Thursday, 18 March 2010

Electric car? I'd rather walk

Nissan have announce that they are producing the new Leaf electric car at their plant in Sunderland. Excellent news for the economy, and good news for Sunderland. The Leaf is a fully electric, battery powered vehicle that is the world's first mass-produced electric car.
But it's rubbish. And, I will explain why I think this, bearing in mind I've never driven one.

Because, with petrol at £1.16/litre, it would seem to be a good idea. Oil costs a lot to refine, is controlled by a few countries (some of which, lets face it, have dubious political systems), and pollutes everything. I'm sceptical about global warming/climate change being caused by cars, but as a country-dweller I notice my chest getting tighter when I get to work, due in no small part to the fumes in the atmosphere. On top of this, the internal combustion engine is full of mechanical bits that can, and do, go wrong. Electric cars have less moving bits to break, don't produce any pollution (asides from what is used to generate the electricity in the first place), and are quieter than normal cars.

But, the battery-powered car, as it stands, is not the solution. Here's why. The American website for this vehicle provides the facts that will kill this car dead for most people. The site actually lists these as the top three questions - remember it's an American site, but the car is the same.

Q. How much will the Leaf cost:

A. At this point we're unable to give an exact price, but we're targeting in the range of other family sedans.

Q. How far can you drive on a single charge?

A. 100 miles per charge under average, everyday driving conditions.

Q. How long does it take to charge the battery?

A. 4-8 hours on a 220v home charging unit. At quick-charge stations, it will charge to 80% in about 26 minutes.

So there you have it. It'll cost the same as a standard car, but can only do 100 miles and takes 8 hours to charge, unless you are incredibly lucky and find the only garage in the world with a fast-charger, in which case you can do another 80 miles after nearly half an hour charging. And remember, that assumes it's not nighttime - your lights will use the battery quicker. It assumes you aren't sat in a traffic jam. It assumes the roads are flat - uphills will use the battery quicker. It assumes the batteries are new and can hold a full charge, old batteries lose efficiency.

My car has a one litre engine, costs about £35 to fill up, does 350 miles between fill-ups, and if I run out of fuel I can top it back up in about 5 minutes average. So why would I want a car that isn't as good? Answer, I wouldn't.

Sadly, though, people will buy this pile of dung, because they believe that if they don't, the planet will die by next Tuesday. The Government loves it, because they can be seen to be green, without risking fuel-tax income - let's face it, no sane person will buy one, and we'll all be filling up at the current extortionate prices for years to come. In fact, the Government can now increase fuel tax further, because they can use this new car as an excuse; "well you've got a choice now, haven't you." Well no I haven't, because 100 miles a day is on the edge of what I do on a daily basis, and I guarantee that the miles I put in, I will run out of battery power sooner rather than later. The RAC/AA will grow to hate these vehicles, I'm sure.

Annoyingly, there is a sensible alternative. The hydrogen fuel cell. Simply, these are still electric vehicles, but instead of batteries to store power, you fill the car up with hydrogen and pass it through a catalyst, which produces electricity. They still need development, but are far superior than battery cars in every way. Firstly, they have a greater range than batteries, and secondly, they can be refuelled in exactly the same way as your current car. And that's the key. They have the advantages of electric cars, but work in exactly the same way as your current vehicle; you fill it up when it runs out. The only pollutant is water. And you can produce hydrogen from water, using electricity, so there's no excuse for not using renewable sources to do this.

Instead of spending vast money on subsidies for battery car plants, doesn't it make sense to develop this technology? It works, it's nearly ready, but with a big push, fuel cells would revolutionise personal transport within ten years, I'm sure of it. And we could all forget these ridiculous, overpriced, impractical milk floats that companies like Nissan keep trying to push onto us.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

MOT. Again.

I don't want to brag, but the car just sailed through it's MOT again. As it did last year.

That means it's been a year since I started this blog. The MOT entry was one of my first. So, a retrospective. In the last 12 months since I started this blog;

* I'm more skint than ever, money is ridiculously tight.
* I've changed job role, hopefully permanently!
* I've gone up to a 34 waist, and dropped back down to 32 again.
* The winter has been a bleak, never-ending nightmare of time off work, car parked half a mile away, and lots of dragging food up the hill on a sledge. (hence the drop in waist size again!)
* Interest rates have remained exactly the same
* I've used 4 ink cartridges on my HP printer
* I've done 872 miles on the moped, and it still works.

Lots of other stuff happened as well, but I'll be here listing them all day and you already know, because you read it on the blog, or in the news, or saw it on telly.

How has the blog gone? I'm not really sure why I started it now, but I guess I've never kept a diary, and this is a similar sort of thing. I'd read other blogs, enjoyed them, and it made me want to do the same. If anything, I've found the hardest thing is to put aside time to do the blog on a regular basis. On many other occasions I've simply struggled to find a subject. In addition, it's difficult not to appear like I'm just copying other people in terms of style and content.

So if you've been following my ramblings, commented on them, recommended them to others, thanks. I'll probably review what's happened, maybe come up with more of a theme, or just carry on as before. Either way, I promise I'll try and get better at it by this time next year!

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Work sucks.

My career hit something of a turning point this week. I recently got transferred to the same town where my wife works, and a new job away from the nightmare that is a call centre I have endured for the last two years. I've done the training (irrelevant, but necessary), started the job, and it's been going OK. Logistically it's great, as we can share a car, no waiting around, no parking issues.


It's reached a stage where I've hit a brick wall, and it has been 'suggested' that I move to a smaller branch that has more time to provide the training I need, and have been asking for. This poses a problem in terms of travelling, defeats the object of moving roles in the first place, but makes sense from a career point of view.

I'm a bit disappointed with this. It appears I can't hack it in a higher-profile role, and have been asked to step back even further - I've taken many steps back in my career path over the past few years, and I'm reluctant to do it again. This is a massive kick in the teeth for my already-lacking confidence. It's also upset Mrs Beetwaste, who thinks I'm putting career first. Indeed, she's been in a sulk all weekend about it, and I can't blame her.

I'm feeling pretty rubbish about work at the minute, even though I've been enjoying the new job. And I'm sure the change will be hugely beneficial. At 37, it's my last chance to have a decent crack of a proper job that will see me through to retirement and will provide progression, because the alternative will be a bottom-ranking job. That's not how I viewed my life when I was 16, and I don't want to compromise again. This move has to work. Trouble is, I don't want to put Mrs B second, which she's clearly feeling like she is.

It doesn't appear I've a huge choice anyway; although it's been presented as though I have one, I suspect it's more a requirement than a suggestion. So we'll see what happens, I guess.