New Green Jack New Green Jack

40 responses to “Can the Grid take it?”

    • Simon

      Excellent post and some interesting figures.

      Best get busy building those wind turbines 🙂

      I look forward to hearing more news on your electric car project. Might even see you driving around Stroud in your electric car once its finished.

    • Ted Marynicz

      Oh dear. Real world reports on the Tesla say it is only achieving about 2.5 to 3 miles per kWh. My plans to buy one will have to be put on hold again.

    • Julian

      Though I don’t know for sure about the grid here, I know the US grid should already be able to support an pretty decent amount of electric vehicles via spare grid demand, since the DoE published a report somewhat to that effect

      Although the report refers to plug-in hybrids, seeing as it states that 70% of the existing U.S. light-duty vehicle fleet could be powered by existing off-peak electricity, and assumes more power-hungry vehicles, that should still be quite a lot of pure EVs.

    • James

      Great vision! Lets hope progressive ideas like this replace the greedy ones.

    • Chris

      This is a great post. It’s a common argument used to put down the electric car too which I have run into.

      So why is this so hard? Are we just making a meal out of a mole hill or what?! .. I’m sure our economy would be considerably more stable if we shook our reliance on this finite, largely imported resource.

    • Justin Noe

      Thought this might be of interest.
      Just seen this post on the Shelby supercars website. What the hell do they mean “several years between charge”!!

      Shrouded in mystery and secrecy, SSC has announced plans to unveil the next historical milestone – the Ultimate Aero EV (Electric Vehicle), the first 100% Green Supercar to achieve speeds never before seen. Engineering details are yet undisclosed while development continues at an uninterrupted pace. Despite months of speculation, SSC expects to roll out its first prototype in February 2009.

      “I think we can do it faster, leaner and cleaner than any other manufacturer” says Jerod Shelby, SSC Founder.

      Unlike other manufacturers’ models slated for delivery in the next decade, Shelby’s latest brainchild expects to be delivered as early as fourth quarter 2009. Other automakers have sacrificed aesthetics and performance in exchange for hybrid power plants, but the Ultimate Aero EV will deliver a pollution-free, engineering marvel with an exotic Supercar exterior. The drive train under development will feature a revolutionary power source allowing for extended time between charging intervals with the possibility of SERVERAL YEARS BETWEEN CHARGING. Powered by a 500 horsepower electric motor, the Ultimate Aero EV will have true supercar performance. Additionally, SSC is exploring the potential of a twin 500 horsepower electric power plant producing 1,000 horsepower in a 2 or 4 wheel drive configuration.
      Bring on the electric ubercar is what I say.

    • Peter Pannier

      Interesting figures, good at least to have some…

      You might have added that we’ll need less than what we use now, because the amount we travel now is ridiculous for lots of reasons, many of them connected to, but not directly environmental damage (ie, the ridiculousness of transporting food all round the country to be packaged in plastic, and then the ridiculousness of buying food from halfway around teh country/world, when it’s growing nearby)

      so theorectically, less than 12%…

      However (and I really can’t stress this enough):

      You still have to build the cars to replace all the ones we have now

      You still have to get rid of all the cars we have now

      You’re supporting an industry tied to the enormously environmentally damaging road and tire industries (and the not particularly lovely insurance industry)

      You’re supporting, rather than challenging the car-culture which is so damaging to our society in so many ways

      eg. greater distances, reduced localism, communities destroyed by traffic and cars, deaths and disabilities, rampant individualism/roadrage mentality

      And you’re giving macho nobs who couldn’t give a monkey’s about the environment the opportunity to greenwash themselves and make out like they’re nice guys…

      And even if it wasn’t for all this and electric cars were a solution, we’ve got 8 years to turn around our emissions, and probably less till peak oil is really biting, and the idea of new industries and manafacturing for a new infrastructure on this scale being remotely viable (and a priority compared to heating, lighting and food and essential needs support from electricity) is a joke.

      Here are three suggestions for better solutions we should be prioritising on transport:
      – travelling less and reducing the need to travel
      -using public transport and developing it to increase its efficiency, usefulness and environmental credentials
      -moving to bikes and walking wherever possible, and developing these modes to be more useful and attractive

      (electric help those areas is great, by the way)

      Why not spend energy making bikes and public transport attractive – it’s really not that hard a task. It’s not like riding a bike isn’t fun as well…

      And lots of people don’t think cars are fun – I for one think they’re generally a pain in the arse. I manage to live quite happily without one and so did the vast majority of the UK until a little over 50 years ago… So does quite a large portion still.. not to mention the rest of the world.

      It saddens me that so many passionate environmentalists get so distracted by dangerous techno-fixes just cos they’re shiny

      we’re supposed to be interested in protecting the environment, not just protecting our stupid opulent and unsustainable lifestyle choices

      electric cars are destined to remain a lifestyle accessory for the rich. for the rest of us, they’re just a (dangerous) distraction

    • mad architect

      this is an interesting “problem” and a great way of conceptualising the logistics of more and more electric filling stations. You concerns regarding the load on the grid are valid but it seems intuitive to carry those eco-objectives across the board and have the electricity generated by from solar or wind generation.

      btw great blog

    • Peter Pannier

      Thanks for thinking about it sensibly in your reply Dale. I’m glad you see this as a debate worth having… I still don’t think you understand what I’m saying though, and you keep falling back on this ‘the public won’t stand for too much hippyishness’.

      This argument has some truth, sure, but it’s funny hearing it from you because it so often comes from people totally opposed to the environmental agenda. I sort of agree with your sentiment (yes, we have to make solutions appeal in the mainstream, and that’s a hard battle), but you seem far more rabid than me… you think we couldn’t possibly promote bikes – it seems? Actually I would guess that far more emissions have been saved so far in the last few years by getting more people on bikes than have been by getting them into electric cars. Yes, this might change soon but… The success of BikeIt initiatives in schools, getting huge increases in kids cycling to school (because they want to, they don’t seem all that keen on going in a car, I doubt it would make much difference if it was electric), Sustrans in winning the public vote for those millions lately, the Velib bike hire scheme in Paris, the rise of cycling in London and the commitment of the mayors to it there… our experiences with Bicycology, all suggest that bikes can be mainstreamed, theat they are attractive to the mass of people (actually, the best evidence for this is to look at the number of car adverts that use bikes to sell the cars!)

      You seem a bit confused about car culture too. You agreed with my comment about reclaiming the streets from traffic etc, and I won’t go over my points about the ways that cars are bad not just because of their emissions… but you argue it’s a huge revolution to move to electric cars, one of mindset, somehow. It isn’t really. You don’t seem to understand the difference between social change, and technical change… a social revolution, and a technological revolution.

      So yes, your ideas would be revolutionary technically, technologically, infrastructure wise… a la the IT revolution

      But they won’t do much to change our mindset about how we travel, how far we travel, how we relate to the world (as in, a car separates you from the outside world – puts you in a bubble – in a way bikes don’t). They just say that all that stuff is fine, and we should keep going down that road… (ok, i’m fine with that pun…)

      You are supporting the car industry by suggesting that it can be reformed, you are thus making people think cars less planet-damaging than they are… “it’s ok, soon it won’t be a problem when electric cars come along” – faith placed in technology that may never arrive (you’re optimistic, fair enough, but like i’ve said, it seems incredibly amibitious technology wise). Plus the tire industry etc as I mentioned… (and the fact that if anyone can make this happen infrastructure wise it will be the car and oil companies, who will then be able to pretend they had our best interests at heart all along, even though they bear a lot of responsibility for the situation we find ourselves in)

      But it’s funny that you even claim it’s such a revolution of mindset. If it is, it will surely be just as unpalatable as bike, sandals, lentils etc… (and I think even fancy high performance electric cars will still be tainted with ‘hippy’ for a while, just because of people’s prejudices, and the way damaging industries promote them. And they will if they’re selling petrol cars and you’re trying to get their market share)

      You try to suggest that other ways of transporting ourselves than cars would form a “vision of the future that for many many people will be simply too bleak to comtemplate”. I think you are really really wrong here. I think you are drastically over-estimating how many people actually want to be driving everywhere/putting up with others doing so. If you look in the local papers around the country traffic congestion is usually a major complaint. People are sick of cars spoiling their local environments much more directly than they do the global environment. Electric cars can’t solve this problem… They don’t solve the problem of things being further away than they used to be because the world is being built for cars, not people. They don’t question the fact that most commuting is a ridulous ‘people swap’ with some people going one way, while others go another… And they can’t!

      You say my proposals aren’t at odds with yours, but it’s about priorities, you’ve picked the wrong one… the ‘opportunity cost’ is picking the right one! (like retro-fitting a double decker bus with fantastic electric technology, and working on how public transport can be make more attractive to the mass of people)

      You may think you’re going to attract the mass of public with your fancy car, but you will put off many many people, for whom such things appear what they are – middle class toys to reduce guilt and look good, not environmental solutions for the mass of people. Need I remind you that many of the ‘mass’ of people don’t own cars because the already can’t afford them, or are starting to struggle with rising costs (the price of travel is a huge issue in this country, right?) To which you are proposing even more expensive ones. You also ignore the fact that many of the ‘mass’ of people are put off by such macho interests as fast cars – just cos you like em doesn’t mean everyone else does… surely you realise this? Clarkson isn’t exactly everyone’s favourite TV celebrity is he? Fast Cars aren’t uncontroversial? it’s not just the carbon impact that’s the reason for this…

      Anyway, I could go on (as you’ve probably guessed), I’m sure you could too.

      Ultimately, it comes down to a simple problem…

      You think I have a “slightly rabid world view” so you can dismiss me. Fine. Good to know that the guy at the top of one of the country’s (world’s?) most significant green companies enjoys dismissing genuine greenies…

      I think you have a similar problem (a “slightly rabid worldview”), but you’re in charge of a large green company that forms people’s opinions far more than I can, and I think you need tomuch more seriously consider the impacts of projects such as this, and providing wind power for lotus to produce fossil-fueled cars, and wind power for sainsbury’s (whose model of food distribution is not going to survive into the future, and I would argue are clearly using you for greenwash, they have no genuine commitment to the environment), etc etc

      A bit of mainstreaming is fine, but too much, and you’re just greenwashing the status quo. You might get carbon reductions here and there, but you won’t get the real change we need.

      Happy considering…!

    • Chris

      Humans are curious and inquisitive beings Peter! We like to build, we like to innovate, we like to have fun, and we like to travel! … If you take all that away, what’s worth saving?! Sorry, defeatist I know! But true I think.

      I actually agree with all of your points. We need to travel less, we need to consume less (particularly when it comes to cars & unethical fossil fuels) and we need to improve public transport. But what you seem to be talking about is a total revolution of how we survive from day to day – our transport, our economy, our food supply chains, our communications, our govt., our consumption & leisure activities. Bicycles & public transport will never supply all our needs in our modern economy & way of life. You can’t run regular (mostly empty) transport links through more sparsely populated suburban and rural areas. Medium to Long distance public transport will always be particularly expensive and inconvenient. Some people will always need to travel at an instants notice on routes that aren’t serviced by public transport, with a few detours along the way! For some people it’s part of their job to travel in all manner of different directions and for some it’s part of their family life. I have an auntie with 4 kids, .. 1 in a primary school, 2 in a senior school, and 1 in a school for special needs. Public transport & bicycles won’t help her.

      Your (good) suggestion in my mind will only get us 50% of the way there. There’s 6 billion of us on earth and we’re past the point where just living on less will cut it. Add to that, half of this battle is about winning support, but you won’t win the necessary level of support for action on climate change if you’re only solution is to camp in a hut and survive on only egg, cheese & milk from the corner shop. (And lentils!! Can’t forget the lentils!) This picture is inhibitive to the ‘green brand’. It’s too easy for the capitalists on Fox News to break down and humiliate!! (See You Tube clips to understand what I mean!) I admire your ideals though, and if you really manage to live by what you believe, I admire you even more.

    • steve thayne

      Hi Dale,

      Good to have those figures.

      Are you familiar with the Chinese company BYD? They currently produce 30 per cent of the worlds mobile phone batteries, and have used this expertise to develop electric cars.

      As I understand it, they will retail at about £15000. With a range of 180 miles, speed of 80 mph, and the possibility to fast charge from 3 phase outputs giving 100 miles range from 10 minutes charging.

      They are currently anticipating selling in Europe by 2010. They have agreements with partners in Holland and Norway, but I have yet to see any mention of plans for the UK.

      How about this for a vison? Ecotricity branded BYD electric cars, sold with the promise of being able to get 100 miles worth of charge in ten minutes from the new turbines Ecotricity plan at motorway service stations.

      Just a thought 🙂


    • nommo

      Hmm.. this is probably the biggest hurdle that any kind of ‘pro-gaia’ organisation or individual has to face – not the climate change deniers, but dissent in our own ‘green’ camp… it has also spelt the end of many an idealist community…

      While there are people out there who are prepared to profit at any cost, including the future of the human race (and to a lesser extent the future of biodiversity and life itself), and are busy turning the argument into a polemic one – the greens are arguing about which green is really green, which green is the right/best/most righteous green and so on. Divide and conquer, fear uncertainty and doubt (and all those other industrial military tactics).

      A colleague of mine pointed out that this reminds him of a Monty Python sketch…

      “When I were tryin to save the planet from inevitable anthropogenic self-destruction back in the noughtys – I used to get up in the morning (not from bed – I didn’t have a bed – I slept on a cold floor!) and then didn’t put on any clothes (as the impact of the clothing industry is too massive) and didn’t have any breakfast (I didn’t even gather berries from the hedgerows – what would the birds and maggots eat?!) and then…”

      Well – you get the idea 😉

      Peter – some very very deep green people would criticise your for using a computer and supporting techno-culture, for using a bike when you could walk, and so on Ad infinitum, Ad nauseam…

      Like Ruskin said:

      “What we think, or what we know, or what we believe is, in the end, of little consequence. The only consequence is what we do.”

    • Damon Hart-Davis

      Dead right nommo: something that I have only understood recently is not to let the best be the enemy of the good, ie not doing a good job because you can’t do it quite perfectly is often stupid and indeed an excuse for inaction with worse effects.



    • steve thayne

      Hi Dale,

      No, they are Lithium (hence the 180 mile range off a single charge), but they have had had a huge staff on r and d for this, and my best understanding is that it is a version of the Lithium technology using Iron – this brings the price of the batteries down significantly which, as you will know, tends to be the biggest single cost in Electric cars using the Lithium technology. Their version of the lithium battery also allows the fast charge option, which I believe not all lithium batteries tolerate.

      The thing I find encouraging about this company is that when they showed their plug in hybrid at the Detorit motor show this year (range 60 miles as a pure electric, small engine kicks in to charge the batteries after this) all the feedback has been that the build quality looks good. This has not always been the case with Chinese made cars. One to watch.

    • James

      There is an American company called AC Propulsion who have already designed and tested a system that uses an EVs batteries to back up the grid, they call it V2G (vehicle to grid). They also do an EV power system that would be ideal for converting current road cars to electric rather than making new ones.

      Im afaraid to say that to stop me driving youll have to prise the keys from my cold dead hands but if you can get everyone else on bikes i will enjoy having the entire British road network to myself. Must say im very envious of the Lotus Elise EV, im looking forward to seeing its progress.

    • Peter Pannier

      Hey all,
      Apologies for delay in response. been busy.

      I think nommos comment is interesting. reminds me of a quote i used to start an essay i wrote a few years ago on the green movement:

      “After nearly everybody – heads of state and heads of corporations, believers in technology and believers in growth – has turned environmentalist, the conflicts in the future will not centre on who is or who is not an environmentalist, but on who stands for what kind of environmentalism ”
      Wolfgang Sachs, 1993

      i would argue that if we are going to keep this planet habitable and life on it pleasurable, then the green movement needs to be very careful about the choices it makes – and be very happy to have debates like this…. to be prepared to support actions people may not be comofortable with, but also to be very critical of paths that look like they may lead in the wrong direction. course this flows both ways, personally, i tend to think the deep greens are generally right. (and i agree with ruskin, it’s what we do that matters, but we need to be aware that we can do as much damage accdentally when we think we’re doing ‘good’ as when we’re consciously not doing so)

      your right wing tory thing is off the mark but i appreciate the metaphor. for me a better one is the german green party. to get elected they dropped their commitments to nuclear disarmament, have supported the deployment of german troops, and the repression of people campaigning against nuclear waste train transport and various other aspects that have left them little different to the mainstream parties. maybe you think those compromises were worth is to get elected… i think similarly the compromises the labour party made to get elected have meant it’s indistinguishable from the tories… i’d think we need to stick to our principles a fair bit at least.

      but yep, i use a computer and don’t walk everywhere… i grow more and more of my own food, i don’t eat animal products, i only walk or bike or use public transport, and i try to buy as much of my stuff as possible locally. i get electric from ecotricity and i’m looking into getting off grid. i’m never going to fly again unless i really really really really have to (can’t really imagine why i’d need to). and i’m prepared to risk a lot to prevent the government building new runways or coal fired power stations. and i’m intent on working on helping to relocalise the stroud economy through Transition Stroud, promote bikes through Bicyology and challenge environmentalists everywhere to think seriously about what we need to do and not take the easy ways out… that’s enough on my background to answer all those questions i think.

      as for your comments dale – you ay not have said that we cannot promote bikes but your continual attitude is that they are not for everyone, that we alienate people by promoting them etc, and most importantly, your’re not promoting them, you’re building an electric car, despite a bike being a greener transport choice.

      regards retrofitting – apologies for not congratulating you on this, but it’s the car i’m concerned with, not the method of making it. ok, so you save resources in it’s manafacture, but would a retrofitted electric fighter jet be more ethical?

      more importantly, why not use this retrofitting and electric technology for other vehicles? here’s a off the top of my head priority list:

      fire engines
      public busses
      long distance passenger coaches
      freight trains
      public trains
      3 or 4 wheeled bikes with load carrying capacity
      normal bikes with EV for hill help
      and eventually i would get to
      practical ‘vans’, ‘trucks’ and ‘cars’ for car clubs,
      practical ‘vans’, ‘trucks’ and ‘cars’ for business/public use,

      and all this would come way way way above a sports car. a retrofitted electric version of which just isn’t needed as part of our society. so if we’re trying to make drastic cuts, it’s one of the things we can maybe start to think about sacrificing?

      your power to the people comment is interesting given that you must know that people moving to ecotricity hasn’t necessarily meant they use less electric. they’re not necessarily more connected to it’s production. they may even see it similarly to offsetting, and use it as an excuse to over-use energy.

      i really can’t see people using cars less because they feel they’re cleaner. reading articles by people with priuses, they all boast of how far they can get per gallon and so how much they’ve been travelling.

      i guess i haven’t made clear a crucial aspect which is that by maintaining the number of cars on the road (or even increasing it) by promoting EVs, you are directly affecting efforts to increase cycling.

      this is an example of a area where two solutions can’t totally coexist. a ‘balance’ probably isn’t really possible. you can’t just say ‘i approve of promoting bike’ but i’m going to focus on Electric cars, because by doing so you affect bike promotion.

      first you add to the argument that bikes aren’t a realistic/practical solution – which they clearly often are (maybe not always but a lot more often than now)

      but more importantly, the main reason given by people that they don’t cycle more is the volume of car traffic. if you maintain or increase that, you make it less likely people will cycle.

      at root, that’s my issue.

      so you are supporting our car culture and be extension the car industry. i can’t genuinely believe you don’t see this, but as with much of this conversation, it would probably work better in person than via email. it’s the same way as your wind generators challenge gas and coal but don’t really challenge the way the power industry works. they change the way electricity is produced, but not the way it is delivered or used, or paid for. they don’t change our society’s relationship to electricity (though, yes, i admit, one day they may, if we were using all renewable energy, but it will be political arguments and action that make that possible, as much as your work as a company)

      as for the rabid comment, it certainly didn’t offend me, and neither do your middle class guilt or right wing tory ones. my usual reaction is to be suprised people would rather diss than get involved in the issues, and laugh at their failure to see their criticisms in themselves (hence my explanation that you’re as rabid as i am!)

      regards sainsbury’s, greenwash isn’t just about PR, it’s about whether you genuinely become green, or whether you do things to make yourselves believe you’re green without being so too. offsetting is like personal greenwashing, and i still feel that sainsbury’s are a business that will likely never be green – their model is just too far away from it, and they’ve done too much damage to redeem themselves – no matter how many wind turbines they build. so i wouldn’t work with them.

      same with coke. if you want to find out more about them look out for mark thomas’ book and forthcoming tour etc. i don’t know if you’ve heard that bill hicks thing where he talks about people doing advertising being off the artistic roll call forever.. i sort of feel similar about people who work with the worst multinationals in the world and the environmental roll call. i’m really struggling to keep seeing you on the good side! the damage that coke, sainsburys and lotus have done is so great that i’d leave it to them to sort themselves out or fall by the wayside in the future, us greenies shouldn’t be helping them save themselves, or make profits..

      anyway. all this is away from the main subject… cars:

      here’s a quote from Sir Herbert Manzoni – late City Engineer of Birmingham (he carved up the city to keep the traffic flowing), talking about the car

      “it is probably the most wasteful and uneconomic contrivance which has yet appeared among our personal possessions. The average passenger-load of motor cars in our streets is certainly less than 2 persons, and in terms of transportable load some 400 cubic feet of vehicle weighing over 1 ton is used to convey 4 cubic feet of humanity weighing about 2 hundredweight… The economic implication of this situation is ridiculous and I cannot believe is to be permanent”

      I’m sure those figures are out of date (perhaps you could furnish us with your estimates), but the principle is the same. Cars are a hugely inefficient means of moving people around. they are still almost always used by one person to travel a distance they didn’t use to have to (to shops or work that used to be closer), or don’t need to (because they could easily walk or cycle).

      Yes, they can be useful, but that’s why car clubs come in – for occasional use. personally owned sports car EVs that sit in garages or car parks for 90% of the time just don’t seem to be a priority to me, and i’m guessing, most other people.

      But maybe I’m just not the right person to explain car culture and it’s problems to you. and this debate is getting kinda tiring, I’m sure for you too (and anyway you’re committed, so from my point of view, what’s the point). But here are some further reading suggestions for you… I wouldn’t normally expect you to follow them up, but I have been impressed by your interest and you seem to follow up other links so here goes.

      That’ll be it from me on this I think. All the best with retrofitting that ambulance!

      Andre Gorz – The Social Ideology of the Motor Car

      Colin Ward – Freedom to Go – After the Motor Car
      Maybe I’ll put my copy in the Transition Library (in Stroud Library

      Ivan Illich – Energy, Equity & the Bicycle

      You could also try the World Carfree Network and it’s list of resources:

      Mappa Mundi – The Preposterous Green Views of the Motorist (you might have trouble finding this one, but i could drop a photocopy round the ecotricity offices if you’re still interested enough after the others)


    • Andy Pag

      Hi Dale.

      I think this project is great.

      Is the the total life carbon footprint and other non carbon-related environmental factors part of the decision making process that’s leading to your chosen solution?

      It’s so hard to balance all the ways in which our actions effect the environment. In particular I’m thinking about materials and energy used in battery production.

      Although battery technology is developing fast to increase the working characteristics; capacity:weight and capacity:volume ratios, I’m not aware of a concerted push to green up their manufacture.

      I’m planning a similar project; preparing a vehicle that emits a zero/minimal carbon footprint. But in the process of planning and converting it I find the project is repeatedly asking me to balance “local” (non-CO2) environmental issues, against the zero emissions goal.

      I’d be interested to hear what your thoughts are on this and what you’ve learnt from this project w.r.t. local v global environment.

      Good luck, can’t wait to see it.


    • James Nightingale

      Cars have been around for over 100 years, theres 37,000,000 of them on British roads alone, even if you could evoke a reaction from every car driver and make them want to give up their cars it would still take years to get rid of all them as well as thousands of tones of CO2 to destroy/recycle them.

      No matter what people want, cars are going to be around for another 100 years at least, one focus has to be to make those cars as efficent as possible or even better zero emmissions in order to reduce the damage they do in those 100 years.

      Its not goning to happen over night that people leave there cars in their driveways and cycle to work. There is a massive investment in this country, in terms of money and emmissons, in our roads, what would happen to those if there were no cars?

      Getting rid of cars also seems like going backwards, de-evolving, finding a cure for cancer and not using it, we should go forward and adapt what we have to be as enviromental and sustainable as possible, that goes for everything, not just cars. I believe that we will never see cars completly disapear from our roads, im not anti-bike, im just being realistic.

    • Damon Hart-Davis

      Hi Dale,

      Yes, it’s not obvious to me that even walking and cycling are *necessarily* more CO2-emission efficient than even an ICE car for some journeys. Not obvious either way: I need to see the sums.

      The human body may well have a lower conversion efficiency from its fuel (food) to work than a highly-engineered and appropriately-sized electric vehicle, *AND* human fuel has to be extremely carefully prepared and handled (eg stored, refrigerated, whatever) all of which has a carbon cost too.

      And thus a cyclist powered by beef is a very different gCO2/km machine to one powered by lentils, though the latter may have other emission problems! B^>

      So, Dale, I shall be very interested to see your numbers.



    • Peter Pannier

      I’m slightly dissappointed you didn’t respond more fully dale, but never mind. i’ll just have to assume you couldn’t actually come back to my ingenious arguments…. ;-0

      I’ll be intrigued by these numbers too Dale. Certainly diet is crucial… and also whether or not your bike is a new aluminium framed shipped from china or not. but the crucial difference is that food you eat to fuel you as a cyclist has the side-benefit of keeping you alive. and the cycling has side-benefits of being good exercise and placing you directly in your local environment. we actually have to eat, wheras we don’t *have* to travel about (in a theoretical world anyway).

      in the real world, yes we have to travel… but if people start making arguments like ‘we have these many cars, cars have been around for so long, so we can’t change anything’ then i have to ask why they environmentalists? do you have any hope for any change whatsoever? just about every trend we have points to environmental destruction.. if we don’t make some fairly radical breaks with the society with have… say for instance, if we swap to electric cars but don’t stop eating more and more animal products globally, don’t stop turning forest into farmland, don’t stop over-fishing… all these things are trends that have been emerging and getting worse, but we can’t just say ‘ah well, they must be essential, we’ll have to change the other things’, we’re – frankly – stuffed.

      anyway, dale you still seem to see me as bike vs car. that’s part of it (you still don’t see that promoting car use damages bike promotion), but my main argument rearding transport is that we must travel MUCH LESS generally. from my point of view, this leads to an argument that cars – of whatever kind – will become much less necessary. i’ll be very interested in your figures, but i really can’t see that even a retro-fit electric car (still with a battery and bits assembled from all over the world?), can trump a second hand bike being riden at a pace that requires little extra calorific input than normal everyday food supply, over short cycling distances (generally I’d say up to 10 miles a day) and an occasional bit of oil/brake blocks being changed… even if it can, as i’ve mentioned at length – it’s the societal impacts as much as the carbon ones that are important.


    • Clem

      I find this car project revolutionary and I admire you Dale for your actions that benefit all of us. Thankyou.

      I want radical changes too. There is so much to change, and the faster the better. But that can’t happen fast. Its got to be bit by bit.

      In todays society, we need cars. Cars create good things such has freedom and convenience – which society makes us want and need.

      To stop using cars we need a radical change in society, which will not happen fast. It never has in the past has it? It will take time.

      Bike is better (health + environment) but not adapted to today’s “developed countries” society – not on a nation wide basis. Whereas the car is. The proof is that most people use cars, even-though they are costly and damaging for the environment.

      The bike has its place, and so does the car. The electric car is a solution for now, and the nation-wide bike one for later perhaps.

      Regarding bike promotion, what is London waiting for to put in place a Velib system? perhaps you should get involved Peter 🙂

      Perhaps when the consciousness changes then the mode of locomotion will change with it – our way of living will change due to our way of thinking. Until that changes, we need greener cars.

      “but more importantly, the main reason given by people that they don’t cycle more is the volume of car traffic.”
      Have you got some published reference for this conclusion please? I cannot believe that is THE MAIN REASON.

    • Jeffrey Lam

      Hi. I have recently started cycling to work, aiming for three days a week, but often only managing two. My journey to my current office is 4-5 miles, but I was at a different office when I started doing 8 miles. I’m not particularly fit, so any further than that would put me off. The reason I don’t do five days is that I need to go somewhere else after work on two days, and I would either have to lug the bike around on the train/tube or cycle even longer distances. Also, I have no choice but to cycle on a path along main roads, breathing in all kinds of fumes from lorries, old and new cars etc., but that hasn’t put me off.

    • Paul de Wit

      Hello, I have just stumbled upon this blog, (via a link on autoblog green), and find it really cool what you people are doing. It resonates with my inner workings. It strengthens my confidence in the world, that a lot of people know what is really important and act on it. Now over to the subject.

      Being Dutch, and riding a bike almost daily since the age of four, my cycling has taken a serious beating since moving over to the UK last year. Even though now my commute is only 2 miles as opposed to 4 in Holland. There are various reasons for this and I will try to outline them as good as I can.

      1. Comfort: Weather in the UK is just as bad as in Holland, most people, and I in a lesser extend would not like to arrive at work, all soaked, and sweaty. Having the opportunity to take a shower at work will help.
      2. Safety: I live on top off a pretty steep hill, in the middle of nowhere. It is hard work and often dangerous to cycle on the windy narrow country lanes, especially meeting cars, who do not expect you. On a bike you will most likely lose out in a full on collision with a car. Cycle lanes will help.
      3. Time, in Amsterdam where I used to live, a bike is almost just as fast as car is, due to congestion, and traffic lights. In the country side a car is at least four times as fast, giving me a lot more time to be bussy being, bored at home 😉

      But in my opinion the most deciding factor weather people go to work by bike or not, is
      just plain laziness. Having to get up earlier in the morning, facing the elements, getting out of breath, on an incline, ect.
      Being an exercise and thrill seeking nut myself. I find it shocking how lethargic the average Joe(sephine) is.

      I have bookmarked this site, and will keep coming back, to learn more about renewable energy ect. Keep up the good work.

    • Ecogeek

      In the entire argument about cars/no cars, bikes, from china, or local – steel or aluminium :

      If we don’t start to do a good _quantitative_ estimation of the actual impact of all of this, it’s very difficult to come to a serious discussion/argument.

      Maybe Peter is right, and electric cars are inherently not sustainable (as a means of transport for a large percentage of the population), maybe he’s trying to be better than good enough..

      The key word here is ‘quantify’ !

      Having a well-founded, scientifically sound model for calculating our ecological footprint, is according to me the most significant progress in the green movement for decades.

      The rest of it is technology that has existed for many decades !

      Kind regards,


        • Justin Noe

          I think trying to calculate an ecological footprints is very difficult indeed. It can never be set in stone like the weather as it’s an ever fluctuating thing. Cold winters force people into heavier energy useage, haulage firms use different vehicules for various cargos and energy is consummed with varying degrees of effeciency.
          One good thing about electricity is it can be metered every step of the way and produced in so many different ways. Allowing us to adapt to the current technology.
          Electrified cars will mean no pollution at point of use and increasing effeciency at point of generation which is much easier to control.
          As for denying people the use of vehicules I’m not sure how Peter and Dimitry envisage this happening. Many people reguard it as necessary for work. Where would you draw the line? Would Dale be considered more worthy than Peter or Dimitry? Would Taxing motoring so much so that it’s a rich man’s domain be fair?
          I’m a strong believer in technology. I guess you could say that it’s thanks to technology that we’re in this mess but I think is easy to forget that it’s technology that’s taught us all we know, including about climate change. Renewable power generation, a 21st century internet (can remove the need to travel), Farming efficiencies and electrified transport will change the way we live and allow more people to enjoy a modern lifestyle.
          I hope I didn’t slide off the topic too much!

    • Ecogeek

      Hi Justin,

      I can not recall denying people use of vehicles !

      Please read more carefully before commenting.

      I’m not on Peter’s side of this discussion. In fact the numbers I’ve seen about all of this is that a rational use of electric cars is well within the possible realm.

      In fact I use an electric scooter for much of my trips (including commutes to work). Besides this I own an efficient car (Toyota Prius) for family trips, or times when I need to haul more than possible on the scooter.

      The scooter uses about 5kwh/100km. This means it’s about 3 times more efficient than an electric car.

      I use the car about 5000-10000 km per year. According to my footprint calculations, we are on a total of about 2.3 gHa (global hectares).

      What I was trying to say is :

      1) Don’t try to be a saint – better is often the enemy of good.

      2) Don’t use relative comparisons to your peers (They will almost certainly use multiple times the amount of resources available per person). Use more objective measures – such as the ecological footprint model.

      3) Use your common sense – Part of the solution is technology – but an important other part is changing your behaviour.

      Kind regards,


      P.S.: The average efficiency of public transport, btw, is rather disappointing, about the same as a hybrid car per passenger-kilometre. Yes I’ve done the simulations on this.

    • Ecogeek


      Yes it’s also true that calculating footprints is tricky business, but I look at it as a ballpark figure. Using this as a rationalisation of our current consumption levels is not being honest to yourself.


      P.S.: I’ve just re-read my comment, and have NO clue how you arrive at your interpretation of my post – besides cheer intellectual laziness.

        • Justin Noe

          I do apologise if I misunderstood you. I profess to not having read the thread from the start. I guess I lazilly read the sentence “Maybe Peter is right, and electric cars are inherently not sustainable (as a means of transport for a large percentage of the population)” which is NOT the same as suggesting that large proportions of the population shouldn’t drive.
          I hope there is a robust method of calculating peoples ecological footprint. I will test out the global hectare method you mentioned.
          I guess I came in a bit late on this one.

    • Nik Sargent

      I wonder if we could have some kind of inductive charging from beneath the tarmac to supplement power-point charging?

        • Damon Hart-Davis

          Actually, other than the necessary clearance of the car above the road and the power required, I don’t see why not. Quick, nip out and patent your idea…. ooops … too late! B^>

          But I do think that it has potential, once allowance has been made for not interfering with other infrastructure such as metal pipes, etc.