Category Archives: Transportation

Here’s a little Tonik..

Today my energy supplier Tonik wrote to me inviting me to consider solar panels, a car charger, or a storage battery – all of which I already have.  However on their website I found a wider vision of the future home which they thought could halve energy consumption. I thought it would be interesting to compare their vision with my status.

As you can see from the table below the content is quite similar, although I have more ambitious use of solar and more sophisticated smart heating management.

Tonik's VisionMy status
Switch to Tonik for lowest cost renewable electricity.Done.
Smart meterWaiting on Tonik
Connected thermostat (whole of house device)Connected thermostats (individual room temperatures and schedules)
LED bulbsDone.
Smart tariffWithout a smart meter on nearest equivalent (Economy 7)
Solar PV Done.
Battery storage.Done.
-Surplus solar electricity diverted to charge electric car.
-Surplus solar electricity diverted to heat water.

Not so new wheels

AmperaI’m now 2 years into my Ampera ownership. My average fuel economy is 207 mpg reflecting the fact that most of my 8,000 miles per year is driven on electricity, indeed I think that I last filled up with petrol in January and it’s now August. I have about 60 miles worth of petrol left which may see me into September.

Most of my mileage is of course powered by electricity. Domestic electricity is much cheaper than petrol anyway, but much of my charging (particularly in summer) is free because I use my own solar power. Obviously the solar system itself is not free, but the money it earns from generating electricity and supplying it to the grid does not depend on what I actually supply to the grid or how much I use. It makes no difference to my revenue how much of the electricity that I generate goes into the grid, making my energy costs when using my own electricity zero.

My charger control project describes the development of a solar-powered charger which, in its current form, charges the car at a variable rate depending on output from my solar panels. When the output of the panels is too small to charge the car, or there’s a small surplus while charging the car, or the car is not plugged in, then any surplus solar power is diverted to the immersion heater; but when the car is plugged in then its charging is prioritised over hot water. That priority reflects the relative costs: night time electricity that I would otherwise use for car charging costs me around 8 p/kWh, while gas that I would otherwise use for water heating costs me only around 3 p/kWh. Thus every kilowatt of solar electricity used to charge the car that otherwise would have been exported saves me 8 pence; while every kilowatt used for car charging that otherwise would have been used for water heating saves me around 5 pence. Those savings might sound small but I’d estimate that I’d otherwise buy around 2,500 kWh of electricity annually for charging the car (around £200 at night rates) for car charging – far cheaper than the equivalent distance in petrol but £200 is still money worth saving.

New wheels

AmperaAfter seven years of Wizzing the time had come for a change. Back in 2007 there was little else available, but electric vehicles have come on a long way in that time. The most significant driver for a change was something larger that we could get the whole family in – the G-Wiz notionally has four seats but the rear ones are too small for adults or car seats effectively making the G-Wiz a 2+2. I considered various alternatives and eventually settled on a Vauxhall Ampera encouraged by a substantial discount.

The Ampera is a four seater hatchback with an electric range of up to 50 miles. It’s actually a plug-in hybrid, so it initially runs as a fully electric vehicle, but then when the battery is exhausted it runs as a petrol-electric hybrid. Most days (and indeed weeks) I use no petrol, but occasionally I can do long trips of a few hundred miles without stopping to charge. For most of the period of my ownership my lifetime average economy has been 250+ mpg, but that’s dropped to 190+ mpg following a few round trips to Cheshire.

Wiz Wiz

One of the sources of CO2 emissions (major contributor to global warming) is fuel for transportation, which for most of us means petrol or Diesel. Various options exist for reduction including:

  • Buy a more fuel efficient model.
  • Buy something smaller.
  • Buy a Diesel rather than a petrol vehicle – but be cautious the CO2 saving is not as marked as the fuel economy benefit might suggest.
  • Use a renewable fuel such as E85 – but for me the nearest source is Ipswich which is many miles from my home in South Essex.
  • Buy a hybrid such as a Toyota Prius.

All of those can make a difference depending on what you currently drive, but I went further than that and have reduced my CO2 emissions from personal transportation by about 90%. Now I suppose that I could have used my bicycle more, but then a 7 mile trip to church or rehearsals would leave me hot and sweaty and it wouldn’t be practical to carry much music or my keyboard, so..

My electric vehicle

.. I went electric.

My G-Wiz is able to complete over 40 miles on a charge, and is responsible for no CO2 emissions since it is charged on renewable electricity. I reckon that I can do about 90% of my mileage in it. It’s not quick and it’s not pretty (in my opinion although some call it “cute”), but it is very green despite being black.

G-Wiz Owner’s Club