A low carbon Segway user yesterday

A low carbon Segway user yesterday

So we have finished our real world testing of the Segway PT, and we have made the following observations:

1 – The average footprint has increased from 16.6 to 24.9 g/km with more data points.
2 – We have also calculated figures for other large industrialised nations – e.g.: Italy is 21g/km, and the US is 30 g/km based on their standard electricity generation figures.
3 – Clear would suggest rider experience has a large impact on the footprint. Experienced riders were likely to be between 16.6 and 20.9 g/km, whereas beginners create between 26.1 and 40.1 g/km. It appears from the data that beginners use significantly more power to travel a given distance – I would suggest this is as a result of more energy being used for balance as opposed to forward motion.
4 – The Segway PT is still the lowest carbon motorised method of getting from A to B in the UK.

The link to the whole document is below:

Badger Impressionist

Badger Impressionist

It’s looking more and more likely that the government’s resident badger impressionist, Alistair Darling, is going to announce on April 22nd that old cars (over 10 years) scrapped when a new car is bought will get the owner a £2,000 incentive. Other European countries have implemented similar schemes – in Germany, for example, car sales increased by 40% in March compared with a year earlier.

Compare that with the UK where new car sales fell again in March with new registrations down 30.5 percent against March 2008. And assumming a new car typically costs about £16,000 so the government won’t even be out of pocket (VAT alone is £2,400 before road tax etc), so why is this idea straight from the “MG Rover” department of naivity and idiocy?

Fuel Economy / CO2

New cars are more efficient than older cars. Heavier maybe, but more efficient. A 2.0 manual petrol Ford Focus in 2000 produced 204g/km of CO2. A 2007 model produces 169g/km. Progress indeed.

However, manufacturers are also getting much better at tuning their car’s to perform well in the standard EU test cycle. With modern fuel injection systems, it’s simple to tune a car for ecomony at test speeds, yet still be able to publish good horsepower figures for selling cars. So anyone who believed we’ve really seen a true 17% improvement in CO2 for Ford Foci in 7 years is kidding themselves.

The SMMT shows that the average g/km of new cars sold in the UK between 1999 and Q2 2008 has dropped from 190 g/km to just 160 g/km today. Very admirable, however we need to remember these are “new” cars. And in 1999 people were buying 4x4s like hot cakes. Today though, the SUV / 4×4 has become ostracised from society and sales have fallen off a cliff. In fact the only area of the car market that’s growing is small cars, and they always have a low g/km figure. So of those 30g/km reduction, probably half of it is as a result of cars becoming more efficient, rather than an overall shift in buying trends away from 4x4s to smaller cars.
New Car CO2 in the UK

We also need to remember the CO2 required to build the car. There are a variety of sources for this, from the energy required to build the car (welding / pressing etc), the energy required for production of parts from raw materials and even the footprint required to scrap and recycle a vehicle. The SMMT (Society for Motor Manufacturers and Traders) gives an official figure of about a tonne of CO2 for this whole process. This is widely believed to be far too low.

So let’s say that 1000kg of CO2 is created building a new car, that’s 1,000,000 g of CO2. And lets say that 30g/km is actually saved by getting a newer, smaller, more efficient car through the scrappage scheme. To offset the impact of manufacturing would take a minimum of 20,000 miles of driving, or almost one complete lap of the earth.

Another source is Professor Julia King, vice-chancellor of Aston University who for the Governmenet calculated that 85% of a car’s CO2 is from fuel , 10% production and 5% destruction. In the simplest terms that means owning one car is 8% more CO2 efficient than owning 2 cars over the same period.
(10%+85%+85%+5% v 10%+85%+5%+10%+85%+5%)

Economy and Jobs

There is no doubt that the economy is the primary focus here, and the government are desperately trying to shore up what remains of the British motor industry. However, 85% of the cars sold in the country are imported from abroad. So if you were really trying to help the British industry, you’d be better taking the protectionist route and giving a subsidy just for British built vehicles of….£13,333. And we should also remember that evidence in Germany has shown people are buying smaller cars (for example the VW Polo – ironically built for VW in Spain), and in the UK we manufacture just 2 small cars, the Mini and the Nissan Micra, which together make up just 5% of the UK market. So most of the public money spent will benefit other nations, rather than our own motor industry.
Electric Mini
And what about the miriad of garages and parts manufacturers who keep the older cars running? 95% are based in the UK, and the plethora of new cars on the road will put many more of them out of business.
Made in Britain

Here’s the kicker with new cars. Some cars can loose 50% of their value in the first year of registration. And this is only going to get worse – what is the market for a 1 year old car going to be like if you can get £2,000 off a new one?

And your £2,000 saving? The moment you drive off the forecourt that will be lost in depreciation anyway.

Time Lag

And this is the big one that everyone appears to have missed. This is not a scheme that can last forever, as there is no reason why the government should subsidise one industry (making up a relatively small part of our economy nowadays) while others feel the pain of a recession. All it will do is create a “Christmas / January Sales” effect pushing the problem down the line where everyone shops now, then the market dries up requiring huge discounting just to get any sales at all. No doubt there will be a strong take-up initially (who doesn’t want £2,000 free from the government coffers?), and people are already holding off buying new cars on the expectation of the grant, further hurting the industry (why would you buy now anyway if this is coming?). But what happens next? All the grants are given out, then what? An even worse drought in car sales, that’s what.

The likely end result is that we will have a short term “blip” in sales (just like Germany’s 40% jump), and an even bigger downturn in the long run. This could hurt the industry far more in the long run than the current “dry-patch”…

So what do we do?

So what should we do? Simple, take the estimated £1bn earmarked for the scheme and invest in research and development in the UK. That’s enough to create jobs for 10,000 people for 3 years developing the new technologies required for the drastic advances needed in automotive technology. The sad truth is that the UK’s cost base is never going to be able to complete with developing nations in manufacturing cars in the long term. Maybe today, yes, but not in 10 years. To really help the industry we need to be at the cutting edge of plug in hybrids, lightweight manufacturing techniques and the next generation of vehicles. The internal combustion engine has done well for us for 100 years, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that in it’s current form, it has a finite life span, and if the government wants to have a UK motor industry it needs to get ahead of the curve and be at the cutting edge of the next generation of cars.

New Car verses Old Car

As the economic climate collapses around us, many people are putting off their purchase of a new car and making do with what they already have. Old cars are bad and polluting, new cars are clean and efficient right? So this is a bad thing?

Not necessarily. The SMMT say that the average new car generates 1 tonne of CO2 to build (lets ignore the raw material / recycling arguments for the moment). We also know from the DfT that the average car in the UK travels about 10,000 miles per year.

Let’s say that you haven’t had to sell your children into slavery as a result of the credit crunch, and in fact you’re on the market for a new Mini. Well, let’s just imagine that those people still exist.

BMW as a company has become one of the leaders in the field of fuel efficiency improvement with their so called “mild hybrid” systems. The calculation is shown below:

Carbon Credentials of Minis

Carbon Credentials of Minis

The conclusion then is that to make the CO2 Savings for the base model MINI you have to drive more than 62,000 miles. So after 6 and a bit years you will have made a positive impact on the environment by buying a cleaner car.

So what about the fuel savings? The calculation for the mpg (fuel economy figures) are below as well:

Fuel Credentials of Minis

Fuel Credentials of Minis

Given that the average spend on fuel per year per car is about £1,000, how long would it take to save 10% of that, or £100? Well, 16,000 miles on the base model MINI.

Considering that a base model MINI retailing at about £11,000 and will lose just 15% of it’s value (£1,650) in the first year (it’s the slowest depreciating car you can buy currently), then saving £60 in fuel is pretty minimal.

2007 Mini One

2007 Mini One

Obviously if you decide to replace your 30 mpg petrol car with a similarly priced second hand 40 mpg petrol car, then you can expect to save about £340 and 880kg of CO2. Which is not to be sniffed at, especially when you consider the further savings in tax, insurance and so on.

So should you buy a new car for environmental reasons? Probably not. Buy a smaller second hand car instead. Or learn to drive more efficiently.

2008 Mini One

2008 Mini One

Should you buy a new car to save money on fuel? Definitely not. You’d have to madder than a box of frogs.

Should you buy a new car because you want to? Of course, that’s one the delights of living in a free country. In fact at the moment you’ll probably get a very good deal indeed as most car markers are looking down the barrel of bankruptcy. But just don’t try to justify it for money saving or environmental reasons…

2008 Mclaren F1 CarLet’s compare an F1 car to a typical car in the UK which produces about 160 g/km, and over a year (10,000 miles) will produce about 2.56 tonnes of CO2.

According to Wikipedia a typical F1 burns 75 litres of fuel per 100km raced. Based on figures for petrol (which is a reasonable proxy of race fuel), 0.75 litres of fuel burnt per km equates to a CO2 output of 1737 g/km. And over a race season using approx 100,000 litres of the stuff, that’s 231 tonnes of CO2. Per car. And each team has 2. So for fuel alone, before the costs of flying to races, support vehicles and the number of cows required to furnish Max Mosley’s “special” wardrobe, that’s about 463 tonnes per team. I wonder if they carbon offset?

At least they’re becoming hybrids for the 2009 season…

So here in London, Boris Johnson has announced he’s going to create a cycle scheme along the lines of the Velib in Paris. He may look like Worzel Gummidge’s mad cousin, but I Boris, outside a barber's yesterdaysuspect he’s a very smart cookie. Good on him.

Now, if this scheme were to take off, then potentially less buses or tube trains would be needed (as if there are enough already! – ed), and this could have a beneficial impact on the carbon footprint of London. So what’s might that be?

Well, 6,000 cycles are going to be used in zone 1, so let’s assume that roughly:

  • 25% replace tube journeys* @ 65.0 g/km
  • 25% replace bus journeys* @ 81.8 g/km
  • 25% replace cab journeys @ 172 g/km
  • 25% replace walking journeys @ 0 g/km

A Parisian Street YesterdaySo, assuming cycling is carbon neutral, that’s an average of 79.7 g/km improvement for every passenger km.

Assuming that any bike in use is averaging 5km / hr through central London, and that at any one point averaged throughout the day (more during the day and less at night of course), 30% of the cycles are in use. Then we can assume that at any point then we can assume that 1800 of them are being crashed by lost tourists, and 9000 km being cycled every hour. Over a day that’s 216,000 km pedalled, or 17.2 tonnes of carbon offset every day. That’s pretty good Boris.

However, does anyone else have a sneaking suspicion that the majority of Boris’s bikes will disappear by the truckload and end up in Albania ?

This world-changing suggestion starts, as all good things should, with the Cheeky Girls. Or more accurately Lembit Opik, the Lim Dem MP who rose into the public consciousness after getting engaged to one of the Romanian lovelies in a publicity stunt. Recently Mr Opik rode a Segway up and down up and down outside the Houses of Parliament, challenging ministers to have him arrested. Why did he want to be arrested? Well currently in the UK, Segways can only be used on private land as they are illegal to use on highways or pavements. However I believe that Segway’s can save the Earth from Climate Change (well a little bit anyway), and I’m going to prove it here.

A Segway

A Segway

So what is a Segway? Well, if you haven’t come across them, they’re a bit like an electric stand up scooter, carrying one person at 12mph for up to 24 miles.  As a guide in the UK, they cost £4,300 including VAT. Hailed as a revolution in transport, they’re yet to catch on in the UK mainly due to their legal status and the still remaining stigma of the Sinclair C5, the last comparable electric vehicle. Segway themselves expected to sell 40,000 of them a year, but in the last 6 years only about 30,000 have been shifted in total.

Anyway, back to the point. How much CO2 in g/km is a Segway responsible for? Well, based on an estimated battery capacity of 0.8kwh, a full charge (and range of 24 miles) is about 0.42 kg of CO2, which being a little more realistic with a range of 20 miles works out at 13 g/km. Which is quite impressive if you compare it to taking the Tube (52.6 g/km), National Rail (60.2 g/km), Bus (94.3 g/km) or even the average Car (160 g/km).

So in carbon terms alone riding a Segway to work would produce less than 15% of the CO2 that taking the Bus does.

How about speed? 12 mph isn’t fast is it? Well in London the average bus makes headway at just 8mph, the average tram 16 mph and tube 18 mph. So 12 mph isn’t that bad at all.

How about range then? Well, taking a London-centric view again, the Segway would get you from Croydon to the middle of London and back on a single charge which is probably further than you’d actually want to travel.

OK then, biggest issue is cost. £4,300 is very expensive for a battery with wheels. Well taking the example of a bus again, let’s say a new one costs £125,000. Well, that would buy you almost 30 Segways. Take into account the cost of driver’s salaries and other running costs of about the same again every year. Assuming you could pick up and drop off Segways at bus stops along the lines of the Velib in Paris (and they were evenly distributed around a city), then realistically after 2 years, you will have paid for a Segway for every passenger (90) on an average bus.

Or from the commuter’s point of view, an annual zone 1-4 Travelcard costs £1,384. That’s 3 years and 2 months before you start saving money on your travelcard. And from then on, you’re saving £1,369 a year on travel costs. (They cost about 7p to completely recharge every day that’s £15 a year in “fuel” costs.)

So there you go. For a typical London commuter doing an 8 mile commute, a Segway would save about 200kg from their carbon footprint every year.

And this beautiful Utopian vision is all thanks to the Cheeky Girls.

According to Autocar/ Clean Green Cars, the average CO2 emissions for new cars now stands at 156.6g/km – that’s 7.4g/km less than a year ago. And at that rate of decline manufacturers are going to reach the EU’s proposed 130g/km target by 2012.

That’s great news. What’s even better is that if you continue this trend past 2012, then by 2030 we’re going to be driving cars which actually burn petrol / diesel and remove CO2 from the atmosphere as if by magic. A brave new world, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Magical Cars in 2030

Magical Cars in 2030

Or it might just be the case that most cars have improved by a more realistic 2.5-3%, but people have stopped buying big luxury cars and 4x4s (sales dropped by 40%-ish for each). Sadly at some point we’re going to run out of people who are going to stop buying 4x4s as they will have already stopped. And at that point, we’re just going to revert to a more 2.5%-3%. And forecasting 4 years into the future, based on 2 data-points is a dangerous game.