Author Archives: Anna Michaels

Welcome to Tik – we’re updating our website. In the meantime, see us at the Tik stall at the local market, on 3rd Saturday of each month, 9 am till 1pm in the High Street, or Thursday and Sunday mornings till 12 midday at Rectory Farm, Gade Valley Close

Why we love our electric car!

John Ingleby, Chair, Transition in Kings

By Christmas 2015 it was obvious our old diesel car would have to go.  “Dieselgate” had exposed the shortcomings of emission testing, but at 15 years of age our car had simply become too expensive to fix.

I had been thinking about an electric car, so when a BMW leaflet came through the door I signed up for a test drive of the little i3.  I also booked a test drive on the Nissan Leaf.  BMW took longer to set a date, and so it happened that my wife and I went to the Nissan dealer first.

In spite of all the different instruments and switches (we’re both in our 70’s), we were impressed by our brief experience of driving the Leaf.  Compared to our old banger we welcomed its quietness, the powerful acceleration and precise handling.

Now, my wife is a bookkeeper.  I’m not afraid of numbers, but she has always been our Finance Director.  So when we sat down with the salesman, I started explaining again how the purpose of our test drive was simply, you know, to find out about electric cars, generally?  And we definitely weren’t ready to buy.

However, my hopes of getting away evaporated as my wife started asking about numbers.  We were told about the government allowance and dealer’s discount.  At this point I suggested that my wife and I step out for a private chat, but this was calmly and lovingly brushed aside.  Soon after, quite large amounts of money were mentioned.

I mean, one should never jump at the first offer, right?  Otherwise, how do you know there isn’t something better elsewhere?  And two months for delivery?  (But it would be a March ‘16 registration.)  £150 for our old banger?  (I had to admit it wasn’t worth more.)  Only 100 miles before you must fill up again?  (But 25 minutes = a cup of coffee.)  And so on … .

We didn’t step outside for a chat, and we did sign away a big chunk of money, but I haven’t regretted it for one moment.  There are many things about our Leaf that make it really work well for us:

  • Even now, 20 months later, we love driving it.  We love talking to each other without shouting.
  • It drives like a powerful GT roadster, and with its low centre of gravity it corners like a sports car.
  • We plug in at home and add 50% to the battery overnight.  So it rarely goes below 30%, and it’s usually fully charged by morning.
  • With one exception, our long drives are around 90 miles, and yes, it does take 25 minutes to top up in order to get us home.
  • We do the longest journey (150 miles) twice a year, and on these occasions we stop and top up in both directions.
  • There are smartphone apps for almost everything to do with electric driving, such as locating charge points and keeping track of charging while enjoying coffee.
  • The Leaf satnav is the best we’ve ever used.  Moreover, she tells you if you haven’t enough charge to reach your destination.  Then she guides you to your chosen charge point.
  • One night, my wife was driving alone and the battery was getting low.  Using our phones, I tracked her location and reassured her about reaching the charge point.
  • It requires very little servicing.  No diesel, petrol, oil.  Just filling the washer and checking tyres.  No road tax or congestion charge!
  • It is much cheaper to run, 2p-3p per mile.

When it comes to carbon savings, critics say “Yes, but overnight electricity comes from fossil-fuelled power stations”.  True, but remember, much more of Britain’s electricity is coming from renewable sources, especially wind.  The total lifetime “carbon cost” of an electric car is less than half of an equivalent petrol or diesel car, and that’s in countries like Poland or USA where most electricity comes from coal.  It’s even better in countries with more renewable energy.

In the not-very-distant future, our solar panels will charge the car battery, and then give back a small amount for the fridge overnight.

Interesting times, eh?


An Introduction to Transition Streets

Jim Attenborough

Transition Streets is a process designed to bring neighbours together with a view to saving them money, reducing their environmental impact and getting to know their neighbours.

This scheme was originally started in Totnes in Devon but has now spread internationally.  Visit for more information.

The scheme works like this:

Members of the community who express an interest in the scheme are provided with letters to deliver to their neighbours to see who is interested in taking part.  Once there are 8 – 10 interested parties, neighbours come together to form a Transition Streets group in their road.  The initial meeting is facilitated by a member of Transition in Kings (TiK) in one of the members’ homes.  At this initial meeting all members are provided with a free and comprehensive workbook filled with tips, information on government grants and practical suggestions on how to reduce waste and improve efficiency.  Some of these actions are free to do, some require investment and some can be eligible for government grants.

There are seven meetings and members of the group decide for themselves when to have them – monthly/bi-monthly etc – and whether to have a break at Christmas or in August when members may be away.  Aside from the initial facilitated meeting and a wrapping up meeting at the end, there are five meetings in between, themed as follows – energy, water, food, waste and transport.

During the trial scheme that TIK ran in 2015 with thirty-four households, apart from the information in the Transition Streets handbook, there was a great deal of information passed between members of the groups – different members had experience with heating controls, solar panels, electric vehicles, applying for grants and funding, reducing energy consumption and growing food.  This was a real plus as it added to the wealth of information contained in the handbook.

Each household can save £500 a year with ease and some will save more, especially if they use the money saved to invest in further efficiency measures.  Ideally this money would be spent on local goods and services to aid the local economy.

One of the new ideas we introduced in our “version” of this scheme was a thermal-image camera survey of participants’ homes which identified missing insulation and poorly performing windows and doors.  We took pictures of problem areas and emailed them to the owners so they could look into improvements and show contractors exactly where the issues were.

Some of these groups continue to meet socially, which is no doubt helping to combat the loss of community spirit and loneliness that is a fairly constant criticism of our society, although I would say Kings Langley fares better than most in this regard, but we can still improve on this.

If you would like to take part and reduce your expenditure, get to know your neighbours better and reduce your impact on the environment, please keep an eye out for announcements regarding our new round of Transition Streets later this year.

The UK’s First Eco-Town

Lindsey March

Bicester is famous all over the world as the site of the UK’s biggest tourist attraction, Bicester Village.  The signs in Japanese that you see in London are to direct visitors there.  It offers an immersive shopping experience, designed to help you consume as much fashion as you can manage to pack into your huge suitcase.  But it may soon become as synonymous with restrained, sustainable, comfortable but also aware and proud ways of living, made possible in the Bicester Eco-Town, where residents began to move in in 2016.  The second phase will have 6,000 homes.

TiK (Transition in Kings) hosted a talk by Nicole Lazarus who told us about Bicester Eco-Town.  It follows on BedZED, a development in London which is sustainable and also a successful community, where houses sell for 10-15% above the average local price.  She worked on this project and is now the Oxfordshire programme manager for Bioregional, working with a major housing provider and the local council to build the new town, whose first phase has 393 homes, a primary school, a community centre, an eco-pub and an eco-business and retail centre.

Bioregional is the organisation through which these projects are built.    It is guided by the idea of ‘One Planet Living’ – seeking to make it easier for ordinary people to live happy, healthy lives within their fair share of the earth’s resources, leaving space for wildlife and wilderness.  This idea has ten principles, covering health and happiness, equity and the local economy, culture and community, land use and wildlife, sustainable water, local and sustainable food, sustainable materials, sustainable transport, zero waste and zero carbon.  They seek to deliver ambitious but practical products and services, which bring a commercial advantage for partners.

All the homes will be built to Code for Sustainable Homes Level 5, incorporating triple glazing, rainwater harvesting and water recycling.  Electricity will be generated from PV solar panels on every home.  Heat and hot water will come from a combined heat and power plant, and will eventually use heat supplied by an energy-from-waste facility.  There will be cycle and pedestrian routes, a bus stop within 400 metres of every home, live timetable updates in each house, charging points for electric vehicles and an electric car club.

As well as building the Eco-Town, Bioregional has delivered a lot of environmental and energy-saving projects to the residents of Bicester itself.

Bioregional constantly checks on what they have built to find whether their ideas have been successful or whether they need to be changed or modified, and communicates this follow-up research widely, so that any mistakes may be avoided by new eco-towns and villages.  They work on a policy level, national and international.  BedZED was initiated by Bioregional, developed by the Peabody Trust in partnership with Bioregional and designed with architects, ZEDfactory (based in BedZED) and Arup engineers.  The homes are all very highly insulated but also well ventilated, using the wind cowls on the roofs.  Fresh outside air is drawn into the building and pre-heated by outgoing stale air via heat exchangers.  There is a mini district heating system, and a large hot-water tank in each home helps to keep it warm in winter as well as storing hot water.

TiK was very lucky to have heard this very encouraging and inspiring talk from Nicole.  She has worked for Bioregional for 20 years and lived in BedZED for ten years.  With us, she had a very appreciative audience, but she often speaks to audiences of developers and other business people, who are not necessarily so receptive.  Speaking personally, I was very encouraged, while at the same time thinking, ‘Why are developers not required by law to do many of the things that BedZED were demonstrating back in 2002?’  Bioregional estimates that residents of BedZED save about £3,258 a year in transport, water and energy bills.  That would be a worthy subject for the talents of the advertising specialists, along with advertisements for the delights of Bicester Village.