New Green Jack New Green Jack

34 responses to “More thoughts on ‘garages’ of the future – they won’t exist!”

    • chris

      Yes – roll on the day! The best thing I think we can achieve from a shift off oil is by reducing the size & concentration of wealth in the energy sector.

      What I’m getting at is partly the fact that a relatively small handful of oil companies (and countries) control most of the worlds oil supply & wealth. Not only that but we can not reasonably harvest oil or even large quantities of biofuels in our back gardens, so we are wholey reliant on and vulnerable to these few countries/companies. In my opinion this level of vast power is corrupting & inhibitive to progress on many wider issues.

      Although I don’t know for sure, I would suspect hydrogen could be monopolised too all be it, to a lesser extent. I presume afterall we won’t be allowed to manufacture hydrogen at home, due to the ‘Hindenburg’ factor!!? However I can generate electricity at home, there are already some gadgets on the market to do that – renewably or otherwise!

      I’m not against business in theory and I know vast wealth will always exist in energy, but I do think this level of global business is inherently very destructive.

    • Paul F

      Roll on the day indeed.

      I often remind people that say oil companies will always be around in some form of this fact……Not one of the big locomotive companies of the late 1800’s in the USA are still going.

      Everyone in the country thought these would be the big players in the automotive industry. Wrong.

      10 or even 5 years ago, if you asked someone who would be the big names in electric cars of the future, you would have been given GM and Ford as answers……….Wrong again, they are just not able to adapt fast enough and are full of self preserving employees who dont want change that will endanger their jobs.

      Thats why its new fresh companies that will be the leaders in not only the way we power our cars but also how we buy them, and who we buy them from.

      I can see a time when we buy power for our cars like we buy air time for phones, all in plans where you pay £??? a month for all you can eat power, just like data now on mobile networks. Pay as you go plans for people on lower incomes/infrequent users. Different power companies/charging points could offer competing deals just like the mobile networks do……..

    • nommo

      Ahhh good link Damon – at last I might soon get my home buffer/UPS to filter the ‘dirty’ grid and prepare for power cuts..!

    • bob

      Nice work on the vision of the future, that is now my desktop background.

      Much to the disgust and chagrin of alpha (oil) males and shareholders the world over – I think you may be right.

      I.C.E is soooo last century!

    • Jack

      The United States has a culture of automobile travel. In agriculture heavy areas, and areas away from major city centers, people often travel 50 miles each way to get to work. In the San Francisco Bay Area, people have been known to drive over 100 miles each way to get to work.

      To use existing highway infrastructure, US drivers will need to be better convinced that the battery will hold, especially on the way back.

      But then, hopefully rural areas and large metros will figure out how to better serve those people and connect hinterlands to the city without using Auto-Freeways.

      /rant/ re: Photo :: The poor station franchisee is left holding the bag dumped onto him by the sHell Oil, who won’t offer a dime to rehab the petrol-soaked lot into something more useful.

    • Jeff

      @ Jack
      I work in one of Ford’s Product Development centres in Europe and not too long ago we saw some of their hydrogen ICE and fuel cell prototypes. It appeared that in larger vehicles (i.e. American ones) they worked best as they didn’t encroach on cabin space. That was simply because the larger vehicles had more space either under the bonnet or even under the body itself.
      I think the same principle may also hold true for electric. There is more room for batteries, so the larger vehicles can hold more or bigger batteries, therefore bigger range! But I imagine it will use a lot of energy! To me it sounds wrong though, like I’m advocating big trucks for electric powertrains. What does anyone else think about this?

    • Phil

      I can see forecourts gradually becoming a thing of the past, especially if we have things like supermarket charging, but I’m not sure the oil industry will be overly bothered, as they make so little money at the pump they’d probably quite happily shut them down now if they could. In fact they already are, as forecourt numbers have been falling for years. Just been digging about on the UKPIA site, and in 1974 there were 74000 forecourts! Now there are less than 10000 and about 600 are being closed each year. That’s astounding really, especially when you consider the growth in car ownership over the same timescale. I wouldn’t start hailing the demise of the oilcos just yet mind you, as forecourts represent a very small part of their profit when compared to petrochemicals and plastics. We may well see a motoring paradigm shift, but I think we’re talking generations before oil ceases to be big business. I’ll admit to having a vested interest, as I work for an oil major, but it is interesting being on the inside looking out.

    • Stuart

      That’s very interesting Phil. What percentage of the 10,000 belong to the major supermarkets and presumably they account for a higher percantage of the gallonage.

      So if we are getting fuel from the supermarket and taking more than 20 mins to grab groceries to check-out it leaves enough time for the car to charge-up in the carpark. That’s unless (and preferable?) we stay at home and wait for the electric (Ocado) van to deliver.

      Hang on – that’s how we got our bread milk and basic groceries before we had supermarkets.

      Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose

    • Gwyn Jenkins

      Lets face it lads, all this talk about electric vehicles and hydrogen as a fuel to power vehicles requires a reliance on fossil fuels to produce the power in the first place. These fuels are only converted power carriers. Electricity when it arrives at our homes is the most polluting of any form of fuel we can use even more than oil or coal. This is due to the losses in transporting through conductors.
      The most efficient way of energy saving is insulating our homes. We can further reduce our reliance on fuel for transport by making lighter, more energy efficient cars. We have chosen not to do this to any great extent. This however would only serve to make us feel that we are at least trying to do something. The trouth is, because of man’s selfish attitude we are, i think, unlikely to make any difference to the reduction in global warming. Not long ago China (and India)had bicicles as their modes of transport, now they have cars and they are increasing at an exponential rate. In order to make any difference to the increase in global warming we need to develope alternative energy strategies and systems at a phenominal rate and globally. We need politicians and world leaders of trmendous strength, intelligence immagination and integrity to be able to facillitate this! Its just not going to happen, they are not there!
      For all that, Dale is doing a great job, if anything, this is the way forward but we need many more Dales in many more countries.

    • Chris

      I went to the London Motorshow yesterday. Saw quite a few EV’s. The Lightning, the Tesla, The Nice range, The Think, The Vectrix Scooter.

      The woman on the Smart EV stand said the Smart EV is due for release in 2010. I asked why it was taking so long. She said to me that they’re waiting for the charging infrastructure to be built and that the oil companies are very reluctant to put charging points in their stations.

      I told her that if this was true I knew of a renewable company called Ecotricity that are very enthusiastic about the electric car, and they should make a deal together!! ! Smart should be giving free Ecotricity for a year with each Smart EV??! How about it Dale?

    • Steve Thayne

      Hi Dale,

      I have driven an electric car (a Citroen Berlingo Electrique) as my only car for the last 6 years, for most of that time powered by Ecotricity electricity.

      It has a range of 60 miles and a top speed of 64 miles an hour, and runs on relatively old technology – Nickel Cadmium batteries.

      My commute is 34 miles for the round trip and I drive throughout the day for work. It is not uncommon for me to drive over a hundred miles in a day. At this point, the vehicle has done over 81000 miles from new.

      So while I would agree – for most people they would only need to recharge at home – for me I often need to choose elsewhere. Even so, it is not impossible, even without the current infrastructure. After all, there are many plug sockets in the country, and an ordinary plug socket and an extension lead is all you need.

      My employers (county council) have been persuaded to put in an external charging point for me that I use when in meetings. And on the rare occasions when I have not enough range, I am fortunate to have access to a petrol work car.

      Even long trips are not impossible, if you are prepared to take some time. I recently drove from Shropshire to fife in Scotland, charging up at friends, family, caravan sites and pubs!

      Within the next year or so I am planning on buying a Chinese electric car, the BYD F3e. It has a range of 170 miles, 80 mph speed and if you have access to a 3 phase output you can get a hundred plus miles of charge in ten minutes with their lithium batteries. It seems to retail at around £15000.

      Dale, is there any possibility of charging electric vehicles at your windturbine sites – can you get a 240 v output, or are there technical reasons why you couldn’t? And could you plan to have charging bays within future developments? It would certainly help with long journeys, and make for some good photo opportunities….:)

      There is a private company called Electromotive recently set up a charging network within shopping centres in major cities. There is also a community initiative I have found about and used through the Battery Vehicle Society, where members allow other members to charge at their homes.

      By the way, it is exciting that you have approval for the wind turbines at Lotus in Norfolk – am I right in thinking this is where the initial Tesla electric cars are being made? I know some of them are destine for California to be charged by PV – an overall inspiringingly low carbon footprint.

      Best Wishes, Steve Thayne.

    • Phil

      I really don’t want to get into an argument about petrol prices and margins, but it’s what I do for a living so I feel I can claim a degree of knowledge. Retail margins ARE small and it most definitely isn’t a core business. Exxon are selling their entire company owned forecourt business in the US, which they would not be doing were petrol retailing pure profit!

      Some data about the UK from the UKPIA Statistical Review 2008 :-

      Aggregated financial performance of UKPIA member companies

      The combined financial figures (based on published accounts) of the oil companies which are UKPIA members, show that over the last 5 years they averaged a return on their capital tied up in refining and marketing of about 7.5%, or equivalent to a profit of around 1p on every litre of fuel sold. This compares very poorly with other industries. For example, the average return on capital employed for all UK manufacturing companies over the same period was 9.3%.

      More data about the decline in forecourts :-

      Increases in crude prices push up costs at every step of the supply chain. You have increased demand from the petrochemicals sector, limited refining capacity, uncertainty about energy policy (witness the current biofuels debacle), higher transportation costs and ever more in depth reporting to Governmental bodies (DBERR, HMRC, RFA etc). There are also costs being passed on from the non-fuel side of forecourt retailing. Given more and more forecourts are now convenience stores, the grocery costs have a greater influence. The suppliers are passing on increased food prices to the retailers, which is also impacting margins.

      I fully support what Ecotricity are doing (I’m a customer), but the energy debate is not helped by factually incorrect assertions.


    • Peter Pannier

      “The amount of fuel we burn in our cars today is phenomenal, and switching this energy load onto the grid will add massively to the amount of renewables we need to build – but it’s a neat enough way to deal with the twin problems of how we power our homes and our cars post oil. We’ll crunch some numbers on this later to see just how feasible it is.”

      phewee. there’s an understatement if ever i saw one. bring on the crunched numbers. seems pretty impossible to me in my head.

      More importantly, is it worth it?

      Rather than a world where people are expected to commute vast milages every day, and where the vast majority of journeys are under 5 miles – a journey that could easily be cycled – how about a world without cars. Without congestion, without 3000+ people killed on British roads each year, with communities centred around living streets not traffic hell, without all that smug machismo that sees these things as desirable and part of life.

      All this effort needs redirecting… we don’t need to save the car!

    • Evan

      @Dale – I am very pleased to hear that you will consider installing charging points. I think with a relatively small effort from someone “in the right place” we could massively improve the usefulness of existing and future EVs. The infrastructure is already there, we just need to get at it 🙂

      I too drive a Berlingo and am working on a longer range car – I sometimes use a fast (1 hour / 14kW) charger if I need to do a lot of miles in a day.

      I would be interested to hear about (or could help advise on) the technical details of your charging points.

    • Rustybkts

      Concerning the charging of EV’s away from home, it will be of interest to all that a new shopping centre in Leicester, UK has 100 charging points in the car park.
      As I am soon putting my Lotus Elise EV on the road I will test this out and report back.

    • steve

      Hi Dale,

      That is great news. Are you aware that there are government grants of between 40 and 65 per cent available towards the cost of installing charging points for electric vehicles?

    • Adi

      Hi guys..

      The idea that petrol stations will fade out is really unlikely because (apart from the car being as common as shoes to our mentality now) how will larger vehicles – machinery, buses , lorries etc be powered to reach remote places? EV’s can just about work on a car level but EVs become really inefficient on heavy vehicles.

      What is likley to happen in transport as with electricity provision is that there will be a package of solutions supplied by a variety of sources in the future.

      With a 10% EU biofuel commitment by 2020.. future filling stations are at least going to have fossil fuel and biofuel blended together. (Germany currently has over 1000 dedicated biofuel pumps but blending is more popular). Alongside the internal combustion engine – charging points may evolve too. {Even hydrogen filling points like the one I saw in Reykjavik may follow suit, though I suspect EV charge point will emerge before fuel cells}. Anyhow here’s an inpiring bit of news showing how the fuel verses fuel debate is turning into a “fuel AND fuel” debate. Just look at the amazing yield difference!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!:
      The Biodiesel 2020 study finds algae may hold the key to meeting large-scale, sustained feedstock shortages in the US, Europe and Asia. Using conservative estimates, algae can produce up to 10,000 gallons of biodiesel feedstock per surface acre per year vs soybeans at 48 gallons per acre and canola/rapeseed at 120 gallons per acre. Due to these factors, algae is attracting a great deal of interest and investment in the US, Europe and world-wide.

      Algae are the fastest-growing plants in the world. Like other plants, they use photosynthesis to harness sunlight and carbon dioxide. Among biofuels related projects, algae is commonly grown in two scenarios. The first is in ponds or lakes (both open and closed). The second type is grown in closed, translucent tubes or containers also called photo bioreactors. In both cases, energy is stored inside the cell as lipids (the source for oil) and carbohydrates, and can be converted into fuels such as biodiesel and ethanol.

      Biofuels (plants) -like wood which has always been used for fuel- are, in principle, all renewable and carbon neutral providing that which is harvested is regrown. The RTFO Regulation here in the UK secures that all is sustainably sourced since April 2008 but but more regulation is needed internationally. With Algae.. even these concerns may disappear. So future filling stations will probably cater for many kinds of refueling systems.



    • Peter Pannier

      Hang on Dale, you’ve got to allow for transmission losses if you’re comparing burning something in power stations to burning it in situ… so you’re not going to get three times more energy out surely? (still maybe more, plus benefits of less transportation of fuel but…) Surely you must be used to including transmission losses in your calculations, must have quite an impact, no?

    • Adi

      Hi Dale,

      Last century our emissions were at a sustainable level. I’d have to say the future of a modern world’s sustainability lies with applying modern technology to ensure that nutrient cycles Nitrogen, Carbon, Oxygen etc) maintain their natural balance (sustainable).. whilst achieving massively increased energy consumption compared to last century. Biofuels grown and managed responsibly have to be a part of the package of solutions for the future.



    • steve thayne

      Hi Dale,

      You’re probably aware of this already, but just in case. There is a new government initiative offering to meet the costs for businesses investing in lower carbon transport. This appears to include both the infrastructure – so charging stations for evs etc – as well as the vehicles themselves.

      Don’t know if Ecotricity has call for many company vehicles, but as you probably know the Smiths electric vans are now available with a 100 mile plus range and 70 mph, might look nice in ecotricity colours…;)