'Hippy' energy kingpin's electric Noddy-car in epic FAIL
Dale Vince bummed out in Clarkson bitchslap mishap
An electric concept car commissioned by soi-disant "hippie" energy-trading biz lord Dale Vince specifically to “blow the socks off Jeremy Clarkson and smash the stereotype of electric cars” has unfortunately done neither, as on its first public outing the "Nemesis" abruptly ground to a halt in busy traffic and had to be pushed.
Powered by wind. Well, hot air
The embarrassing breakdown - which really seems to have reinforced the stereotype of electric cars rather than smashing it - was described as "a real bummer" by Vince, showing off the car to the Guardian this week ahead of its official unveiling last night. Sensibly, Vince had not invited a motoring journalist but rather Graun environment editor John Vidal - a bit of a hippie himself.
Even Vidal couldn't quite forgo a mention of the Nemesis' sudden halt during his trip, but the unfortunate hiccup was buried deep at the bottom of the piece below the headline "'Smashing the Noddy stereotype' – UK's first green supercar takes to the roads" and 11 paragraphs of praise and quotes from Vince.
Vince and Vidal describe the Nemesis as "powered only by renewables". Before the car broke down, Vince assured his Grauniad fellow-traveller that it would be good for "250,000 maintenance-free miles", and Vidal himself adds that it "knocks the technical socks off the much-hyped electric American wunder-car, the Tesla Roadster".
But Dale Vince has a bit of a reputation for putting the very best possible spin on things - to put it mildly. His energy-trading and windfarms firm Ecotricity has been slapped down by the Advertising Standards Authority in the past for misleading advertising. It has previously made excellent-sounding claims such as "for every £1 you spend with us through your electricity bills we spend another £1 building new sources of green electricity... that's not a promise, it's a fact" and "One in six of all the wind projects in England today were planned and built by Ecotricity. Or looking at in another way, we produce more than 12 per cent of England's wind energy..."
Except it was only a fact if you spent less than £387 pa with Ecotricity over the last five years, and as England is not a significant place for wind the real picture at the time the latter claim was made was that Ecotricity produced less than two per cent of UK wind (well, UK wind energy, anyway).
Then, even assuming that Vince charges up the Nemesis using Ecotricity 'leccy, this absolutely does not mean that it is "powered only by renewables". The company admits that less than half its juice comes from renewable providers, and indeed the proportion of green to brown in the mix actually fell last year.
The Nemesis spec sheet claims zero CO2 emissions "when charged with green electricity from Ecotricity windmills" - a classic Dale Vince-ism, as this is a practical impossibility and as an Ecotricity customer you would be using mostly-brown energy. In general, a driver would actually be responsible for less carbon emissions having bought one of various kinds of modern fuel-sipping combustion-engined cars as opposed to a battery one, as recent analysis by Swiss government labs has shown.
Still, the idea of electric cars is not that they're the greenest thing now, but rather that they might be in a future where electricity was green - though most proper analysis suggests that this cannot be done solely using renewables. What's definitely true is that people like Dale Vince who make their living by selling electricity love the idea of electric cars.
Powered only by renewables
So the lithium in the batteries is renewable is it?
Actually I think that (as usual) this idiot has misread or misintepreted Clarkson. The curly headed northerner seems to be all in favour of fuel cell powered vehicles, it's battery power and hybrids that he has it in for. And that's fair enough. All the evidence I've seen seems to show that hybrids in the real world use no less fuel than their IC powered brethren, and since they use the same amount of fuel they produce the same amount of emissions. Battery power might seem like a teriffic idea, but there are major problems with the cars around at the moment. The biggest of which is actually finding somewhere to charge the car, most people don't have a garage these days and I wouldn't fancy trailling a power cable through the letterbox to a car parked on the street. Then there's the fact that a big enough charge to run a car over a reasonable distance takes a long time.* Another problem is the size and weight of the battery pack needed to give a decent range, which is one reason why so many of the flagship cars are two seaters with no luggage space. The fact that this car is a two seater with no luggage space kind of confirms this. If these people want to be taken seriously they need to build a car that's relevant to normal people. Let's see something that can compete on all levels with a Golf, Mondeo or V50 or whatever most people consider to be a normal car.
* Cue some commentard claiming that you could charge one of these cars in minutes if you had a 500KVA 3 phase supply. Then ask them how they propose building the infrastructure to support this. Or indeed how they propose to pick up the cable and plug required to carry this current. Or how they propose to cool the batteries when they are being cooled at this rate. Or....
And even if you did plug it into a wind turbine
The energy will only be "green" once the kestrel-mincer has generated as much energy as it took to mine, refine, construct, install and maintain it up to that point.
Note very, very carefully: the "payback time" for renewable generators is based on subsidised installation and taxed production. You can only hide the up-front energy cost for as long as fossil plants keep producing it for you. Eventually, the laws of physics will trump your accounting wheezes: the *energy* payback time trends towards infinity, if you include the workforce.
And if you don't count the energy requirements of keeping the meat parts of your industry alive (which V-tards never do) then you're either dooming them to starve to death in a cold dark cave, or tacitly admitting that your wonder-technology is a massive fucking scam, a horrifyingly inefficient way of greenwashing fossil energy into fairy-farts.
If we'd spent all the resources wasted on "renewable" scams on fusion power instead, then we'd all be flying around in aero-limousines by now. Aero-limousines that suck CO2 out of the atmosphere and turn it into kittens.
Checking your facts
UK Electricity grid losses are more like 7%: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Grid_(UK)#Losses
DEFRA lists petrol as 0.28455kg CO2e/kWh, whereas electricity is 0.04609kg CO2e/kWh with % transmission and distribution losses as 7.4% (2008 figures); see http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/business/reporting/conversion-factors.htm
A Li-ion Battery charge/discharge cycle is 80-90% efficient, and EV electric motors >90%. All of which works out that electric cars are around three times more efficient than petrol cars, even when charged using a conventional fossil-fuel heavy power grid.
Whilst mining and refining the metals in batteries is not environmentally benign, the metals can be recycled at the end of the batteries life, using less energy than mining new material. Extracting and refining oil creates a large number of toxic by-products, and presents a considerable risk to the environment, as BP demonstrated this year. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oil_refinery#Safety_and_environmental_concerns
Finally, read this article on the efficiency Hydrogen Economy, it's not as rosy as you assume, basically, electric cars win: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.techsoc.2003.09.024
In summary, your 'BAN battery powered cars' call may be a little wide of the mark...