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Electric car challenge

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Jeremy Hillman Jeremy Hillman | 16:03 UK time, Wednesday, 12 January 2011

On the BBC's Business website we've devoted quite a bit of coverage over recent months to the electric motor industry.

There's no doubt it's growing in importance as evidenced by an increasing number of makes and models and changing consumer attitudes. That was the reason behind our idea to set our correspondent Brian Milligan a challenge this week - to drive an electric car from London to Scotland using only public charging points.

I'm delighted to say it's already drawing quite a following on our website as well as on our Facebook page and Twitter feed and a lot of you are engaging with our little adventure. We've even had a class from Preston School in Eaglescliffe, Stockton-on-Tees, coming along to see the car and find out about the environmental issues of electric motoring.

Pupils from Preston School, Stockton-on-Tees looking at the car

Of course, as Brian acknowledged in his opening piece, the challenge could be a seen as a little unfair. Many electric cars are designed more for short commuter runs than a journey of the sort we're attempting but we're not making any great scientific claims for this, rather we're hoping to bring the issues about electric cars and their infrastructure to the widest possible audience and we seem to be doing that.

However, I hear that our project has a challenger and a rival electric sports car has now set off from London in pursuit! For those of who haven't yet seen the coverage please do feel free to follow our progress here.


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  • Comment number 1.

    If the team with the Tesla that is challenging you is biased because they are using a sports car costing £88,000 (how much does the electric Mini cost? Oh, you can't by one - it's still a prototype!) then they are only providing some balance to your reporters equally biased and seemingly uninformed reporting.

    Why didn't you choose an electric car that is in full production for the drive to Edinburgh? And why make sweeping statements like "it is still not easy to drive an electric car any further than the supermarket and back" which are obviously wrong?

  • Comment number 2.

    While this trip is a great idea, the Mini-E is not representative of a mass-produced EV. It is a converted petrol vehicle with very few EV-specific tunings and absolutely no sophisticated software and no fast charging capability.

    A brand new Nissan Leaf would have been more appropriate as they are now being delivered in the US and and soon in the UK. Surely, you could have waited two or three months to get a vehicle from Nissan?

  • Comment number 3.

    As far as I can see all Brian has been doing is slate the size of the Mini for storage and the cold and electric vehicle in it self (not one bit of praise has been given to the EV). The Tesla has exactly the same problems though with the use of the High Power Charging points the Tesla can afford to use some heat and before its picked up the government invested £30 million pounds in to HPCs which only cost £2000 to make so why are they not being put in instead of the trickle chargers?

  • Comment number 4.

    The point of the EV is that is can replace nearly all of nearly everyone's driving - commuting and daily shopping. Most people in the UK commute fewer than 20 miles. The BBC persist in doing these long-distance travelogues that have no relevance to how an EV will normally be used.

    Households with only one car will have to consider carefully how they can handle exceptional longer-distance journeys.

    The limitation on stopping to recharge is not so much the capabilities of the car, but the capabilities of the recharging point. The UK household plug can only deliver a little under 3 kilowatts, so a 28 kilowatt-hour recharge takes about 10 hours. To allow drivers to behave as they currently do, stopping to refuel for a long journey in one day, charge points need to be designed to industrial standards: 63 amps at 400 volts delivers 25.2 kilowatts and a recharge should take a bit over an hour. The car can readily exceed these charging rates during regenerative braking - the battery can handle it, but the household supply can't.

    Reducing recharge times to be similar to a petrol or diesel fuel stop of maybe 10 minutes would require 168 kW for a 28 kWh charge. Proposed connectors go up to 62.5 kW (CHAdeMO) or 75.6 kW (Mennekes) for about a 40-45 minute recharge.

  • Comment number 5.

    Oh BBC please wake up and admit that this is ill-advised and poorly researched. Of course the Mini-E has little luggage space its a prototype petrol conversion with no EV specific engineering whatsoever.

    As for the "Practical Issues" those cables could easily fit into a well-designed container no bigger than a spare petrol tank that most people carry in their cars.

    The general language used is just so unnecessarily negative : "Lets see if this works" and "if we're lucky" I'm just glad that everything just seems to work flawlessly and effortlessly despite his consistent put-downs.

  • Comment number 6.

    I have to echo all the other comments and just say how disappointed I am in this piece of 'journalism'. It's so misleading and unrepresentative it's unreal.

    One thing for sure though is that the UK needs to wake up and start paying and installing high power charge points around the UK to allow the EVs a fair chance of success. Without them, EVs will struggle, just like petrol cars would if they didn't have petrol pumps. At least you can charge an EV at your house or a kind friend's.

    All I would like to see is a balanced article and one that shows real world examples of EVs and their benefits - 99% of average journeys are done so easily and cheaply for example - as well as their drawbacks, highlighting the main two drawbacks: charge time (which will improve over time) and lack of charge points (which is the government's responsibility to install.

  • Comment number 7.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 8.

    Stay tuned for other future vehicle challenges:

    Transporting a baseball team to its games in a Ferrari.
    Using an F350 Crew-cab long-bed for shopping tours of downtown London.
    Using a gas forklift to move pallets in a small enclosed warehouse.
    Couples touring of Europe's most famous mountains on a 50cc scooter.
    Mountain Rescue in a Yaris.

    The BBC, illuminating the unknown.

  • Comment number 9.

    Suggestion from

    On BBC's next program, they should do the journey in a 1908 Ford Model T. It had a 40mph top speed and 130 mile range. Only stop at places that petrol was available back then.

    One funny episode could feature...
    Ford relied on gravity to feed fuel to the carburetor, rather than a fuel pump, a Model T could not climb a steep hill when the fuel level was low. The immediate solution was often to drive up steep hills in reverse.

    It would then be obvious to all that this petrol motor car thing is an expensive hoax. Train and horse is the safest, cheapest and most comforatable option.

  • Comment number 10.

    I concur with many of the comments here regarding the charging infrastructure.

    If we can afford, as a charity, to donate Level 2 (240V 32Amp) charge points to public locations with a total INSTALLED cost (hardware, cable, and labour) of £500 then can someone please explain where the £30M has gone, and why we are installing 13Amp charge points on closed networks that we have to pay to use? Maybe this is the real story that the BBC should be covering, not some ill thought out road trip.

  • Comment number 11.

    I cannot understand why we are investing even one penny in a useles backwards technology that takes long distance journey times back to the days of horse and cart.

    For an environmentally irresponsible two car family in London, such a car might make sense. However formost peoplewho actually use their cars for more than just commuting an electric car is utterly useless.

    I have to travel distances on excess of 90 miles aost every month, sometims several times a month.

    The cost of train fares is prohibative and so need a proper car in which to travel. Electric cars are a joke.

    What we should be doing is getting hydrogen cars to work as cheaply as petrol cars!!!

    If they could ever get the recharge times down to 5 minutes, THEN they might be useful. After all
    The fact is, with a much shorter range than petrol
    Or diesel, they need charging more often, than a conventional car needs refilling. That means more journeys to the 'pumps' when travelling. Imagine if electric cars were as popular as petrol cars are now, now increase the number of visits to pumps, then increase the time waiting for an available charge point by at least an hour per car in the queue.

  • Comment number 12.

    Several of you are complaining about the price of electric cars - but consider the life of the battery - which, in several cases, has to be leased.

    Personally I'd love an electric car if only the battery technology was a bit less heavy and quicker to re-fuel. I seriously tried to buy one a couple of years ago. I do wonder why it is impossible to refuel whilst moving on major motorways for example. OK a third rail in a slot in a carriageway for electric cars might seem a bit expensive at the start but just think of the advantages!

    The other thing that bothers me a bit is safety - the power density of these batteries is very large and I wonder what would happen if a lithium battery was damaged and the vehicle fell into a river? (massive explosion or electrocution?)

    I think i'll wait for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and in the meantime stick with high efficiency small diesels - or perhaps a diesel/electric hybrid. (Please do not lecture me about the dangers of particulates! I would reply with the dangers of heavy weight battery vehicles in accidents - electric vehicles are quite a bit heavier than other vehicles - I think it would be rather like crashing into a milk float!)

  • Comment number 13.

    @12. Correct. I am waiting for hydrogen cars too. Now there is a technology that is actually an improvement an petrol and diesel in all the ways that matter, except cost, of course.

    @9. The difference is, they have had over 100 years to perfect the electric car and yet electric cars are still a joke. Also even driving uphill backwards, the car could get to places where a train couldn't, via a route of the driver's choosing And at a time of the driver's choosing. All massive advantages over a train and a horse and cart.

    @5. If you think a journey from London to Edinburg that takes in excess of four days is "working flawlessly" then you should go back to a horse and cart.

  • Comment number 14.

    @purpleDogzzz my typical journey is 200+ miles which I achieve easily in a Tesla Roadster. With access to Level 2 chargers everywhere then I would never think about range unless I was exceeding 400+ miles on a trip. The 'trick' is to plug in at every parking place, restaurant, shop, hotel, etc.

    DC Fast charge can deliver 30 minute recharge times on some vehicles that are currently in production. This will improve as we move forward and batteries improve - a good example of this is the Tesla battery. If it used the latest generation cells then the range would be 300+ miles today (not a bad improvement given the car has been in production for just two years).

  • Comment number 15.

    @John_from_Hendon the Tesla battery has an expected life of seven years or 100,000 miles. If you undertake some research on battery safety you will find that most engineers state that a petrol tank is orders of magnitude more dangerous than a battery.

  • Comment number 16.

    Great, and when you're done with it, do the same with one of the available compressed-air vehicles… you may call it unsustainable because it's dangerously clause to free energy while you're at it, but do it anyway, just for fun of it.


  • Comment number 17.

    I’ve been reading the BBC News website for many years and not until these user comments on the electric car road trip have I ever thought of going any further than being a passive reader, but I feel I must go against the tide and defend the purpose (as I see it) of the road trip.

    I’m from Australia and we have even less infrastructure in regards to electric vehicles than I am reading here - and also I will say I'm a complete layman when it comes to electric cars. Until reading the comments here I thought it was a good article and was curious as to how far and how convenient driving an electric car would be. Now I learn it’s not a real electric car (it’s a modified petrol car) and that people are talking hydrogen fuel cells and such. I now agree with most comments here that maybe the road trip is a little bias, and should have been done with a purposefully built electric vehicle and such - but I believe if I look past all the techno-jargon and fine detail (maybe facts) I realise it has made me more interested and more curious about electric cars in general.

    Before I knew about electric cars - and was under the assumption that you could basically go to work and back if the commute wasn’t that far - and had to plug it in when you got home - but until the Road Trip article I didn’t have much curiosity in electric cars in general - the article has changed that, even if it was bias or not a real electric car. I’m sure it wont be the last comparison and if I wanted to know a non-bias comparison then I guess I'll read a motoring magazine - but until that, I'd like to say thanks to the BBC for giving someone in Australia a little fun on a subject that I don’t know much about.

    Out of curiosity why don’t electric cars have a kinetic system in the wheels where while it’s driving it charges the battery - maybe it exists but like I said I’m just a laymen.

  • Comment number 18.

    Ok the main problem I have with this "experiment" is the choice of car by the BBC. Pick a real available (or even soon to be available) car. The e-mini is a test platform! You know, experimental car. Use the iMeiv or the Leaf.

    Also the tone and concern that everything might not work. Maybe the charge point won't open, maybe it won't go green, maybe the car won't charge.

    The main point I see from this activity is that UK should be installing "dual or multi-speed" charging points. Ones with the standard plug for home built, experimental or light EVs and a High Current point for production cars.

  • Comment number 19.

    @purpleDogzzz with regards to 5 minutes recharge time my glib response would be that I already have that (it's the amount of time it takes me to plug in the charge cable at night). The real issue is what happens when you exceed the range of the vehicle and how quickly do you need to recharge. In reality, having access to Level 2 chargers everywhere would mean that you receive charge everytime you stop. This works great for me.

    I could also point out how little the electricity costs me to do my 200+ miles… but with petrol at £6 per gallon it would probably make you feel unwell :-)

  • Comment number 20.

    I can't help thinking some people have been sniffing the battery acid. Electric cars may have their place as commuter and local delivery vehicles but, unless there is a paradigm shift in technology, I seriously doubt they are the future of mass personal transport. In particular, several aspects of electric transport concern me.

    Why is public money being spent on installing charge points? I can see the logic of seed money to help develop the technology and encourage the uptake of cars but private enterprise is surely the only model for the provision of charging points. Shell, BP and co didn't wait for the government to build their filling stations for them. If customers were to pay a comparable rate, per mile, to filling up with petrol, electrictity companies would be falling over each other to provide charging points.

    Home charging is simply not viable for the many of us who do not have driveways.

    The cost of providing curbside charging points (even at £500 a time) would be billions. Faster, higher charge rates of 25kw+ will require an even greater investment in upgrading the electrical distribution network.

    I have doubts about the green credentials of batteries containing toxic metals. While I'm sure these can be recovered safely at the end of life, I can't help thinking we're just storing up an environmental headache for the near future.

    Finally, unless the electricity is generated by non-polluting means, aren't electric cars just an exercise in pollution displacement? I write as someone who lives in the shadow of the oil and gas burning power stations that charge London's (congestion charge exempt) electric cars.

  • Comment number 21.

    18 hrs for Tesla from London to Edinburgh where are the BBC?

  • Comment number 22.

    @Mark. I already drive an Electric Car that has a range of 200+ miles. I've undertaken weekend trips in excess of 500+ miles where the limit is my fatigue not the batteries. I charge at home at 32A using a socket that cost £10 using 100% renewable electricity from UK generated wind and solar. The Tesla batteries are 100% recyclable into new batteries. Many companies provide charge points designed for locations without drives or garages.

    The electric vehicle is such a disruptive technology that many people struggle to understand how they might live with it. In reality though, most people love the cars and hate the idea of returning to fossil fuel vehicles. Here's a good example from Quentin Wilson (Top Gear/Fifth Gear);

  • Comment number 23.

    #20 - Mark - Even taking into account conversion losses in the power generation and distribution system, on a per Joule basis an electric car is still more efficient than running an internal combustion engine. Also, with electric power you at least have the option of using a less polluting energy source. With petrol there is no option.

    As for a paradigm shift in technology, the internal combustion engine has had over 150 years of development - give it a chance!

    There are instantly chargeable batteries on the near horizon using carbon nano-tubes which use no toxic metals and hold far bigger charges. As for hydrogen fuel cells, they are great in theory but there are still major challenges in storing the fuel (it leaks through metal very easily).

  • Comment number 24.

    "Would you measure flying time between London and Edinburgh by using a Eurofighter Typhoon? I think not."
    What a ridiculous and poorly thought out comment for a car comparison that is. If both cars stick to the speed limits which I'm sure they will, the top speed available is of no relevance at all.
    What is relevant though surely is that Brian Milligan chose a car that is a modified roadcar and a fleet test example at that which is little more than a prototype.
    For any attempt at a non biased test a production example like a Nissan Leaf or Mitsubishi iMiev should have been used.
    "Would you measure day to day performance from a non finished, non production version of a vehicle? I think not."

  • Comment number 25.

    How can you say this is fair with comments made by the presenter in his blog such as this:

    "My aim was to try this challenge with a mass-market car, and to use the opportunity to test the charging network more than the car itself."

    The car being used is not a mass market car. It cannot be purchased commercially. I could go out and buy a Tesla Roadster today if I wanted, and the roadster is more than fair if all you want to do is test the charging network.

    This report is a blatant joke and gives the public an unfair and biased opinion on electric vehicles.

    Not once has the cost of this journey been mentioned either.

    Shame on the BBC.

  • Comment number 26.

    Mr Milligan, professional journalist, seems to be saying that the Romans had 80mph chariots. Problem solved!

  • Comment number 27.

    This whole episode seems rather disingenuous. It's fair enough to point out the lack of a fast charging infrastructure between cities (as Ireland is implementing) but the way this stunt has been conducted smells a lot like TopGear style "entertainment" in the form of a ridiculous challenge!
    In the video clips, the point is missed time and again and the attitude is overwhelmingly skeptical and negative of electric vehicles in general.
    Those who drive EVs (like me) realise that they are cost effective, hassle free (no bothering with petrol stations) and pleasant to use for daily commuting and in fact the majority of journeys.

  • Comment number 28.

    Why don't these electric vehicles have solar panels on the roof and bonnet, ok you might not get much charge from a panel but my (petrol) car spends the greater part of its life either parked outside my house or parked outside my work.

  • Comment number 29.

    I am one of the few electric car owners in the Edinburgh area. It is a pity that when the mini arrives it will find absolutely no public charge points in the capital city. There is one charge point within the parliament car park (it was installed for a police electric motorcycle) but is within the secure area and therefore not available to the public. There have been comments about the Tesla electric car which is shadowing this journey; The Tesla is a demonstration of what can be achieved with electric vehicles. Comments on the cost of the Tesla must be viewed in this light - after all when Benz launched his first car I am sure that this also cost far more than the average horse-drawn carriage owner could afford. The time will come, and will come soon, that better electric vehicles are more affordable.

  • Comment number 30.

    To those asking how safe an electric car is, they are far safer than a petrol car.

    @12 an electric car is far safer than a petrol car, and both EV and petrol are far safer than a hydrogen-fueld car. In regards to your direct question about whether the car would explode if you drove it into a river - an EV car simply cannot explode. Additionaly, driving it into a river is potentialy no more dangerous than driving a petrol car into a river. The batteries themselves will short and stop working if they actually come in direct contact with water, and even then you'd likely have to physicaly take a battery out to acheive that since they'll otherwise be fairly well contained.

    In regards to what people are saying about charge times, there are three things you should know:

    1) Battery charge times are reduced and improved each year.
    2) Fast charging is already being pushed by the EU to become a standard. This will allow most EV cars to gain a full charge in under 30 minutes (obviously requires a fast-charge station - which should replace any current charge infrastructure).
    3) There are already plans to install wireless charging pads into roads. They would sit at places junctions, and so charge your car while you're waiting for the lights to change.

    EV technology right now is still in its early stage, but over the next 2-4 years you will see the technology leap quite substantialy.

  • Comment number 31.

    All this 'challenge' will do is prove that the electric car is a total non-starter, something that has already been shown time and again. So I have to ask what is the point?
    4 days to make a journey that my petrol car will make in half a day? Thats assuming you actually succeed. The driving speed you will have to maintain in order to make the range between charging points will be so dreadfully slow that your health and safety people should prevent you from doing it anyway!

    What would be better is for the BBC to spend some effort looking at the viable alternatives...
    there are some
    (a) There is an 'air powered' car from France - uses compressed air, has reasonable range and speed. The biggest advantage being that 'recharging' takes no more than the time taken to fill a petrol car, and that such recharging coudl be achieved at the existing petrol stations with no need for additional infrastructure.
    (b) Firelesss steam was invented in Victorian times for use in industrial premises where fire was not good (such as explosives factories), this is still a viable solution with the steam holding more energy than the compressed air mentioned above.

    Come now BBC, please stop just jumping on the nearest band waggon and try doing a little thinking - I'm sure its possible that some of the overpaid presenters, journalists and managers have a brain????????

  • Comment number 32.

    In the 1950's my parents used to take us on holiday from Yorkshire to Cornwall - by car with just one stop - used to take about 8 hours. Petrol engine of course. Do we want to go back 60 years plus in transportation? No thanks, I will stick to my present technology which will probably get me from Berkshire to Edinburgh in less than 10 hours. If you eco guys are that keen then get yourselves a horse and stage coach.

  • Comment number 33.

    Is anyone from the BBC going to admit that the car they're using for the test is not, as Milligan claims, a "mass-market" car? The car he's driving is an experimental test vehicle, and is not one of the nine cars eligible for the £5000 government subsidy [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]. Many of the problems he's been complaining about with his car would have not been the case had you chosen to test a car that we will actually be able to go out and buy.

    I'm not particularly interested in hearing how you got on driving a BMW test vehicle for four days - David Peilow's 18 hour journey from London to Edinburgh in the Tesla (which, if I had the money, I could go and buy today) is far more informative.

  • Comment number 34.

    @Phil Metcalf with an investment of £4000 in two high power charge points the london to Edinburgh trip could be reduced from 18 hours to 11 hours. That's using todays Electric Vehicle technology. Later this year you will begin to see large numbers of vehicles that support DC Fast charge of ~30 minutes or so.

    We are at the start of this rollout and I love the fact that I can run my car 200+ miles on UK produced Wind and Solar at very low cost. In 5 years I will have a battery capable of 400+ miles and fast charge, and won't ever need to think about range again.

    Do you really want to pay £6 per gallon for your fossil fuel in the certain knowledge that the price will always rise? Or would you rather drive around on cheap electricity generated in the North Sea?

  • Comment number 35.

    I don't think you have thought this through very well...
    Some of the advantages of EV vehicles are low running costs and lower maintenance costs than conventional vehicles due to less moving parts, at least in the engine department. Remember an electric motor effectively has only one moving part and batteries have none. A car powered by compressed air uses an engine driven by the expansion of the compressed air so therefore will still have moving parts and have to have more maintenance and complication and therefore cost. There are other complications with compressed air too in that when charging a tank the air will heat up and therefore give you less volume and less range than theoretically calculated unless the charging air is cooled, which is more complication and expense. As the engine runs and the air expands it will cool down rapidly which could cause freezing problems in cool damp environments like ours.
    Where is the air going to come from as well? the actual air is plentiful and free but compressing it isn't. Compressors probably driven by electricity will be needed. This electricity could come from renewable resources but the same could be said for the charging of batteries so no gain there.
    Storage is more of a problem as to provide suitable quantities for lots of air powered cars large storage tanks would be required. A network of air charging stations then would be much more costly than electric charging points.
    I am sure that air and hydrogen fuel cell cars are perfectly safe but you will have to very high pressure storage tanks built into these vehicles and I'm not sure how comfortable I would feel sat next to one of these in an accident, again not an issue with electric cars.
    You will see also that Tesla sent one of their electric cars to follow Brian Milligan and do the same test and despite leaving after him they arrived first in one day not four!
    Electric cars at the moment are really meant for the short journeys and commutes that 80% of the population do on a daily basis and for that they function very well.
    Perhaps you should view the Youtube video that Zerocarbonworld posted a link to earlier...

  • Comment number 36.

    Welcome to the world of modern journalism. I think Mr Milligan takes a sceptical view from the outset because if he didn't he would be blasted in the comments for being some sort of wild-eyed optimist disconnected from reality. So he's pre-empting the criticism. I certainly don't think he is setting out to give electric cars a bad name by using the Mini over, say, the Nissan Leaf. He's merely trying to implement some of the realism that people in comment sections like this regularly accuse the BBC of lacking.

    I believe this is part of a cultural bias in the the UK where people love taking a shot at those in power whenever they can. This supposedly demonstrates their superiority over what they percieve to be ivory tower dwellers, disconnected from a reality to which the criticiser is somehow extraodrinarily aligned. You need only look at commentary on politicians on any given day to see this demonstrated.

    The net result of this article is that Mr Milligan is showing that electric cars can do real journeys on real roads. It brings EVs into the conceptual realms of readers. I would support a disclaimer saying that newer production vehicles may have better range, but ultimately this piece of journalism is a good thing.

  • Comment number 37.

    @anotherfakename it's probably worth pointing out that the ONLY item on my annual Tesla service is the cooling fluid for the battery. Think about this for a moment... we could build cars/busses/lorry's that last 20 years or more and only requires coolant and tires... and after 20 years the vehicle is fully recycled into another.

    It's not surprising that the organisations with vested interests like the BBC, 'old' car companies. big oil, and even government are worried by the prospect of mass EV adoption (and home/local power generation). Where would they get their revenue from if they can't sell expensive TV programmes, car parts, fossil fuels, or tax?

  • Comment number 38.

    If the electric car is to replace the petrol\diesel car...

    It's performance and range will have to be equal or better.

    The electric car will never be able to achieve this running on laptop batteries alone!

    The battery power required for an electric car that can be used in the same way as we use our petrol\diesel cars isn't achievable!

    Maybe the fuel of the future is HYDROGEN?

    It is the most abundant gas in the universe.

    It is HYDROGEN that powers our SUN.

    The SUN is the source of all the energy we use,(Except nuclear power).

    Just like petrol or diesel - Hydrogen can be stored as a liquid and can be supplied at filling stations.

    A Hydrogen Fuel Cell can convert Hydrogen stored in a fuel tank into electricity to power the electric motors on a car.

    The Honda FCX Clarity exists !

    Petrol and Diesel is in the past.

    We need to move to the HYDROGEN economy.

    We should use renewable energy sources to produce the HYDROGEN we need.

    Maybe the Hydrogen Fuel Cell could also charge batteries in a Fuel Cell\Battery car - While the car is parked or not in use.

  • Comment number 39.

    Please, hydrogen advocates, PLEASE I implore you, go and learn some science. Hydrogen is 'the most abundant element in the universe' but not in the form of H2, which is what you need to run a vehicle. To get it into this (lower entropy) form, you have to put EXTERNAL ENERGY IN. From SOME OTHER SOURCE. Hydrogen, like electricity, is only a way to carry energy. It is not lying around like fossil fuels waiting to be 'harvested', as you seem to suggest.

    Read for example Prof MacKay's book where he clearly shows that hydrogen vehicles probably use MORE fuel overall than electric vehicles once you have produced the H2 (from steam methane reforming of natural gas or electrolysis) and run it through a (around 50% efficient max) fuel cell.

  • Comment number 40.

    @HYDROGENMAN it's funny how hydrogen is always "10 years away". IMO nobody is going to invest in the incredibly expensive infrastructure required and hydrogen will only ever supply a very limited market niche.

    As I stated previously, the range of my Tesla would increase from 200+ miles to 300+ miles if it was fitted with todays battery cells as opposed to those from 2 years ago. That's pretty impressive rate of improvement don't you think?

    Once we hit a 400 mile battery then I believe the game is over for fossil and alternative fuels like hydrogen and bio-diesel.

  • Comment number 41.

    Ten out of ten for bringing EVs to the attention of the country.

    Minus 20 for simply shining a light on the range issue.

    It's tough as a self confessed EV advocate to win people over in the great debate. Usually, one ride in the MINI E, the Tesla or the Leaf is enough for people to light up in amazement and, to embrace the new as simply better.

    People have prejudice against unknown things, it's human nature, it's what kept us safe in the early years; "Oh what's this? I think we'll call it a 'Lion', I wonder if it's friendly?"

    We all have a job to do, we need to get serious about our impact on the world, about on our dependance on limited foreign sourced fuel that we'll soon be competing with India and China for and, most importantly how that will affect our own children's lives.

    Please make peoples first impression of electric vehicles a positive one, please don't fuel prejudice.

  • Comment number 42.

    "Would you measure flying time between London and Edinburgh by using a Eurofighter Typhoon? I think not."

    Yes, if my name was Jeremy Clarkson.......

  • Comment number 43.

    I think its probably worth noting that the "performance" of an EV car is in no way worse than that of a petrol car, unless your entire basis of performance is how far you can travel in one sitting.

    As it stands, both the size weight and capacity of batteries continues to improve on a yearly basis. This time next year we'll have batteries that last twice as long as current, and are half the size/weight. That in turn directly effects the distance you can travel before charging. The fact that different methods of charging will also be available, from fast charge posts that will give you a full charge in under 30 mins to wireless pads built into the road to charge when you stop at lights, it seems a fairly obvious no-brainer at how effective these cars are becoming.

    Hydrogen-cell technology is a complete waste. The amount of energy that is required to actually generate teh hydrogen to re-fill your car may as well have been used to charge your car's batteries - and in so doing cost substantialy less.

    As has been mentioned already, it is the oil companies and engine manufacturers that want you to believe that EV is a pointless exercise because clearly it is not.

  • Comment number 44.

    I am very interested in the idea of electric cars. But as the facts now show it is many years from being a viable replacement for the internal combustion engine. Like wind farms the idea may have some merit but it is a very long way from being a realistic way of travelling. Are you seriously epxected to wrap up like an eskimo to drive in the winter, and what happens when the screen gets frozen over or misted up? For a two car family, where one is used for main journeys, this may be a useflu secoind car to drive a couple of miles to the shops, but surely a bicycle would be a better bet - and not so cold. In the summer presumably, instead of AC you drive with the windows open - very efficient!!

    Instead of pretending these cars are a serious option and subsidising their production and use, it would be better for the government to put money into research to improve dramatically electric cars or to find an alternative viable alternative.

  • Comment number 45.

    @zerocarbonworld. It is obvious that you are very passionate about the EV and are always quick to come up with some technical response to a lot of the complaints about EV. Quite a lot of of your responses are based on the positives of your EV, I'm guessing you have a Telsa Roadster based on it's mention in some of your responses. Here is where your argument may lose some of its merit.

    Not everyone can spend around £88,000 a car, most are even pressed to spend £15,000. So most of the benefits of the Telsa that you preach about are out of the reach for most of the British public. Don't get me wrong I do believe there needs to be a change to how we travel and I'm sure either battery or hydrocell cars are the start. But until they start delivering the same performance (distance, recharge, price, flexibility) that a petrol/diesel car does, it will be hard to get the everyday car user to make that switch.

    I for one have to travel distances 300+ on a regular basis and have only a couple of days for travel to my destination, visit people and travel back. I don't want my time wasted waiting to power up my car on a regular basis. I enjoy driving, listening to my music, my lights on at night and heating on, which are a huge drain on EVs. If I can recharge my car as quick, only as often and without pre-planning where to charge my EV as I do my diesel car then I would be happy.

    I imagine this would also be the issues of HGVs, export and import transports which are vital to transporting our food, products and maintaining our economy. Can your Telsa take on that role?

  • Comment number 46.

    9KW or 30Amp Fast charge?

    If we all got home from work at around 7pm in our electric vehicles and plugged them in to recharge them, Would the National Grid be able to cope?

    We were recently told we will have to build more power stations just to cope with predicted demand, I don't think that prediction included EV charging!

  • Comment number 47.

    Why is it the BBC is so constantly negative about electric cars? When petrol cars first appeared you couldn't stop to fill up then either, there was no infrastructure, you had to take the fuel with you. We are doing really well to have got as far as we have and all the BBC seem to be doing is to try and persuade the general public that EV's are no good. Come on BBC lets have a bit of positivity from you. You might as well have tested the Mini to see if it was good boat than do this, as you have set it up to fail on purpose.

  • Comment number 48.

    @Daniel_san the Tesla Roadster is my company car. It is extremely competitive when compared to other cars in it's class with no personal benefit-in-kind, 100% write down in first year (saves 30% purchase price), 0% car tax, no congestion charge, and ultra-low running costs.

    I recently travelled over 500 miles in a weekend. Apart from the overnight charging while I slept I did charge for a couple of hours while drinking tea and chatting with family.

    The Tesla that drove to Edinburgh yesterday did it in 18 hours... with an investment of £4,000 in two high power charge points it could do it in 11 hours.

    No reason why EV technology can't help with HGV's... a number of companies are working in this area (Volvo is one).

  • Comment number 49.

    @zero carbon world. Do you happen to work for the car company that sells the Tesla Roadster? As for the overnight charge, did you do this on the roadside or parked in a garage? There are a lot of properties that only have roadside parking, which would mean for an overnight recharge you would have to leave a window open for the cable to plug the car in (enter Mr Burglar).
    As for your 18 hour trip to Edinburgh, for me that's just not good enough, it is still far too long.
    Like I said before I'm still for an alternative fuel but you are saying that right now the EV is competitive against the petrol/diesel car, it's not. More time, research, investment and a means to supply the mass demand on the national grid with other forms on renewable energy (with everyone charging overnight) is required. Unless it can produce a high profit margin, no one will invest the large quantity of money and effort needed to really make the EV.

  • Comment number 50.

    @HYDROGENMAN many reports have concluded that charging electric cars at night would benefit the UK grid because it would level out demand (we currently have excess night time electricity). I've also read that if all 30 million cars in the UK switched to electricity we would require ONE new powerstation (partly because of the above and partly because we use 11% of UK electricity to make petrol).

    For more information I suggest you start here;

    And then read the report here;

  • Comment number 51.

    @George Woodhouse

    Our (the EV enthusiast) community is upset about this venture for the impression that you now have about electric cars.

    The points that you brought out have not come from your own experiences; please don't take offense to that comment, you've been told by the BBC that electric cars are horrible but, you like many others are keen, which is a relief to me!

    The truth about electric cars is that they are very nice to live with; we only have electric cars in our household, we sold our mechanical car after it languished unused for such a long time.

    The reality is, the heaters are fabulous as they heat up really quickly; you can experience the same by putting a 4KW fan heater in your car on full blast; try it out - toasty right? The AC in the MINI could keep Frosty himself safe on a long summers day.

    OK, OK , I'm fortunate, fate smiled on me & I can afford electric cars today but, I drive them, not just because they're great for the environment and even better for the countries balance of payments but because they're nicer cars. They're quiet, really quick, even the MINI E, they're so smooth and refined to drive and the sound they make is spine tingling!

    Electric cars don't work for those that need to drive very long distances everyday but for most people that do only drive less than 100 miles a day, and that's most people, they're really good. I myself had become so tired of traditional cars; I could have bought a 911 or an Audi R8 - yawn, so dull. Electrics recharged my enthusiasm in motoring.

    Do as I did, make sacrifices and give up something else in life (booze and very long road trips in my case) so that you can afford an Electric Car, get a ZipCard for those occasional long distance drives and feel good about contributing to the solution.

    With the capabilities of the cars that are arriving now, waiting for the solution to be handed to you is not on anymore.

  • Comment number 52.

    It's entirely possible that an electric car is not suitable for *you* as a main car. It is however suitable for a very large number of people, at least as a second car for commuting.

    I have an older production electric car which is great for almost zero-cost commuting, doing 40 miles every day. I have also made trips up to its maximum range (100 miles) without needing to stop, and charging at the destination whilst I am otherwise occupied anyway.

    Once fast charging points are more widely available I will make even longer trips than that, where at the moment I retain a combustion engine car as well for those occasions.

    Annual mileage last year on those? Electric: 14,000 - LPG: 1000

    Now you're bringing up charging at night as a disadvantage. This is wrong! The more people charge at night, the better. There is a vast surplus capacity of generation at night time, and even better, intermittent generators such as wind can be "load followed" by smart grid controlled EV chargers.

    However it's a sad fact that for some people, no improvement in range or charge time will be adequate. They just aren't happy with change, and feel powerless without the "freedom" that fossil fuels give them. C'est la vie!

  • Comment number 53.

    @Daniel_san no I do not work for Tesla. I own companies in the UK and US (in Medical IT) and spend my time running a UK Charity, ZeroCarbonWorld (which undertakes proactive projects in Electric Vehicles, Renewable Energy, Reforestation, and 21st Century Business).

    I try to live softly and hope to leave my kids a better world - I drive an EV, use Renewable Energy, support local people and business, work in a charity, try to make a difference.

    For me, EV's are real, renewable energy is real, and I truly believe this is a watershed moment in history… as big as the industrial revolution.

  • Comment number 54.

    #15. KevinSharpe wrote:

    " will find that most engineers state that a petrol tank is orders of magnitude more dangerous than a battery."

    Sorry, I don't believe them. Would you rather have a very heavy battery fall on you than an empty fuel tank? I've also played with Sodium metal and water as one does in a chemistry lab (Lithium is orders of magnitude more reactive) in the past and can recall quite an large exothermic explosive reaction! If 'engineers' have come to a conclusion about batteries being safe perhaps they could explain why various laptops using high capacity batteries have caught fire over the years! So no I thunk the 'engineers' have been highly selective when making comments about relative safety. (By the way diesel will extinguish a burning splint - unless it is very hot!) You will note I have been comparing high efficiency diesel engines with battery cars.

    As to battery life: the Tesla hasn't been around for long enough to know and I don't expect any one of their fun cars will ever do anywhere near 100,000 miles ever!

  • Comment number 55.

    Electrics are are very well, if:

    You have somewhere outside your house you can charge it. You are travelling within the limited infrastructure and your journey's allow for recharge time.

    But, I only have access to onstreet parking, living in a flat in the city centre, so no power cables there. I travel around Scotland as part of my job (trips regularly around 200 miles), petrol stations are far enough a part as it is in some parts never mind chargiong points and I don't always have 8 hours to wait between trips.

    I do this in a car bought for £700 which does about 40-50 miles per gallon. It would take several years for the Tesla to make a decent return in comparison. I doubt my situation is unique and I doubt petrol will be supplaned any time soon.

  • Comment number 56.

    I have been following the progress on your EV car which now appears to have reached a point where you have been given special treatment to being allowed to have a charge for 10 hours instead on the normal 2 hoursI consider this to have prevented your car getting to its next point on the journey, because a 2 hour would not of been enough to get you there. Can this really be a failure to reach your final destination? The other point which I would like to raise is, 'how does this vehicle being a EV contribute to a reduction in CO2'? Because I have recently read in a motoring journal that 'an EV which runs on electricity from coal-powered sources generates around the same carbonemmissions as a pertol vehicle'.

  • Comment number 57.

    @John_from_Hendon @Blackivar @Ken Moth, most of your questions have been covered in previous posts (above) or the links therein. Can I suggest you read through these again to see if you can find the answers?

  • Comment number 58.

    Charging points could be put on street lamps where off street parking is not available, just text the number of the street lamp and it charges your car (and your credit card)

    Long distances could be done using a driveon/driveoff flatbed train carriage attached to the back of an intercity 125 (one going each way in the morning and evening) with perhaps 6 pickup/dropoff points between London/Glasgow (west coast), London/Edinburgh (east coast) and London/Cardiff

    I only do 30 miles max each day so an EV would be ideal but sadly it will be 20 years before they reach my price point :(

  • Comment number 59.

    The difficulty of not being able to charge an EV because of on street parking is a very real one. I live in a terraced house and it is often not possible to park outside my own house; sometimes I have to park across the road which is used by other vehicles. There is also the other little problem of people walking by my property and having to step over/duck under a trailing lead (not to mention how much fun the local yobs will have vandalising the leads and any charging points). There must be hundreds of thousands (maybe even millions) of people who do not have off street parking and for whome home charging will be impossible. I also live in a very hilly area which will greatly reduce the miles per charge figures. At the moment, an EV cannot be a "do-it-all" vehicle which means I would still need a petrol driven car to travel around the county of Cumbria where I live. That's two cars parked on the road - one with a flat battery! For running around a city with access to charging points I can see how an EV could work but for most of us who need a utility vehicle EVs are still a long way from being of any use at all.

  • Comment number 60.

    All cars have emissions! If we disregard the emissions caused in the building of the electric Mini and that of a standard Mini we need to do a true test on the carbon and other emissions during the journey. Taking a standard Mini, have the emissions been calculated for the distance travelled? Taking the electric Mini, have the emissions at the power station been calculated for charging the batteries over the period of the journey? Until we can prove the betterment of one over the other, then we may be jumping out of the fire.......etc! If it is found to be of greater benefit, pressure needs to be exacted to get the mileage up and the recharging times down. One other point, on the present showing, I don't think my boss would allow me to take a week to travel to Edinburgh from London with nice hotel stops!

  • Comment number 61.

    @ Blaggers my electric car is charged using UK wind and solar energy. I think it's reasonable to argue that this is a zero emission fuel. Obviously, we need to consider the full manufacturing process and that has been covered extensively elsewhere. A good place to read a general discussion of the issues is here;

    I agree that the time taken by the BBC to drive form London to Edinburgh (4 Days) is ludicrous. The Tesla that drove up yesterday did the same trip in 18 hours (including two 'fuel' stops), and this could be reduced to just 11 hours by an investment of £4000 on two fast charge points.

  • Comment number 62.

    @Screensaver you raise some valid points. Wireless chargers which are buried in the road are one possible solution for people who live in terraced houses or at the risk of vandalism. They don't have any cables connecting to the car.

    Tesla have many vehicles in the Suisse and Italian Alps and they don't report any significant reduction in range because of the 'hills'. Obviously, it must have an impact but it's small compared to the energy used when driving the car.

    I fully agree that you cannot have a single electric car that meets all requirements. This is surely true of petrol and diesel cars as well... otherwise, why do we have so many different sizes and shapes?

  • Comment number 63.


    I hope you are going to be pressuring EV manufacturers to put the charging cable on the same side :)

    Inductive chargers buried in the road sounds good but you have to dig them up in the event of a fault (the roads where I live have enough badly patched pieces of tarmac already), a better solution would be to put them in the existing street furniture (keep left bollards at junctions, on the railings next to lights etc.)

    With regard to hills, I was under the impression that most EVs used regenerative systems so you get back a lot of the energy that you used going up the hill when you go down the other side.
    (the motor drives the wheels going up and the wheels drive the motor going down)

    With petrol/derv now at £1.35\lt+, early adopters are taking interest in EV, at £1.50\lt the benefits of EV become tangible and new car buyers will seriously consider EV. At £1.80\lt you wouldn't be able to sell a new petrol\derv car except to diehard petrol heads or specialist purposes.

    Will oil companies let the price get that high though, unlikely I would have thought, they control the price of fuel through artificial scarcity and will turn the taps on (and drop the price) at any hint that they will lose out.

    EV will be commonplace one day but will face an uphill struggle at times as entrenched interests fight their corner.

  • Comment number 64.

  • Comment number 65.

    Are the BBC fabricating 'evidence' ? This picture implies that the cable length is a problem;

    But, could it be that they parked the car against the flow of traffic on purpose?

  • Comment number 66.

    Well, You did it, but at an average speed including charging of 6 mph. The last post coach made it in 60 hours, not much improvement in 150 years. The eectric car has a long way to go to be practical to anyone other than city dwellers.

  • Comment number 67.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 68.

    @Forcas I suspect this is the story the BBC wanted to tell...

    However, the Tesla did the same trip in 18 hours, and with an investment of £4000 it could undertaking the 483 mile trip in 11 hours which equates to 44 miles per hour average (including charging).

  • Comment number 69.

    Working for a large automotive OEM I find all of these discussions very interesting and it's good to see that technologies are being so heavily debated. There are, however, a few points that all of this brings up.

    Firstly, as a taxpayer, I do not agree with the government spending money on the charging infrastructure for other people to make money from. As someone else pointed out, all of the major petrol companies paid for their filling stations so why are the government paying for the charging points? This to me is un-acceptable.

    Secondly, why is the government giving people up to £5,000 off a new electric vehicle? Due to the cost of EVs, and the infrastructure, at the moment the vast majority of them will not be a first car so the government are giving 15,000 people a year who can afford a second car £5,000. Can they not give this £75m to poorer people who actually need the money just in order to survive, not jump on the early EV bandwagon?

    Having driven a few electric vehicles I do see instant torque as a big advantage over IC engines. Plus, for some people, the quietness will be a large factor. But for me, personally, you will never be able to replace the sounds of an IC engine which I like.

    I can see the electric car being used for small commutes and to get rid of pollution in cities. But I can currently drive from London to Stirling (and do so to see the in-laws) in 7 hours on 1 tank of fuel in a 180BHP V6. The 11 hours being quoted with fast charge points is still too long.

    And finally, to those saying that the IC engine in a vehicle has had much more development time (around 130 years) the first electric vehicles were built around the same time so techinically they've had the same amount of development time.

  • Comment number 70.

    @stavers could you tell us how much your trip from London to Stirling in a 180BHP V6 costs?

  • Comment number 71.

    I'm pleased to see that electric vehicles are being given some attention, but I think the journalism is a bit sloppy (and that does you no favours either).

    However we do need to invest in a charging infrastructure at motorway services stations and towns alike.

    Range anxiety is quickly becoming irrelevant for city use. 100 mile range is enough when the average daily commute is less than 20 miles. EV's have been starved of investment for 80 years or so but now the investment in battery and other storage mediums is beginning to bear fruit.

    Lifetime cost will be vastly reduced too. I'm lucky enough having to pay £350 for a new exhaust today!

    In 30 years time we'll look back and cringe that we drove around in cars that were only 25% energy efficient as OPEC continues to turn the screw. Energy security will become more and more important and we have to reduce the dependance on foreign oil.

    Why don't the BBC do this run again in a year using a Tesla, Nissan Leaf or iMev? And then the following year and watch the progress of battery technology and the availability of charging stations remove your poorly perceived problems.

  • Comment number 72.

    @stavers don't forget that the 11 hours being quoted includes driving through the capital cities of England and Scotland (not very quickly!). Undoubtably, you will undertake this journey quicker in an ICE today if you choose not to stop. However, in 5 years we will have EV's with a 400+ mile range and fast charging and at that point you will lose the range advantage.

    I could also raise the issue of your carbon footprint in a 180BHP V6 on a ~1000 mile round trip, but that's another vast topic.

  • Comment number 73.

    @kevinsharpe. You are comming across as quite a bully, very quick to slam down peoples issues with EVs. These are real problems that the EVs have. As I mentioned before you can't keep using the Telsa as a basis of your agruement, due to the fact that it's a high priced sports car that the average Joe couldn't afford, or would get as a company car. On top if that investing an additional £4000 to improve it battery charge (the cost if a good 2nd hand car). Give us some facts and stats on a more affordable EVs and see how they compare to same priced petrol/desiel cars.
    Face facts right now at this moment in time EVs have too many issues compared to petrol cars, and will take many years to surpass them in practicality.
    And one more point, not everybody is powered by a wind farm or solar power, most get their electricity from fossil fuels, it seems the environmental benefits of the EV will have to be heavily invested in more ways than just it's own development, and should not be paid for by the government.

  • Comment number 74.

    @ Daniel_san I use the Tesla as an example because it's a car I drive and therefore something I can talk about in a knowledgable way. I use renewable energy to 'fuel' that car and again can speak from experience.

    With regards to the £4000 investment, this is what it would cost to purchase two high power charge points that could be installed along the London to Edinburgh route for everyone to use.

    For more facts please review the numerous posts from EV drivers and follow some of the links therein. I recommend the Robert Llewelyn site because he has a jovial but knowledgable style.

    My whole issue here is with the way the BBC covered this story. They took a prototype car that will never enter production, charged it at 13 Amp instead of 50 Amp, and made the most of promote their perceived limitations of EV's. The fact that a production car (Tesla) did the same trip in 18 hours was never even reported on air...

    I'm sorry if you regard me as a bully... I think it's extremely important that the BBC report in a fair and unbiased way.

  • Comment number 75.

    @Daniel_san I would also add that the Tesla driver estimated that the total cost of the London to Edinburgh trip was £10 in electricity.... don't you think that's a story the BBC should be covering now that petrol is £6 per gallon?

  • Comment number 76.

    Who is kidding who, an electric car is boarder line useless apart from a novelty angle and academic curiosity. They (possibly excluding the tesla) have short range, shorter on cold days, shorter still if you put the heater & lights on. They take all day to charge assuming you find some where so to do. Can you imagine how this is supposed to work if there is a queue for a charge point, 2hrs drive, wait days to get a charge, 1 days charge and 2hrs drive home. Total farce. Forget "ah but…" they are no match for what they aim to replace, not even close. So take note boffins, get ya thinking caps on, fill time 60sec, range 350mls irrespective of ambient temp, heater a must for cold mornings and so on because what we have is barely an improvement on a Ford Model T over a hundred years ago.

  • Comment number 77.

    The Tesla is a specialist 2 seater sports car, with little luggage space, not exactly practical for families?
    These people who state that their electricty is all from wind and solar are deluding themselves, unless they have their own private windfarm. There is a miniscule amount of wind energy available (especially when the wind drops, as it often does in the depths of winter) so the majority of your electricty will be 'dirty'
    Electric vehicles are good around town, yes, but surely these are journeys which people should be using public transport or cycling for? Why should the government subsidise someone to buy a second electric car for town use, driving to the shops etc, when they could use the bus or walk if they want to be 'green'?
    The batteries of Electric vehicles use lots of previous and rare metals, do we have enough Lithium to power 500m cars around the world?

  • Comment number 78.

    @Martin_Belshaw and @killer_and_flash, most of your points have been answered in previous posts (did you read them?). I would also suggest you follow the links above because they provide many helpful resources.

    With regards to Lithium, it's most abundant source is sea water... last time I visited the beach that was not in short supply.

  • Comment number 79.

    To comment on the actual article: it's a badly put together stunt which anyone with knowledge of the currently available electric cars available will know is ludicrous. The only information worth taking on is the state of the charging network in the UK. Ignore the rest.

    I am disappointed that the arguments put forward against the electric car include that the sound of an IC engine can’t be replaced, mmmmm it can! After reading through all the comments I don’t think I came across any serious threat to this technology from not becoming the mainstream means of transportation in the future.
    EV proponents your job is done.
    On a broader note (and something I’m more inclined to rant about) this is yet an other example of the BBC putting out lots of comment and very little fact.

  • Comment number 80.

    I thinks it great that you came to Edinburgh the home of the Electric Car...

    The Madelvic Motor Carriage Company was founded by William Peck, Edinburgh City Astronomer.

    The Madelvic car factory opened in 1898, and is said to be the oldest purpose-built car factory in the UK. The vehicle first built there, an electric powered car driven by an extra, fifth, wheel under the vehicle.

  • Comment number 81.

    Jeremy as the BBC Business and Economics Editor is it possible to tell us why you have not reported the Tesla trip on air?

  • Comment number 82.


    I understand the point you are trying to make about renewable energy and efficiency / cost of electric vs petrol, however, as many people have pointed out it is absurd that you use the Tesla in your examples of how electric cars are cheaper to run.

    You asked about the costs of petrol vs electric(#75): quick maths on my standard 2L petrol car means I would do the trip for something like £68 of petrol, which is a lot more than the £10 of electricity your Tesla uses.

    However, given that my car costs £21,000 and your Tesla costs £88,000 then in order to recoup the difference in initial outlay I would have to do the trip over 1000 times (or a total travel of nearly half a million miles) before your my car became less economical compared to yours:

    (((88000-21000) / 58) = 1155)

    Even taking petrol price rises, service costs etc. into consideration we are talking about a ROI of something like 200,000 miles, or about 16 years at average mileage.

    However, if you want to compare apples with apples you should do the maths using something like a Nissan Leaf or Misubishi Meiev against something like a VW Polo Bluemotion.

    At that point we would need to compare the 13 hour travel time for the Leaf (according to your link in #64) against the 7 or so hours needed for IC. This certainly has implications for work related travel: you would need two people to share the driving in order for this to be safe, and there may well be legal implications as well. Equally it would make a domestic weekend trip to see relatives a bit of a chore as well, especially if you have small children who would need to be entertained for the whole trip.

  • Comment number 83.

    @Da5id I reference the Tesla in these posts because it's a car that I drive and can therefore discuss from a position of knowledge.

    In fact, 'my' car is a company vehicle and the total cost to the company is significantly below the £88,000 that you are using as your base line when the various tax breaks and other incentives are applied (see #48 above and the links therein). HOWEVER, this is a total distraction because the BBC could have used a mainstream production car such as the Nissan Leaf. If they had done that, and used sensible charging resources, then nobody would be accusing the BBC of continuing with their anti-EV bias.

    I agree that a 13 hour travel time may not be acceptable or practicable for some people. If you read through the comments here you will find many EV drivers agreeing with that point. Please remember that we are rolling out the first generation vehicles and they will only get better over time. My Tesla battery could already have gained 100 miles extra range in the two years that it's been in production, and I believe we will have a 400+ mile fast charge battery within 5 years.

    If you wanted a Nissan Leaf today you couldn't buy one because they have a large waiting list.... demand is so strong that ALL of the major car manufacturers are rushing to add EV's to their portfolios. Even sceptics like Ford and VW have been forced to eat their words and produce EV's because of customer demand.

    My final point is that even if you don't give a damn about the environmental impact of fossil fuel then I'm sure at some point the pain of paying £8, £10, or £12 a gallon will force you to reconsider using energy made in the UK. I really don't think our friends in China and India are going to moderate their demand to save the pain in your wallet.

  • Comment number 84.

    KevinSharpe (78)

    I don't see where my questions were answered, I'm about to go home in an electric vehicle, a London Underground train, which is far more environmentally friendly than any electric car.

    Lithium isn't produced from seawater, but rather from mining, and is mainly found in the remote Andes and Tibet.
    Quoting the Wikipedia article on Lithium
    "There are widespread hopes of using lithium ion batteries in electric vehicles, but one study concluded that "realistically achievable lithium carbonate production will be sufficient for only a small fraction of future PHEV and EV global market requirements", that "demand from the portable electronics sector will absorb much of the planned production increases in the next decade", and that "mass production of lithium carbonate is not environmentally sound, it will cause irreparable ecological damage to ecosystems that should be protected and that LiIon propulsion is incompatible with the notion of the 'Green Car'".[61]"
    The article in question is here

  • Comment number 85.

    @killer_and_flash great to hear your using the underground....will be even better when it's powered by UK generated renewables. I completely agree that mass public transit is preferable to the car... however, I think it's unlikely that you will persuade the majority of existing drivers to change their habits, so why not get them into EV's as a start?

    Lots of people looking to take Lithium out of sea water because it has the potential to be more profitable and environmentally less damaging. This paper is a start;

  • Comment number 86.

    For some time now I suggested that vehicle manufacturers get together and standardise a removable battery module in their electric vehicles. This would not restrict the design of the rest of the vehicle. Then, just the same as changing the tape in a videotape recorder or changing a gas bottle for a caravan, Filling stations would find it viable to provide facilities for vehicles to have their low battery module chenged for a charged one.

    Seems simple to me - possibly needs green investment from govt,car manufacturers and fuel companies.

  • Comment number 87.

    No Jeremy, the challenge wasn't unfair, just pointless. It's about as sensible as seeing if you could take a camel to the North Pole. You could have established the feasibility of the trip with a map and a calculator, saving the licence-payers the cost of the hotel bills for Brian and crew. You've also failed in your original objective: "won't potential owners want to know that if they wanted to, they could drive it from London to Manchester and back at the weekend, to see uncle and auntie?". The answer is that they couldn't, at least not until someone invents four day weekends!

  • Comment number 88.

    @ denshann battery swap is an interesting idea and coming to a car near you in 2012;

    It's also supported in the Tesla Model S;

  • Comment number 89.

  • Comment number 90.

    I understand there are plans to produce towable trailers for EVs which can be used to facilitate long journeys. These would contain extra batteries, or a petrol/diesel engine to top up the car's original batteries as it travels. Search for "ev towable trailer"

  • Comment number 91.

    The sooner any ideas of the electric car becomming our main form of transport can be buried, the better. It is a stupid idea beyond very niche requirements.

    Even hydrogen cars right now aren't practical as both are reliant on the same thing; electricity, which has to be generated, generally fossil fuels (renewables only being a small percentage and will likely never be more).

    It would be far more productive to build smaller, cheaper, more efficient single or double seater petrol cars for the daily commute. The Smart car, being an example. But going ever further; if the G Wiz were an acceptable form of transport then it would make more sense to slap a 250cc petrol engine in it. It would immediately become more practical, perform better and in the long run more environmentally safe.

  • Comment number 92.

    @Robert Simpson, you might want to tell the manufacturers here that they are wasting their time;

  • Comment number 93.

  • Comment number 94.

    Quentin Wilson (ex Top Gear/Fifth Gear) on BBC Breakfast Saturday. At last the BBC have someone with real world, long time, electric car experience.

  • Comment number 95.

    Department of Transport says the average length of car trips in the UK is 6.9 miles (2006);

  • Comment number 96.

    The best #Electriccarrevolt video so far;

  • Comment number 97.

    Sadly, in our view, the BBC misled the public in this vital area.

    We've been working in this news area for decades, the important truth is most of the traditional metal bashing motor industry is just not trying to produce long range practical electric cars, a few are.

    The Mini.E is simply a heavy traditional metal car with minimal battery and electric drive fitted, really not fit for test purpose.

    The Tesla is brilliant relatively speaking and it's exclusion says more about the real purpose of the test, to "put people off electric cars for the time being".

    With volume production and improvements, the Tesla electric technology can be much cheaper and range even further, why ignore it BBC? we need more people wanting this to increase sales volume and get the economy of scale to reduce prices, it's currently hand built.

  • Comment number 98.

    * 3. At 19:49 pm on 15 Jan 2011, notascientist wrote:

    @38. At 12:12pm on 13 Jan 2011, HYDROGENMAN wrote:

    "Maybe the fuel of the future is HYDROGEN?

    It is the most abundant gas in the universe.

    It is HYDROGEN that powers our SUN."

    It is not hydrogen that powers the Sun, it is protons, hydrogen nuclei. The difference is vast and important. It is the difference between lighting a candle and detonating a hydrogen bomb. One is useful as a decoration, the other is slightly less useful as a reading lamp.
    Hydrogen cars, fuel-cells or wax, petrol or gas flames work by combining the entire hydrogen atom with atoms of oxygen to form a higher entropy, lower energy compound - water. Wax, gas and petrol burning also have carbon to carbon-dioxide reactions, but that's a side-issue.
    Stars, like the Sun, smash the protons at the centre of hydrogen atoms together, four at a time, to make helium nuclei. The electrons are irrelevant. This is an exceedingly high-power process that releases great globs of energy. Far more than mere burning.
    When hydrogen is burnt, to make water, it can be un-burnt, using electrolysis or plant enzymes, and this recovered hydrogen can be burnt again. And again. All you need to do is keep feeding electricity into the cycle and you can, sort of, theoretically use the same hydrogen in a fuel cell or flame forever. Indeed, life on Earth is powered by this constant moving of hydrogen around. Plants use solar power to charge up carbohydrates, which the rest of us convert back into water. This has used the same hydrogen for about four milliard years.
    When hydrogen is fused in a star it is *gone*. Forever. It becomes helium. When a supernova explodes, it is possible that a tiny, tiny fraction of the helium ash is re-converted into hydrogen, maybe, but that is an energy consuming process. Mostly, the hydrogen that lights up the universe is gone. The universe is using it up, converting it into helium and other stuff.
    Hydrogen "powers" the Sun, and all of the other stars, yes, but it is a totally different thing from powering a flame or a spacecraft or a car.
    Petrol *is* hydrogen, with some added carbon. Burning petrol is essentially burning hydrogen. Petrol has the advantage of being vastly easier to use, pour, store and transport, and it also is vastly denser than hydrogen itself. Petrol is cheap to use, easy to use and will just sit there if you put it in a bucket. Hydrogen is difficult to liquify, difficult to store and (even with today's technology) more dangerous to handle.
    Per litre, petrol is enormously more efficient than pure hydrogen. It also needs flimsier storage tanks.
    Hydrogen *fusion* might someday run our personal vehicles, if we ever get that to work properly, but hydrogen burning probably won't. The technology is just too cumbrous and expensive.
    It would be easier and cheaper to use solar powered enzyme tanks to reform the used hydrogen back into petrol.
    Come to think on it, isn't that being worked on? Biofuel?

    The nine cars mentioned above that qualify for the UKGov grants can be found here: list of nine cars .
    An interesting thought is that we have had electrically powered vehicles for longer than those driven on petrol. There has never been much interest taken in them by the manufacturers of personal vehicles, though things like milk-floats did well for many years.
    According to this site , milk floats can be carged in 8-hours and can run for about 80 miles. By those numbers, a milk float could have done what this reporter did over fifty years ago.
    Indeed, a milk float could have carried far more cargo, perhaps even some passengers, and *still* have out-classed this 2011 vehicle.
    The BBC, in an orchestrated attempt to rubbish the entire concept of electric vehicles, using a petrol-car addicted, totally ignorant, blatantly biased and research-deprived hack of a reporter has published a piece of anti-technolgical propaganda the editors of Soviet-era Pravda would have been proud of.
    Our licence tax is truly being spent wisely.


  • Comment number 99.

    77. At 1:46pm on 14 Jan 2011, killer_and_flash wrote:

    "The Tesla is a specialist 2 seater sports car, with little luggage space, not exactly practical for families?"

    A milk float could have done better than this biased, anti-technological reporter. Even with luggage and a couple of passengers. With some plastic film, it could even have been made weather-proof half a century ago.
    And the BBC would, even way back then, have run the same dismissive joke of a report.

    "These people who state that their electricty is all from wind and solar are deluding themselves, unless they have their own private windfarm. There is a miniscule amount of wind energy available (especially when the wind drops, as it often does in the depths of winter) so the majority of your electricty will be 'dirty'."

    True enough. The cleanest, greenest form of power is nuclear. Fusion would be nice, but that may well be impossible on any scale smaller than a star. Fission is a very good alternative.
    Wind and wave and solar are pathetic jokes and complete wastes of resources. Geothermal could be useful, but it seems to be unpopular with politicians and financiers. Except in Iceland.
    Nuclear power is a sort of stored solar power, just like fossil fuels are. Stars make the radioactives, and humans dig them up and concentrate them. Fission is just another version of oil. Only cleaner.

    "Electric vehicles are good around town, yes, but surely these are journeys which people should be using public transport or cycling for? "

    Having tried cycling on British roads, I decided that if I ever wanted to commit suicide I would do it decently and cleanly and not leave a smeared mess.
    Public transport is expensive, increasingly so every January. It is often late, frequently missing and filthy, using uncomfortable, shoddily built, poorly maintained, cold, draughty and ill-ventilated vehicles that stink.
    It is also increasingly full of pensioners on free passes.

    "Why should the government subsidise someone to buy a second electric car for town use, driving to the shops etc, when they could use the bus or walk if they want to be 'green'?"

    Because it helps their friends in the car-building club, and it increases the value of their own shares in car-making companies. Putting even milliards of pounds into 'buses does *nothing* for the wealthy.
    Nor does it really help the poor. We need to nationalise the buses, socialise them and make them completely free at point of use, with a truly titanic increase of buses and routes, using comfortable, clean, well-maintained buses that people would *want* to use, before they would become popular as alternatives to a personal car.
    Car drivers working beside me can have lunch in town. Even if I could afford the bus-fare I could never make it into town during a lunch hour. Nor, as I work shifts, could I go *anywhere* during my mid-night break.
    Socialising the buses, running them as a public service for free, would improve my chances on a night shift, but the traffic during a daylight lunch time would still make it difficult.
    The personal motor vehicle is a marvellous tool if you want or need personal freedom to travel. Or if you don't want to sit beside some grossly fat yoik with screechy headphones in a vehicle with hideously painful seats for a couple of hours.
    Powered by nukes, gas, air, flywheels, mice or petrol it is something people are not going to give up no matter how good the buses get.

    "The batteries of Electric vehicles use lots of previous and rare metals, do we have enough Lithium to power 500m cars around the world?"

    Indeed we do. We could, using just the lithium on this one planet, create enough batteries for every car in a huge Galactic Empire. Lithium is dirt cheap and more common than steel.
    Don't they teach any chemistry any more?
    Lithium is a very light metal, atomic number three, and it is easy to find: sea water has gigatonnes of it. It is highly reactive, which is why it is useful as a battery material.
    There are metals that produce more energy when they are used in reactions; francium would be nice, were it not hideously radioactive and impossibly rare.
    Try "periodic table", "metals" and "alkali metals" in Wikipedia as a start.
    There are rare metals used in our technologies, but you picked the wrong one. Lithium is not rare.

  • Comment number 100.

    I think this video by Robert LLewellyn is worth watching because it attempts to show why he thinks EV's are important and fossil fuel cars have a place;


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