Thursday
Oct312013

Fully Charged is Back!

Okay, so this is just a heads up 'teaser' but there will be a new series of Fully Charged on YouTube and iTunes starting very soon.

When I was driving I couldn't recall all the episodes I'd recorded, but here's a quick rundown of what's coming.

BMW i3

2013 Nissan Leaf

Land Rover Defender electric

Tesla Model S

VW XL1

Ford Focus Electric

Zero Motorbike

Drayson B12

Welsh Road Trip

Zero Carbon Cheese

Richard Noble Leaf speed

Electric Car Clubs

Electric Highway

Wind to Gas (snicker)

Stay Tuned, more soon

 

 

Thursday
Oct242013

“Hydrogen is so bullshit”

Once again the subject of hydrogen fuel cell cars is raising its head again. I’ve been involved in a couple of electric vehicle press events recently and journalists, who haven’t mentioned hydrogen cars for years, are suddenly asking about them again.

I used to get literally hundreds of tweets if I ever mentioned electric cars with the simple response ‘hydrogen is the future.’

Toyota are gearing up to launch a fuel cell car in the next year or so. I’m really looking forward to seeing it. If they actually start making them and they are even only mildly expensive, I for one will cheer, it shows that we can still make remarkable leaps in technological innovation.

Making fuel cell cars for anything even close to the cost of a traditional fossil burner is really, really difficult.

Way back in 2008, the lovely old men in jeans on Top Gear tested the Honda Clarity, a hydrogen fuel cell car that you couldn’t buy. They explained to us that unlike the Tesla Roadster which was just silly, hydrogen is the future. That’s what made this particular episode stand out as uniquely rubbish.

The question has to be asked, why would they have done that? What editorial decision was made back then to denigrate a universally admired battery car and contrast it with a fuel cell car?

Top Gear the TV show is funded by the BBC through the TV license.

Top Gear Live, the global series of massive, stadium events is sponsored by Shell.

Don’t be surprised, I mean it’s a show about cars sponsored by a fuel company and there is nothing wrong, covert or even awkward about that.

But the people most keen to promote and develop hydrogen fuel cells as an alternative to battery electric cars, the fossil fuel suppliers. Why?

Because they supply 95% of commercially available hydrogen, they extract it from ‘natural gas’ as part of the refining process.

Again, nothing wrong with that, it’s much better than all the other automotive fuels they produce, but it is, essentially at the moment, a fossil fuel.

Still nothing wrong with that, it means the fossil companies can still supply fuel that you have to buy at their outlets, you can’t make your own hydrogen at home. Okay, you can… but it’s a fairly chunky investment and enormously inefficient.

I drove the Honda Clarity in 2009, it’s a brilliant car, in fact one of the nicest cars I’ve ever driven. Smooth, quiet, powerful and all that came out of the diminutive tail pipe was water vapor.

It had a massive hydrogen tank in the boot (trunk) and an equally massive lithium-ion battery pack underneath the tank. Yes, a very big battery which, strangely was not mentioned on TG. It needed the battery to back up the power from the hydrogen fuel cell.

But wait, you can’t buy this car because it cost well over $2 million, also not mentioned on TG. $2 million is the estimate made by engineers in the automotive business.

Of course it was expensive, it was a test vehicle and Honda produced less than 100 and we don’t hear much about it now. But I predict that we will start hearing more and more about hydrogen, because it is the future, if you run a global fossil corporation, it’s almost the only future as more and more cities around the world continue to either introduce or tighten emission levels due to local area tail pipe pollution.

So this week during a presentation in Germany, CEO of Tesla cars Elon Musk, made the casual statement ‘hydrogen is so bullshit’ when opening a service centre for the ground breaking Model S battery electric car.

He said ‘it’s just marketing’ which is kind of accurate. If your corporation produces millions of traditionally powered fossil burners a year but you are sensing a change in public attitudes about cars that pump out carcinogenic particulates, you need to do something to reassure your customers.

“Yes, this diesel does produce CO2 and particulates a bit but don’t worry, we’ll soon be selling hydrogen fuel cell cars, hydrogen is the future.’

Since 1972 when I first heard the term hydrogen is the future I have been waiting. I'm not even mentioning things like infrastructure, the various methods of producing hydrogen, the energy costs associated with splitting water etc etc.

I've been waiting since 1972 and I’m pretty damn certain I’ll be waiting for a long while yet and in the meantime we are producing record numbers of fossil burning cars.

So I’m going to say this. It’s very simple. Batteries are the future.

 

Friday
Sep272013

A Refreshing Reminder

(edited Saturday 28th)
I got a Tweet yesterday from @pencilbloke with a link to an article in the ever well balanced Spectator written by a British corporate financial specialist with a focus on renewable energy investment, and not as I wrongly suggested, the Australian journalist Michael Ware. 
This was a crass and stupid error on my part, a tiny bit of journalistic digging would have shown me the facts.
That said, I feel what I originally stated still stands.
The correct Mr Ware is of course a member of the British middle class and comes from a very privileged and comfortable part of the world and one can assume from his role in the financial sector, he's got a few quid.
Why do I need to mention that? 
Because his furious rant really harps on about the stupidity, self-aggrandising and hypocritical nature of middle class people who... wait for it... drive electric cars.
Oh yawn. But wait, apparently he's a very keen proponent of renewable energy and tweets negative comments about the waste of energy in fossil burning cars. And yet he comes up with some fairly limp, crass, class based criticism of electric cars.
Mr Ware is nothing if not determined and wait, he’s got a new spin.
His wife’s ‘friend’ can’t afford an electric car and is a low paid worker paying tax and a larger electricity bill because Mr Ware’s very well paid ‘friend’ uses an electric car and charges it on a public charge post and doesn’t pay for the electricity.
Okay, good one. If we stretch our credulity to believe any of these ‘friends’ actually exist and a very wealthy man in Putney has an electric car but nowhere off the street to park it so he uses public charging posts of which there are precious few and always charges his car using such an arrangement, then without question he is very unusual.
That’s for starters, 99% of electric car owners charge their cars at home and pay for the electricity themselves, but hey, let’s not get bogged down in silly old facts.
What really annoys Mr Ware is ‘middle class’ people drive electric cars because they think they're ‘being green’ (not true but never mind) and of course (start the Clarksonian screaming) electric cars are dirtier than a fossil burners because...wait for it....  they have to carry a big battery....!
Yes, that's it, its not a misquote, they have to carry a big battery. 
Sigh.
Then some more waffle about physics proving beyond doubt that Mr Ware was not paying much attention in science at School and then…. wait for it… the electricity is generated from burning fossils.
Snore.
He then whines on like a spoilt kid about middle class people in Putney who drink wine and bottled water and stamps his little feet because ‘they’re so hypocritical’ thinking they are ‘being green’ by driving a massively heavy, inefficient, bloated and pointless electric car.
As every reader of the Spectator knows, electric cars are nowhere near as sensible as a fat Audi SUV parked half on the pavement in Putney because it’s too wide for our ancient streets, or indeed driving a 3 ton Range Rover down to the shops to pick up the papers.
I haven’t read a larger pile of misinformed, deliberately incorrect trash like this for a while, I found it rather refreshing that someone could still be bothered to rake up these tired old, 100% refuted arguments.
Interestingly I don’t feel smug driving an electric car, I feel guilty because it’s so much cheaper to run and I don’t have to worry about stopping at a garage and paying a massive amount of money to refuel it knowing a proportion of that money goes towards lobbying the government, maintaining the most powerful corporations on the planet and shoring up the most repressive, homophobic, medieval regimes on the planet.
You carry on Mr Ware, do not, for a moment look at the bigger picture, do not consider the 6,500 gigawatt hours of electricity a year the UK oil refining industry uses (figures from UN data statistics division) or any of the other myriad facts that slightly undermine every line of your tragic waffle. 
I’m not posting a link to this tedious waffle, if you want to read it you can find it, but I have pinched the cartoon that went with it because it's quite funny.
Electric cars with the words 'green' and 'smug' written on the side and a riverside 'lithium mine' in the background, loads of them around Putney.
Very insightful and cutting.
Yours etc

A middle class, self-righteous, bottled water drinking electric car driver.


Wednesday
Sep112013

Water Wheel Micro Hydropower


I am going through the slow, painful but ultimately interesting process of researching the realistic prospect of installing a micro hydropower system in an old mill race about a mile from my home. At present there is nothing on the site except a very old mill race with water gushing through it. This water comes from a spring about a mile up the valley which never stops flowing, even in 1976! Yes, a local farmer told me that. So there is no existing mill equipment on the site, just a mill pond and a large drop of over 3 meters from the pond to the outflow, hence the idea of the overshoot wheel in the illustration. 
The company I'm dealing with are suggesting an overshot waterwheel design, the location is remote and maintenance needs to be kept to a minimum. 


This sort of design requires no debris grill or fish screen. 
It's not a cheap system to install however once it's there it churns out electricity for next to nothing.
I am funding the assessment myself and  will eventually present the findings to the village, the land owners, farmers and many people in the village are interested.
One fact I've discovered in my research, there are over 10,000 such sites in the Southern UK alone, this is already existing mill sites, many dating back to Anglo Saxon times. Not all of them would be suitable for such change of use, but the ones I've seen are producing serious amounts of electricity with minimum impact on their immediate environment.
Am I mad? Probably, but I will press on.

Tuesday
Jul162013

Just Imagine

I was inspired to do this after listening to a 'power company boss' on the BBC this morning, explaining about why energy prices are likely to rise, to 'meet the governments decarbonising targets.'
I admit now I was a little suspicious of the subtext of these statements, hence my stance on the whole sorry affair.
So I am toying with occasionally using this style of illustration in the new series of Fully Charged which will be launched very soon. 
My original thoughts were, 'oh, it won't take long, couple of drawings, bish bash bosh.'
Not quite true, it takes ages to draw, then realise the drawing is rubbish or not in the frame of the camera or I smudge a bit with my hand. 
I'd love some feedback obviously.
I know it will be mostly 'nuclear is the answer' or 'renewables can't possibly supply enough' or 'hydrogen is the answer.'
I'm sure you are right :-)

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