SUV loving, EV hating from the Telegraph Newspaper. (again)

*Sigh*
It had to happen didn’t it? If you’re an electric vehicle enthusiast you’re used to being moaned about and told that your green vehicle will kill more blind, gay baby whales than they it will save. Strangely you’re told this by those who spend most of their time driving around suburbia in a large 4*4 (that’s SUV) which has never even seen a country lane – let alone a muddy field.

Those SUV loving conservative socialites at the Telegraph are beating up the EV again.
Those SUV loving conservative socialites at the Telegraph are beating up the EV again.

Photo by KenJonBro
Do I sound bitter? Well, perhaps a little. Y’see, the Telegraph Newspaper has published today two articles bashing the UK government’s plans to kickstart a green transport revolution by offering up to £2,000 subsidy for each private purchase of an electric vehicle. The Telegraph would like you to believe that not only are electric cars dangerous and un-trendy but that providing an infrastructure to charge and run electric cars would actually cause more damage to the environment than good, not to mention economically cripple the country. .

Erm. Yes. Of course. What ever you say.
What you dumb asses journalists seem to be hell bent on is furnishing your own ends and pushing ratings up before checking your facts. Hmm. That sounds about right then.
More of the story critique after the jump, and reasons why both articles are wrong
Let’s tackle some of the points put forward in the two telegraph articles. First of all, let’s tackle the points made by Melissa Kite. It’s quite apparent when you read the article that Ms Kite is the sort of person more preoccupied with her own social climbing than those around her. It’s a pity isn’t it. Her article is obviously meant to promote discussion, sympathy, or angst. In my case it’s the latter.
She writes:

“Enough. I surrender. After battling for much longer than is decent, I’ve admitted I am powerless over Labour’s transport policy. I’ve tried every way of beating it: binge driving, limiting my driving to weekends, only driving after 6pm… (Oh, the agony of waiting for the clock to tick past six!) It’s hopeless. I am going to have to stop. Too many congestion charge fines (a tax on memory), too many parking levies, too many permit hikes. I’m beaten. “

I do believe Ms Kite, that no-one has forced you to live in London. You are at perfect liberty to move somewhere outside of the congestion charging zone. And I believe that they have finally eliminated the cootie plauges which have caused countless hospitalization of commuters on the London underground. It is safe to use public transport. Oh, wait a second. You work for a newspaper and write articles on a computer. You could stay at home in your exclusive west-end apartment and telecommute; never setting foot outside of your safe, pollution-free, porter-serviced home. Generalisations hurt, don’t they?
Later on in the article the attack continues, but this time not only on the Labor policies but on the G-Wiz, a vehicle which of course is ubiquitous for any anti-EV diatribe as the only EV that most uneducated journalists know about:

But wait! What’s this I hear about incentives in the Budget to buy a little bubble car that you can recharge at special parking bays? I could get £2,000 towards something classed as a “quadricycle” with a top speed of 40mph and which costs £15,000…

Errr, no, Ms Kite. I think you’ll find it’s 50 mph for the top speed of a G Wiz, and a price-tag of under £8000. Hmm… didn’t do your research did ya? And there’s many more EVs out there than the G-Wiz.

No. I will not do it. I refuse to do Government-approved driving in a Noddy car designed for maximum humiliation. I don’t care how much of the environment it saves… I will not contribute to making the greatest capital city on earth look like Toytown…How am I supposed to tow a horsebox with one of those? My Irish hunter could pull a G-Wiz easier than it could pull her.

Yeah. I think that last bit made your position perfectly clear, Ms Kite. It’s quite apparent that, should you so wish, you could quite probably afford to purchase a nice solar panel array for your home and never have to worry about ever buying electricity again. Not only that, but you could probably afford that £70,000 Tesla. No-one would ever take the mickey out of you with that and I’m sure it would do your social standing the world of good. You could maybe even pay some shelp to convert your SUV for you. An electric Porsche Cayenne. It’s possible, you know. (But you would have to step foot outside of Richmond to get it converted)
For shame. Your article typifies the generation who don’t care less. The generation who stand by and let others clean up the mess. Ah well. I’ll remember you when you’re moaning about the flooding of central London in twenty years’ time.
So, let’s carry on now and deconstruct the article by Mr. Christopher Booker. It’s obvious from some of Mr. Booker’s past articles that he’s quite obviously a right-wing conservative who doesn’t accept that climate change exists, despite the overwhelming evidence supporting the opposite.
He argues, quite passionately, that not only will the change to electric vehicles ruin the government but that it will be unsustainable from an energy generation perspective. He argues that both Gordon Brown and President Obama are being completely farcical in putting energy and money into the development of the electric car – a technology and a prospective way of life which he views as being “Babyish make-believe”.
Let’s examine his claims, shall we?

  • “Electric cars will cause more environmental damage than Diesel ones”
  • He argues that inefficiency of power generating stations will cause more carbon dioxide to be released into the atmosphere than just running cars on Diesel. Really?.
    If you’re working on the assumption that future generation of power in the UK will continue the trend of generation at the current moment in time (approximately two thirds of all power in the UK comes from coal-fire stations) then increasing demand for power from power stations (ie electric cars) will increase the amount of coal burnt by power stations. But wait a minute! There’s a few facts that are being ignored.
    Part of the green future for the UK will involve increasingly large amounts of green generation from wind, solar and wave, not to mention the possibility of Nuclear. (Note here that I’m not a fan of the latter and would much rather see the investment in more efficient generation from the other forms of ‘clean’ energy). Proposed barrages or generation devices in the North Sea or in the Severn Estuary, could generate as much as one third of the power demands of the UK. Take that energy generation away from coal and substitute for another form of renewables and suddenly the carbon footprint drops immensely.
    Let’s also tackle the habits of highly successful EV owners. Most drive to work in their cars and then drive home in the evening. Unless their commute is incredibly long (or their vehicle has a short range) they don’t bother or need to recharge until their vehicle comes home in the evening. At which point, the car is charged at night on cheap-rate electricity. Why is it cheap rate? Because the utility companies have a surplus of energy at night time and historically they’ve had to incentivise in order to get people to use more electricity at night. Unfortunately power stations can’t just ramp down power generation because the majority of the population happen to be asleep. Electric and plug in vehicles make use of this and help to smooth out the peaks and troughs in power demand. It won’t generate huge amounts of extra pollution. It will just help use up excess energy generated at night.
    For those of us with plug in vehicles who DO plug in during the day you’ll find that it’s opportunistic top-offs of less than an hour or so. Charging points in shopping malls (such as the two in Bristol are not there to fully recharge cars but to offer top-off charges to people who want to keep their EVs potential range as high as possible. The main EV charge still happens at night in the owner’s garage or parking space, while the rest of the world sleeps.
    Okay. Next point to bust, please.

  • Power losses due to transmission will cause more losses in energy than burning Diesel
  • I’m not entirely sure who has told him that, and yes, energy IS lost during high-voltage power transmission. But the whole point of power transmission at high voltage is to minimize energy loss due to high-currents. From our high-school physics class we all know that energy can be transmitted with less power loss when high-voltage, low current wires are used. It’s one of the reasons why the UK uses 220V AC at 50Hz rather than the American system of 110V AC at 60Hz.
    Mr Booker quite passionately argues that transmission of power in the magnitudes needed for electric vehicle charging will cause energy losses, but he forgets to mention the entire OIL industry relies on mass transit of the fuel (be it crude oil, CNG, petrol or Diesel) from plant to plant in a dizzying array of vehicles from oil freighters through to eighteen-wheeled petrol tankers. And when the liquid fuel finally arrives at the petrol station it has to be traveled to by car drivers to pick it up. Electricity requires none of this. It’s there in your house. It’s there already. It’s probably even in your garage. High infrastructure? I think not.
    Let’s tackle the other part of his claim – the one about energy losses. He’s assuming that in this new future energy will be transmitted in the same way as it is today – in high-voltage power lines from a few powerstations. But in a green future, smaller, regional plants using neighborhood wind generators, solar farms and even personal Wind/solar or biomass installations in or on our homes could power our cars. It’s not pie-in-the-sky either. There are people living all over the world who power their homes and electric vehicles using micro generation techniques It’s not a technology which is waiting to happen. It is happening. Admittedly, some of these technologies are currently expensive to produce, but for the most part, the technologies are expensive due to economies of scale. Start producing any product in mas.

  • There were only 179 electric cars sold in the UK last year, and the only available EV costs up to £15000
  • Again, I’m not sure quite where that first figure comes from, but I’d be surprised if it’s true. I suspect it comes from the sales of just one car brand – the G-Wiz. There are other EV manufacturers and importers in the UK. Not to mention all those who have converted their EVs. It also doesn’t take into account the number of Electric Scooters sold. In the past year I’ve personally seen about 20 new vehicles hit the road, split between brand new OEM EVs, conversions and two-wheeled EVs.
    Now let’s deal with the price. The G-wiz starts at about £8000. It gets more expensive if you specify a lithium battery. But there are cheaper EVs on the market, not to mention the conversion budgets which could be well and truly satisfied with £8,000. No, that statement is pure scare-tatics. If I can buy (and convert) a Prius to PHEV for £10,000 then we really shouldn’t look to his £15000 figure as anything other than inflated sensationalism from a columnist who clearly has a grudge to bear against anything remotely environmentally friendly.
    So. perhaps it’s time, if you subscribe to the Telegraph or buy it, to write them a friendly, accurate, well-written letter detailing why their columnists are so off the beaten track.

5 Comments

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  1. Isn't it funny how the two comments I made on the telegraph's website as a Pro EV enthusiast didn't get approved. Hmmm. Biased, unbalnaced reporting, anyone?

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  2. Don't you UK folks have an issue with declining North Sea oil production? You might want to mention to the Telegraph folks that SUVs are seriously contributing to the poor economic state of the country as you have recently gone from net supplier to net importers of oil. As far is safety is concerned, if we're going to complain about the GWiz, we might as well declare motorcycles, scooters and bicycles as unsafe vehicles as well. As a matter of fact nobody should walk either as there's no metal to protect you at all. Should you get hit by a SUV, you would be really screwed! Something that people seem to forget in the c02 emission calculations is the energy required to make petrol. Petrol just doesn't come out of the ground as petrol. Oil must be cooked and refined into petrol which requires quite a bit of energy. For some reason, this energy never seems to count.

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  3. [seesmic 1YzQAgleu1|LSdc7UwJtm_th1.jpg <a href="http://www.seesmic.com/video/1YzQAgleu1“ target=”_blank”>http://www.seesmic.com/video/1YzQAgleu1 seesmic]

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  4. While I remain pro-ev I think the 2000 quid scrap-your-old-car idea is a really *really* bad one. Go to Ireland and see it for yourself. There are very few old cars on the road – it's not environmentally significantly different in terms of the output from those cars (as a side point, I got roughly the same economy from the brand new Ford Focus and the Nissan Note I had there as I get from my 1300 Minor and the badly tuned DAF 44s) – except that now you have to factor in the huge energy cost of scrapping thousands of – and making thousands of new – cars. 2 grand towards getting a professional EV conversion done, that I could go for.

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  5. It depends on if the car actually works and meets the requirements. There’s a lot of really good, well-looked after old cars on the road. There’s also a lot of dangerous, polluting old bangers. It’s hard to differentiate. Perhaps the definition of “old” should be further defined by usability, carbon emissions and cost (both monitarily and enviornmentally) to keep it going.

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