With all the hype over recent announcements about Electric Vehicles I wonder if we are maybe missing something important
it is a paradox the “Green” world would like us to ignore but switching to Electric Vehicles (EV for short) may actually result in dirtier air as the demand for electricity to charge said vehicles has to be generated somehow. Despite our best efforts much of our electricity is still generated by Natural Gas (NG) and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future.
Now some may claim the above article is biased as it comes from WorldOil.com but the evidence is there for all to see. I merely share it as a balance to some of the “green” mythinformation that gets bounced around.
The fact is that the UK is perilously close to being unable to generate enough power at times of maximum demand today. If we increase demand through rapid uptake of EVs then there is a very high likelihood that the lights will go out. 52 Terawatt-hours of electricity is a massive amount! Hinkley C is specified to produce 3.2 Gigawatts, the new solar farm in Moray 20 Megawatts. So I hope dear reader you can see how difficult it will be to generate this level of supply quickly and reliably as people get home from work and plug their car in for the next day's journey. To put it into some kind of perspective: my average electricity usage per day for a 4 bedroom, well insulated, LED lit home in the NW Highlands is 6.5kw-hrs. So 52 Terawatt-hours is the electricity demand of 8 billion homes!!!
Add in the electrification of various train lines that is planned and the additional High Voltage demand that will place on the infrastructure and you start to see the problem with trying to do this all without burning stuff (and I'll include Nuclear in that statement).
So are we barking up the wrong tree with Electric Vehicles? Especially if it means having to burn more just to provide the power to recharge them every evening.
Do we need to look at alternatives to private, single user vehicles (by that I mean your average car that seats 4 to 5 having a single occupant)? Could an Uber style autonomous, community run, pod scheme in our cities be a better alternative? Could better designed towns and cities with more emphasis placed on amenities within walking distance of residential areas so we don't need cars result in cleaner, greener urban areas? Do we need to green up our towns and cities with more trees and plants? Roof top and vertical gardens, window boxes and hanging baskets, road side planters? All will help to clean up the air we breathe in urban environments Are we wasting resources to produce batteries for private vehicles that could be better used to store domestic and light industrial power to smooth out the vagaries of renewable generation? Do we seriously have to look at how much energy we waste every single day
If the UK could reduce energy wastage by 10% that would be a Hinkley C generator we don't need!
Is energy simply too damn cheap? Is there any incentive to actually save energy when a unit (kw-hr) of electricity costs as little as 10 pence on some tariffs? I actually pay 17.6p per unit but I'm on a single fuel tariff.
Do we need to look at ways of reducing passenger miles? Hands up how many readers travel to work every single day just to sit behind a desk staring at a computer screen then travel all the way home again in the evening? Hands up how many of us have high speed or ultra high speed internet but only use it for streaming Netflix? Hands up how many of us would like to work from home 1 or 2 days a week, logging into the work server remotely to do the work we normally sit behind a desk doing having spent an hour or more travelling to an office to do? Come on be honest we'd all like to do that so why the heck aren't we?
Should we be looking at re-vitalising the bubble car? Yes I know originally they were death traps on 3 wheels but with modern materials and better design a compact, 2 person, 3 wheeler (2 at the front for better stability) would not only be more efficient but also free up a lot of space on the roads. I quite like the idea of running about town in a quiet, quick modern version of a Messerschmidt bubble car as I think they are kind of quirky. Quick whizz to the supermarket, throw the shopping in the back, blast over to the leisure centre for a swim, zip home, maybe plug it back in to domestic solar panels or wind generator to charge up for the evening or next day. Who needs 300km range? Could we look into different liquid fuels to replace petroleum? Diesel is dead for private vehicles so let us all just forget about that but modern petrol engines have come a long way in terms of their efficiency and power to weight ratios, could this be improved still further?. Perhaps the petrol (or liquid fuel) hybrid engines should still have a part to play in our transport mix for some time to come, especially if the hybrid part has a minimum range of 100km and 100km/hr before the liquid fuel engine starts to come into play (ie no more calling a Porsche with a small battery a hybrid!). Add in a solar panel roof to top up the battery part when it is sitting idle and perhaps we have a solution to the problem of power generation, limited range and help clean up the air.
I don't know the answers so I'm throwing these out there to spark debate and arguments so that perhaps we can come up with a better idea than having to build 100 Hinkley C's or cover the entire landscape in wind turbines or solar panels just to power private electric vehicles.Keiron