Honk! Cars, People and the Planet. It’s a Wonderful World (Have a stupid weekend)

Have you ever given any thought to trying to imagine just how dumb some people think we are? My guess is that the good people of Hyundai have laid out serious money for this little film, without giving much thought to IQ’s.  So we can only assume that they have done this for our weekend viewing pleasure. What can we say?  Well, thank you.

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And what if, instead, you share your car? Next generation carsharing hits the street

The concept of “organized carsharing”, in which people join groups which allow them to put their own cars at their members’ disposal for short-term rental, is one that has been around for decades and which has really taken off over the last dozen years. But of late we are seeing a new kind of carsharing paradigm emerge: in which people rent out their own vehicles on a flexible basis to anyone belonging to a member group, with the whole thing orchestrated by a package of software services and set of operational and legal obligations, with the end result of that your car goes to work for you (finally!). This is peer-to-peer carsharing and after years of being an item of occasional discussion among cognoscenti is now starting to hit the streets in earnest. Continue reading

Honk? Green power for electric cars Let’s think about it before hitting the road this time.

Here we go again. Green power? A nice little electric car is a great way to get around in a city. I should know since I drove one in Paris for the better part of a decade (eyes right). Whether or not it is a good idea to multiply the kinds of cars that the main players have in mind (definitely not the one you see here) by say one billion or even some notable fraction of that is another matter. Have a look at this good attempt from Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth Europe and Transport and Environment to make some sense out of this one, where often enthusiasm and self-interest way outpace solid information. And then let’s talk about it.

Green power for electric cars
Harvesting the climate potential of electric vehicles

- A study by CE Delft
– Commissioned by Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth Europe and Transport and Environment


Transport is the sector with the fastest growing greenhouse gas emissions in the EU. Since 1990 its emissions have increased by 38%. (Including emissions from international shipping and aviation. Source: Statistical Pocketbook Energy and Transport 2009.)

European Commission President José Manuel Barroso recognised this problem in September 2009 in his ‘political guidelines for the next Commission’. He said: “the next Commission needs to maintain the momentum towards decarbonising the transport sector as well as the development of clean and electric cars.”

A number of European countries have launched national programmes and promotion strategies for electric cars ranging from support for research and development to purchase incentives. But current EU policies offer no guarantee that more electric vehicles on Europe’s roads will lead to savings in carbon emissions over coming years.

Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth Europe and Transport and Environment have commissioned a study that:

• Analyses the impact of electric vehicles on the European power sector and on CO2 emissions.

• Assesses how policies should be changed in order to maximise greenhouse gas emission savings from the introduction of electric vehicles.

The report is released as the EU begins to develop its electric vehicle initiative and action plan (announced for May 2010).

The study finds that electric vehicles can in principle substantially contribute to decarbonising road passenger transport. They compare favourably to (even advanced) internal combustion engine cars in that:

- They are substantially more efficient than conventional vehicles.

– They can be fuelled with electricity generated from a large range of energy sources, including renewable sources with virtually zero CO2 emissions.

- They have no direct emissions.

- They can charge up with energy generated by renewables when there is a surplus of supply.

However, increasing the number of electric vehicles without a change in current legislation could result in:

- An increase in oil consumption and CO2 emissions in the EU car sector, compared to a situation without electric vehicles.- An increase in coal- and nuclear-based electricity production, instead of an increase in energy production from renewable sources.

Below are the main findings of the report and its recommendations to ensure that electric vehicles become an effective tool to reduce CO2 emissions.

1. Ensuring that electric vehicles reduce CO2 emissions from the car sector

Existing EU legislation on car emissions allows manufacturers to use sales of electric vehicles to offset the continued production of gas-guzzling cars. So-called ‘super credits’ for electric vehicles allow carmakers to sell 3.5 high-emitting cars for every electric car they sell, without affecting the overall CO2 target for their fleet. The report shows that this has the effect of actually increasing oil consumption and associated CO2 emissions, compared to a situation without electric vehicles. It finds that increasing sales of electric cars to 10% of total car sales could lead to a 20% increase in both the oil consumption and CO2 emissions of the overall fleet (conventional and electric vehicles).

The so-called ‘super credits’ for electric vehicles also reduce the contribution of electric vehicles to reaching the transport target of the EU’s renewable energy directive. The directive requires that 10% of the energy supply for the transport sector in 2020 come from renewable sources (biofuels and renewable electricity). Biofuels and renewable electricity for vehicles are in direct competition to achieve this target. As long as biofuels remain largely unsustainable, renewable electricity is the greenest option.

Policy recommendations:
a) Abolish so-called super credits for electric vehicles granted under EU legislation on CO2 emissions from cars and under forthcoming legislation on CO2 emissions from vans.

b) Ensure binding and ambitious 2020 targets for CO2 emissions from cars and vans that will increase overall efficiency for both combustion and electric vehicles.

2. Ensuring that the additional electricity demand resulting from the uptake in electric vehicles is met by additional renewable electricity

Carbon emissions from electric vehicles depend on the type of electricity they consume. When charged on renewable electricity, electric vehicles have a greenhouse gas impact of nearly zero. Charging them on electricity produced with coal results in equal or higher emissions than for comparable conventional vehicles.

The additional power demand for electric vehicles is expected to be relatively low. Assuming an uptake of up to 30 million battery electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles on EU roads, the increase would be less than 3% compared to current EU demand. But without demand management, any increase in energy consumption could simply increase fossil fuel and nuclear energy production. (Increasing electricity demand from transport is therefore likely to have an upward effect on the CO2 price in the EU’s emissions trading scheme. This effect has not been fully studied in this report, but is expected to remain small in the coming decade, as the additional electricity demand will be limited.)

In order to avoid these market distortions, EU member states should boost the supply of renewable electricity. They should also monitor and report estimates of the share of renewable electricity used in cars for the purpose of reaching their 10% renewable energy transport target. This would stimulate the deployment of smart charging technologies that favour renewables and create an attractive market for electric vehicles.

Policy recommendations:
c) Encourage member states to raise their renewable electricity targets in line with the additional demand for electric vehicles.

d) Encourage member states to report the estimated share of renewable electricity actually used in electric cars, and not simply the share of renewables in national electricity production.

3. Enabling the use of renewable electricity in electric vehicles
To enable a greater share of renewable electricity in the power mix and in electric vehicles, the electricity system should be made more flexible to allow for the integration of energy from variable renewable sources, such as wind and solar energy. Electric vehicles can play an important role in this development, as they combine long periods of connection to the grid with large storage capacity in their batteries. But they will only do so if they are equipped with on¬board metering systems. These would help them manage electricity input and primarily be charged when surplus electricity – mostly from renewables like wind and solar – is available on the power grid. Unless charging is properly managed, electric vehicles will not play a role in enabling the future renewable energy system.

To guarantee that car manufacturers apply the necessary technology for smart metering, the technology needs to be standardised and enforced through EU legislation. The standardisation and compatibility of such hardware and the ability of cars and electricity grids to exchange information would guarantee that drivers of electric vehicles could charge up anywhere.

Policy recommendations:
e) Develop smart cars and smart grids that are able to exchange data and that favour the use of renewable electricity.

f) Standardise charging technology to ensure that every driver can charge up anywhere in Europe.

# # #

Press release:
www.greenpeace.org/eu-unit/press-centre/press-releases2/green-electric-cars-08-02-10 Report: www.greenpeace.org/eu-unit/press-centre/reports/green-power-for-electric-cars-08-02-10

Greenpeace – Franziska Achterberg: Greenpeace EU transport policy advisor, +32 (0)498 362403 (mobile), franziska.achterberg@greenpeace.org.

Transport & Environment – Jos Dings: Director, Transport & Environment, +32 (0)498 51 53 19 (mobile), jos.dings@transportenvironment.org.

CE Delft – Bettina Kampman: Senior researcher/consultant,
+31 (0)15-2150171, +31 (0)6 21520939 (mobile), kampman@ce.nl.

EVs: First clarification on impact in cities

It is hard to sort out if electric cars are or are not going to be a force in the move to sustainable transportation and sustainable cities. The media gives a lot of space to them, there is something admittedly attractive about them, but what is the real bottom line? We decided to ask the people closest to these issues to share their views here.

- Michael Glotz-Richter reporting from Bremen Germany

Thanks for asking Eric. We’ve studied the issue here in Bremen over some years and the following two images summarise our main findings. I’m pleased to share them with the readers of World Streets and invite comments and challenges.

Here is what one street looks like today, without any electric cars that I know of:

And in the second photograph, you see what the same street would look like with a 100% conversion to electric cars. Very edifying we think:

The point is, of course, that technology alone isn’t the answer. And in fact, there is a danger that with electric vehicles, we may even end up with more cars on our streets. That’s why it’s crucial that any new “clean” technology – electric or otherwise – be integrated with measures to preserve our precious urban space – like cycling, public transport, and especially Car-Sharing.

I’m not sure if that’s answered your question or just opened up yet other ones . . .

# # #

From the editor: We welcome similar before/after EV photos of your city. And of course your comment.

- Michael Glotz-Richter, michael.glotz-richter@umwelt.bremen.de, is Senior Advisor Sustainable Mobility, Senate Department for Environment, Construction, Transport and European Affairs, Free Hanseatic City of Bremen, Germany

Common sense on "next generation" carsharing – Paris, London EV proposals

[The following piece of this date graciously shared with us by the author and the Climate Change Group ]

Could London follow Paris with electric car sharing?]

18 Mar 2009 | Author: Toby Procter | -

Boris Johnson’s electric cars will not be as green as those powered by the French, so why not just hop on a bus instead?

Aiming to make London the ‘electric capital of Europe’, London Mayor Boris Johnson told the London assembly on 25 February that a working group was considering a plan along the lines of the Autolib’ electric car rental scheme planned for Paris for 2010, and wanted to greatly expand support for charging points around London.

Johnson hoped for a “sizeable chunk” of the £250m government funding for electric vehicle initiatives, and added that he wanted to see at least half the 8,000-vehicle fleet owned by the Greater London Authority replaced by electric vehicles as soon as possible, while warning that considerable sums were necessary in order to invest in a technology that is “almost there … but not quite”.

Last October, the Paris authorities announced plans for an ‘Autolib’ electric car-sharing scheme to do on four wheels what the successful Vélib bicycle sharing scheme has done on two. Paris proposes 2,000 EVs to be available from 200 city centre underground car parks and 500 parking bays, and another 2,000 in the city’s suburbs. These vehicles could be booked online, picked up in one bay and left in another at the journey’s end.

Electric cars still have teething problems. Problem one is that these cars – some are not technically cars, but ‘quadricycles’ such as the REVA and Aixam Mega – are produced in small numbers and cost more than comparable ordinary cars, despite offering limited range, utility and space.

Problem two is the infrastructure EVs need, given their batteries’ present shortcomings. Most EVs’ batteries need recharging for 7-8 hours after around 100 miles. The 40 Elektrobay street-side recharging units already in place in London cost around £7,500 per unit installed – multiply that by 700 units as with the Paris scheme – and it adds up to a huge sum of cash.

Then there’s the cost of telematics and accounting systems and associated hardware to charge users for the ‘juice’ and the rentals. Elektromotive, the UK firm which has supplied London’s recharging points to date, recently signed an agreement with the Renault-Nissan Alliance, which hopes for global EV market leadership from the launch of its first electric cars in 2012, but solutions to large-scale recharging/parking infrastructure issues remain unproven.

London is likely to start, as have some other local authorities, by buying more electric vehicles for the GLA fleet, whose journeys start and end at depots where off-road recharging units can more easily be installed.

To date, car sharing clubs have remained small-scale, though in London, the City Car Club saw membership rise 109% last year, and rival Whizzgo’s rose 42%. One such company might take on the management of an EV sharing scheme. But it would provide electric car access only to the few, so might not deserve big subsidies.

The question of whether electric cars in London are the greenest option should also be asked. France relies on nuclear energy for around 80% of its electricity and therefore has a much lower carbon electricity supply than the Brits.

And according to estimates cited by the French EV maker Aixam, on average people only need cars in London for 4-mile journeys. Might they be better off taking a bus? Improving bus services might cut urban CO2 emissions more efficiently than a token fleet of electric cars available only to the few.

However London decides to pump-prime electric transport, the Mayor should reflect on the fact that some of the latest small diesel cars from European manufacturers emit CO2 emissions below 100gm/km, well below the 2012 limit proposed by the EU, and scarcely more than the average 87g/km calculated for electric cars by the UK’s King Review of Low Carbon Cars, factoring in the UK’s renewables-poor generation mix.