Category Archives: TiK Energy news

Energy initiatives from Transition in Kings

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.

Two films about climate change which couldn’t be more different!

John Ingleby – Chair, Transition in Kings

My wife and I went to see the film “Tomorrow” by Cyril Dion and Mélanie Laurent, and then four days later we saw “The Age of Consequences” by Jared P Scott.  Both films are about climate change, but they couldn’t be more different.

The Age of Consequences” is one of several films about climate change, including Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” and others, such as “Years of Living Dangerously” by James Cameron.  These films are all well made and lavishly presented, with the theme best described as “Stark Warnings to Humanity”.  They graphically illustrate how, if we don’t change our ways, our planet Earth is becoming more dangerous and less habitable.

My problem with “The Age of Consequences” and similar doom-laden films is that they don’t give any clues about what we could possibly do to avert disaster.  After watching pictures of devastation from droughts, storms, melting ice, warming oceans, mass migrations and so-on, the cynic in me begins to notice how parts of the film are actually computer special effects.  Small wonder that so many are persuaded this whole issue is a carefully choreographed “hoax”.

So I want to explain why “Tomorrow” is so different from many other films dealing with climate change.  To begin with, “Tomorrow” was crowd-funded from the inspiration of Cyril Dion and Mélanie Laurent when their first child was born.  Where could they find real-life examples of people and communities today, who are creating practical solutions for a more sustainable, equitable and just way of life?

Tomorrow” was produced in France, and first shown to wide acclaim at the Paris Conference in December 2015.  It took just over a year to add English sub-titles, and the Transition Network (based in Totnes) is arranging UK screenings for a minimal charge of £100 per event.  Most of these are being organised by local Transition groups, and shown to small audiences in town and village halls.

The story of Cyril and Mélanie’s journey is different because climate change is rarely mentioned.  Instead, their story illustrates the human activities which produce climate change alongside alternative approaches, to show how destruction caused by those activities can be avoided, and even reversed.

Did you know, for example, that while small-scale farming obviously involves much human effort, each acre produces on average five times more food compared with today’s large industrialised farms?  Moreover, small-scale farming is better at preserving soil structures and absorbing rain and nutrients.  How did we come to accept industrialised agriculture as the natural and inevitable way to produce food, with its demands for ever-growing inputs of water, fertilisers and energy?

The term “permaculture”, meaning permanent (i.e. sustainable) agriculture, describes modern approaches derived from the study of age-old methods of food production.  Cyril and Mélanie’s journey shows how permaculture methods are being used to grow food in today’s urban environments.

Tomorrow” is a positive, affirming and inspirational film, exploring creative solutions in the fields of food, energy, transport, economics and education.  In their travels to many different parts of the world, the couple visit permaculture farms, urban agriculture projects, community-owned renewable-energy schemes, local currencies, creative schools, and an ambitious recycling project.

If you search YouTube for “#Tomorrowfilm“, you will see how this film leaves people with a more optimistic and positive outlook for their future.  It is opening eyes to new possibilities for our own communities.

Future screenings of “Tomorrow” can be found by Googling “Tomorrow Transition” followed by the town name below.  So far, I only know about these dates and places:

Tulse Hill – May 2nd;   Wembley – May 5th;   Letchworth – June 20th;   Brighton – June 21st