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Electric Cars and the Future - 06/08/2010
 

Good Prospects, but Heavy Batteries, Limited Range, and Copper at a High Price Generate Doubts

1.   The Coalition Government is to cut subsidies for electric cars, undermining hopes of becoming a centre for the zero-carbon car industry, according to the Times (28 July 2010). Philip Hammond, the Transport Secretary, will announce that drivers will be able to obtain grants up to £5000 per car from January, but the number of grants will be sharply reduced. The last Government had committed to subsidizing a minimum of 46,000 electric cars, but Mr Hammond will confirm funding for only £8,600.

2.   The minister said that the funding of £43 million that he will provide would ensure that Britain was one of the launch countries for mass-produced electric cars, such as the Nissan Leaf. The company, which is to make 60,000 of the cars in Japan next year, has warned that the number sent to Britain would depend on the Government’s commitment to the scheme.

3.   VEGA sees promise in the proposed changes, except for the disappointing curtailments when politicians have been bemoaning the gain that might be won from correcting the ill-effects of recessionary changes that could ensue upon good leadership and example. For instance, the car industry should enjoy some confidence by developing a standard electrically-powered light engine for use in cars, light vans and vehicles such as taxis, quad-bikes and 2-wheeled motorbikes under various badges and fuelled by electricity generated near home garages or a network of recharging places. There are already diesel engines for such general use and adaptation and after WW2 vehicles such as the Citroen 2CV and the Volkswagen met many needs economically similarly the British Mini and, after WW1, the Austin 12 has sustained great success and sustainability for an international range of purposes.

4.   In areas such as Africa, where solar energy is in abundance, electrical transmissions and on-site generation are potentially useful, particularly where land-based means of communication and transmission remain undeveloped, microlites (aircraft) could therefore become useful (as is happening in parts of the UK). However, the weight and bulk of rechargeable batteries restricts capabilities in this context.

5.   Anerobic digestion of wastes, with the generation of methane and remains with nutritious value attracted interest in at least one sewage farm on the outskirts of London. Small tractors on site were fuelled with the methane. Use of common power units and transmissions built on an international scale, which would ease repair and maintenance, and increasingly stringent regulations on the distribution of manures and risks of zoonotic spreads could be coped with; and, in the manner of old-fashioned farming in Britain utilizing water wheels and windmills, irregular sources of potential back-up energy could be supplied by header tanks of water pumped up and kept in reserve for gravitational applications when other sources are in spells of plenty.

6.   And, as in all matters electricity conductivity comes at a high price and is subject to the fortunes of instability in the political world.

 
 
 
 

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