Monday, 31 March 2014

Will Tesla's 2017 'affordable' car be a success? According to a story from the LA Times at the end of last year, Tesla will present a prototype of its affordable car in 2015. But will an affordable high-end electric car bring in a range of new customers?

Currently, Tesla’s cheapest car is the Model S, which retails at around $70,000 in the US and £50,000 in the UK. But the manufacturer thinks it can bring the price down for a new model as it looks to ramp up production.

By affordable Tesla means in the region of $40,000 (£24,000), which is slightly over the average car price in the US, but still within the ball-park. Tesla has been open about wanting to expand its range and appeal to more customers and this reported cheaper car is a first step.

Tesla Model S

Tom Cheesewright, futurologist and BBC talking head, explained to me how he’d like to see Tesla challenging more in the affordable market: “On sales of $2bn last year Tesla lost around $75m. If the model is sound, then scale is the answer. The question is how much Tesla needs to be the brand on the bonnet. Does it scale by building its own vehicles or by licensing its drive train technology as it already has to Daimler and Toyota?

“I’d certainly prefer to see the company challenging directly in the market. If it can use a lower-priced vehicle to show a broader range of consumers the cost and driving advantages of well-designed all-electric vehicles, it will be doing the market, and the planet, a favour.”

Can a cheaper electric car entice the UK consumer?

Dan Powell from, a car advice website, certainly thinks that a cheap but high-end electric car will be popular with UK drivers:

“Electric cars are becoming increasingly common, with BMW, Mercedes-Benz , Mitsubishi and Volvo all set to add the technology to their cars in 2014. The news that Tesla is launching a new and affordable model will be welcomed by many, but we cannot help but question why it has taken an electrical pioneer so long to offer a car with mainstream appeal.

“Indeed, the race to produce affordable electric cars is heating up and Tesla will need to utilise all of its technological knowhow to ensure its affordable EV is up to the task. However, if its current crop is anything to go by, we expect the new Tesla to be every bit as capable. What’s more, with a £5000 grant from the Government, the new Tesla could be a lot more affordable than people think.”

Despite 1,149 new registrations under the government’s £5000 electric car scheme, which is the highest since the scheme was introduced in 2011, some believe that the UK isn’t properly equipped for an influx of electric vehicles. Richard McCann, a member of the Guild of Motoring Writers, explained:

“Well, it might sell well in California but the UK buyer is showing understandable resistance to EVs, preferring the more user-friendly hybrids.

“Yes, the £11m the government has thrown at EVs by way of subsidies has persuaded some buyers to take a punt but factors such as high price, uncertain resale values, inconvenience of plugging the thing in, recharge time and limited range are hard for most of us to ignore.

“But if you’re brave enough and wealthy enough to take a risk on an EV would you invest in something you trust, such as a Nissan, or something from a niche maker such as Tesla?

“Will EVs save the planet? There’s no sign of it so far – where does that electricity come from after all – power stations. That’s why the government is phasing out the subsidy, so EVs will become even more expensive. Eight hours to recharge doesn’t compare well with the splash-and-dash required by a conventional car. And the range goes down massively as cold weather affects the batteries. Not a problem in LA maybe but not so good in Leeds.

“There’s a handful of EVs currently on the road, but if more people switch we’ll need more power stations to cope with the demand for recharging electricity. And get real, running a power extension cable out of your kitchen window and across the pavement to the car at night will never work. Until there are sockets in residential streets the petrol station at the end of the road will always win out.”

Friday, 28 March 2014

BMW from ICE to EV in grilles

EV market drivers: Air Quality and Formula E It seems unlikely that 2014 will be the year that the market really takes off, but there are elements falling into place that could stimulate appetite quicker than 2013 may have indicated.

One factor is air pollution. Beijing's poor air quality costs $300bn a year in health damage and premature deaths, according to a new World Bank report. As well as shutting down some 300 factories this year, China's municipal government also has its sights set on the 5m cars that contribute 6% of the pollution. Last month they started restricting half of the cars on the roads each day, and also reduced new licence plates for petrol and diesel cars from 240,000 to 150,000 this year. Entering a lottery for these plates has odds of 0.8%, so the 20,000 easily accessible EV plates will shortly hold greater appeal to Chinese drivers.
Beyond Beijing, nine other Chinese cities actually had worse smog than the capital in 2013. And across the world Bogota, Athens, Mexico City and most recently Paris have attempted to restrict the cars on their streets via number plate systems to help alleviate pollution.
In London an EU fine for repeatedly breaching air quality (hitting 10 on the 1-10 scale) is looking more and more likely. One of mayor Boris Johnson's plans to tackle this is to put in place the electric car rental scheme Autolib, following its successful Paris trial over the past three years. Users can borrow a car for as little as £5 for 30 minutes, paid via phones or smartcards. With 10,000 journeys a day in 1,800 vehicles, Paris is now one of the world's EV meccas, claiming more battery-powered cars on the road and more charging points than nearly any other city. Schemes like this offer another missing piece of the EV puzzle – allowing more people the chance to try an electric car for themselves.
The stubbornly outstanding factor, however, is that most people still don't see EVs as aspirational, despite the great work of Elon Musk at Tesla, and many others, such as the electric super cars from British manufacturer Lightning. Too few people see these high-end EVs, let alone see them in action, and so still associate the EV with the likes of the Renault Twizy.
So this may be where a forthcoming electric racing series – Formula Ecan help. The inaugural season launches in Beijing in September, and then moves on to 10 major cities – Buenos Aires, Los Angeles, Miami, Monte Carlo, Putrajaya, Rio de Janeiro, Punta del Este, Berlin and London. Unrestricted by noise and air pollution, as other motorised events would be, the races will take place in city centre locations, ensuring high visibility. Also likely to attract attention are famous team owners like Leonardo DiCaprio and Richard Branson. Formula E are confident of their influence, predicting additional sales of 77m EVs by 2040.
As well as increasing the kudos and aspirational feel of EVs, the series' technology advances will flow down to the vehicles we are able to buy or rent, helping extend the range and improve performance and design. Another lasting legacy will also be Qualcomms' super fast wireless charging points that will be left in each city after the event for people to use.
Of course the EV market still has other hurdles to overcome, and these three elements alone cannot jumpstart the market overnight. But with the threat of fines and loss of productivity from falling air quality, increasing numbers of charge points from rental and other schemes, coupled with inspiring coverage and opportunities to look under the bonnet, we could start to finally see a shift in mindsets towards EVs.

135 mile range Leaf this year? NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The purpose of this article is to talk about the timing of the next-generation Nissan (NSANY_) Leaf, which I expect to deliver 135 miles of range -- up from 84 miles today -- and start at $33,000, up from $29,000 today.

I believe this significant leap forward will take place as early as September or October of this year, extending Nissan's current electric car leadership.

The first version of the Nissan Leaf was the 2011-2012 model, which was improved in 2013. To date, over 100,000 Leafs have been sold, making Nissan the undisputed world-wide electric car market leader.

Despite the improvements on the 2013 Leaf, the car retains three main problems inhibiting sales:

1. Range. This is simple: 84 miles simply isn't enough for most people. As most electric car owners know, on very cold days range can drop by 30%. This means you have a de facto 60-mile car.

For those who have short daily commutes, or for those who can charge at work, this may be enough. However, for many people with longer commutes or those who have other additional driving needs, the current Leaf simply does not offer what is needed.

2. Range depletion over time. It is not just cold weather that diminishes range in all electric cars on the market. Nissan has also had a particular problem with the Leaf in terms of the cars losingcapacity faster than some competitors, especially General Motors (GM_). If after a few years, you have lost 25% of capacity, you now have an average of 63 miles left (75% of 84). Then drive on a cold day and you have 44 miles left, assuming 30% range loss (70% of 63). Clearly, Nissan has to solve this horrific 25% range loss over time.

3. No telescoping steering wheel. For tall people with long legs, the Nissan Leaf is simply uncomfortable to drive. Nissan needs to learn to design for tall people with long legs, just likeBMW with its i3.

I can see where some of you are saying "So what?" about my claim that a 135-mile Nissan Leaf will be coming to market -- and you would be right. Of course a 135-mile Nissan Leaf will be coming -- just like a faster computer will also be coming in a few months from now.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

'The wife stole my electric car' Frankly, I’ve seen this over and over again — with the Chevy Volt, the Tesla Model S, the Nissan Leaf, and probably other electric cars. It’s a problem… well, a temporary problem, but actually a good thing in the long run! Here are the details from a post on the forum:
Who else is/was afflicted by this ailment?

'When I first purchased the Volt, I envisioned it being my daily driver to work. My roundtrip commute is 17 miles, so I was thinking I would just about never use any gas! A little while after purchase I sat down with the wife, it was agreed she’d take the Volt on M/W/F since she had to shuttle the kids to preschool those days and would drive up to 40 miles. I would drive the Volt to work Tu/Th. That made the most sense as it would minimize gas usage. The other person would take the ICE’er the other days (GMC Terrain).

Then a few weeks later she came to me and said “I don’t like the way the Terrain drives! It doesn’t have any power and the engine sound is annoying. And I don’t like switching cars every other day! I’m taking the Volt M-F!”. It was at that time I was afflicted with“Thewifestolemyvolt” disease.

I (mostly) cured myself by getting her to agree to swap the GMC for a Cmax Energi (2nd car needed to have 5 seats, decent storage, and 20+ mile range, and the Cmax winded up the winner). Now we both have EVs that will cover the bulk of our normal driving without having to burn any gas!

Oy. Wonder why that one doesn’t get the half the attention that BS “range anxiety” gets.

The 'Electric Spring'

From the Union of Concerned Scientists, Springtime is the time of year where we start to see the first signs of growth; the green shoots of what will turn into a verdant garden or a bountiful harvest. As the first quarter of 2014 comes to a close, we are seeing some encouraging signs that both electric sales, and their benefits, will continue to grow this year.

The number of electric vehicles on sale in the U.S. continues to grow.
The number of electric vehicles on sale in the U.S. continues to grow.

1) Fuel cell vehicles are coming!

Toyota and Hyundai will be rolling out their new fuel cell vehicles within a year. Hyundai’s hydrogen-powered SUV will be leased in Southern California starting this spring and Toyota will follow with a sporty sedan in early 2015 in “significant numbers,” according to the manufacturer.
Hydrogen fuel cells marry the advantages of clean, efficient electric vehicles with the convenience of fast refueling. Hydrogen made today from natural gas gives about the same total emissions per mile as charging a plug-in vehicle with electricity generated from natural gas. But hydrogen can (and will, based on California’s renewable hydrogen requirements) also be made from renewable sources like biomass and solar power, so in the future hydrogen-powered vehicles will be even cleaner.
A key advantage of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles is that they can be refueled at a filling station in a short time. This means that drivers who would rather not plug in a battery electric car can still use a clean electric motor to get around. The filling time is about the same as a gasoline vehicle, about five to ten minutes for a 300-mile range.
The U.S. has almost 200,000 electric vehicles on the road.
The U.S. has almost 200,000 electric vehicles on the road.
Monthly sales volumes of EVs are increasing rapidly.
Monthly sales volumes of EVs are increasing rapidly.

2) EV sales doubled in 2013 and more plug-in models are on the horizon

Sales of electric vehicles (EVs), including both plug-in hybrids and battery electrics, continue to rise. More than 90,000 EVs were sold in the United States in 2013 — more than double 2012 EV sales. In California, sales of EVs also increased more than 100 percent in 2013 compared to the previous year, and the state was home to nearly half (46 percent) of all new plug-in vehicles in the U.S. In 2013, plug-in cars were 2.5 percent of new vehicle sales in California.
Looking forward to 2014, new models of EVs will hit showrooms this year. BMW is already reporting significant interest in its upcoming battery electric i3 car and other EVs from Kia, Cadillac, and VW are either in showrooms or on the way. As new models and types of electric vehicles become available, consumers will have more choices to reduce fuel costs and emissions than ever before.

3) The benefits of electric vehicles are growing

Electric vehicles are reducing oil consumption and global warming emissions while saving consumers millions of dollars at the pump. Americans have purchased almost 170,000 plug-in vehicles in the last three years. These vehicles are avoiding the burning of 45 million gallons of gasoline per year and saving Americans over $100 million per year in avoided fuel costs.
Californians have saved the most – cutting $40 million in annual fuel costs and reducing emissions of carbon dioxide by 140 thousand tons per year.
If the spring’s trends continue, these benefits will only increase.
About the author: David Reichmuth is a senior engineer in the Clean Vehicles Program, focusing on oil savings and vehicle electrification. 

UK EV signpost

Tesla electric car strategy ‘economic nonsense’ Some of Germany’s highest-ranking industry executives have criticised Tesla Motors’ electric car charging strategy, believing it isolates customers and will ultimately hinder adoption.

Members of Hubject, a joint venture aimed at standardizing charging station-to-car connections to facilitate widespread adoption in Europe, believe that the American automaker’s persistence with its Supercharger stations will hurt electric car uptake. This is because Supercharger stations are compatible only with Tesla vehicles.

“For the charging infrastructure Tesla uses a proprietary system instead of an open system, in the computer industry this hasn’t worked so far,” Arndt Neuhaus, CEO of German electric utilities giant RWE, toldAutomobilwoche.

“Electric mobility needs to rely on open standards to become suitable for the mass market ASAP. I need to be able to use one plug for each charging station in Europe. A separate plug doesn’t help here.”

Many might disagree with Neuhaus, arguing that Apple has enjoyed considerable success with its proprietary charging system for the popular iPhone and its laptop computers, although it is unlikely that Tesla would ever enjoy such a vast share of the electric car market. The pioneering automaker sold around 25,000 cars last year and will have the potential to build 500,000 by 2018.

Tesla is currently expanding its Supercharger network in Europe apace and its success could encourage other automakers to follow suit. While Daimler and BMW are members of the Hubject project, Volkswagen – which has perhaps the greatest mass market potential of any automaker in an era of electromobility – has so far refused to take part.

“It would be economic nonsense if each car manufacturer were to establish its own [charging] infrastructure,” said Bosch CEO Volkmar Denner, suggesting that charging station software should standardize power flow ‘behind the scenes’. Time, he says, is of the essence.

“If we occupy ourselves here too long with small-minded discussion we get a critical imbalance. We have the technology for a pan-European charging net. We need to want to really implement it now though,” he added.

Despite Daimler’s close ties with Tesla and its products, it too remains unconvinced by the Supercharging stations and the notion of a plethora of manufacturer-specific charging stations.

“The future lies in standardization,” said Daimler’s R&D chief Thomas Weber. “As with gas stations we need a manufacturer-wide charging network, as this reduces infrastructure costs and makes it more comfortable for the customer.”

Weber has also expressed a desire for Volkswagen to join Hubject, although whether that invitation has been extended to Tesla CEO Elon Musk remains unknown.

Compliance Cars The Fiat 500e is perhaps the most critically lauded new all-electric vehicle that arrived in 2013. It's received rave reviews from unlikely sources, like buff-book magazines—even from Consumer Reports.

There's reportedly been a long waiting list for these cars, with a $199/month lease deal and, yes, even some reports of markups.

Yet Fiat has sold only a few hundred of these sought-after machines.

Why? Because the automaker doesn't want to sell one more car than it has to.

The Fiat 500e is a vehicle that Fiat Chrysler didn't really want to make, one on which the automaker will likely lose $10,000 or more per vehicle. Yet it's one that the company plans to make for several more years--in tiny numbers.

That's because the Fiat 500e is no goodwill gesture for electric-car fans. It's a so-called 'compliance car,' required by California as part of a program to phase in tighter emissions standards (and better vehicle fuel efficiency).

                      Light-duty vehicle type scenario, now-2050 (California Air Resources Board)

Under the California Air Resources Board ZEV (zero-emission vehicle) credit program, electric-vehicle manufacturers get a credit for every plug-in vehicle they sell in California and eight other states. They can buy, sell, and trade those credits with other automakers.

In return, the six highest-selling automakers can offer their full vehicle lines in California, including those with very low fuel-economy ratings, without being hit with state fines.

Pay with plug-ins, to play with guzzlers

According to Scott Shepard, a research analyst at consulting firm Navigant Research, which has examined the market around such vehicles, the ZEV program is designed as a 'pay-to-play' approach.

“You produce enough vehicles that have a high-mpg rating, then you're able to play the game, and [sell] a lot of low-mileage vehicles, like SUVs and trucks,” said Shepard.

“And then you can make your money back on those higher-demand vehicles with low mileage."

For the regulations in place through 2017, only six automakers in California are required to comply.

After that, things get more interesting, with tighter requirements to be phased in each model year from 2018 through 2025--and applying to more makers as well.

Shepard argues that building low-volume compliance cars--not only the Fiat 500e, but also the Chevrolet Spark EV, Honda Fit EV, and Toyota RAV4 EV--has been good for the automakers.

The experience, he says, adds up to something better than what they might have learned with normal R&D or small, controlled test fleets of a few dozen cars.

“These are small-volume cars; they've been great testers, in terms of the manufacturers trying to figure out whether this is something they can actually do and profit from on a larger scale.”

But the scale of these compliance cars thus far has been very small.

No compliance car has sold more than 1,100 vehicles over the course of a model year. Toyota plans to sell 2,600 RAV4 EVs over two years, while Honda's three-year total volume is only 1,100 Fit EVs.

When Honda lowered its lease price on the Fit EV to just $259 a month last summer, to address lagging deliveries, it moved 208 cars last June--and everyone took note. The move also triggered a round of price reductions through the summer.

Other makers haven't been as successful. Since September 2012, the Toyota RAV4 EV has thus far sold only about 60 percent of the announced total of 2,600.

"The RAV4 EV is an example of a vehicle that's priced way too high to satisfy the capacity that they want to put out,” said Shepard. "I think we'll see a drop in the lease price for the RAV4--or we'll just see Toyota abandon it.”

Small scale, small portion of the market

Currently compliance cars are a tiny portion of the battery-electric vehicle (BEV) market as a whole, with the Nissan Leaf and Tesla Model S making up the vast majority of the volume. The Honda Fit EV, Fiat 500e, and Toyota RAV4 altogether add up to just over 5 percent of the market.

There are no doubt more compliance cars on the way; but don't get too attached to the current crop, because the list will be very different in a year or two—as well as fuzzier about what makes a compliance car and what doesn't.

Only Fiat has announced that its compliance model, the Fiat 500e, will be produced at the current low volumes for several more years.

"They are a temporary figment on the electric-vehicle landscape," said Shepard. And at this point, a lot of the questions have been answered—such as how the market would react to vehicles with low ranges, after perhaps transitioning from a hybrid with 500 miles of range.

In the not-too-distant future, he suggests, there won't be much space left in the market for such 'small wonder' efforts that color the balance sheet red.

Looking ahead: Pay Tesla, or build plug-ins that sell?

“The program requires more from automakers as it goes out in the future,” said Shepard. "You can't meet the requirements producing the number of vehicles that they [Honda and Fiat] are producing now."

"They're either going to have to bite the bullet and pay Tesla for credits, or they'll have to produce a vehicle, more on the economy side, that will satisfy that mandate."

It's debatable whether compliance cars take away sales from dedicated, for-profit electric models--like the Nissan Leaf.

And while their volume has been only a tiny ripple for the battery industry, positives of the scheme already include that it's helped drive the infrastructure and development of public charge points.

When the leases end, will today's electric-car drivers give back their compliance cars and trade into a plug-in car that's viable business for automakers? And have they convinced at least a few friends, neighbors, or coworkers to plug in as well?

Read on to see the four currently available models that we classify as compliance cars.

Then be sure to browse this full guide of all the other electric and plug-in-hybrid vehicles that are currently on sale.

Fiat 500e
How far you can go: 87 miles (EPA)
How fast you can charge it: From empty to full in 4 hours on 240V
Price (may be eligible for tax credits): $31,800; $199/mo. lease
Where you can buy it: Only in California, only “at select FIAT Studios”
The buzz about it: It's the sportiest, best-driving electric car short of the Tesla Model S. Fiat could sell many more of these if it were widely available, but it's clearly a loss-leader with a true cost far above its sticker.

Chevrolet Spark EV
How far you can go: 82 miles (EPA)
How fast you can charge it: 7 hours at 240V. DC Fast Charging is an option, but the SAE standard it uses are few and far between.
Price (may be eligible for tax credits):$27,495; lease deal currently advertised at $176/mo.
Where you can buy it: California and Oregon. GM has said they'll eventually make it available in moremarkets but has made no move yet to do so.
The buzz about it: The Spark EV isn't just the quickest of these small EV hatchbacks; it's also the most efficient vehicle on the market, according to the EPA, with a Combined MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent) rating of 119. And its range is an honest 82 miles if you take it easy—far more by some accounts.

Honda Fit EV
How far you can go: 82 miles (EPA)
How fast you can charge it: 3 hours on 240V, or less than 15 hours on 110V
Price (may be eligible for tax credits):$36.625; lease deal currently advertised at $259/mo.
Where you can buy it: Oregon and California
The buzz about it: The Fit EV has an exceptionally smooth, well-integrated powertrain --although it sacrifices its Magic Seat rear seat-folding to pack in its batteries.

Toyota RAV4 EV
How far you can go: 103 miles (EPA)
How fast you can charge it: Around 5 hours on 240V, up to 17 on 110V
Price (may be eligible for tax credits): $50,660; $299/mo. lease deal
Where you can buy it: California
The buzz about it: The relatively slow sales and lack of interest of the RAV4 EV is sort of a mystery—and even though there's a Tesla powertrain the driving experience hasn't been described as anything all that special. The price premium of more than $20,000 over a comparable gasoline RAV4 could be part of it. Otherwise it's the only SUV that's also an EV.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Tesla's bright future

A piece written by a Tesla shareholder: 
Model S and Model X owners are paving the way
Elon Musk has said repeatedly that when a customer purchases a Model S, or when they purchase the forthcoming Model X, they are investing in a car for the masses. Tesla Motors' production of its Gen. III vehicle has long been the car company's goal, as the vehicle will directly compete with the top-selling electric cars in the U.S.
Tesla's first full year of production has enabled the company to gain a more substantial market share in the luxury-car segment. So what happens when the Gen III is introduced at a $30,000-$35,000 price point and it can directly compete in the midrange vehicle segment?
Selling to the top 2%The Model S competes in the luxury segment, a much smaller playground than the economy or midsize segments. Tesla had about a 17% market share of passenger vehicles with a base price of $62,400, which is the lowest Model S price (after factoring in the federal tax credit). Seventeen percent of the top 2% of the U.S. luxury passenger car segment  isn't too bad for its first full year in volume production.
Which cars will the Gen III outpace?So can Tesla investors expect meaningful competition in the much larger $30,000-$35,000 segment? Since the Gen III will be backpacking on the success of the Model S (and potentially the Model X), shareholders shouldn't have much to worry about as far as demand goes. Tesla's design and innovation have made it a viable competitor in the luxury market in just over a year. If the Gen III is as painstakingly produced, the Chevy Volt and Toyota Prius will have a run for their money.
How is Tesla different?The electric-car company has made owning a zero-emission car easy, as long as you can afford it. Once the Gen III is available for purchase, owners will enjoy a fully rolled out U.S. Supercharger network, and a price point that will get the electric cars into a much larger market segment.
Source: Tesla
Future is so brightOnce Tesla can compete with the price point accessibility of the Chevy Volt and Toyota Prius, Tesla's market share will likely increase substantially. Making a car for the rest of us by breaking into the midrange price point opens Tesla up to disrupt a much larger buyer pool. The disruption potential of the Gen III should be keeping Tesla's competitors on their toes, especially considering the likelihood that this upcoming vehicle will see even more robust demand than their two high end models.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Porsche considering pure EV

According to, Porsche CEO Matthias Müller has confirmed the company is considering an electric vehicle.

Speaking to Auto Motor und Sport, Müller said "Yes, of course we think about it." The executive went on to say he isn't a fan of range-extended electric vehicles but he's open to pure electric models.

He believes the range needs to be at least 300 km (187 miles) to be practical with 400 km (250 miles) being the preferred option.

EV fuel savings by country


Have you ever heard of the EV Wedge?

No? Me neither. Let’s try to define it then.

If you’d asked me to define the ‘Electric Vehicle Wedge’ a few years ago I would have chuckled a little, and suggested it was the small pile of cash you needed to afford one. But due to falling EV prices and rising gasoline prices that snark is utterly outdated.

In almost all countries it is cheaper to power an electric vehicle than fuel a gasoline car. The cost gap between these two fueling options is what I like to call the EV Wedge . In some countries this wedge is so damn big that EV drivers can’t sit straight for all the cash in their wallet.
Comparing Gasoline and Electric Fuel Costs

This post provides a cheap and cheerful comparison of fuel costs for electric vehicles and gasoline cars. To keep it simple I thought we’d look at the costs of fuel for driving 10,000 miles. This is about 25% less than Americans drive each year, or 20% more than Europeans.

The graph below compares the fuel costs of driving 10,000 miles in a Nissan Leaf (electric) and Toyota Prius (gasoline hybrid). I’ve shown this graph first so we can see how the fuel savings are calculated. It also shows us that both the electricity price and gasoline price are relevant when estimating the fuel savings.

The first thing to note is that the fuel cost of driving a Prius is greater than the Leaf in all 12 countries we collected data for. The variation between both electricity and gasoline prices across countries is enormous.

In countries where gasoline is expensive, like Turkey and Norway, the fuel cost for driving a Prius 10,000 miles is pushing $2,000 whereas in Saudi it is just $120. The fuel cost of driving the Leaf 10,000 miles varies greatly too. From as high as $980 in Germany down to $116 in Saudi.

The difference between the gasoline and electricity costs is what I call the EV Wedge. By showing this graph first we can see that in places like Germany and Australia high electricity costs can eat into the wedge. Where electricity prices are high savvy EV owners look to solar, or time of use pricing, to drive down their charging costs.
The EV Wedge: Nissan Leaf vs Toyota Prius

In each of the last three months of 2013 the most popular new car in Norway was either the Nissan Leaf or Tesla Model S. There are loads of reasons behind this, including no purchasing tax, free tolls and access to bus lanes. On top of this the EV Wedge is enormous!!

Here’s the data we looked at above but now purely looking at the fuels savings, the wedge that is.

Over the course of driving 10,000 miles a Prius driver in Norway spends $1,544 more on fuel than a Leaf driver. In Turkey that figure is $1,360, in the UK it’s $986, in the US it’s $410 and in Saudi it’s just $5. Just add a zero and you’ve got the fuel savings for 100,000 miles assuming constant prices (the problem with any lifetime comparison).

All the figures assume the typical combined fuel economy for each car and the 2012 average prices for gasoline and electricity in each country. In cases where the electricity used to charge is cheaper than the household grid average this figure will be greater. This is actually a really important point because typically a majority of EV owners use off-peak charging when available.

In the comparison above we’ve compared two compact hatchbacks. But the 50 MPG Prius is actually pretty damn efficient for a gasoline car. The EV Wedge only gets bigger when you start comparing less efficient petrol cars to electrics.
The EV Wedge: Nissan Leaf vs Toyota Camry

I know that the Toyota Camry is a bigger car than a Leaf but I find this a fun comparison. It is basically America’s most popular electric car (the Leaf) against its most popular sedan (the Camry). Unlike the Prius, the Camry only gets 28 MPG. So the fuel savings from driving a Leaf are considerable.

When you compare the fuel costs of the Nissan Leaf to a less efficient petrol vehicle like the 28 MPG Camry they really start to stack up pretty quickly. Don’t get hung up on it being an American Camry, these figures hold for any 28 MPG car gasoline car.

In European countries where taxes on petrol are high the savings from going electric are considerable. The fuel savings of driving a Leaf instead of a 28 MPG petrol car in the UK are $2,260 for each 10,000 miles. Even in the US where gasoline is relatively cheap there is a $1,000 saving.

Finally, just for a laugh let’s run the numbers for some luxury cars.
The EV Wedge: Tesla Model S vs Mercedes

I know very little about luxury cars. I’m not even sure if someone spending $100,000 on a car really cares much about fuel costs. I’m guessing they love the Tesla because of the torque and the ride. But then again I may be wrong.

You see the Tesla Model S has topped monthly sales in Norway twice recently. Not just for electric cars, but for all cars. The tax exemption for buying is no doubt a big deal. As is the ride.

But just check out these fuel savings for the Tesla Model S compared to the 19 MPG Mercedes 550S.

Not only do Tesla Model S drivers enjoy the pleasure of driving the best car Consumer Reports have ever tested, but in Norway they’ll be able to buy the next one using fuel savings from their first.

Throw in some very modest rises in petrol price over the next decade and a Norwegian Tesla driver will save more than the purchase price by the time they’ve driven 150,000 miles. Even for places like the UK, France and Germany the figures are pretty impressive.

When you consider that Tesla offers free supercharging in many places you start to see why they have waiting lists. With free electricity the US fuel savings versus the 19 MPG Mercedes jump to $2,000 per 10,000 miles. In the UK, France and Germany they go above $4,000. In Norway and Turkey it’s above $5,000.

Curiously I actually think the graph above will eventually be more important for the Pickup Truck market than it is for luxury cars. You see those numbers aren’t far off what the sums might look like for a ‘Tesla Truck‘ vs a Ford F-Series. And while we may be a few years away from batteries cheap enough to justify electric trucks their potential for fuel savings is just colossal when you consider a F-150 gets 19 MPG.
What to make of the EV Wedge?

To keep this post a bit of fun I avoided delving into lifetime cost comparisons and the fuzzy assumptions they involve. Instead I’m just trying to point out something that should be clear by now. Powering a car with electricity is cheaper than fueling it with gasoline (unless you live in Caracas).

Here are some basic takeaways:
Gas prices are key: the higher the gasoline price the bigger your potential savings are. This makes electric cars attractive in Europe.
Electricity prices also matter: the potential benefits of going electric can be eroded by high electricity prices. Germany and Australia are good examples.

Fuel economy matters too: the poorer the fuel economy of the car you are switching from the bigger your fuel savings will be. You can see this in the more than doubling of the wedge between the Prius and the Camry.

Because of the varying differentials between gasoline and electricity prices the fuel savings from going electric vary massively from place to place. But in general the economics for electric vehicles just keep getting better.

If you’re looking at buying an electric vehicle in a couple of years when prices drop some more there is something worth thinking about. You see electric vehicles are a bit like solar was a few years ago. There are currently some very attractive grants and tax breaks that take some pain out of the purchase price, and this means EVs look great from a lifetime cost perspective.

As battery prices keep falling and production scales increase there is a good chance electric cars will keep getting cheaper. As prices go down and sales go up the current level of subsidy will make less and less sense for governments, just as it did for high feed-in tariffs with solar. In fact in some places they already seem too attractive.

If I was in the market for an electric vehicle I’d be keeping a very close watch on my local EV grants, tax rebates or other incentives.

If I lived in Norway I’d be on a waiting list, because it would also cut a lot of carbon.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

China EV sale figures and Tesla's ambitious growth plans

China's JAC iEV - Top Selling EV in China in 2013
China’s JAC iEV – Top Selling EV in China in 2013
Inside EVs"com: According to several experts in China, Tesla Motors may find it more difficult to sell its Model S there then the automaker believes.
Tesla Website China
Tesla Website China
Tesla has set high sales expectations in China for the Model S, but will the automaker be able to meet those goals?
Yang Yusheng, a batteries expert at Chinese Academy of Engineering, stated:
“Although heavy smog is an issue in many major Chinese cities, and there is a market waiting for solutions, you can’t count on Tesla to make an electric revolution happen.  An electric sedan is not for everyone, not to mention Tesla is a premium brand reserved for high-end customers.”
Yang’s statement came during an electric vehicle forum held in Beijing last month.
As Yang sees it, the Model S will be more a less a niche EV in China.  However, there will be an EV revolution in China soon, says Yang, but that will be jump started by a homegrown maker of low-speed, wallet-friendly EVs.
As China’s ECNS reports:
“Priced at about 30,000 yuan ($4,960), low-speed electric vehicles (including two-wheelers) have a strong presence in China. Experts forecast that more than 300,000 low-speed electric cars were sold in 2013, more than 10 times the total in 2009.”
“China is now home to more than 200 million electric two-wheelers, creating about 100 billion yuan in value.”
The more convincing facts that support the notion that Tesla Model S sales won’t be through the roof come directly from China’s sales figures for new-energy passenger vehicles:
BYD e6 is Relatively Popular in China
BYD e6 is Relatively Popular in China
“China’s sales of new- energy vehicles stood at only 17,642 in 2013, which still represented a rise from the 12,791 sold the previous year. The 2013 numbers included 14,604 electric cars and 3,038 plug-in hybrid vehicles.”
2013 sales figure for the top-selling highway-capable passenger BEVs look like this in China:
  • JAC iEV: ~ 2,500
  • BYD e6: 1,544
  • BAIC E-Series EV: 710
  • Roewe E50: 406
  • Zotye M300 EV: 220
  • Venucia e30: 216
  • BAIC Senova EV: 52
The most successful vehicle for the Chinese market in 2014 is sure to be the 30 mile, PHEV Qin from BYD, that has recently been granted access (along with huge incentives) to both Beijing and Shanghai.  That model has already passed 6,000 units sold already this year.  (that story here)
So, is there a market for the Model S in China?  Sure there is, but will it represent, as Tesla says, 30 to 35% of Tesla sales growth in 2014?
Source: ECNS

VW e-Up!: shockingly good Back in November, we crowned BMW's radical i3 the best electric car in Blighty – or anywhere else in the world, for that matter.

Just a few months later, that title is already under threat and from a surprising new entrant into the EV market. It's the new Volkswagen e-up!

Not surprising in the sense that it exists. We've known the Volkswagen e-up! Was coming for some time. But surprising in the sense that it turns out to be such a compelling proposition.

That's because the e-up! is unashamedly an electric rehash of a conventional combustion car. Much of the BMW i3's appeal is based on its ground-up, clean-sheet, pure-electric engineering.

The i3, then, is the electric car you'd design if free from all combustion-related baggage. The e-up! is inherently more compromised.

At this stage we also need to throw the Renault Zoe into the mix. It falls somewhere in between the i3 and e-up! in terms of the purity of its engineering.

An unlikely sight? EV sales in the UK remain glacial

Renault pitches it as an EV through and through. And it does have unique sheet metal. It isn't just a Renault Clio with a big battery. But it is still derived from Renault's combustion car architecture.

It's also worth noting that the £15,195 Renault is much more of a direct competitor to the £19,250 Volkswagen e-up! in terms of pricing, where the £25,680 BMW i3 operates in a pricier part of the market, especially when you start comparing lease deals.

That the e-up! remains more expensive than the Zoe is partly down to differences in things like battery leasing, but we'll come to that in a moment.

Get underneath the new Volkswagen e-up! and you begin to understand why this is no low-cost lash up. Our test drive started from VW's technical training centre in Milton Keynes.

It's here that VW's main agent technicians learn about the nuances of looking after electric cars. Handily, that means an e-up! or two up on a ramp and a good view of the bottom of the car.

From there you can see how the battery is essentially a thin slice forming the bottom of the chassis. Not a lump chucked in the boot eating up luggage space and knackering the weight distribution, then. Even if you'd engineered the car from the very beginning for electric power, the battery packaging wouldn't be any different.

The e-up!'s belly reveals a flat, fully-integrated lithium pack

Whether you'd put the electric motor and single-speed reduction drive up front or in the rear is an interesting question. BMW went for rear installation and thus rear drive. But there are decent reasons in terms of packaging and driving dynamics (specifically safety) to stick it all up front.

Anyway, the point is that it turns out the Volkswagen e-up! is probably as well engineered for batteries as any other EV. This is no lash up.

Elsewhere, the car comes across as being pretty much identical to any other Volkswagen e-up! It's a slick, pretty well appointed city car with an appealing cabin and more space inside than you'd merit from the teensy exterior.

Oh, and finally, the e-up! is only available in five-door trim.

Let's start with the obvious bit. The Volkswagen e-up! gets a sodding great 230kg lithium battery pack. Actually, it's not that huge by EV standards. Batteries for these cars are big.

So it's an 18.7kWh battery where both the Renault Zoe and BMW i3 sport 22kWh packs. As for the motor, it's an 82hp item, which makes the e-up! the most powerful up! you can buy, albeit the heaviest, too.

Using a standard UK socket, a full charge from empty is nine hours, but VW can provide a fast-charge wall box that reduces that to six hours.

For any EV, the ability to recapture kinetic energy and top up the battery on the move is critical to overall operating range. The only problem is that such regen features can result in a clumsy driving experience. It can feel like you've slammed on the brakes when you lift off of the throttle pedal.

Here, the e-up! is actually more advanced than most EVs. VW has cooked up a five-stage user-selectable system of regen, starting with pure sailing and no regeneration at all through to maximum regen which also includes automatic activation of the brake lights, such is the retardation involved.

Multiple levels of energy regen are user-configurable

As standard, the e-up! gets the Garmin-derived Maps & More infotainment system. It's basically a modified Garmin mini tablet that's fully integrated with the up!'s telematics systems. The difference with the e-up! is the addition of internet connectivity as standard.

That allows for the usual app-enabled remote functionality that's common to a lot of Evs. So, that includes the ability to control and schedule charging remotely, pre-heating the cabin and all that jazz.

The e-up! also has DAB radio as standard.

Crikey, it's quite quick. That's your first thought when spool up the e-up!'s electric motor. Much of that comes down to expectations. When BMW pitches an i3 as maintaining the dynamism of conventional BMWs, you expect it to be fun and nippy.

With the e-up!, you don't know quite know what it's going to be like and so it's a pleasant surprise to find it feels significantly gutsier off the line than a conventional hatchback. Admittedly, the performance tails off a bit as you approach the national speed limit. But around town, this thing really shifts.

So ignore the offical 12.4-second sprint to 62mph. It feels far quicker than that.

Of course, as an EV it does everything with zero drama and very little noise, which only adds to the impression of an effortlessly nippy car.

Again, that impression fades a little at higher speeds as wind and road noise intrude. But that's true of any EV. At motorway speeds, wind and road roar are probably more critical to refinement than engine noise.

The e-up!'s 99-mile max range is comparable to other EVs

Anyway, with the battery pack mounted flat and low in the chassis, the e-up! feels supremely stable, too. OK, it's no sports car. But it doesn't suffer from excessive body movement. Can you hustle it down a b-road? Absolutely, and you'll have plenty of fun to boot.

As for range, well, the old adage of mileage varying applies. In the official NEDC cycle it maxes out at precisely 99 miles. VW is quite open about the fact that this is more of a theoretical maximum than a real-world number.

The VW e-up!: Great on road. In fields? Not so much

Going by our experience of the car, we reckon you'll get at least 50 miles out of it, even driving like a berk. 60 to 80 miles is probably a realistic expectation for most normal drivers.

If that doesn't sound like much, it's worth remembering that a huge number of cars in the UK travel as little as 15 to 20 miles daily. An EV isn't a universal transport solution. But for the millions of small hatchbacks used as local runabouts, the e-up! makes a very plausible alternative.

So what have learned about the Volkswagen e-up!? It's not the quick and dirty lash up you might have guessed, for starters. It's a properly engineered EV.

So, it's much better to drive than you might expect. The range is more than adequate for its remit. And it looks good inside and out. In fact, in many ways, it's one of the best EVs you can buy.

But is it good enough to topple the BMW i3? In simple terms, it's not as accomplished or as innovative as the i3. Yes, the i3 is around £5,000 pricer. But then it's so much more advanced, that price premium actually seems cheap.

What's more, £19,250 for the e-up! is a hell of a lot of money for what in many ways amounts to a basic hatchback. It's only slightly cheaper than VW's entry-level Passat. It also looks expensive compared to the £15,195 Renault wants for a Zoe.

However, few people buy these cars outright and when you add the £70 a month Renault charges for the Zoe's battery to the monthly lease costs, suddenly the e-up! looks competitive on price.

The best vaguely-affordable EV? That'll be the VW e-up!

It's also when you consider lease deals that that i3 suddenly seems much, much more expensive. Really roughly, you're looking at about £200 a month for an e-up! vs more like £350 for an i3. That's a huge step up.

And so the new e-up! can't quite dethrone the i3. The BMW is just a bit too special for that. But VW's unassuming new EV is our pick of the circa-£20,000-and-under electric cars. It's far, far better than you'd think.

Friday, 21 March 2014

BMW's 100k EVs in 2020 in perspective BMW is considered to be one of the major auto manufacturers that is more bullish about electric vehicles. It has built the BMW i3 and BMW i8 from the ground up, and it has already stated that it plans to haveelectric versions of all of its models.

Recently, BMW Chairman Norbert Reithofer said they were aiming to make 100,000 electric vehicles per year by 2020. Now, that may sound like a lot, but let’s put it into a little bit of perspective.

For one, by 2020, Tesla is aiming to build about500,000 electric vehicles from batteries manufactured at its planned Gigafactory — a whopping 5 times more than BMW. Furthermore, theRenault–Nissan Alliance plans to sell about 1.5 million per year by that time. a cool 15 times more than BMW.

So, how aggressively is BMW really pushing the electric envelope?

Well, maybe it’s not pushing but being pushed. Reithofer also noted: ”we will be forced to build them in a six digits figure to comply with stricter emission rules.” 

Thursday, 20 March 2014

EV range reduced by up to 57% in extremes of weather The range of electric vehiclescan be greatly reduced, by up to 57% , depending on the temperature outside, auto club AAA says.

The AAA Automotive Research Center in Southern California found that the average range of an electric car dropped 57% in very cold weather – at 20 degrees Fahrenheit (-6 degrees Centigrade) – and by 33% in extreme heat, a temperature of 95 degrees (35 degrees Centigrade).

"We expected degradation in the range of vehicles in both cold and hot climates, but we did not expect the degradation we saw," said Greg Brannon, AAA's director of automotive engineering.

AAA conducted a simulation to measure the driving range of three fully-electric vehicles – a 2013 Nissan Leaf, a 2012 Mitsubishi iMIEV and a 2014 Ford Focus Electric Vehicle – in cold, moderate and hot weather. It tested the vehicles for city driving to mimic stop-and-go traffic between December and January, fully charging each EV, and then "driving" each on a dynamometer in a climate-controlled room until the battery was fully exhausted.

Brannon said two of the vehicles, the Mitsubishi and the Ford, were equipped with dedicated management of the battery temperature. "We were expecting that difference would yield differences in the optimal range of the vehicles in extreme temperatures," he said. "It did not."

The likely reason: There's only once source of power in an electric vehicle – the battery. If battery power is being used to heat or cool the battery, it takes power away from the vehicle's range, he said.

The average electric vehicle battery range for each full charge in AAA's test was 105 miles at 75 degrees Fahrenheit. That dropped 57% to 43 miles when the temperature was held steady at 20 degrees. Warm temperatures were not as stressful but still delivered a lower average of 69 miles per full charge at 95 degrees, AAA said.

The three vehicles chosen were selected because they're the most widely available electric cars in the USA, Brannon said. "For most Americans, where a round-trip commute is less than 40 miles, the range of the vehicle will not be a problem," he said. "However, if the temperature dips down and you want to take a drive to grandma's house, you might want to think about a charging station along the way."

Among AAA's recommendations: storing the electric car in a garage; monitoring recharge times in colder weather; preheating or cooling the car while it's plugged in to reduce battery drain, and using electric seat heaters to keep warm.

USA TODAY was unable to reach the carmakers for comment.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

"It’s hard to keep apocalypse consistently in mind, especially if you want to get out of bed in the morning"

Zadie Smith, author: There is the scientific and ideological language for what is happening to the weather, but there are hardly any intimate words. Is that surprising? People in mourning tend to use euphemism; likewise the guilty and ashamed. The most melancholy of all the euphemisms: “The new normal.” “It’s the new normal,” I think, as a beloved pear tree, half-drowned, loses its grip on the earth and falls over. The train line to Cornwall washes away—the new normal. We can’t even say the word “abnormal” to each other out loud: it reminds us of what came before. Better to forget what once was normal, the way season followed season, with a temperate charm only the poets appreciated.
What “used to be” is painful to remember. Forcing the spike of an unlit firework into the cold, dry ground. Admiring the frost on the holly berries, en route to school. Taking a long, restorative walk on Boxing Day in the winter glare. Whole football pitches crunching underfoot. A bit of sun on Pancake Day; a little more for the Grand National. Chilly April showers, Wimbledon warmth. July weddings that could trust in fine weather. The distinct possibility of a Glastonbury sunburn. At least, we say to each other, at least August is still reliably ablaze—in Cornwall if not at carnival. And it’s nice that the Scots can take a little more heat with them when they pack up and leave.
Maybe we will get used to this new England, and—like the very young and recently migrated—take it for granted that April is the time for shorts and sandals, or that the New Year traditionally announces itself with a biblical flood. They say there will be butterflies appearing in new areas, and birds visiting earlier and leaving later—perhaps that will be interesting, and new, and not, necessarily, worse. Maybe we are misremembering the past! The Thames hasn’t frozen over for generations, and the dream of a White Christmas is only a collective Dickensian delusion. Besides, wasn’t it always a wet country?
It’s amazing the side roads you can will yourself down to avoid the four-lane motorway ahead. England was never as wet as either its famous novels suggest or our American cousins presume. The weather has changed, is changing, and with it so many seemingly small things—quite apart from train tracks and houses, livelihoods and actual lives—are being lost. It was easy to assume, for example, that we would always be able to easily find a hedgehog in some corner of a London garden, pick it up in cupped hands, and unfurl it for our children—or go on a picnic and watch fat bumblebees crawling over the mouth of an open jam jar. Every country has its own version of this local sadness. (And every country has its version of our arguments, when it comes to causation. Climate change or cars? Climate change or cell phone sites?) You’re not meant to mention the minor losses, they don’t seem worth mentioning—not when compared to the visions of apocalypse conjured by climate scientists and movie directors. And then there are all those people who believe that nothing much is happening at all.
Although many harsh words are said about the childlike response of the public to the coming emergency, the response doesn’t seem to me very surprising, either. It’s hard to keep apocalypse consistently in mind, especially if you want to get out of bed in the morning. What’s missing from the account is how much of our reaction is emotional. If it weren’t, the whole landscape of debate would be different. We can easily imagine, for example, a world in which the deniers were not deniers at all, but simple ruthless pragmatists, the kind of people who say: “I understand very well what’s coming, but I am not concerned with my grandchildren; I am concerned with myself, my shareholders, and the Chinese competition.” And there are indeed a few who say this, but not as many as it might be reasonable to expect.
Another response that would seem natural aligns a deep religious feeling with environmental concern, for those who consider the land a beauteous gift of the Lord should, surely, rationally, be among the most keen to protect it. There are a few of these knocking around, too, but again, not half as many as I would have assumed. Instead the evidence is to be “believed” or “denied” as if the scientific papers are so many Lutheran creeds pinned to a door. In America, a curious loophole has even been discovered in God’s creation, concerning hierarchy. It’s argued that because He placed humans above “things”—above animals and plants and the ocean—we can, with a clean conscience, let all those things go to hell. (In England, traditional Christian love of the land has been more easily converted into environmental consciousness, notably among the country aristocrats who own so much of it.)
But I don’t think we have made matters of science into questions of belief out of sheer stupidity. Belief usually has an emotional component; it’s desire, disguised. Of course, on the part of our leaders much of the politicization is cynical bad faith, and economically motivated, but down here on the ground, the desire for innocence is what’s driving us. For both “sides” are full of guilt, full of self-disgust—what Martin Amis once called “species shame”—and we project it outward. This is what fuels the petty fury of our debates, even in the midst of crisis.
During Superstorm Sandy, I climbed down fifteen floors, several months pregnant, in the darkness, just so I could get a Wi-Fi signal and e-mail a climate-change-denying acquaintance with this fresh evidence of his idiocy. And it only takes a polar vortex—a pocket of cold air that may lower temperatures—for one’s inbox to fill up with gleeful counternarratives from right-leaning relatives—as if this were all a game, and the only thing hanging in the balance is whether or not you or your crazy uncle in Florida are “alarmists” or “realists.” Meanwhile, in Jamaica, where Sandy first made landfall, the ever more frequent tropical depressions, storms, hurricanes, droughts, and landslides do not fall, for Jamaicans, in the category of ontological argument.
Sing an elegy for the washed away! For the cycles of life, for the saltwater marshes, the houses, the humans—whole islands of humans. Going, going, gone! But not quite yet. The apocalypse is always usefully cast into the future—unless you happen to live in Mauritius, or Jamaica, or the many other perilous spots. According to recent reports, “if emissions of global greenhouse gases remain unchanged,” things could begin to get truly serious around 2050, just in time for the seventh birthday party of my granddaughter. (The grandchildren of the future are frequently evoked in elegies of this kind.) Sometimes the global, repetitive nature of this elegy is so exhaustively sad—and so divorced from any attempts at meaningful action—that you can’t fail to detect in the elegists a fatalist liberal consciousness that has, when you get right down to it, as much of a perverse desire for the apocalypse as the evangelicals we supposedly scorn.
Recently it’s been possible to see both sides leaning in a little closer to hear the optimistic arguments of the technocrats. Some sleight of hand has occurred by which we begin to move from talk of combating and reversing to discussion of carbon capture and storage, and higher sea walls, and generators on the roof, and battening down the hatches. Both sides meet in failure. They say to each other: “Yes, perhaps we should have had the argument differently, some time ago, but now it is too late, now we must work with what we have.”
This will no doubt look very peculiar to my seven-year-old granddaughter. I don’t expect she will forgive me, but it might be useful for her to get a glimpse into the mindset, if only for the purposes of comprehension. What shall I tell her? Her teachers will already have explained that what was happening to the weather, in 2014, was an inconvenient truth, financially, politically—but that’s perfectly obvious, even now. A global movement of the people might have forced it onto the political agenda, no matter the cost. What she will want to know is why this movement took so long to materialize. So I might say to her, look: the thing you have to appreciate is that we’d just been through a century of relativism and deconstruction, in which we were informed that most of our fondest-held principles were either uncertain or simple wishful thinking, and in many areas of our lives we had already been asked to accept that nothing is essential and everything changes—and this had taken the fight out of us somewhat.
And then also it’s important to remember that the necessary conditions of our lives—those things that seem to us unavoidably to be the case—are not only debated by physicists and philosophers but exist, irrationally, in the minds of the rest of us, beneath contempt intellectually, perhaps, but we still experience them as permanent facts. The climate was one of those facts. We did not think it could change. That is, we always knew we could do a great deal of damage to this planet, but even the most hubristic among us had not imagined we would ever be able to fundamentally change its rhythms and character, just as a child who has screamed all day at her father still does not expect to see him lie down on the kitchen floor and weep. Now, do you think that’ll get me off the hook with my (slightly tiresome and judgmental) future granddaughter? I worry.
Oh, what have we done! It’s a biblical question, and we do not seem able to pull ourselves out of its familiar—essentially religious—cycle of shame, denial, and self-flagellation. This is why (I shall tell my granddaughter) the apocalyptic scenarios did not help—the terrible truth is that we had a profound, historical attraction to apocalypse. In the end, the only thing that could create the necessary traction in our minds was the intimate loss of the things we loved. Like when the seasons changed in our beloved little island, or when the lights went out on the fifteenth floor, or the day I went into an Italian garden in early July, with its owner, a woman in her eighties, and upon seeing the scorched yellow earth and withered roses, and hearing what only the really old people will confess—in all my years I’ve never seen anything like it—I found my mind finally beginning to turn from the elegiac what have we done to the practical what can we do?

Climate Change: the scientists are really, really concerned


19 MARCH 2014
Climate report by world's largest general scientific body must spark urgent action
LONDON: In a highly unusual intervention in the debate over climate policy, a group of US scientists says the evidence that the world is warming is as conclusive as that which links smoking and lung cancer, a warning which should spark urgent action from leaders to drive a low carbon future.
The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) says there is a "small but real" chance that a warming climate will cause sudden and possibly unalterable changes to the planet.
In a report, What We Know, the AAAS makes an infrequent foray into the climate debate. The report's significance lies not in what it says, which covers familiar ground, but in who is saying it: the world's largest general scientific body, and one of its most knowledgeable.
The AAAS says: "The evidence is overwhelming: levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are rising. Temperatures are going up. Springs are arriving earlier. Ice sheets are melting. Sea level is rising. The patterns of rainfall and drought are changing. Heat waves are getting worse, as is extreme precipitation. The oceans are acidifying.
"The science linking human activities to climate change is analogous to the science linking smoking to lung and cardiovascular diseases. Physicians, cardiovascular scientists, public health experts and others all agree smoking causes cancer."


The scientists warn: "And this consensus among the health community has convinced most Americans that the health risks from smoking are real. A similar consensus now exists among climate scientists, a consensus that maintainsclimate change is happening, and human activity is the cause."
The report's headline messages are unambiguous. It says climate change is occurring here and now: "Based on well-established evidence, about 97% of climate scientists have concluded that human-caused climate change is happening.
"This agreement is documented not just by a single study, but by a converging stream of evidence over the past two decades from surveys of scientists, content analyses of peer-reviewed studies, and public statements issued by virtually every membership organization of experts in this field.
"We are at risk of pushing our climate system toward abrupt, unpredictable, and potentially irreversible changes with highly damaging impacts... Disturbingly, scientists do not know how much warming is required to trigger such changes to the climate system."


The report continues: "The sooner we act, the lower the risk and cost. And there is much we can emissions continue and warming increases, the risk increases".
The AAAS says there is scarcely any precedent for the speed at which this is happening. They write: “The rate of climate change now may be as fast as any extended warming period over the past 65 million years, and it is projected to accelerate in the coming decades.”
Historically rare extreme weather like once-in-a-century floods, droughts and heat waves could become almost annual occurrences, it says, and there could be large-scale collapses of the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets, and of part of the Gulf Stream, loss of the Amazon rain forest, die-off of coral reefs, and mass extinctions.
The authors acknowledge that what the AAAS is doing is unusual: "As scientists, it is not our role to tell people what they should do or must believe about the rising threat of climate change.
"But we consider it to be our responsibility as professionals to ensure, to the best of our ability, that people understand what we know: human-caused climate change is happening."