2nd June 2017

“We can’t solve all the world’s problems, but we can at least stop adding to them.” Caroline Lucas MP,  joint leader of the Green Party.

My Green Electaglide

If you are reading this blog, it is probably sometime in the future and not in 2017, because it appears that many of us humans are not ready for the green paradigm. But if you are reading it now, welcome. You may well be asking the same questions as me. Why are we still clinging to our 20th Century ideals of finite fossil fuels such as coal and oil, world wars and wasting Nature’s resources? And why are we still all in love with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, or the idea that man can create a monster and expect it to not come at a price of total destruction?

The difference between now and the Industrial Revolution that began in the 18th Century is that in the 21st Century we know the effects that human behaviour is having on the planet. Today, more people than ever are waking up to their personal responsibility for the environment and participating in our human evolution/revolution.  We find ourselves in a time of change where the challenge is to live with our individual conscience, yet act as a community.  If we need politics at all, it is a politics of love, responsibility, conscience and care. If we do or say nothing it is our fault and we will only have ourselves to blame.

It was extreme weather events that prompted great writers like Mary Shelley to take note of what was happening through storytelling. Volcanos, earthquakes, floods and freezes are out of our hands, but we can do something to reduce the pressure on the planet from mining, plastics, pollutants and de-forestation. We are not luddites, far from it. We understand that an ancient arboreal forest in Tasmania is a first rate pharmacy and yet we are still hell bent on destruction and compulsive consuming. We create the problem and destroy the solution.  

My intention is to focus on the solutions to our global crises. My Green Electraglide is about the adventures, encounters, meetings and connections that I am making with people and organisations focussed on sharing the solutions and doing "the work."  I ride my electric motorbike through the homelands of North West London: Hampstead, Belsize Park, Camden, Euston, Kings Cross St Pancras, Bloomsbury and beyond to meet with inspirational people from all backgrounds. I feel the sun and air on my face and body, happy about not adding to the pollution. Metaphorically, my Green Electraglide is the vehicle that transports me into the past, the future and into the present moment to report and witness the development of human consciousness in nonlinear time.

I will start my journey by telling you a bit more about my electric motorbike, the Yamaha EC0-3. 

My Electric Ride

I am one of the few people in London riding an electric motor scooter. Not the stand up kind that kids and some adults race around on or a mobility scooter (although I think these are very cool too), but a fully electric motorbike. It’s a Yamaha ECO-3 that I charge up at home plugged into a household socket and go places without using an ounce of petrol or oil. Yes, fewer finite resources are used in getting me around town on this little beauty.

Always quick to react to social stimuli, I’m usually one of the first of my slightly eccentric, social justice minded and environmentally aware 1960-70's generation to practice healthy, green alternatives. Long before I had the electric bike, I rode my bicycle everywhere. In the midst of a climate change crises and sky rocketing pollution, my choice of an electric scooter is a no brainer. What is surprising, however, is the extent to which electric vehicles have been suppressed, certainly for the general public’s use, both here and in the US. 

As early as the 1930’s Nikola Tesla had the prototype for a form of electric car ready for production, but a ruthless hate campaign against him soon put a stop to that. And the American car industry has became an entrenched fixture of an oil hungry nation.  (More about Tesla to follow in subsequent posts).

For the moment, I’m not going to concentrate on the dark side of the oil and photochemical industry, the oil spill disasters, the complex political intrigue, the wars over resources or conspiracy theories. My Green Electraglide is about what we can do as individuals in communities to boost the planet. 

Government is not falling over itself to promote green vehicles and I have found mine expensive to insure compared with a non-electric motorcycle. And, my particular bike the ECO-3 has been slated on several websites for no good reason. Mainstream media spreads scare stories about exploding batteries and low mileage performance, but mark my words in ten years time everyone will be riding around on variations of this non-polluting marvel.

The Yamaha EC-03

The EC-03 is small and light, equivalent to a 50cc moped, but oh so much more stylish with torque. It’s sleek silver, grey and white body with front forks and alloy wheels is a thing of beauty, yet in 2016 there were less than 30 on the UK’s road. The superb rear suspension system with large-diameter spring coils and shock absorbers let me take the maddening speed humps and bumpy roads in my stride, so to speak. 

Controlling the EC-03 is simple, thanks to an electronic throttle built into the handlebar grip which works with the AC synchronous motor controller for a lively ride. A digital LCD display panel alerts me to excess speed and a set of five bars indicate full or low battery levels.

The bike runs on a lithium-ion battery that I can charge overnight at home with a household UK three pin plug attached to a decent length lead all stored under the seat. There are two speed modes: RUN for pootling along at 20mph and when extra boost is required can be switched to POWER mode for a top speed of 27mph at the press of a button.  

But what everyone wants to know is what’s the range? This bike is definitely not for long runs, but perfect for short pollution free hops into town. My experience is that the most you will get is 12-14 miles on one full charge using a mixture of RUN and POWER mode. The bike holds charge better in the summer than in winter. I do the distance of 4.8 miles from Cricklewood to Euston and back easily with two bars of electricty to spare. A significant drain on the battery must be the headlight that cannot be switched off any time the engine is on.

My electric scooter is quiet, zero emissions fun. An added bonus is that it is road tax and congestion charge free, but you will need a full driving licence, insurance and a helmet to ride one.  And the price? Anywhere between £750.00 for a used one in good condition with low mileage or £1,800 new, a considerable drop from Yamaha's market launch price of £2,500 in 2012.  

A Word About Electric Cars

At the 2015 Paris Climate talks, The International Energy Agency (IEA) set a global target of 30% of all new car sales to be electric by 2030. In 2017, the Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM) in Beijing called for “EV 30@30”  to speed up the deployment of electric vehicles (EV). The US was the only country not to sign up with 195 member countries pledging to reduce emissions in Paris, but now all are failing to meet their proposed targets.

In the UK, just over 1% of the car market is electric. However, Norway has pressed ahead with almost one third of it’s car sales in 2016 being EVs. And, in Bergen almost 50% of sales are EV, their success no doubt due to government subsidies, free parking, exemptions on toll roads and access to bus lanes.

China and India have ambitions, but are nowhere near reaching their respective targets of 35 million electric cars by 2025 and ten million electric cars by 2020. Germany is dragging its feet too. However, the good news for air quality is that France and the UK will ban all diesel and petrol cars by 2040, by which time 33% of the total global car fleet is expected to be electric.

How about a top up?

What if my bike runs out of electricity when I’m out and about? Surely the electric vehicle charging points you see dotted about the place will come in handy? Sadly, not many accept 3 pin plugs without an adapter lead costing around £280. On top of that, I can expect to pay Source London, one charging company, £10 for a Flexi Forever membership for infrequent use or £4 per month for regular use. The charge for electricity is £1.18 for the first 20 minutes and then 5.9p per minute thereafter, that’s £7.80 for a couple of hours. Source London declined to tell me where they get their electricity from.

David Martell and Jeff Doloman designed the first public electric vehicle charging points and formed Chargemaster. So far 40,000 domestic Homecharge units and 6,000 POLAR charge points are installed across the UK, sourcing 110Kwh energy from 100% renewable sources. In 2017, they opened the world’s first Electric Vehicle Experience Centre in Milton Keynes for test driving electric vehicles. Now Chargemaster has developed a 30 minute rapid charge cable for electric taxis and is collaborating with 12 major car companies electric vehicle to provide solutions to the pressing health issues and poor air quality associated with traffic in major cities.

Elon Musk on Mars

The EV market is a chance for British Manufacturing to get going again, but it has been slow to respond. There are just 130,000 electric cars on Britain's roads in 2018. Go Ultra Low, a joint government and industry campaign, aims for 50% of new car sales electric by 2018 and all cars electric by 2040. London will introduce Zero Emmission Zone penalties by 2020.

Elon Musk, the South African born American entrepreneur and head of Tesla Motors is rolling out a steady stream of EV’s starting with the Roadster Sports in 2008, the Model S in 2012, the Model X SUV and the mass market Model 3 in 2017.  His sales figures for August 2018 of 2,625 for the Model S and 2,750 for the Model X are way ahead of his nearest competitors, the Toyoto Prius Prime plug-in hybrid and the Nissan Leaf. 

Musk, after co-founding and then selling Paypal, is now embarking on a sustainable space rocket project that aims to create a self-sustaining city on Mars. Steady on Musk! We’re still struggling to live sustainably here on Planet Earth.