26 March 2010

Our Friends Electric

Living a life that is unfortunately slightly more sedentary than I would like, I have taken to rambling out onto the city streets for a daily 3 mile constitutional (the equivalent in feet of eight 1937 Constitutionals). Normally my route takes me either up towards James' Gate, or across the Liffey towards Parnell Street and back, but today I chose a more circuitous route along the Grand Canal to take a gander at the ESB's brand spanking new Electric Vehicle Charging Stations.

Yes, my friends, we are officially living in the future, for not one, not two, but four vehicle charging points have been installed around the city centre, one on Adelaide Road in front of the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, a second about 200 meters down the canal on Wilton Place near the offices of Sustainable Energy Ireland, and a further two across the road from each other at the ESB's headquarters on Fitzwilliam Street.

Three of the charging points are of the same design, and look geared towards charging only one car at a time. The fourth on Fitzwilliam Street is slightly squatter, and I imagine is either capable of charging two vehicles at once, or is one of the rapid chargers that should be capable of completely charging a car in twenty minutes.

Use of the chargers requires a RFID card and preregistration with the ESB, and apparently for the rest of the year charging at these four points is actually free, with fees to be introduced in 2011. The plan is to install up to 500 charge points in Dublin, 135 in Cork, 45 each in Limerick, Galway and Waterford and at least 1 in every town in the country with a population of more than 1,500. These are all to facilitate the Government's ambitious target of having 10% of vehicles on Irish roads in 2020 be electric.

While there has been some positive coverage of this launch in the media, almost every article I have read adds the caveat, "of course Electric Vehicles are only as Green as the source of the electricity", the implication being that since the vast majority of Irish electricity comes from coal and gas powered plants, promoting electric cars is a bit of an exercise in Greenwashing.

Luckily this is not the case. According to David MacKay, Professor of Physics at the University of Cambridge, and author of the rather good "Sustainable Energy - without the hot air":
"Assume the electric vehicle's energy cost is 20kWh(e) per 100km. (I think 15kWh(e) per 100km is perfectly possible, but let's play skeptical in this calculation.) If grid electricity has a carbon footprint of 500g per kWh(e) then the effective emissions of this vehicle are 100g CO2 per km, which is as good as the best fossil cars. So I conclude that switching to electric cars is already a good idea, even before we green our electricity supply." - 'Sustainable Energy - without the hot air', p131
So even as we wait for the ESB to move towards more renewable sources of energy production, or to open up the charging stations to other greener producers (as it plans to do), switching to electric vehicles in an urban environment is still a much better option.

True, the number of charging points now is rather low, and they still probably outnumber the electric vehicles on the road by a ratio of 2:1, but this is a great initiative, and like the Dublin Bikes scheme, hopefully points the way towards the redevelopment of Dublin as a more sustainable city.

Welcome to the future; Next stop, reserved parking spaces for flying cars.

Oh, yeah!

Links
ESB Press Release on the Vehicle Charging Points
More Photos

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