Home » Featured

The Definition of Green Motoring

23 February 2011 3 Comments

The definition of ‘Green Motoring’ is a complex one. And it simply doesn’t stop with you buying a greener car.

People may be seduced by the marketing men and their slick delivery of the new electric car phenomenon, which is really just beginning. But how can you really rest your conscience when you know that your electric vehicle is powered by energy from fossil fuel-burning plants?

The renewable dream is surely that we have enough sustainably generated energy to deliver our everyday energy needs. At the moment this is some way off. And what hope of we of providing for our electric cars, if we can’t yet satisfy our general consumer demand?

Sceptics at the Daily Mail have this week pointed out the apparent limitations of our existing, fledgling renewable infrastructure. The much lauded Ecotricity wind turbine in Reading is apparently only working at a fraction of its capacity in any given year. The Mail suggests the famous Green Park site (pictured) is only working at 15% of its capacity.

And perhaps more headline-grabbing, in this age of cuts and austerity, is the following figure: the turbine creates £100,000 worth of electricity, but uses up £130,000 worth of Government subsidies to do so.

Dale Vince, the founder of Ecotricity, has a decent answer to inevitable charges of waste, at least if we take the above statistics at face value.

“Opponents of wind energy often refer to their load factor or the % of their maximum output that they produce in a year. It’s a statistical nonsense to use this figure as a measure of the value or merit of any device or machine. Take the average car – it runs at less than 1% of it’s maximum capacity in any given year. A mobile phone, even a heavy user will struggle to rack up more than low single figure percentages. Are these devices inefficient or worthless….?”

Perhaps more importantly than the above Vince alludes to the rather different value which he places on the Reading windmill. It is at a highly-visible site, and therefore people get a chance to have a look at these impressive structures for themselves. And that this exposure, this process of familiarizing the public with the renewable infrastructure, is its own valuable propaganda tool.

This sense of renewable energies infrastructure as interesting and radical is what links it to its stablemate – electric cars. Some people like to early adopt and associate with this new gear as trendy and expensive – just as some people like to write it off as trendy and expensive.