Category Archives: Economy

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?

 

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.  http://www.bioregional.co.uk/

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.

Did you know that there is a local food market in Kings Langley every month?

John Morrish

Just over two years ago, Transition in Kings (TiK), started the local food market on the High Street to increase the availability and awareness in Kings Langley of fresh, local produce.  The aim is for villagers to be able to trace the provenance of the produce and meet the producers to learn more about their local products.  Produce has to come from within 25 miles of Kings Langley and vegetables must be truly seasonal.

When the present owners bought Redbournbury Mill from the Crown, the mill had been unused since the 1950’s.  At this stage the mill was well preserved, although it did need considerable repairs.  It was almost unique as a historical record of an early Victorian water-mill.  From crop to crust, Redbournbury Mill supplies the bread for the market.  There is a fabulous selection of breads freshly baked on the morning of the market at the mill using their own stone-ground organic flour which is milled using French Burr stones.  The mill bakery was built in 2005 within one of the barns in front of the mill.  Bread baked at Redbournbury boasts the lowest possible “food-miles” with the grain grown, milled and baked all within two miles of the mill.

Hazeldene Native Rare Breeds Farm nestles in the folds of Asheridge Vale (Buckinghamshire) barely a mile from Chesham.  The 70-acre farm has been run on traditional principles by Liz and Steve Bateman since 2006.  All livestock is naturally reared and allowed to exhibit natural behaviour.  Beef comes from English Traditional Hereford Cattle which is a very rare breed with only 1000 cows alive.  Lamb comes from Oxford Down Sheep and pork comes from British Lop Pigs which are the rarest of native pigs with only 300 sows alive.  Bred from a Cornwall and Devon pig in the 1880s, they are very docile, good mothers and produce excellent pork and bacon.  At the market, as well as the meat for sale, you will often smell burgers and sausages cooking, all of which have been made on the farm.  The giant Scotch eggs are a particular village favourite!

From Wobbly Bottom Farm deep in the Hertfordshire countryside comes a gourmet range of soft and hard goat’s cheeses made in small batches from milk produced fresh on the farm.  The farm is run by Alan and Angela, who have been developing and perfecting their cheese-making craft since 2003.  Today, Wobbly Bottom’s freshly-made products range from a simple, creamy soft goat’s cheese to cheddars infused with a delicious range of extras, including tangy root ginger, real ale and mustard, and cracked black peppercorns.  What makes Wobbly Farm special is that the people who milk the goats are also the people who make the cheese.

Vegetables are picked fresh on the morning of the market from the TiK growing area at Rectory Farm.  TiK volunteers tend the land according to organic principles with no artificial weed killers or fertilisers and plant and harvest the vegetables less than a mile from the market, so not even a food mile!  What’s on offer depends on the season, but it will always be completely fresh.  Our produce is supplemented with watercress from the River Chess in Sarratt and local eggs from Willowdene Farm.

Michael Youngman has been making honey for many years in Langley Hill and he sells his full range of local honey at the market.  A special, and unusual, treat is the ivy honey which can only be made in certain years when there is sufficient ivy pollen in September.  It has a very distinctive flavour and has a number of health benefits.

It’s a challenge to source fresh fish within 25 miles of Kings Langley!  But while the fish comes from further away, we know that is it very fresh from the sea in Grimsby and tastes just how fish should.  Derrick Cheers drives down early on market mornings to be with us with his wonderful fresh fish.

There are a number of other stalls that change from time to time and we are always delighted to welcome new stallholders so, if you would like to have a stall with local produce, please e-mail John Morrish, the Market Manager: morrishj@virginmedia.com.

We hope that this brief article has enthused you about the benefits of local produce and that we will see you soon at the market.  It’s the third Saturday of every month from 9am to 1pm on Kings Langley High Street outside where the Sorting Office used to be.