Getting a new car was a traumatic experience for me so I decided to do it quickly by asking my four year old daughter to choose which car to buy. I think she did a good job. For others, buying a new car is pretty exciting, and it is especially so today for the RSPB because we get delivery of our first electric vehicle.

It’s great to be spearheading a new environmental revolution in motoring. Most of us cannot envisage our lives without some form of motor vehicle, so we need to make them greener. After many years of development and investment, electric vehicles are now crossing the ‘near market’ boundary and there’s a huge variety of makes and models available or ready for launch – from tiny city cars to the powerful Tesla sports adopted by green celebrities.

Ours is somewhat more prosaic. It’s is a Renault Kangoo ZE (see image attached) – that’s zero emissions, more on that later. It’s a five seat MPV and looks just like a normal car, but with an electric plug socket instead of a fuel filler. It has a somewhat limited range, just over 100 miles, but that will fine for local journeys, and the network of charging points is springing up across the UK surprisingly quickly. Lands End to John O’Groats by electric venhicle? It’s actually not that far distant.

I haven’t driven the Kangoo yet, but was surprised by the Nissan Leaf we had on a week’s trial last summer was to drive. Nice to drive, quiet – eerily quiet – and with plenty of torque for getting up to speed, which is a characteristic of electric motors. And the environmental benefits are huge. Like all electric cars, it has zero tailpipe emissions – the car itself doesn’t produce greenhouse gas emissions. Our Kangoo uses12.9 kiloWatt hours of electricity to drive 100 kilometres and that electricity has to come from somewhere. Using electricity from the national grid, that works out at 71 grammes of CO2 per km, which compares very favourably to the 137 g CO2 per km for a normal diesel Kangoo. As we move to greener electricity generation, this will fall, right down to a fat, round zero if plugged in to a renewable power source. Now that’s a dream worth working towards! Meanwhile, charging at night makes use of the ‘slack’ period of energy consumption, when there is plenty of spare power generation capacity.

So, a small step up for us in the climate war, and a potentially big one for the environment overall. We cannot have both our current richness of nature and dangerous climate change – like water and oil, they don’t mix.

But would you drive an electric car? What would make you consider one?

It would be great to hear your views.

  • Unfortunately at the moment an electric car would be out of the question for me, even with the governments £5000 discount they are still £25,000 - my current car (2nd hand diesel Kangoo) only cost me £2,900!  Big difference in price there, even new normalk kangoos are no where close to that price.  Not to mention, it is an over 80 mile round trip to visit my parents and that would be cutting it close with an electic vehicle that has a range of only 100 miles!  And it would be a no go anyway - car isn't parked outside the house so no where to plug it in at home.

    They really need to increase their range to something more similar to normal cars for them to really be useable for people who don't live in urban areas or for people who travel longer distance, but I'm sure over the next few years they will improve considerably and become more useable to more people.

  • Hi Martin,think price and the problem of very occasional long journey would influence me as would not want to wait say for perhaps a hour every 100 miles on a 500 mile journey but perhaps they will find solutions.Do not actually know the charging times of these batteries but for sure the services on motorways would hold us to ransom.

    However if it comes that lots of vehicles go electric including larger ones we will need colossal amount of green electric if we are to cut emissions.

  • Hi Martin I certainly would drive an electric car. Probably the key points of importance when considering one are, its range without having to charge it, the charging time and cost at non household charging points, the cost of the car itself and the life time of its battery before that has to be changed.

    A very small proportion of the extra electricity needed for charging will come from wind/solar power etc. Some will come from nuclear power, but most of will still come from the  fossil fuel power station. Generally fossil fuel power stations are more thermally efficient at producing electricty, (maybe 40-50%, depending on the type of power generation scheme), compared to the compression ignition engine of a car which is little more than 30% thermally efficient.

    If fossil fuel power stations were to be required to adopt carbon dioxide removal from their exhaust gases then this would make a huge difference. However such removal schemes are expensive and one has to have a place to deposit the carbon dioxode and it would therefore make electricty more expensive. However if carbon dioxide removal was a requriement across the EU then it would make a "level playing field". (Again a potential plus for having the EU).

    BUT, and saving the best point to last, having an electric car means I would not be having to fill my fuel tank with a proportion of that TERRIBLE DESTRUCTIVE BIOFUEL.