Thursday, 22 September 2016

Colchester Green Electric Car Event

We had a great time at the Colchester and District Green Party's EV Workshop in and outside the impressive Firstsite Art Gallery. Check out the video above from one of our Q & A contributors James Cooke.

An unexpected delight was fellow EV car drivers turning up and aligning their cars alongside the display models, an embodiment of a like minded community!

Here are some further links to websites and commentators we mentioned during the presentations:

Darren Smith's featured car, Nissan LEAF:

James Cooke’s YouTube Channel:

Tesla Motors UK:

Robert Llewellyn’s TEDx talk:

Fully Charged YouTube channel:

Electric Highway:

UK Grid displays:

(alternative for more detail but excludes Solar)

I've had a few requests for more information on my own LEAF purchase and am more than happy to share the figures if you get in touch.


Monday, 19 September 2016

After The Fire Spotify Chart (for statistics nerds)

1Der KommissarDKCBS1,003,100
3One Rule For YouDKCBS22,792
4Laser LoveDKCBS9,769
6Who's Gonna Love You?DKCBS8,121
8Rich BoysDKCBS6,486
10Dancng in the ShadowsDKCBS4,890
11Love will always make you cryDKCBS4,627
12Frozen RiversDKCBS4,578
13Billy, BillyDKCBS4,454
14Sailing ShipDKCBS3,411
15Bright LightsBBCAA2,218
16Life in the CityBBCAA2,102
17Dance of the MarionetteSoCAA1,896
18Suspended AnimationBBCAA1,544
20A Little Sun, A Little RainBBCAA1,375
21Back to the LightSoCAA1,344
22Now that I've FoundSoCAA1,308
23Time to ThinkBBCAA1,229
24Step by StepAT2FAA1,170
25Signs of ChangeSoCAA1,169
26Like the Power of a JetBBCAA1,103
ATF post 2005
28Der Kommissar (re-recorded & remastered)SingleAA/Cleo362,551
29Der KommissarORRMX14,400
32One Rule For YouORRMX1,710
33Dungeon GhylORRMX1,497
34High FashionORRMX1,471
35Laser LoveORRMX1,212
36Dancing in the ShadowsORRMX1,129

Label Key: CBS = CBS / Epic / Sony : AA = Angel Air Records : Cleo = Cleopatra : RMX = Roughmix

Over the weekend (10th Sept 2016) Der Kommissar went past 1 million plays - so a statistic like that gets me going! Certainly the songs that were singles do well, but there are notable absences that were popular live.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Colchester Green Party Electric Car Event...

Electric Car / Vehicle (EV) Workshop
public event – all welcome

Sunday 18th September 2016 at 3pm - finish 5pm
Firstsite : Lewis Gardens : High Street : CO1 1JH
Forum and Q & A on Air Quality, Myths and Visions
Darren Smith - EV Advocate Glyn Hopkin Nissan
Test drives (pre-book with

This Colchester GP event could not take place without the generous support of Glyn Hopkin Nissan

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Never mind the Batteries…

Myths and Mysteries - The Electric Car - Future or Fallacy?

So let me fess up straight away, my name is Peter Banks, I drive an electric car and, since my conversion, I want to share the good news about EVs (Electric Vehicles) with everyone! So am I biased? Of course! My carbon footprint is less, I am now practising what I preach and I’m saving money. Whilst the last point will be highly important to many, for me making a personal, yet token, action towards saving the planet is reason enough.

My second confession is I have been concerned about our environment for some time and nailed my colours to the mast by joining the Green Party in 2008. Sadly, in this country, addressing climate change is not given the urgent and critical priority it warrants.

So, how did I get here?

Until recently I drove a diesel car, rather than a petrol version, because I was led to believe that was the most environmental option. In September 2015 I was horrified to discover it could have far worse emissions than specified after the ‘Diesel Gate’ revelations. When I started the tricky task of researching my next car the massive amount of jargon and rhetoric was overwhelming to my non petrol head grey matter! Then came the epiphany...

From a Twitter post I followed a link to a talk by Robert Llewellyn, he of Red Dwarf and Scrapheap Challenge fame, and a clearer light started to dawn. Whilst he now has his own YouTube channel, Fully Charged, all about news relating to EVs, it was his TEDx talk, as above, that summarised his own journey. Whilst he claims not to be a scientist, and he is shockingly poor at mental arithmetic, his layman’s approach to explaining sometimes difficult concepts in straightforward, non jargonised language - with a generous helping of humour - is compelling.

Unfortunately there is much mis-information bandied about concerning Electric Cars, ostensibly referred to as research, which, on closer inspection, proves to be data provided by vested interests in the status quo, aka the fossil fuel industry. So let’s banish five myths to start with.

Myth One - EVs are slow

Essentially petrol and diesel engines utilise Victorian technology. They employ the same principle as a good old Steam Locomotive: pistons, cylinders, valves and connecting rods but obviously use a more efficient fuel. Now, despite fossil fuels being very energy dense, electric cars do not have to convert energy to such extremes: the battery powers a motor that drives the wheels which is highly efficient and makes them extremely nippy. In fact the prestige Tesla cars can achieve an impressive 0-60 mph performance of under 3 seconds!

Myth Two - EVs are expensive

Yes, the List prices of EVs are higher than an equivalent petrol or diesel car, however, there is currently a £4500 pound government sponsored discount, zero road tax, no congestion charges and, along with manufacturer's deals, this actually makes the cost competitive. On top of all that even if you have a relatively low mileage of say 20 miles a day (the average daily car commute is 26 miles) you will save £1600 per year!

Myth Three - EVs are heavier and cause more pollution

I could think of ruder words but let’s just go with ‘Tosh’! Come on, they are NOT heavier than trucks, buses or heavier than thou 4 x 4s for goodness sake?! EVs utilise something called Regenerative Braking which reverses the use of the motor to slow the car down whilst also recharging the battery. Similar to changing gears to slow down it means brake wear is much less and, taking Tesla, Nissan and BMW, for example, their manufacturing plants have each committed to providing renewable energy on site. Another challenge raised is that the electricity when charging is never ‘Green’. Well, even if all electricity used l was non-renewable, CO2 emissions are reduced by more than 50%, and we are producing more electricity from renewable energy all the time – although we could do more!

Myth Four - If everyone drove EVs the Grid couldn’t cope

The founder of Ecotricity has carried out detailed research and the numbers are such that if every car in the UK was an EV an increase of 12% of grid capacity would be required. However most charging is carried out at home overnight when the demand on the grid is at its lowest which actually helps reduce the overall costs of shutting down power stations and turbines to reduce output. On top of this the massive amount of electricity used to refine crude oil to diesel or petrol would be recovered.

Myth Five -The batteries might explode

I’ll make this one short! Batteries can overheat but there is sophisticated technology to cool and control that. So how long have you driven a car around with a far more explosive medium just behind you? Petrol / diesel cars are all potential bombs…

There’s so much more I could share - suffice to say I am entering an exciting new world which fulfils my environmentalist standpoint and is proving to be a very pleasant pilgrimage!

You can share the start of this journey at 3pm Sunday, September 18th in FirstSite, Colchester. CO1 1JH. The Colchester Green Party are holding an Electric Vehicle Workshop with a Guest Speaker Darren Smith from Glyn Hopkin Nissan, daily video blogger James Cooke and yours truly in the Chair. Electric Vehicles will be on display and you can even sign up for a test drive.

First published in the Regional Life magazines - used with permission and with minor edits!
Ref: Robert Llewellyn on TEDx

Thursday, 18 August 2016

The Bradwell Baffle

The recent contrasting news concerning Hinkley Point C is paradoxical for the possible Bradwell B new build. The local protest groups will have been put into even more uncertainty than ever before, no news is, well, no news! One thing for sure is that there will be even more delay.

From the Government’s perspective let’s look at what Hinkley is supposed to provide before we examine the points in greater detail:

  • 7% of UK electricity
  • Energy security
  • Clean energy (?!)
  • Employment

What they fail to mention which the environmentalists and the media has picked up on are:

  • The astronomical build cost
  • Use of 20th century technology
  • Similar reactors in France and Finland overdue, overspent and still not working
  • Massive cost to the taxpayer
  • Potential delays
  • Long term costs
  • National security

However, the last minute U-turn has some additional implications that need exploration.

Tom Burke, Chairman of E3G and a former government environmental adviser suggests there must be something substantial over and above the known potential issues that has caused this ‘dislocation’. Having pointed out that Theresa May was out of the country when the pause button was hit giving added credence to there being something major involved he also feels that it is high time for a ‘proper, decent forensic examination’ into ‘the assumptions with which this project has been brought forward’. This is backed up by the government’s official statement given by the new business and energy Greg Clark ‘wanted to consider carefully all the component parts of this project’.

Local lobbyist BANNG has led on the notion that Bradwell B, as a pure Chinese new build using their Hualong One reactors, has always been the carrot to entice the deep pocket Chinese investment in both Hinkley and Sizewell. This was highlighted on BBC’s Newsnight program recently along with detail of the McKinsey & Co report for the DECC in 2012 that capturing full electricity efficiency could provide a six fold yield of Hinkley Point C.

The National Grid is moving deeper into a Smart Grid where the response to fluctuating demand has to be swifter than that of a nuclear or coal fired power stations. Currently the biggest component of the UK’s electricity mix is generated using gas, right now at the point of writing this sentence viewing that is a colossal 55.9%.

And here’s the rub. Whilst the latest type of gas generation utilises efficient and responsive Combined Cycle Gas Turbines (CCGT) the UK is neither energy secure (around 50% of gas is imported) or less fossil fuel dependent. This is a key reason the current and previous governments see the answer as Nuclear despite the high initial cost and creation of long term waste storage problems.

There are even more prudent nuclear alternatives than the giant and costly proposals such as Hinkley. The government has invested £250 million into research and support of SMRs, Small Modular Reactors, that would be built in a factory and shipped to site. The trouble is, as with so much of nuclear technology, it is still 20th century, unproven and will provide a legacy of waste for our descendants.

So how to proceed? The UK has the most wind in Europe. On shore wind farms are the lowest cost means of providing electricity and along with the substantial offshore wind farms wind power will provide some of the mix. Being an island nation, tidal power must be another element of the energy equation. Solar farms and domestic solar installations both save the load on the grid and feed back units. These would all provide more employment, too, each system with a much lower maintenance requirement.

However, it will be efficiency coupled with far less consumption that will be the biggest factor along with improvement in battery storage that will move us in the direction of a fossil free future.

Article first appeared in the Mersea Island Courier 7th August 2016

Peter Banks - Colchester Green Party - Written August 1st 2016

Monday, 4 July 2016

Hallelujah, new use for abandoned power plant!

Rufus Wainwright joins a 1500 voice choir in a disused power station in Toronto give a moving rendition of Leonard Cohen's anthem 'Hallelujah'. Of course, Rufus knows the song well, one of the soundtrack highlights in Shrek... and the phrase "The Secret Chord" forms the title of Jonathan Evens and my book.