800px-Charging_stations_in_SF_City_Hall_02_2009_02 

Electric car charging station, San Francisco: coming to your town soon?

Today's papers announced that the Government's grant programme to help people invest in electric cars is going ahead. From next March, consumers who buy an electric car will be entitled to a voucher for £5,000 to help with the cost. And the UK's first mass-produced all-electric
five-seat family hatchback – the Nissan LEAF – is due to go on sale next March too, just in time to benefit from the first of the grants.

One of the earliest adopters has to be Energy Saving Trust's  Consumer Transport Manager, Tim Anderson. He went for a drive in the final pre-production model of the LEAF for the Green
Car Guide
.

As Tim says:

"Even with a £5000 government grant, £23,990 may still sound pricey
for a family hatch. However as with many aspects of this car, you need
to look at it in a different way. In terms of whole-life costs, the LEAF
starts to look more favourable, with hugely reduced fuel costs, as well
as reduced maintenance requirements, and exemption from road tax and
congestion charges."

In short, the early adopters are going to be in the forefront of learning a new way of thinking about our cars. Journeys will have to be planned, for a start: the LEAF has a range of 100 miles, and recharging the battery from completely empty to full
takes eight hours. There'll be no quick detour to a filling station. Tim writes, "you can
pre-programme the car to use cheap electricity during the night. It's
possible to recharge to over 80% capacity in less than 30 minutes, but a
quick charger is needed, and there aren't too many of these around at
the moment."

So is electric motoring the future?

Tim says, "Well, it's definitely part of it, although
decarbonisation of our electricity grid needs to be addressed if we're
to see the major CO2 savings from this technology. The future is almost
certainly going to be a mix of fuels, with petrol, diesel, biofuels,
hybrids, electric and eventually hydrogen all playing a part."

What we'd really like to see – and what the Energy Saving Trust is working towards making happen – is a scenario where people are using renewable energy sources, generating some of their own electricity at home, and using that carbon-neutral energy to recharge their car batteries. A Utopia? Let;s make it happen, we say.

Tim closes: "For
now, the Nissan LEAF proves that the electric car wasn't killed after
all. Ultimately we will need a revolution in consumer attitudes towards
electric cars. And the revolution starts here with the LEAF."

Photo: Wikimedia Commons