This week, one of the main stories in the news was about the UK announcing it had brought forwards a ban on the sale of petrol and diesel-fuelled cars to 2035 from its initial target of 2040.
That’s all well and good, but it does have its problems as well. To my mind, the biggest of these is the necessary infrastructure.
You can tell that the great majority of the people proposing these requirements (and expecting everyone in the country to follow suit) live in houses with driveways – or at least off-road parking – as well as the funds to pay for a significant increase to their electricity usage.
However, lots of people don’t live in those situations. Those in blocks of flats, for example, wouldn’t necessarily have access to anything. For those who (like me) live in a house with on-street parking – and even then it’s not guaranteed or reserved parking, so I regularly end up parking a distance away from my place – but even if I were parked outside the house, an electric car would mean dangling a power cable out of the house, and across the pathway that’s regularly used. For that scenario, I’m honestly not sure what the infrastructure requirements would be – and I don’t think anyone else knows either.
The costs are another matter. Yes OK, you’re cutting out the costs of fuel, but if the demand for electricity shoots up that much, then so will the costs of it. Additionally, there are plenty of people who are on paid-supply meters, or high tariffs (whether because of laziness and not changing, or because that’s all they can get because of debt, income, whatever) and that can also be an issue.
Alongside those concerns – and just using myself as an example – there are plenty of drives that fall outside the range of all but the most expensive electric vehicles. An ‘affordable’ vehicle like the Nissan Leaf, for example, apparently has a range of 135 miles. So I could do a return journey from home to London, no worries. But I couldn’t do a trip down to see my friends in Somerset (which I can do in 3 hours currently) without a recharging stop each way. (And again, they don’t have a power point for charging a car down there) Same when I go to see friends in Manchester, or Newcastle.
Hell, I’ve even done daily commutes that would take me past that kind of mileage – and the office was (again) somewhere with no connection to a decent charger, it would’ve been power-cable-tastic – which would have been entirely impractical.
If that kind of target for everyone to have electric vehicles is to be realised, I think there need to be quantum leaps in several aspects, including (but not limited to)
- Infrastructure for charging vehicles
- Battery technology, to improve both the range of electric vehicles, and to improve the speed of charging
- and to improve at-home-storage, allowing the potential for using home-based renewable generation – solar, wind, whatever – that can be stored to provide the charging without draining the grid
- A huge review of the costs of that electricity, and to ensure increases to the supply that will handle all that extra demand
- Consideration of the impact on petrol and diesel industry – including the effects of all the staff who might then be in less demand at filling stations and so on
Personally, I think a lot of stuff round electric vehicles is a load of old cock. I’m not convinced that they’re any more efficient (among other things, there’s a lot of power lost in the transmission over cables, so it needs a *lot* more generation in order to provide the supply) and while they’re less polluting at the point of use, I’m not convinced that it’s doing anything more than moving that around. We don’t know what happens with the constituent parts of the car batteries, or what happens when they expire (or when a car crashes or whatever)
I don’t claim to know what the answer is – but I also don’t think that a wholesale change like this is necessarily the best plan. It needs a lot more thought, and a shitload more planning than currently seems to be happening.
On my post about mileage and so on, BW commented “No environmental conscience chez toi, then, eh? 😉” And I can’t deny, that annoyed me a fair bit.
- That weekend, I hired a car that was supposed to have a better Eco-profile than my current car. Sadly, that turned out to not be the case – it got a lot less MpG than mine, and generally wasn’t very good. But the intentions were there, at least. Even though I should’ve stuck to my usual car.
- Where possible – in this case, the run to and from Oxford – I carried friends, rather than everyone driving individually
- Taking public transport was simply not a realistic option, for a range of reasons, including
- I’d still have to drive to my nearest station, and (as I understand it) shorter journeys like that are the worst environmentally, as most of the nastys happen on start-up/warm-up, rather than on longer runs
- The runs to Oxford and Chichester would both have been over three hours each way, and cost more than the fuel for the entire weekend
- The journey to Kent wouldn’t have been possible at all
- Also, knowing the mileage etc., I make use of a carbon offset programme – it’s not perfect, but (I hope) it helps
- The Big Cat Experience in Kent use most of the money from the experience days and so on to go towards ecological and animal protection/preservation projects overseas.
Outside of those things, there’s also the following other little bits
- I’m still using a car that’s now ten years old (and passes the MoT emissions test with flying colours) rather than using up a load of resources with a new vehicle
- My domestic waste/rubbish is absolutely minimal – indeed, if I didn’t have cats, I’d be easily able to get away with one domestic waste collection per month – and I recycle far more than most people.
- I rarely fly anywhere – the last time was two years ago
- Most of my electric/electronic devices are recharged via a battery bank that charges off a solar panel, rather than via the mains.
There’s probably other stuff as well, but anyway, it’s a pretty good start.
I fully accept that my environmental profile isn’t perfect – my main downsides are electricity and driving. And I balance as much of that as possible. However, I’m also pretty sure that it’s a lot better than that of most people.
Even more importantly, no matter what I do to improve my profile, it’s utterly irrelevant in comparison to other environmental things. For example, if the new phase of advertising on video screens (particularly the stand-alone street-furniture versions) were deactivated/turned off overnight it would save more in a week than I could contribute in a lifetime.
So – do I have an environmental conscience? I’ll let you decide – although I think the answer is generally yes.
In general, I’m pretty good at not being too wasteful – I try to recycle as much stuff as possible, and generally don’t over-buy or buy stuff I don’t want or won’t use.
However, I’ve amassed some things that now need to be got rid of, so that’s part of my plan between now and the start of the year.
It’s not a lot, in the great scheme of things – my house isn’t large enough to have room for storing a load of unused stuff – but it’s one of those “when I get round to it” jobs, and now is the time for me to get round to it.
I’ll still aim to get as much as possible to the local recycling centre, although I know that some will also end up going into normal rubbish, just because it’s stuff that isn’t actually recyclable.
Over the weekend, I spent some time changing the plants and pots I’ve got in the yard of my house.
Some of the things from last year had died off, most having only been expected to live a year, a couple of others just needed to be changed and a one needed to be replaced as the poxy cat had decided that pot was a spare litter tray. Additionally, I’d changed a bit on what I wanted to try out this year.
For example, last year I had a couple of small apple trees in patio pots. One had done OK, but ended the year overtaken by wooly aphid things that made it look like it was covered in frost/snow/cotton-wool, while the other hadn’t taken at all. So they were candidates for going as well.
This time, I went to a proper garden centre, and got a bundle of new things – two types of raspberry, a blueberry bush, and a couple of flowering currants. Once I’d got home, I emptied out the old pots, putting all the residue into garden sacks. Then all the new things got planted, and so far it’s all worked out pretty well.
The final stage was taking all the garden sacks to the local tip, and getting rid of them all in the garden waste.
So all told, quite the successful day – a near-complete change of the plants, and all the rubbish dealt with, leaving the place looking pretty much how it did before, just with new plants. I class that as a success.
Having sorted out some new pots and plants earlier this week, I’d been thinking about a couple of small trees to put in Big Pots, which should finish things off nicely.
Today, I got some – two ‘patio apple’ trees and pots for them to go in. They’ve been outside all the time anyway, so they’re now planted out and situated where I want them to be.
I’m done for now with plants, I think. I do want to find a more comfortable table and chair(s) next, although that can wait a while ’til I see what there is that I like. I’m not in a hurry – I’ve a chair that’s serviceable, but I do want to find something better. I just have to know it’s better before I buy it…
When I moved here, I had a “mother and child” lamp, which I’ve used as the main illumination in my living room since.
Sadly, both bulbs in the lamp were halogens, so it’s been a bit of an energy hog – which I realised more once I’d bought my OWL energy monitor and saw the way the usage figures went up when I turned the lights on.
As a result, I said that when the bulb(s) finally blew, I’d replace the lamp with one that was more energy-efficient (or at least was able to use more energy-efficient bulbs) and that finally happened today.
So – a new lamp has now been purchased, assembled, and installed. It’s a similar style of ‘mother and child’, but both bulbs are non-halogen and standard-fitting, with eco-bulbs in.
The drop in power-usage is pretty noticable already, and it should result in a noticeable drop in the electricity bill.
All told, I see that as a success all round.