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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Blogging – a minority sport?

July 17, 2008

On a recent BBC television programme Holyrood Live, the chair of the Scottish Broadcasting Commission Blair Jenkins quoted figures they researched indicating the source of people’s news.

TV approx. 80 %
Newspapers approx 55 %
Radio approx 25 %
Internet approx 20 %

I would imagine these figures would be similar across the UK, with these provisios garned from Ofcom:-

Scotland has a 53 % takeup of broadband.
England has a 58 % takeup
Northern Ireland has a 52 % takeup
Wales has a 45 % takeup

The UK on average has a 57% takeup of broadband.

(Ofcom also breaks Scotland’s takeup down by region:-

Aberdeen 64%
Edinburgh, Highlands and Islands, Dundee 62%
Glasgow 32 % )

Glasgow’s figure is low because there is less takeup of PCs.

It is also clear that the figures in Glasgow, its largest city, are slowing down Scotland’s takeup figures as a whole! If Glasgow had a figure close to that of Edinburgh, Dundee or Aberdeen then Scotland would be higher than the UK average with a figure higher than 60 %.

Ofcom’s figures for the UK show are a slight improvement than the standard

http://www.ofcom.org.uk/research/cm/cmrnr08/scotland/

So it would be fair to say that the figures for the internet news mentioned in the Scottish Broadcasting Commission would probably be slightly higher in England, probably around 22 % closing in on radio. If reflected on Northern Ireland and Wales the internet news figure would be slighly lower.

What does all this mean for Scottish bloggers?

Well it really means that percentage-wise our Scottish audience figures will be low. How many internet users could be swayed by news or political blogs online in Glasgow East, say?

Glasgow has a 32% take up of broadband. Its probably less in Glasgow East, but Ofcom’s figures don’t break down by constituency.

So if we take the Glasgow East constituency of say 60000 (compensating for the lower broadband take-up and making the arithmetic slightly easier); only 1/3 of people there will have broadband.

That’s 20 000.

Now only a fifth of those use the internet for news.

That’s 4 000.

That’s a maximum amount of Glasgow East people that political bloggers and online newspapers etc can reach.

But compare that figure to the Daily Record.

Average daily circulation figure in Scotland around 360 000.
Population of Scotland about 5 million people.

Thats 7.2% of the population.

7.2% of 60 000 (roughly the Glasgow East electorate) is 4320.

A remarkably close figure to the internet figure.

The difference is that the news hungry internet people have a world of choice to get their news, and those reading the Daily Record are stuck with the Record’s view on everything from politics to big brother and the Old Firm.

What better reason could there be for extending the broadband take-up in Scotland?

Scotland has 53% broadband take-up. South Korea has 93 % broadband take-up.

South Korea has legislation making new house-builders put broadband in place as standard. What’s more its usually better and faster (mainly fibre-optic technology) and cheaper than the standard in Scotland.

Something to think about for Scotland.


Scotland’s rights, by Glasgow

June 27, 2008

The current explosion of pro-independence blogs can be attributed to a hostile media in Scotland – see Declarations of Independence for a summary.

But the history of publishing articles arguing for Scottish independence is not new. It did not start on the creation of the Scottish National Party (1934) or its forerunner The National Party of Scotland (1928). Not even with The Declaration of Arbroath (1320), although that was the first document to outline the modern idea of a nation state.

What about the Picts versus the Romans? Calgacus, the great warrior, addressing his Pictish soldiers: “They make a desert and they call it peace” and demanding that they fight for their land? Alas, this was written by a Roman, Tacitus, and we have no idea if its true. It may have been just his version of ‘bigging up’ his opponent to reflect greater glory on Rome. We will never know. In any case, Calgacus never intended his speech to be published, and Tacitus was hardly arguing the case for Scottish Independence. Whats more, the idea of a Scottish nation would only arise after the coronation of Kenneth MacAlpin in 843, when he became the King of Alba. (Alba was the forerunner of Scotland today.)

One definite place to look would be the Wars of Independence between Scotland and England. The 1290 Treaty of Northampton, insists on a written promise by the English king, Edward I, that Scotland would remain independent of England. This was at a time when Queen Margaret of Scotland, the maid of Norway, died in childhood leaving the Scottish throne open to competitors like the Bruce family, the Bailiol family and the Comyn family who all were relations of the young Queen.

Edward I as a neutral was asked to rule on the matter. That was a big mistake as he demanded that who he choose swore fealty to him and when his choice King John Bailiol of Scotland finally tried to stand up to him – for long enough he didn’t, and he was known as the Toom Tabard – the English king invaded Scotland and tried to take it by force, starting the Wars of Independence.

Obviously, the Scots who insisted that Scotland’s independence be signed off by Edward I were right to mistrust the English king. The treaty was written on the Scots side by several clerics, foremost among them Bishop Robert Wishart of Glasgow. So influential was he that Edward I consulted him on his proposed Governance of Scotland in 1305, when the English king thought he had control of Scotland.

He always supported Robert Bruce’s claim to the throne. When Bruce knifed Comyn in a church, the Glaswegian Bishop quicky absolved Robert and made it possible for Robert the Bruce to be crowned King of Scots in 1306.

Wishart was imprisoned in England and blinded, but was later released to Rome, before returning to Scotland after the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 finally secured Scotland’s freedom.

The 1290 Treaty of Northampton. Asserting Scotland’s rights to be free of England.

Chief architect, Robert Wishart, the Bishop of Glasgow.


Scottish broadband take-up

June 15, 2008

Scottish broadband take-up is the second highest in the UK at 53 %, behind England at 58 %, marginally ahead of Northern Ireland (52%) and significantly higher than Wales (45%).

Although low by comparison to other countries, this figure accurately reflects Scotland’s low population density in many areas. This is in no small part due to the previous Scottish Executive’s decision to try and push Scotland’s rural broadband infrastructure across to the remote Highlands and islands – a move which would have not been economically viable if left to market forces. Without that Scotland would probably have a broadband take-up comparable to Wales.

Due to the rural broadband push, around two-thirds (67%) of Scotland is connected to an unbundled exchange. This compares with a figure of 84% in England.

Thus the SNP have argued for a final push for broadband connectivity for exchanges. They managed to secure a £3.4 million grant from the European Union to begin this task in April 2008.

Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes commented: “I am pleased to endorse public funding that will allow residential and business users in Scotland, who still do not have access to affordable broadband services, to reap the full benefits of the knowledge-based economy.”

Hopefully with this initiative, broadband will reach Scotland’s remotest communities.

The effort taken by the previous Executive and the new Scottish Government means that the Highlands and Island have a broadband take-up at 62%; higher than the average broadband takeup in England. In rural areas of Scotland overall, the figure (59%) was comparable to England’s average.

The main cities of Scotland:- Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow showed variation. Three: Aberdeen, Dundee and Edinburgh had take-up rates of 62 – 64 %. Glasgow showed a take-up rate of only 32 % – that is a rate only slighly better than the Czech Republic (30 %) and other Eastern European countries in the recent ITIF report.

The Ofcom report explains the discrepancy by pointing out that only 44 % of Glasgow households own a laptop or PC, compared to a Scottish average of 64 %, and by low household incomes.

The Glasgow figure does not look like catching up with the rest of Scotland. Of those who do not have broadband in urban Scotland (48 % of the population) only 15 % said they were certain or fairly likely to get broadband in 2009. That would raise the Scottish urban take-up from 52 % in 2008 to 59 % in 2009.

If the same 15 % figure was applied to Glasgow its take-up would rise to 42 %, pretty much everyone who currently owns a PC in the city – so I’d suggest that the 15 % figure would be lower in Glasgow too. I don’t think we’ll see a glut of people in Glasgow buying PCs next year so that the 42 % will be reached.

We can see from this the low take-up rate in Glasgow is skewing Scotland’s broadband figures as a whole.

Take out the Glasgow figures and the Scottish broadband take-up rate would be about 62 %.

That is higher than anywhere else in the UK, and higher than Australia, and beginning to catch on Canada.

Its clear that Glasgow’s Eastern European-like broadband take-up rate is affecting our country.

Perhaps it’s not only the rural broadband push that we need to consider. Would the European Union give a grant for Glasgow?

That’s a sobering thought since Glasgow is hosting a major sporting event in 2014.

Lets look at the World leader in Broadband take-up, South Korea (93 %). Perhaps they can teach us lessons.

South Korea has put broadband in every residential and office block in the country. Large residential and office blocks have had fibre connections since 1997.

The speed of the broadband connections remain the fastest in the world. That has meant that the online gaming industry has exploded in growth in South Korea. Many gamers from around the world have settled in the country for that reason.

With this broadband backbone, South Korea is now the 13th richest country in the world by GDP. Its economy is the 4th largest in Asia.

At the start of the 21st century, the South Korean Government began a National IT project. It is now the world’s leading IT nation. It now has plans to become the world leader in robotics, and seeks to put a robot in every South Korean home by 2020.

By comparison Glasgow’s plans; putting wifi in Glasgow’s Underground trains and regular trains to Edinburgh – are just tinkering around the edges.

Until radical policies address the social problems of Glasgow, and housing is built with broadband as standard; Scotland will continue to lag on the IT superhighway hard shoulder.

The song was ‘Glasgow belongs to me.’ Without Broadband to open up the world’s possibilities that’s all a Glaswegian will get.

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