor people who have to pay more for their electricity to subsidies middle class people’s guilt who can afford electric cars and solar panels.’

No mention of the colossal profits his pals in the large corporate energy conglomerates make each day, no mention of the massive disparity between the wholesale price of electricity and the massively higher rates we pay to keep our lights on.

No suggestion that a change in the way we produce electricity could possibly, just maybe affect the entrenched position of supreme power his mates in the corporations, and their intimate relationship with the current government enjoy.

Of course, my main regret is that I didn’t have the intellectual capacity to deliver these slightly better thought out responses to his arrogant nonsense last night.

I was, I’m afraid to admit, just a slightly befuddled but possibly self aware old hippie having the occasional rant.

Thursday
Sep252014

But it's all so complicated!

I posted this picture on Twitter the other day which caused a bit of a flutter.

It’s a still taken by someone during the shoot of a new series of Top Gear.

I was impressed that the old men in jeans are even attempting to use an electric car, so the initial view of this picture is great.

Big Jezza’s seen the light…… sort of.

For a start the BMW i8, the car in the picture, is amazing, fast and made of the future. It also has a petrol engine and a fairly limited electric only range.

It’s a plug in hybrid £100,000 supercar and that’s fine and dandy.

I think it’s fantastic and much better than an old school massive engine in two-seater supercar.

However there’s a couple of things in the picture that give the impression that all is not 100% hunky dory in the brave new Top Gear change of mindset regarding electric cars.

The first is the position the car is parked in.

The charge port on the i8 is on the passenger side, there are two parking spaces for electric cars at this location, if he’d parked in the other one the cable running from the charger wouldn’t have to be stretched over the bonnet to look all awkward and ungainly.

If he had reversed in, as you would in a Tesla Model S, the same lack of cable stretch would apply.

You would only park in this position to ‘make a point’ that it’s a bit silly to plug a car in.

Sure, some people stop with their filler cap on the far side from the petrol/diesel pump, we’ve all done it, a couple of times.

Any normal human being who is just using the car would gather that instantly and move the car to the other bay, then the cable would just reach with no problem.

But this is Jezza, I suppose he has to make it look awkward.

The second and far more important point is the charger he’s using belongs to Ecotricity and it’s specifically designed as a rapid charger.

It can charge my Leaf from close to empty to 80% in under 30 minutes.

But the Leaf is designed to take this fast charge, the BMW i8 is not.

The battery in my Leaf has a capacity of 24-kilowatt hours, the battery in the BMW i8 has a capacity of 7.2 kilowatt hours.

If you plug the i8 into a 32-amp domestic charge socket it will take about 3 hours to fill.

If you don’t ever charge the battery the car still works, regenerative braking and indeed the amazing 3-cylinder petrol engine can charge the battery so if you’re not stopping somewhere for more than a couple of hours it’s not really worth clogging up a rapid charger.

It will take a charge from the Ecotricity system but only at the same rate you’d get from a 32 amp charger at home.

Not that an inconsequential thing like a fact should get in the way of good telly, so stretch that cable, moan about how complicated it is to understand and make sure another couple of million people don’t understand how electric cars and plug in hybrids work.

Job done, the fossil fuel companies can sit back and relax as further development and understanding has been held back for another few years.

After all, that’s his job isn’t it?