Electric cars

November 24, 2008

I see Australia is the latest country to start the switch to electric cars and wean its population off dependence on oil.

It follows Denmark and Israel’s lead.

New Zealand has already clinched a deal with Mitsubishi for a fleet of electric cars to be introduced in 2009. And in Japan, Japan Post is replacing its vehicles with electric equivalents.

In England, London has already been at the forefront of electric car usage and Boris Johnston has given a grant for the scheme to be extended across the boroughs of the city.

Now Brighton and Hove are planning a similar system. They successfully secured a £2.2 million grant from the EU for their project. Their 10 charging points will cost £30 000 altogether or £3000 each, quite a bit cheaper than the London counterparts.

The Australian model will be powered by renewable energy. The recharging stations will be powered by wind turbines.

Project Better Place will raise $1 billion to provide 250 000 recharging stations in the east of the country.

This works out at $4000 per recharging station.

Thats a lot cheaper than the £7000 it takes to install a recharging station in London, but I guess the price difference is down to the sheer massive scale of the Australian project.

The similar Danish system is also run by wind turbines. Around 20% of Denmark’s electricity production comes from wind, but the fact that the car batteries are traded in to charge – and they store electricity from the grid – with a number of batteries charging at any one time means that wind power can provide base load even when the wind is not blowing.

In fact, 2 million electric cars in circulation would provide Denmark with a standby capacity of electricity over 5 times its needs.

Project Better Place are in discussion with another 30 countries keen to implement the system. The mayor of San Francisco wants electric cars there.

The same company has already done the same in Israel.

Norway has about 50 recharging stations, but plans to have 400 on the go by 2011. The Norwegian Car company Think currently makes around 10 000 electric cars a year and can’t up with demand but does plan to open new factories to increase production.

Not to be left behind the Swedish Government are planning to provide a network of recharging stations across the country. It plans to be oil-independent by 2020.

The Finns seem to have taken a different approach. They have started a scheme where they convert your existing car to electric using lithium ion batteries. They claim that the top speed of your car will be a little less but the acceleration of the car will be better.

Even the Icelanders – slated by new Secretary of State for Scotland Jim Murphy as being in an ‘Arc of Insolvency’ – have just shook hands on a deal with Mitsubishi to fleet test their electric cars in the country in 2009, similar to the New Zealand deal.

Another country in Murphy’s ‘Arc of Insolvency’, Ireland, will shortly announce plans to have 10% of all its cars powered by electricity by 2020. Project Better Place are already in talks with the Irish Government. Its predicted around 50 000 jobs could be created in Ireland with the establishment of such eco-friendly policies.

So much for the environmentally aware Scandanavians and the forward thinking Irish in their Arc of Prosperity you might say. What about Scotland?

Until recently Scotland had only one electric car. That was a G-Wiz, the electric car much used in London, with a slightly dodgy safety record. It also had only one public recharging station, in the Braehead Shopping Centre.

Clydebank Housing Association has provided electric cars for its tenants at Radnor Park. They are recharged at the local power station that provides electricity for the flats.

Its been funded by a £37 000 Community Scotland grant.

The Department of Transport is also planning to pilot a ‘green van’ scheme in various locations in England from Newcastle, Gateshead, and Liverpool to Leeds and Coventry. In Scotland only Glasgow has been selected.

James May, of BBC’s Top Gear, is not a fan of the Westminster Government’s ‘green transport’ policy:

‘People think it’s about style or performance, but it’s down to the science. There has to be a hydrogen infrastructure in place to provide the energy to make electric vehicles work properly. We are nowhere near that point.’

Far from ‘kick-starting’ the revolution, May says the Government is simply ‘window-dressing’. ‘There’s a feeble bit of Congestion Charge relief if your drive an electric vehicle. This is no more a Green-vehicle strategy than my cat,’ he says.

Newer electric cars like the Smart Fortwo Electric can plug into a mains socket, has a top speed of 70 mph and can travel for 75 miles without a recharge.

The new Tesla Roadster is an electric sports car, assembled by Lotus. It can do 0 – 60 in 3.9 seconds and can travel 244 miles on a single charge of its battery. Of course it does cost 99 000 euros or around £84 000.

Tesla Roadster

75% of Scots in a recent survey said they would consider changing to an alternative powered car if they became readily available.

The Scottish Government has planned a consultation exercise on electric cars this Autumn. But there are already calls for the SNP Government to try and get Project Better Place’s network in Scotland.

But if it doesn’t act soon Scotland could be the poor relation of Europe in electric car takeup.

Spain has announced a target of 1 million electric cars on its roads by 2014.

Germany is launching its own network of electric car recharging stations.

Portugal is also announcing its own network of recharging stations. It will build 1300 stations by 2011.

France has recently announced a $549 million investment in electric and hybrid cars.

With the SNP Government’s commitment to renewal energy surely the Danish model based on wind turbines is the way forward? The combination of providing much more base load than we need and have the rest exported, the reduction of carbon emissions and the prospect of being oil independent when the oil finally runs out must be the favourite way ahead.

Back to James May:

‘The wind blows, the waves roll, the sun shines. The moon in the sky plucks at the sea to makes the tides, and Tennyson’s wild cataract leaps in glory. And he wasn’t talking about an eye infection. All of this will go on for as long as there is a world, and we need convert only a very tiny amount of it to electricity to keep driving until the sun goes out.’

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Political falsehoods

June 9, 2008

Well it didn’t take long, did it?

Boris Johnson, the new London Mayor, famous for his political blunders, has stumbled into another one. He has just claimed that Londoners are “forking out for things in Scotland”.

It was said that during the London Mayoral campaign that the Conservative Party shielded Boris from the journalists and the public. Most of all they were protecting Boris from himself.

When Boris Johnston won the election, First Minister Alex Salmond wrote to him saying “If there are things that we can co-operate on, let’s co-operate.” One of these areas of co-operation would have been the planning of sporting events: London is hosting the Olympic Games in 2012, Glasgow is hosting the Commonwealth Games in 2014.

Boris Johnston’s views on Scotland have been well known before this outburst.

At the time of Alex Salmond’s letter to Mr. Johnston, the First Minister refused to be drawn in a war of words with the new Mayor. Instead he merely pointed out that originally the previous Mayor of London had also held similar inaccurate views on Scottish expenditure, before being shown of the true figures. “If Ken Livingstone can see the light in these matters, even Boris Johnson will come to realise the same thing.”

Before realising the truth, Ken Livingstone was quoted: “We need Crossrail to keep London’s economy ticking over so that we can continue to pay for the Scottish to live the lifestyle to which they are accustomed”.

On today’s outburst, it seems that it’s taking Boris Johnston just a wee while longer to get his head around the figures.

The SNP Westminster leader, Angus Robertson, no doubt felt exasperated by Mr. Johnston’s latest gaffe. “When Boris Johnson gets up in the morning, he should thank his lucky stars that Scottish oil revenues are keeping the London Treasury afloat. And at bedtime, he should express his gratitude to the rest of the country for the Lottery good causes money being diverted to fund the London Olympics.

“Now that Boris is elected, it’s time for him to get real. Public spending per head is higher in London than in Scotland. Even his predecessor, Ken Livingstone, eventually realised the error of his ways and accepted that Scotland subsidises the UK exchequer. Educating Boris in financial reality might prove more difficult.”

What is clear however with both these London Mayors is an initial misunderstanding of how much monies Scotland’s economy provides the Treasury.

These “Scotland is overly subsided” views are not only held by the two Mayors but by a section of the English public too.

Its not the case in Scotland where even the unionist politicans admit that an Independent Scotland is financially viable and well capable of looking after themselves.

So the question is, why does that view persist in England? It does the idea of the Union no good in England if Scotland is thought of as a subsidy junkie. In a recent poll 59% of English wanted Scotland to be independent.

I think the problem may come from the Westminster Government’s lack of direction.

If Gordon Brown claimed Scotland was a subsidy junkie, it would inflame English independence or at the very least the demand for an English Parliament, neither of which things he desires.

If Gordon Brown claimed Scotland more than paid its share, it gives backing to Scottish independence and loses Labour’s grip on Scotland, neither of which things he desires.

Hence able to say neither, he just wraps himself in a Union flag, and continually talks about Britishness. Hence the recent flawed proposal for a British Day.

North and south of the border no-one buys it. I mean, his favourite moment in sport was the England 2-0 football victory over Scotland in 1996? The anglification of the Prime Minister has been so rapid and zeal-like, the manner would impress David Koresh.

Thats why Boris is on firmer ground with “You’ve got Scottish MPs, the Prime Minister and Chancellor, who are treating the country in an inequitable way”.

Its certainly inequitable to Scotland anyway.

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