Electric transport comes in many forms : trains, trams and buses, and also cars and vans. Electric bikes and scooters are also becoming increasingly popular.
Electric cars have one or more electric motors instead of a regular combustion engine. There are an increasing number of manufacturers producing all-electric vehicles, including BMW, Ford, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Renault, Reva, and Smart. The best-selling is the 100% electric Nissan LEAF.
Hybrid cars have both an electric motor and a regular combustion engine. A hybrid car reduces emissions, and with careful driving in an urban area, fuel consumption and emissions can be drastically reduced. Many manufacturers now produce hybrid cars, such as Honda, Lexus, Toyota Vauxhall, with Toyota being the market leader.
Like electric cars, these are powered by electric motors instead of combustion engines.
These are power-assisted bicycles, with a frame-mounted battery to provide the extra oomph. Electric bicycles can travel up to 15 or 20 miles per hour.
Like the popular children’s scooters but with an extra boost !
This is where we can use vegetable matter to replace some of the oil-based diesel or petrol for vehicles with regular combustion engines, in order to reduce carbon emissions. Biodiesel is made from crops that contain high amounts of natural oil, or processed waste vegetable oil, which is then mixed with mineral diesel to be used in any diesel-powered vehicle. There is a similar process that takes place creating bio-petrol by fermenting crops such as sugar cane. This creates a natural ethanol, which can also be mixed with petrol to create a sort of hybrid biofuel that can be used in some petrol powered vehicles.
Electric cars are powered by an electric motor (DC or AC) which draws its power from an on-board battery packs which act as an energy store. Batteries, usually Nickel metal-hydride or Lithium-ion, are charged by simply connecting the vehicle to a mains power supply (plugging it in!), and is usually charged overnight for a full charge. A feature of most modern electric cars is the regenerative braking system which allows the battery to be topped up when the brakes are applied.
Here are some details of the 100% electric Nissan LEAF as the leading example:-
Charging and Running a Nissan LEAF
Nissan LEAF’s new laminated lithium-ion batteries give you twice the capacity and 1.5 times the power of conventional lithium-ion batteries. That means you get instant torque from a standing start, with enough power to carry 5 people for about 100 miles on a single full charge. Energy is fed back to the battery every time the driver breaks, plus, the batteries can be 80% recharged in under 30 minutes at various Rapid Charge stations. So, it doesn’t take much to keep Nissan LEAF charged up and autonomous for miles.
Engine & Transmission for the Nissan LEAF
- Electric Motor high-response synchronous AC motor
- Maximum motor power – 80kW / 109PS
- Torque – 280Nm
- Transmission – single reduction gear( automatic )
- Charging – Electricity
Battery for the Nissan LEAF
- Battery – laminated lithium-ion battery
- Battery capacity – 24 kW/h
- Autonomy – 109 miles
- Maximum Speed – over 90 MPH
Hybrid cars generally use a combination of electric motors and regular petrol combustion engines however some manufacturers are now offering diesel hybrid cars.
Batteries are charged and act as a store of power for the electric motor. It is the electric motor that is usually working when the vehicle is travelling at low speed or in traffic, therefore making it ideal for city driving. The small petrol or diesel engine then powers the car when more power is needed such as at higher speeds or under hard acceleration, so the combustion engine only operates at its more optimum efficient speeds.
The combustion engine is used to recharge the battery cells along with regenerative braking, therefore hybrid cars do not need to be plugged into an external power supply.
Electric bicycles use rechargeable batteries, electric motors and some form of control. Electric bicycles are charged from the mains. Battery systems in use include lead-acid, Nickel-Cadmium, Nickel Metal-Hydride and Lithium-ion batteries. The range of an electric bike is affected by factors such as motor efficiency, battery capacity, aerodynamics, hills and weight of the bike and rider. The range of an electric bike is usually stated as somewhere between 7 km (going uphill with no pedalling to 70 km (using the minimum of battery assistance). Some manufacturers have the option of using regenerative braking, where the motor acts as a generator to slow the bike down prior to the brake pads engaging. This is useful for extending the range and the life of brake pads and wheel rims.
Biodiesel is produced from renewable energy sources such as rapeseed or sunflower oil. Biodiesel has the potential to be carbon-neutral, as all the carbon dioxide emitted during use of the fuel is balanced by the absorption from the atmosphere during the fuel crop’s growth.
Most motor manufacturers are cautious about engine wear with biodiesel and recommend a blend of between 5% to 30% biodiesel although some modern engines are capable of running on 100% biodiesel.
Ethanol, or grain alcohol, is produced from plants like sugar cane. Flexi-Fuel vehicles can run on a blend of ethanol and petrol, usually up to 85% Ethanol and 15% Petrol, which is the most usual blend in the UK, or just petrol.
1. How do I decide on the best type of electric vehicle?
Consider your transport needs in terms of how far you need to travel and how often, and how much space you need. This will help you to determine whether you are interested in an electric car, bicycle or scooter. And of course you can pop into your local electric bike showrooms to get a demo of the bikes, or if you’d like to try out the Nissan LEAF electric car ask your local showroom to offer you are FREE test drive.
2. Do I just plug an electric car into a normal socket?
Yes you do, so it helps if you have a garage or off-street parking. There are however, an increasing number of electric car charging points appearing on streets and in some car parks.
See the OpenCharge Map of electric vehicle charging points at: www.openchargemap.org/site.
3. How can I reduce emissions without changing my car?
For some handy tips visit www.cleangreencars.co.uk.
4. What kind of Warranty does a Nissan LEAF come with?
The LEAF may be a different sort of car, but your warranty will be just as comprehensive as the ones you’re used to from Nissan. For example: 3 years road side assistance, 3 years paint warranty and 12 years corrosion warranty. In addition to the standard 3 year / 60000 mile Nissan standard warranty, Nissan LEAF’s also come with a 5 year / 60000 mile component warranty. This warranty covers items such as the lithium-ion battery, the motor, the inverter, the vehicle control module, the reduction gear, the DC/DC converter, the onboard charger and the charge connecter and cable.
Brand new 100% electric Nissan LEAFs are available from around £15,990.
Electric cars and hybrid cars are also available second-hand, with prices starting as low as £3,999.
Electric bicycles are also available second-hand from £300 and new from around £350 up to £1,500.
Electric scooters, whilst around £200+ from new can be as little as £50 second-hand.
Plug-in Car / Plug-in Van Grant
The Government has renewed its commitment to low carbon transport by announcing (in January 2012) that the Plug-in Car Grant has been extended until 2015 and a new Plug-in Van Grant has been created.
According to the Government these grants will enable the purchase of ultra-low carbon vehicles which may otherwise be unaffordable. The existing Plug-in Car Grant offers 25% – up to £5,000 – to motorists buying a new plug-in car. Under the terms of the new scheme, van buyers will be able to receive 20% – up to £8,000 – off the cost of a plug-in van.
Each van qualifying for the new scheme must emit less than 75g/km CO2, be capable of at least 60 miles between charges (10 miles in electric mode for hybrid vans), more than 50mph and to ensure safety, be approved by ‘European Vehicle Type Approval’. Ultra-low carbon van manufacturers will be able to apply to be part of the Plug-In Van Grant – which will help to improve local air quality in cities, reduce carbon emissions and meet Government carbon reduction targets.
To be eligible for the scheme, vans will have to meet performance criteria to ensure safety, range, and ultra-low tailpipe emissions. Consumers, both business and private will receive the discount at the point of purchase.
Applications may be submitted at any time. Further information is available at www.gov.uk/plug-in-car-van-grants.
Domestic Chargepoint Grant
Announced in February 2013, grant funding is now available for home and on-street charging and for new charge points for people parking plug-in vehicles at railway stations. See www.gov.uk/government/publications/domestic-chargepoint-grant-accredited-list-of-chargepoints for details on how to access this funding.
Special Offers through Lets Get Energized
Get 52 free charges on the electric highway when you switch to Ecotricity
If you switch your energy supply to Ecotricity you can enjoy 52 free charges on the electric highway when you quote ‘Lets Get Energized’.
Zero Fuel Costs
If you have a 100% electric car like the Nissan LEAF you won’t ever have to wait in a cue at the garage for petrol again, as your car will be completely battery powered! You simply plug-in and charge up through an electricity source at home or at a public electric vehicle charging point.
Zero Emissions & FREE Energy
Electrical energy, when it is from a renewable source (e.g. wind or solar or hydro) is a close to zero emissions energy. This is something you can be part of, even though you may not be able to generate your own – just by being a customer of a 100% green energy supplier like Good Energy or Ecotricity you can make sure that the electricity you use to recharge your electric vehicle is coming from a renewable source.
If you do generate your own electricity through solar, water or wind power, then you can charge your car with your own free energy for nothing!
No Road Tax
As electric cars have no exhaust, and no emissions, they qualify for free road tax here in the UK, saving you around £200 per year on top of your fuel savings.
Electric cars and vans are also quieter, which is great if you want to be able to hear the birds singing as you drive through the countryside!