I was listening to a song called “self-evident” by female singer/songwriter Ani Difranco the other day. It was about the tragic events of September 11th 2001 and some issues related to that day. The song covered a wide range of issues, and focused particularly on levels of violence in the world today, and also the damage that we are doing to the environment. There was one particular line that stuck in my head … “we must vow… to get off… of this sauce”. The sauce she was talking about being the sauce that most of us pump into our cars on a weekly basis.
Pictures of Electric Vehicles
The world is currently going through a great period of unrest and violence. Irrespective of your views on who is to blame for what is currently happening in the Middle East, the petrol protests in September 2000 were a chilling illustration of just how dependent this country is on oil. When a few truckers refused to deliver petrol to some stations in the UK, it looked as though the whole country might grind to a halt.
Fossil fuel combustion is the leading cause of air pollution, and pollution from cars is the leading cause of air pollution in most western cities. Petrol and diesel vehicles are major contributors to the greenhouse effect. Of course, more use of public transport would reduce the negative impact of cars, but for some of us, this is not always feasible (e.g. teachers with heavy books to carry). Given these facts, and the fact that sustainable sources of electricity are now available in the UK (NPower for example have a supply of electricity from offshore Windfarms – see http://www.npower.com/yourhome/green/juiceandwindpower/) it is surprising that more questions are not being asked about the feasibility of electric vehicles (EVs) in this country. What sort of questions might we ask?
Do electric cars exist?
The answer to this is YES! And it’s a mystery to me why they have been kept so quiet. Let me give you some examples. The Toyota Rav e4 (see pictures) was a completely electric Jeep that that Toyota Piloted in Jersey. It had a top speed of about 70 mph and a range of 120 miles per charge. It cost a penny a mile to run on electricity. It was enthusiastically used by the police on the island. At this point you might think I am winding you up, but if you don’t believe me, have a look at the electric vehicles UK website www.evuk.co.uk (nothing to do with me by the way, I’m just trying to spread the word) or visit the Toyota website at; http://www.toyota.com/html/shop/vehicles/ravev/rav4ev_0_home/index.html
Unfortunately, Toyota have stopped producing this vehicle, but there are others… read on!
AC Propulsion have designed an electric car called the T Zero (see pictures) which does 0 to 60 in 4.1 seconds, has a range of 100 miles when it’s going at 60 miles per hour and is fast enough to outperform a Ferrari, Porsche or a Corvette. If you want to learn more about this car or the company why not visit; http://www.acpropulsion.com/
and ask when these cars might be available in the UK.
Now that I’ve whet your appetite, the next most obvious question is, OK, so electric cars exist, but how do I get hold of one if I want to buy one NOW?
Can I buy an EV in the UK?
You CAN buy an EV in the UK but our choices are severely limited. There are a lot of conspiracy theories around about why EVs have been kept so quiet. I am not sure how useful it is to spend a lot of time speculating about why – I think what we need to do is show that the demand exists. But more of that later. What EVs can we buy in the UK.? Well the first one I came across was the G-Wiz. The G-Wiz is available from a company
in Leeds (pictured), West Yorkshire. It is ideal for those who live in an inner city area and only need a car for short inner city journeys. It has a top speed of 40mph and a range of 40mph. I test drove one and they are great fun to drive, but the top speed and range were a bit too prohibitive for me. If you are interested you can learn more about them by visiting www.goingreen.co.uk or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. The government currently has a scheme where you can get a grant towards the cost of an electric vehicle. The last time I looked, you can get a £1,500 grant towards the cost of a G-Wiz. To find out more visit www.powershift.org.uk .
But what if you want a car with a longer range and a faster top speed? Well, Citroen
currently have an electric Berlingo Van (see picture) on offer in the UK. I rang Citroen to ask them about it and they arranged a test drive for me in Leeds. Don’t be put off if the first person you talk to doesn’t know about this vehicle. Be persistent and you should be able to get a test drive arranged. The Berlingo van has a top speed of 60 mph and a range of 60 miles. You can also get a £1,500 Powershift grant towards the cost of one of these. The price is prohibitive though, at around £15,000. But once you’ve bought it the ruining costs are very low, and once the demand for these vehicles starts going up the prices will start coming down. The first dealer I spoke to didn’t think Citroen had any of these vehicles on their fleet, and he also thought the battery was on lease, but when he investigated further he found that he could get one, and that you just buy it outright. One of the problems with this vehicle is that it unfortunately doesn’t come with any back seats, so you would have to have some fitted. But again, if the demand was there, then maybe Citroen would start doing something about it. If you are interested in learning more, visit http://www.citroen.co.uk/berlingovan/uk/ or call Citroen on 08457 940 940.
If you are put off by the lack of back seats, then the Renault Kangoo Electric may be the one for you (see pictures). I contacted Renault recently about buying an EV in the UK and they surprisingly didn’t tell me about the Electric Renault Kangoo which you can buy in France. I am currently in the process of finding out if I could import one from France. A couple of Renault dealers in the UK have offered to send me a brochure, so watch this space. The Renault Kangoo is the most promising model I have seen yet. It has a top speed of about 70mph and a similar range. You can charge it up by simply plugging it in to
an electricity supply. The Kangoo also has a secret weapon – the Range Extender. This is a small engine that extends the range to about 125miles! Most of the journeys we make in our cars are well below this distance. If you are interested in learning more visit;
or visit the French website; www.renault.fr. We need to make Renault aware that the demand for this car in the UK exists NOW! If you’d like to see this car being offered for sale in the UK, why not ring Renault on 0800 072 33 72 or e-mail them at email@example.com. They may well not know that this vehicle even exists so it may be worthwhile sending them the above evworld link so that they will believe you! We also need to try and get the government to give us grants for this vehicle as well – visit www.powershift.org.uk and ask them if you could get a grant towards a Renault Kangoo Electric.
What can we do to speed things up?
What we desperately need to do here in the UK is make car manufacturers aware that people in Britain want to be able to purchase an electric car. Until the demand exists, they will be very reluctant to risk the initial outlay. But the demand can not exist when the majority of people in the UK do not even know that electric cars even exist!
Some car companies are now trying to push hybrids, such as the Toyota Prius or the Honda Civic IMA, but they are not as environmentally friendly as an all electric car, and you can’t charge them up by plugging them in. All-electric vehicles would be much more preferable and would help end our dependence on oil.
So here’s what I think we need to do;
1. Tell your friends! Bore them down the pub with tales of electric cars! E-mail them this story! E-mail this story (or feel free to try and improve it) to everyone you can think of!
2. Phone / e-mail / fax or write to all the major car manufacturers and ask them when they plan to make electric vehicles available in the UK. Give them some examples of ones that already exist in case they think you’re a bit mad! I have provided a list of contact details at http://autos.groups.yahoo.com/group/electriccarsUK/. It is not complete. Please e-mail me if you can help me complete the table ( firstname.lastname@example.org) or update it on the site. The list does not always have an e-mail address because for some companies you have to fill in an online request form.
3. Write to your local paper and ask them if they’d be interested in running a story on electric cars. If you’re a student write to your student paper. If you’re at school, ask your teacher to take a class on green issues and try to include the electric car
4. Try e-mailing your local MP and asking him what is being done to make electric vehicles more available, since they’ll help clean up your city’s/town’s/area’s air a bit! Find out who your local MP is at; http://www.locata.co.uk/commons/
5. Join some of the e-mail discussion lists. I’ve just started a UK one at; http://autos.groups.yahoo.com/group/electriccarsUK/ and there is also a worldwide one at; http://www.madkatz.com/ev/evlist.html
6. Contact your local radio station or TV station and ask them if they’d be interested in running a story on electric cars.
7. Start up discussions about EVs on websites, like www.guardian.co.uk/talk or whatever newspaper website you normally go to.
8. E-mail me ( email@example.com) with any more ideas!
9. Spread the word! :-)