A change of viewpoint for this Bright Green Homes blog:
Alex is deep in running our green and ethical contracting company in this tough (carbon centric) economy and riding the ebb and flow of any normal business. Meanwhile I am winging along a bit easier these days, so I’m* going to take over the blog slot and also broaden the subject matter out a bit.[*Frances – the real brains of this operation – with a bit of sub-editing and the odd comment by Alex! -oh, ta: praise & blame!]
Lets see, making a list:
- Green Industry digging in
- Electric Car Experience
- Technology swings and roundabouts
- Future Shocks and Future Proofing
- Politics and Building
That should last us a couple of years, stuff as it arises along those lines, maybe more twitter than tome.
01 : EV, my new bit of kit
Well no, actually silent except for a gentle swish built in at low speeds to warn pedestrians, that’s my new car, and my latest leap into the dark to test out low-carbon living.
(..And pioneering what we hope will be the next addition to our fleet – a Bright Green zero emissions white van)
I’m proud to announce I have bought a Nissan Leaf: 100% electric vehicle, an ‘EV’, fuelled with a plug up it’s nose and no exhaust pipe. “Is it really green?” you sceptics are grumbling. I can hear you because there’s no engine noise and I’m cool to answer because the no-stress no-guilt driving makes me come all over zen.
No, of course it’s not entirely non polluting, non grid, non waste, or even non-oil because after all it does have moving metal bits, tyres, and runs over asphalt roads. However Nissan have done a pretty good job and I get the impression that they have worked hard on the sustainability concept to get as close as they can but still produce a respectable marketable car. It goes like a bat out of hell if you want it to, within speed limits of course.
The real, rather than stylised, streamlining (the quirky headlight shape is about sending air up and over the wing-mirrors I’m told), is essential to reduce wind friction and so reduce battery drain. And battery drain is what the car’s design is all about once the 5 people comfort and all safety stuff is on board. That battery, you quickly learn, is also what your driving style is going to be about from now on. Yet Nissan have managed to make that dull sounding objective into a real-life gaming app: the more efficiently you drive the more little Xmas trees you build on the dashboard, and the Carwings communication & info system (you can log out to stay private) tots up your score. And this months winner is .. A bloke in Sweden apparently. The official maximum range is 124 miles, though the average target to work to is 80 miles as you’ll not be driving on salt flats.
The biggest question mark over sustainability is of course: where do the Megawatts come from to charge that big battery living under the car mats? This is going to get pretty difficult if the UK starts pouring fracked gas onto our power grid – God forbid. Even now plugging into the grid means maybe plugging into coal and other CO2 producing energy sources. However, I have a domestic charger fixed to my house wall and our domestic supply is from Good Energy which supplies 100% renewable energy from sun, wind & rain. Best of all: on bright days I will be pulling some power directly from my own solar PV system.
Out on the road there are chargers all over the place, and all over Europe, but there’s a lot of development yet to take place as, softly softly, petrol stations are abandoned in favour of charging points. In the UK the clean energy supplier Ecotricity has been installing ‘rapid’ half-hour chargers over the motorway network, and some towns and cities made earlier efforts and have older ‘fast’ chargers by the roadside. Many of them provide the electricity for free, at least for now, but you need to get authorised on whatever company grid a charger belongs to. This is not as easy as the car salesmen make it sound, maybe because they charge their own cars at their showroom so it is indeed simple for them. More on this later.
In the meantime here’s my dashboard after driving some 8 miles round trip to my office: I left home with 86 miles of charge – see the big number, the most important info on the dash – and I got back with? well that’s when I took this photo, the counter has hardly moved and all those blue flashes equal a nice full battery.
. I only lost a mile of power because the computerised info balances up your driving habits, usual terrain, usual traffic factor etc to assess your likely range, which is a variable. If you’re proactive you can drop power back into the system when braking or creeping along in traffic, then your actual mileage doesn’t necessarily match up, and you can have some control over how much you deplete the battery. This becomes critical if you miscalculate and end up with not enough to get home, as I did in the pouring rain last week….. See next blog for the scary downsides!