5 Ways to Up the Eco on Nick Clegg’s £500 million electric car (ULEV) Scheme

Image: Andrew Curtis
Image: Andrew Curtis

The Deputy Prime Minister has announced today that £500 million is to be invested in electric cars between now and 2020, transforming the country into an electrical commuter belt. The funding will put Ultra Low Emission Vehicles (ULEVs) at the forefront of the British automotive renaissance, creating jobs and reducing emissions as it does so.

Mr. Clegg promises ‘Ultra Low City Status’ and a £35 million grant for the local areas with the most ambitious eco plans, and another £50 million to clean up public transport in those areas.

One fifth of the full half-a-billion pounds pot will go into ULEV research and development, creating jobs right the way down the production line.

Britain’s motorways and ‘A’ roads will be peppered with rapid chargepoints where drivers will be able to top up their batteries in as little as 20 minutes. By the end of 2014, every motorway service station will have a rapid chargepoint and 500 rapid chargers will be in place across the country by March 2015, making it the best network in Europe.

The Government will offer grants of £5,000 towards the upfront cost of ULEVs, and applications for schemes are expected to open shortly after the release of the full details of the plan in the autumn of 2014. Check out the Go Ultra Low tool launched by the Deputy Prime Minister in support of the scheme to help pick an electric car and learn how you’ll use one day-to-day.

How to make electric cars more Eco-Friendly

Image: Paul Krueger

Leaving fossil fuels where they belong is a brilliant start towards a sustainable future, but the electricity your nippy little ULEV is going to use will need to come from somewhere, and at the moment that somewhere is likely to be international gas reserves.

By 2030, we could be importing three quarters of  natural gas used in the UK, so we’ve come up with a few helpful ideas about where our electric cars can get their energy from without ruining the environment any further:

Solar Panelling

The government has been pushing solar panelling pretty heavily in recent years, and as today’s cars spend almost all of their time under the sun whilst last year’s winter wardrobe clogs up the garage, it surely makes sense to fit solar panels in the roofs, boots, and bonnets of our vehicles.

Road energy

Road energy is a little-heard-of industry which we’re hoping is going to blossom in the near future, and if anything can help it along it’ll be a wider use of ULEVs across the country. Wireless road charging is already in use in Milton Keynes, serving a 24-kilometre bus route. But how the electricity is generated is another issue – the way we see it, road energy can be thermal (from the sun) or kinetic (from the cars on the road), and should use the road surface itself to collect energy. The energy can then be used to generate electricity for the vehicles using it or to thaw ice in winter and keep roads clear to be used by our earth-friendly engines.

Mobile turbines

Whilst carrying a conventional wind turbine to work might be impractical, slow, and completely ridiculous, you might try picturing a series of mini turbines set beneath the bonnet, on the roof, or on the boot in place of spoilers. This doesn’t seem to be in practical use anywhere at the moment, but we’re not the first to think of it and feel a little less zany for being backed up by these guys. Disappointingly, our Government hasn’t been too supportive of wind energy of late.

Hemp fuel

Image: Stephen Craven
Image: Stephen Craven

The Government is pushing for 100% electric cars, but hybrid vehicles are also part of the plan. Until worries about charging are completely eliminated, using a more eco-friendly biofuel in the hybrids could be the solution to the problem. Hemp can be used for all kinds of applications and is becoming more popular again having suffered unpopularity over the last century. Hemp fuel isn’t very widely used in motors, but Henry Ford used it to power his hemp-built car, and more recently the Hemp Car Transamerica project demonstrated the ability to use the crop as vehicle fuel. Hemp is also making a comeback as a car-building material.

Nuclear power

Nuclear power isn’t strictly a renewable energy source. In fact, it isn’t renewable at all – but it could last quite a while at low environmental cost. Nuclear fission is the only type of nuclear power in use today, and can be used to produce electricity quite cheaply – France enjoys some of the cleanest air and the lowest electricity costs in Europe thanks to its nuclear power stations. If we can put the threat of disaster to the backs of our minds, nuclear-powered cars could prove a useful bridge to becoming entirely reliant upon truly renewable energy in the future.

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