Congestion

This week should have been travel intensive; however, a bad cold meant that didn’t happen. Bad, it was awful, the first cold I’ve had in years, and I didn’t cope well. I cancelled all my appointments on Wednesday, including a lunch I was looking forward to and I had to get someone else to host the online networking session I run.

Having only used the car for local trips on Monday and Tuesday I had plenty of charge for my trip on Friday to Helland near Bodmin to record a podcast episode for Your Partnerships in the Cornwall Channel studio. Great time to have a cold, and yes, I did have a coughing fit during the recording.

On the way back I thought I would use the charger at the Kingsley Village Shell station and visit the retail park while the car was charging. The charger that I mentioned last week as being out of service still hadn’t been repaired, fortunately there was no one using the other one. Even though it appeared to be working it did not deliver a charge, so I left without visiting the retail park or having a coffee in Starbucks. If motorists are to have confidence in electric vehicles chargers need to be reliable and fixed quickly if they do go wrong.  The one in Hayle I mentioned in my first electric car post on 22nd August is still out of action.

I had intended to head straight home, until I heard on the radio that there had been an accident on the single carriageway section of the A30 and there were long delays. There is a charger at the Shell station just before that section, so I popped in there, plugged in and dealt with emails, etc. on my phone while the car was charging. By the time I left the road had cleared, I don’t think I lost any time by stopping.  

Reflecting on the week I realised that when driving in residential areas I spent most of the time negotiating around parked cars, often giving way to other motorists or them giving way to me, because the parked cars made the roads effectively single track with passing bays. And there is the big problem, those cars are not going to be charged at home, they are going to have to rely on the public network, which is inadequate, patchy and unreliable. Policy makers, politicians, senior civil servants and experts live in houses with drives and garages whereas a lot of other people have to struggle to find a bit of curb space which is often not right outside their home.

Banning sales of petrol and diesel cars by 2030 is an easy thing to do, working out what the consequence of that policy is and implementing plans so there are no problems is not. Just look at some of the recent problems, the carbon dioxide shortage, the fuel crisis, problems in the energy market (with lots of firms going out of business), a shortage of HGV drivers, pigs stuck on farms due to a shortage of workers in abattoirs and rumours of there being no turkeys for Christmas. I’m not hopeful for a smooth transition to electric vehicles.

Here is my verdict on the government’s approach to electric cars:

If you want to try an Onto electric car no commitment monthly rental use the code 52aad to get a £50 discount.

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Miles and smiles

I’ve made only a few trips in the car this week. Monday was a Zoom Day then on Tuesday I escaped from the house to an event in St Austell about the skills workforces will need in the future. The car’s Satnav took me on a different route from the one I normally take; I think I will use that route in future, unless traffic is heavy, as it is shorter, but more likely to be congested. I went past several petrol stations, which were open and had no queues, while the radio news programme I was a listening to was all about the petrol crisis, petrol stations with no fuel and massive queues at those that did. I was glad I had the car, using public transport would have meant a 10-minute walk from the bus stop to the venue and the rain was lashing down. It had stopped by the time I headed for home, so I left the car on charge in the car park at my local Tesco and walked home from there. It was good to have a reason to go out later, even if it started raining again, to pick it up.

With a full charge I had no worries about my journey on Wednesday to Bude (126-mile round trip) to host a networking event. It was good to be at a face-to-face meeting (with appropriate Covid measures) after months and months and months of online events. On the way home I called in at the Shell station at Kingsley village (fuel, no queues) to check out the charging there. There are two 175kw chargers, one was in use and as I got out to plug into the other one the guy wound down his window and told me it wasn’t working. We struck up a conversation and he got out of his car to make talking easier. I discovered he lived near Looe (Cornwall) and rented his car from Onto as well; a Volkswagen e-up. I had considered that car, but decided the real word range of 125 miles was too short for me. It worked well for him as he could charge at home and his longest work journey was about 50 miles.  His wife had a petrol car which they used for longer journeys; however, when the lease on that car ends, they are going to replace it with an electric car from Onto.  

It was pleasant chatting in the sunshine and the time it took to charge his car soon passed. I had just plugged in when a left-hand drive Hyundai Iona pulled into the other slot. As I didn’t need any charge to get home and he probably did to get where he was going, I told him that charger wasn’t working; however, I was just going. I hope that little act of kindness gets recorded on the credit side of a ledger somewhere. On the way home I reflected on how pleasant car-charging can be, which contrasts starkly with some unpleasantness on petrol forecourts including fistfights. Things may change in the winter because all the charging points I have used so far have been in the open and exposed to the elements. In the winter it will be a quick dash to plug in then splendid isolation in the car to keep dry and warm.

I thought that was the last of my trips in the car for the week until the foul weather on Saturday morning meant I drove to volunteer at Heartlands parkrun rather than walk, leaving the car on charge at the nearby Tesco Extra. I will be starting next week with a full charge.

The other big motoring story this week was Insulate Britain blocking the M25 and other motorways. I support their aims, but not their tactics. Why do we still have poorly insulated homes, houses with single glazed metal windows and draughty doors? Why is it the Government can be quick to get injunctions against protesters and introduce new laws to combat them, but cannot take decisive action to tackle foreseeable problems. The way to prevent Extinction Rebellion, Insulate Britain and other protest groups from being a nuisance is to address important issues that people care deeply about. We are failing to meet our Climate Change commitments and those commitments are not sufficient to prevent a disaster. I’m not going to glue myself to a motorway or chain myself to a anything; I am going to keep promoting less use of cars and for the speedy uptake of electric cars.

I know there are naysayers when it comes to electric cars and I agree there are problems; however, I do believe they are part of the solution to Climate Change. There is a good post about this on the Two Minute Foundation blog. The foundation started in Cornwall as the Two Minute Beach Clean.

If you are thinking of trying an Onto electric car rental use the code 52aad to get a £50 discount.

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Schadenfreude

This week has been a very quiet one for travel. On Monday I took the bus into Truro to meet my daughter and she gave me a lift home in her car. I spent Tuesday at home and only went out on Wednesday to relax. In the morning I made a telephone call to complain about the saga of getting my shower repaired. Despite having to wait 17 minutes listening to tinny music for my call to be answered, I was calm and polite. The customer service member who answered the call was great, agreed things hadn’t gone well and transferred me to a manager, things went downhill from there. He was more interested in defending the company’s position than listening to what I had to say. The more he talked, and he liked to talk, the more dissatisfied and wound up I became. After the call, I decided to drive into Hayle to treat myself to coffee and cake from the Be Kind Vegan Coffee Caravan and enjoy it sitting in the sun.

Driving an electric car is relaxing; I enjoy the process of driving. The concentration required blocks out other thoughts and in an electric car the smooth and almost silent acceleration makes it calming. The fact that it is an automatic and that you can drive in eco mode makes it an almost Zen-like experience. That, plus the coffee and cake in the sunshine, restored me to my normal calm self.

On Thursday, it was another day spent at home, two Zoom presentations and two online business networking events, one as the host. On Friday I had a short drive to a meeting in Redruth; I felt incredibly smug driving passed, in my electric car, queues of motorist panic buying petrol. There is no word in the English language that adequately describes the feeling, so we have to borrow from the Germans, schadenfreude – pleasure derived by someone from another person’s misfortune.

Saturday was another treat day, I had been told about a farm shop and café near Truro that was worth a visit; Cows & Sows, Idless. It is only about 3 miles from Truro yet in a totally different world entered via narrow lanes with grass growing in the middle. The farm shop has lovely local produce and crafts, the café has seating outside and in a big barn.

Cows and Sows

There was a climate change section in the barn with information, leaflets and booklets.  While I was waiting for my freshly made vegan pizza, I read a booklet produced by the Stithians Energy Group; Climate Change Explained. I was impressed with its non-judgemental approach, recognising that people have different circumstances and therefore will have different energy and transport needs and abilities to take actions relating to climate change. There is a section that details the emissions generated by different modes of transport and highlights the positives and negatives. I particularly liked the section, A Future Zero Carbon Britain – “Cities are now places for people rather than cars …places where people can relax and children can play”. All too often we focus on what we have to give up and not what we will gain. When people understand the benefits, they embrace change. If you do not believe me, just consider how many people still use a wash copper and a mangle to do the laundry.

On the way back from the lovely lunch I left the car in Tesco’s car park on charge and walked home. I collected it later when the app told me it was fully charged. I’m now ready for next week’s trips.

You can download a digital version of the Stithians Energy Group Climate Change Explained booklet here.

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I’m Lovin’ It

This week’s experience was the antithesis of last week’s; no bad bits at all.

On Monday morning I set off from Farnborough with a fully charged battery for my journey to Ilminster so had no worries about getting there. I made a couple of diversions on the way to visit two sculpture parks and for a delightful lunch at the Bel and Dragon Hotel in Churt. After checking into my hotel in the evening I set off to find the nearest charging point which was about half a mile away. It was in a pub car park which meant I was able to have a leisurely meal while the car was charging. Happiness is a fully charged car and a full stomach.

Note: The total miles left refers to the monthly free mileage allowance.

On Tuesday I treated myself to a day running in Dorset and sought out the Holloways, I have wanted to run along them ever since I learnt of their existence several years ago. They are sunken tracks which have been travelled for hundreds of years. Over the ages erosion caused by many travellers and the weather has resulted in the tracks cutting into the soft landscape, sometimes to surprising depths, making for a magical experience. I doubt that how the A303, the A30 and M5 have changed the landscape in the Southwest will be thought of as magical.

Dorset Holloway

I had booked into the hotel in Ilminster for another night to avoid having to drive home tired and sweaty after a day’s running. After a lovely shower I headed off to the pub again, this time the main reason was to refuel my body with doughballs, vegan pizza and apple pie and ice-cream. I did plug the car in to top up.  By the end of my meal the car was fully charged, and I had enough range to get home with 100 miles to spare. My body had taken on enough carbohydrates to replace what I had used during the day.

On Wednesday, I stopped off at the Lifton Farm shop for breakfast; I was meeting a friend later for a walk around Landhydrock. As she is an outdoor person and used to volunteer with Mountain Rescue, I thought fuelling up was essential if I was going to keep up. I also charged the car.

I arrived home relaxed from my few days away and from a very smooth electric car experience.

If you want to try the Onto no commitment rental experience the code 52aad will give you £50 off a month’s rental. Book via their website.

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Gang aft a-gley

If you know your Robert Burns you will deduce from the title that things didn’t go according to plan this week. If you are not familiar with the poems of Robert Burns I urge you to read ‘To a mouse‘, in my opinion the best poem ever written. It is a little difficult to read as originally written, however there are plenty of translations available. I will tell you about those frustrated plans later; first my public transport journeys, all of which were good and went as planned.

Monday was my last day in London, I checked out of the hotel and took the underground (District Line) from Earl’s Court to Victoria where I left my luggage at a left luggage facility near the coach station booked via Radical Storage. Unencumbered I had a pleasant walk to the Chelsea Physics Gardens, a lovely green space with natural colour in the middle of all the hustle and bustle. After a gentle stroll in the gardens I walked to Battersea Power station to catch the Thames Clipper, the temperature had risen to 27 degrees Celsius so I was pleased to have not been carrying luggage; the deck chairs on the dock at Battersea were a delight.

Catching the Thames Clipper meant I could have a cool trip sitting on the deck rather than a sweaty underground train journey. I took the boat down river to Greenwich so I could walk through the Greenwich Foot Tunnel under the Thames (another box ticked) then catch the DHL (Docklands Light Railway) to connect with the Jubilee line then the London overground to get to Honor Oak Park. From there it was a short walk to One Tree Hill which has a wonderful view over London. There is more than one tree on the hill, but only one is famous and I think originally it was solitary. Elizabeth I rested under the tree (the Honor Oak) in 1602 on her way to visit Lewisham, not the tree you see now, that was planted in 1905, but a similar tree on that site. 

The return trip to South Kensington worked well, leaving me all set for my final activity in London, the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall, before the overnight coach trip back to Cornwall.

Now the unruly plans. I was driving up to Farnborough on Friday ready to visit the National Running Show on Saturday and Sunday. The plan was to stop at the Lifton Farm shop in Devon to top up the car charge while having breakfast in their restaurant. The charger wasn’t working. I phoned the company (long wait for call to be answered) and they attempted to reset the charger. It didn’t work. While that was going on someone arrived in a Jaguar I Pace (I now have serious car envy). They were disappointed to find someone at the only charger and even more disappointed to find it wasn’t working. They were making their way to Newquay for a holiday, had stayed overnight in a hotel in Exeter expecting it to have fast charging but the 7kw charger meant the car did not fully charge overnight. The guy was frantically searching through apps to find a nearby charger as he did not have enough range to get to Newquay. He was certainly exhibiting range anxiety. I was fairly sanguine and decided to continue on and make a slight detour to have breakfast at the Harvester in Exeter and use their charger. When I got there the charger was in use and showed the attached car was only 20% charged. I started doing my own app searching and found that the Blue Ball Pub at Sandygate wasn’t too far off my route and had a fast charger. Joy of joys, when I got there no one was using it and it was in working order. The downside, the pub didn’t open until 12.00; I started to have breakfast anxiety. There was nothing else there so I sat in the car doing some admin (thank goodness for mobile phones and having signal) while the charge crept up. When I had enough to get to Farnborough, with a safety margin, I set off. I never did get breakfast. The delay at the Lifton Farm shop and then looking for a charger added an extra forty minutes onto my journey on top of the forty minutes for charging. On what should be a four hour journey that is significant.

I still arrived before the hotel check-in time so on reaching Farnborough I set off to find a charger. There was one in the nearby Holiday Inn hotel car park, however that was in use, so I drove off to find the next nearest one which was on an industrial estate. I never found it, the charger that is not the industrial estate; it is hard to miss something as big as that. As I passed the Holiday Inn on the way back to my hotel I popped in to see if the charger was free – it was, result! There was nothing to do in the area so I just had a strolled around, not very exciting, until I had a 50% charged battery, about thirty minutes.

Saturday was the National Running Show South at the Farnborough Exhibition Centre, a short drive from the hotel. Strangely one of the stands at the show was Ford with the Mustang Mach-E; that is a good looking car and has replaced the Jaguar I Pace on the wish list. I have booked a test drive for when I get back to Cornwall. 

My Onto rental electric car comes with cards to get free electric charging from three different networks; Shell Recharge, BP Pulse (Polar) and InstaVolt. I have used the first two but not InstaVolt, so when I discovered there were two locations in Farnborough, one about a mile away from the Exhibition Centre on the Farnborough Business Park, I went off to find it (surveys have found InstaVolt to be the most reliable network). I had no problem finding it (the charger) and because it was a Saturday the parking area was empty and the two chargers there were available. It is a big business park with lots of shiny new buildings, but no shops or cafes nearby so again I went for a stroll while the car was charging. I would never have thought that having an electric car would increase the amount of walking I do.

Charger moments

I mentioned in an earlier post that office workers have ‘cooler moments’ (discussions at the water cooler) and electric car drivers have ‘charger moments’. Some of those this week were learning from the Jaguar driver that electric car ownership is good when you use it locally but a bit of a nightmare on longer journeys. In the Holiday Inn car park I learnt from a MIni driver that he loves the social interaction at charger points, he has lots of those, the Mini only does about 100 miles on one full charge. I think he had range envy when I told him the Zoe would do 230 miles. I also heard tales of chargers not working and stressful journeys which were contrasted with brilliant experiences in Europe where a journey from Belgium to the south of France was a breeze with banks of chargers at all the motorway service stations. A coffee and croissant to recharge your own batteries while topping up the car’s sounds ideal.

The overall impression from the week, the UK is nowhere near ready for any significant increase in electric car ownership and there are some exciting electric cars coming on to the market.

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A new leaf

Only one short car journey this week, a few miles up the A30 to a Nissan dealership to test drive a Leaf. A bigger car than the Zoe and with better acceleration; however the inside styling seemed dated and the rear window small so that every time I checked the rearview mirror it felt a little claustrophobic. Overall I prefer the Zoe. 

I have been making full use of public transport and shank’s pony (walking). I took the overnight National Express coach to London on Thursday night and when I arrived early Friday morning I dropped my luggage off at a left luggage facility and walked from Victoria to St James park  the for a coffee in the park before walking to then along the Thames to Tower Bridge for a tour, including a walk along the glass floor high above the Thames. It was then a train to Clapham Junction to visit what is now my favourite restaurant VE Kitchen for lunch. I succumbed to three courses so I walked back to Victoria, including a lovely stroll in Battersea Park, to collect my luggage. Weighed down, I took the underground to my hotel near Earl’s Court.

On Saturday I had a very underground experience, a ride on Mail Rail – the small railway under London that was used to transport mail.

Mail Rail

I followed that with more walking. In London it is too easy to just take the tube, but often, for shorter distances, it is just as quick to walk.When you walk you discover things, I spotted a little park down a side street, Red Lion Square, went to explore and found a lovely Chilean cafe. Later I discovered lions. 

I’ll be back on message next week.

Curate’s egg

My experience of using an electric car so far has been like the curate’s egg. For anyone not familiar with the term the following will help.

A “curate’s egg” is something described as partly bad and partly good. In its original usage, it referred to something that is obviously and entirely bad, but is described out of politeness as nonetheless having good features that redeem it. This meaning has been largely supplanted by its less ironic modern usage, which refers to something that is in fact an indeterminate mix of good and bad, possibly with a preponderance of bad qualities.

On Monday I parked in my local Tesco car park, plugged the car into the charger and caught the bus to Truro for a visit to the dentist. Afterwards I had a leisurely walk in Victoria Gardens and treated myself to a vegan ice-cream followed by an iced-latte and a piece of cake from the Pollen in the Park refreshment kiosk, then caught the bus back to Camborne. My car was fully charged. Monday was definitely a good part.

On Tuesday I had a long drive to Haldon Forest, 104 miles, mostly on the A30 so I planned a stop at the Lifton Farm shop (just off the A30) where there is a fast charger. While the car was charging, I had a relaxed breakfast in the restaurant. Office workers have water cooler moments where they interact with colleagues when using the water cooler. Electric car drivers have charger moments where they swap experiences with fellow drivers while connecting their cars to the charge point. These conversations have been of a curate’s egg nature, mostly about chargers not working and a desperate hunt for an alternative one and only a few about smooth journeys. The old driving me would have never stopped, it was always about getting there as fast as possible. I like this more relaxed approach and was happy to have the car in eco mode which reduces the acceleration and keeps the car at 65 on the dual carriage way. Another good part.

On the way from the forest to my next destination, Tavistock, I passed close to Exeter and decided to leave the A30 to check out a nearby charging point. Bad move, the traffic was dreadful, and it took ages to travel the two miles to the charger. The good part was that it was in a Harvester car park, so I was able to have a refreshing shandy while the car was charging. It was good to have a full charge again; Tavistock is a desert when it comes to charging and there is nothing between there and Bude, my next destination.  The overall rating – a curate’s egg with more good than bad.

Wednesday was the reverse of Tuesday, curate’s egg more bad than good.  I arrived in Bude early went to the Parkhouse Centre, which I had discovered the week before have chargers on the NewMotion network which can be paid for using the Shell Recharge card included in my rental fee. I couldn’t get the charger to work. As I was fiddling about the caretaker came out to ask if it was working; he had not seen anyone using them before. I phoned NewMotion who tried, but were unable, to reset the charger. They informed me that the charger was showing that it had never delivered a charge.  I have emailed the Town Council and one of the councillors for an explanation. Dejected I moved the car into the nearby public car park and got on with my day including a lovely lunch with one of my daughters in the Little Pig Farm Shop & Cafe. On the way home I stopped at Carland Cross for a top up. Not having heeded the ‘note to self’ from last week I did not have a good book in the car, so I walked across to the Toyota dealership to see what electric cars Toyota have while waiting for the car to charge. I spent a lot of time looking about then waiting, but no one came to see if they could help me, there was no one about, it was all very Mary Celeste, so I walked out. There must be a big mark up on the cars they do sell if they can afford to let potential customers walk out. If I do buy a Toyota, it will not be from Parklands Toyota.

Thursday was a good egg day, I drove to a business networking breakfast at the Plume of Feathers, Mitchell (nice vegan breakfast – the veggie one with no egg), an event I cannot get to by public transport. When I came back to Camborne, I left the car charging at Tesco for the day and went back and collected it late afternoon. Happiness is a fully charged car.

Friday was a bad egg day, I went into Hayle to see if the charger at ASDA had been fixed, I reported it out of action on Wednesday last week. The truth is that it was just an excuse to have lunch at the Be Kind Vegan Coffee Caravan in the glorious sunshine. The charging point has not been fixed and rather ominously it no longer appears on the NewMotion app map. I have discovered that the company use their own staff for repairs rather than contracting with local firms. It cannot make economic sense to send someone all the way down into the west of Cornwall to fix one charging point. I imagine we will have to wait until there is a glut of them needing repair before someone is sent down here.

I did not travel on Saturday and today I am going to Bude to see my daughters, with a full charge there will be no range anxiety on the 130-mile round trip. No chance of the battery running out and me calling for assistance and getting egg on my face

The Bude canal.

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Not so car free

This is my first post where I am car-enabled, I haven’t bought a car, I’m renting one by the month from Onto. Everything is included in the price, insurance, any maintenance or repairs (including new tyres when needed), the London congestion charge and Dart fees (not a great benefit if you live in Cornwall) and electric charging – more about that later. I thought a no commitment monthly rental would be a good way to test out the car charging infrastructure before committing to buying or leasing an expensive electric car.  

Renault Zoe

The first thing I discovered was that electric cars are like being vegan. When people find out I am vegan they invariably ask me how I get enough protein, many are also concerned about my calcium intake and some warn me about the dangers of low vitamin B12 levels. When I lived on a diet of Turkey Twizzlers no one expressed any concern for my nutrition. I posted a picture of my nice new electric Renault Zoe on Facebook and people were quick to comment that it wasn’t ‘green’ because of all the energy and materials needed to produce it, because the batteries could not be recycled (crossing bridges before you reach them perhaps) and how could I be sure the electric I was using to recharge the batteries came from renewable sources. I don’t remember people making those sorts of comments when I posted photos of my petrol powered Passat on Facebook. That took material and energy to build, the fuel source definitely wasn’t green and judging by all the piles of old cars in scrapyards it isn’t the easiest thing to recycle. Fortunately, I understand cognitive dissonance and peoples’ coping strategies, so those negative comments amuse me rather than annoy me.

I love the car, for a small car there is a lot of room inside and it is loaded with all sorts of features, most of which I haven’t figured out how to use. There are some I hope never to use, the car will automatically brake if it detects that you are about to crash into the car in front, there is a camera that records what happens during an accident and an alarm that sounds if you start wandering over the lanes in the road. It is a dream to drive, smooth and responsive, quiet and comfortable. I love driving and love this car, but I am determined to still use public transport a lot of the time.

Charging – the theory

As I said earlier, the rental includes free charging if you use the networks Onto is signed up to, Polar (BP), Shell Recharge and Instavolt; payment cards are provided for each network. And there is the first problem, you need to access three apps to find out where the charging points are. It is simplified by the fact that there is only one Instavolt location in Cornwall, four Shell locations (3 close to each other north of Truro and the other 62 miles away from me in Bude) and five BP Plus locations. However, scratch the surface and things look bleak.

The Instavolt location is Padstow, which is 35-miles away from me and on a road to nowhere. The nearest Shell location is 16 miles away on the A30, so I would pass it regularly, unfortunately there is only one charge point there. Further up the A30 near Kingsley there is another charger, but that has been out of service for some time.  Off the A30 there are chargers at Watergate Bay hotel and Bude. The Watergate Bay charger is a 7 kW one so would take 8 hours for a full charge, Bude has 22 kW chargers – 3 hours.

Charging methodTypically found atCharging time
3-pin plugHome23 h
7 kWHome / Work / Public Locations8 h
22 kWWork / Public Locations3 h
50 kWPublic Locations               50 mins
Charging times for the Renault Zoe

The BP Pulse network, which on paper looked like the winner in Cornwall, is actually dire. The St Austell location (ASDA) is only 7 kW and is currently out of order. The mid county location has the fast charger out of action leaving just a 7 kW (8 hr) socket available. In Saltash at the China Fleet Country Club two of the three sockets are out of action and at the other location (Waitrose) the 7 kW socket is out of action leaving only the 3-pin (23 hours). Two out of three sockets at the Newquay location are out of action, the good news being the one left is a fast charger. The other good news is that the charger in Falmouth is fast-charging and I have been told it is well maintained. All seems a bit of a mess to me.

Charging the actual experience

Charging points – not all are available to the public

There are plenty of other charging points available; however, I would rather not pay when it is included in the rental. Zap Map shows lots and lots and lots of chargers all over the county, although to save confusion it is best to filter out the ones you cannot access: only available to hotel guests, workplace chargers etc. The first one I visited was not on the map, I had been told there was free to use one in the ASDA car park in Hayle, so I thought I’d go there and charge the car while enjoying a coffee and lunch from the Be Kind Vegan Coffee Caravan located on some waste land situated at the back of the car park (it’s a lot nicer than it sounds). I got myself all plugged in then could not find the location on the app to start the charge. I phoned the helpline and was told that when a charge point is out of action it doesn’t appear on the list. I asked when it was likely to be repaired and was told that the company was waiting for ASDA to authorise the work. I popped into ASDA to report the problem at the Customer Service desk “Nothing to do with us, it’s up to the company that installed it”. After some discussion it was agreed that the manager would contact Pod Point. Interesting that the company which knew its equipment wasn’t working was waiting for their customer (ASDA), who did not know it wasn’t working, to tell them it needed repairing. I doubt ‘proactive’ is in Pod Point’s lexicon. That probably explains why the charge point at ASDA, St Austell has been out of action for some time (see above – charging – the theory) The car had been delivered with plenty of charge, so I was amused rather than annoyed.

The following day I drove up the A30 to attend a networking breakfast I cannot get to on public transport. On the way back I thought I’d use one of the cards provided to get a free charge at the Shell Recharge point at Carland Cross. It was in use, and I didn’t not have time up wait for the other person to finish as I had a delivery due at home. I did get to use that point a few days later and discovered there is nothing to do there. Note to self – keep a good book in the car.

My first successful charge was at my local Tesco using the free Pod Point charger while doing my weekly shop. When I had finished the charge had gone from 37% to 42%. That is when I read the car’s manual and discovered that with a 7 kW charger it would take 8 hours for a full charge. There is no limit on how long you can leave a car in our local supermarket car park, so I walked home with the frozen food, leaving the rest of the shopping in the boot. I went back five hours later to collect the car. Most supermarkets have a limit on how long you can stay and number plate recognition cameras on the entrances operated by private firms that make Attila the Hun look kind and cuddly when it comes to collecting the fines. Leaving you car there to get a full charge will be very costly. I cannot see the logic of supermarkets providing such slow chargers. Greenwashing perhaps.

On my trip to Bude I was surprised by how much traffic there was and how full the car parks were. I decided to bite the bullet and pay for charging in the only car park that has charging points, unfortunately the car immediately in front of me took the last slot. On the way home I had range anxiety until I got to Carland Cross.

My final charge of the week was at another Tesco, and this highlighted another issue. That Tesco is close to the parkrun where I volunteer most Saturday mornings so a chance to charge while I was doing something else. I connected the cable then went to open the app on my phone to confirm the charge, my phone had died. I was not happy; I had only had the phone for two weeks. After a lot of fiddling, I discovered it was working; I had accidently turned the screen brightness right down and in the sunlight could not see the screen. In the car I could just make out the numbers to unlock the phone. Relief, I could confirm the charge; you need two things to work at the same time; the charger and your mobile phone. I made sure I returned to collect the car within the 3-hour time limit. A £40 fine would not have gone down well.

More adventures next week. Trips planned to Truro (bus), Exeter, Tavistock, Bude and Mitchell (Car), Redruth (Bus) and Newquay (virtually by Zoom and by car).

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Fairy dust

This will probably be the last post about being car free for a while because I am renting an electric car for a month or two. It arrives tomorrow, a Renault Zoe Iconic. I will therefore be writing about the trials and tribulations or, perhaps the joys, of using an electric car. It would appear that my carbon footprint will get a little bigger. See table below. Although by making a few tweaks to the other things I do I may be able to compensate for that. I think any temporary increase in my carbon footprint will be worth it as I will gain an understanding of the issues around using an electric car and the provision of charging points. That should enable me to lobby more effectively for improvements. And, hopefully, I will be able to encourage people to switch to electric when they next replace their car.

I will still be using public transport because fewer cars on the road means less congestion and less pollution from those cars on the road, we need to use public transport or loose it and I like using public transport. I’m off to London in a few weeks’ time and have book an overnight National Express coach ticket. I can sleep peacefully while someone else takes the strain and I don’t need a car in London with its excellent public transport.

Check out how well the coach does in the carbon emission chart below, I’ll need to find a reason to travel on Eurostar so I can boast about that.

The first table comes from a blog post on the CREDS website (Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions) and is based on a systematic meta-review of studies carried out by researchers at the University of Leeds with the snappy title ‘Quantifying the potential for climate change mitigation of consumption options’. If you have a head for the dizzy heights of academic research, a predilection for complicated diagrams and can handle more acronyms than you can shake a stick at you can access it here.

I found the concluding remarks interesting because around two-thirds of global greenhouse gas emissions are directly and indirectly linked to household consumption.

“We find that the large majority of the household carbon footprints can be mitigation with already available low-carbon consumption options. Challenging current patterns of consumption and the societal dynamics through a critical assessment of infrastructural, institutional and behavioural lock-ins and potential rebound effects, therefore, needs to become a priority for successful climate change mitigation.”

The lead researcher, Dr Diana Ivanova, said this when interviewed by the BBC following the reports publication.

“We need a complete change of mindset. We have to agree how much carbon we can each emit within the limits of what the planet can bear – then make good lives within those boundaries. The top 10 options are available to us now, without the need for controversial and expensive new technologies.”

Unfortunately, I think most governments, and many otherwise reasonable people, are putting their hopes in wonderful new technologies to dig us out of the climate change do-do. It’s just like fairy dust; great in books but it doesn’t exist in real life.

A little ask

Writing and report reading is thirsty work, as is environmental campaigning and using public transport is expensive, as is renting an electric car. If you would like to buy me a beer or a coffee, you can via this link – buy me a coffee.

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In praise of a politician

Alok Sharma

I never thought I would congratulate a politician, particularly a Conservative one. And I certainly didn’t expect to come to his defence. Just goes to show you should never say never. The politician is Alok Sharma who is leading COP 26, the climate summit in November. He said in a recent interview the world is “dangerously close” to running out of time to stop a climate change catastrophe. And went on to say, “We can’t afford to wait two years, five years, 10 years – this is the moment”. Those are not the weaselly words or platitudes that you expect from politicians, that is plain speaking, a breath of fresh air, something that is in short supply both metaphorically and actually. This is the really scary quote from the article in the Observer,

“I don’t think we’re out of time but I think we’re getting dangerously close to when we might be out of time. We will see [from the IPCC] a very, very clear warning that unless we act now, we will unfortunately be out of time.”

The IPCC is The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change. It is due to publish its latest report on the science on climate change tomorrow. Because the IPCC reaches consensus and consists of representatives from 195 governments its reports are likely to be a watered-down representation of the situation. Alok Sharma would have seen a draft of the report, if he thinks time is running out, I think it is fair to say the smelly stuff is about to hit the rotating thing.

The good thing about Alok Sharma’s statements is that they can be used to ‘hold the government’s feet to the fire’ over its climate change commitments. I dislike the term ‘feet to the fire’ as it has its roots in torture; it was used extensively during the Spanish Inquisition. However, I could not resist using it given that we may soon be talking about a burning planet.

Why do I feel the need to defend Alok Sharma? Well, he is getting a lot of flak for the flights he has taken to fulfil his role as the lead for COP 26 in Glasgow later in the year. His critics obviously do not understand net-zero. It is essential that the conference is a success, face-to-face meetings beforehand are the way to help make that happen. All the carbon emissions saved as a result of a successful COP 26 will dwarf the emissions from his travel. They will not be a drop in the ocean they will be like an atom in all the oceans.

The world is a complex place and the causes and solutions relating to climate change extremely complex, demonising things doesn’t help. Flying a helicopter to help put out forest fires most people would see as a good thing, flying a helicopter for sightseeing might be viewed less favourably, but what if it supported a tourist industry that meant the community had an income and didn’t have to clear rainforest for monoculture like palm oil production?  

The benefits of going car free

Number 7 – Seeing stuff

I have driven through Chacewater many times but never saw the sculpture in one of the gardens because it is behind a wall. From the top deck of the bus I can admire it every time I pass. Probably a good thing it cannot be seen while driving, it’s best to keep your eyes on the road.

A little ask

Writing and report reading is thirsty work, as is environmental campaigning and using public transport is expensive. If you would like to buy me a beer or a coffee, you can via this link – buy me a coffee.

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