Are Trends Electric: How will innovations shape our future?

Electric vehicles, eco transportAs more manufacturers bring out electric models, the buzz around electric cars is growing. The government / automotive partnership Go Ultra Low’s calculator showing that 100% electric cars cost on average 3p per mile to run compared to 9p for a diesel, or 12p for petrol – makes electric look enticing.

Electric vehicles: Local vs Long Distance

Andy Pimbley, Director of Claremont Farm, Wirral drives a Nissan E-NV200 van comments:

“Nissan got involved with our festival, Farm Feast, and gave me an electric van to try,” he says. “I literally fell in love. I was a real sceptic beforehand – but it’s nippy, and there are no emissions. In eco mode I can see exactly how efficient it is and our customers love it – it fits with our zero packaging, zero food miles ethos. And it’s certainly cheaper than running a diesel van.”

At a local level, electric vehicles tick all the boxes: reliable charging facilities, shorter travel distances and cheaper prices. But we’re waiting for the national grid to catch up – if we all went electric tomorrow, it’d likely fall over.

Different charging operators in different regions also means things are distinctly less convenient once you leave the comfort of your private infrastructure.

“It’s perfect for local deliveries, but I’m wary of running out of juice,” agrees Andy. “I wouldn’t feel confident taking it outside Merseyside – you can see how quickly it drains on the motorway doing 60mph. I’ve looked online at charging points, but you have to register; it’s confusing. You can’t just pop to a garage and plug in, and even the quickest recharge takes half an hour. But for local trips, or the school run, it’s win-win.”

Domestic and commercial electric vehicles

Nikki Edge, a director of family logistics company, Edge Transport based in Deeside comments:

“I drive a Nissan Leaf 2.0 so already appreciate the significant benefits of electric vehicles and can envisage a time in the not so distant future where we no longer use diesel heavy goods vehicles. “We have trialed alternative fuel vehicles and registered our interest in Volvo electric heavy goods vehicles. Accessible EV charge points and infrastructure needs to develop for electric vehicles to be truly viable for commercial use. We will continue to watch the marketplace with interest!”

While renewable energy remains an issue to be cracked reliably and at scale, there’s hope. Holland’s Solar Team Eindhoven has combined solar panels with an electric car to create the Stella Vie – a solar-powered family car that also supplies energy to the grid. Closer to home, smart meters were introduced in 2012; a way for consumers to ‘take control’ of their energy use. In June 2018, a panel of MPs warned about delays to the £11bn roll-out, soaring costs and suggested that the average annual saving was just £11 – around a third of that touted by the energy industry. While they increase awareness, the jury’s out on their impact on costs.

Use of increasingly-efficient electricity sources – from low energy LED lights to micro-grow food in our cities, or hyperloop’s magnetic levitation and electric propulsion for high-speed travel – will change our approach to the way we live and work. Energy – and how we produce and store it – will be the fuel of future innovation.

As prices rise, reducing consumption and costs are key to planning. But buyer beware, businesses. If you’re buying a new car, or planning a new fleet, local looks good for electrics, while long distance looks like a longer term challenge.

Author: Fiona Shaw, founder of Wordscapes and publisher of Ethos Magazine.

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