Every Little Helps – November 2011

Every Little Helps“Just pedal and go!” As a keen cyclist, increasingly feeling the hills, it was great to feel the quiet green surge pick me up and take the strain.

Ace Cafe in Stonebridge, home of performance bikes and bikers, had their Green Day this May. I went with a neighbour with a Tazzari Zero electric car, to find out about owning electric vehicles.

Around 1912, there were more electric cars than other power sources but they couldn’t compete with later petrol engines … so what’s changed? Batteries much improved but still costly (around half the cost of the vehicle). Performance good – the Tesla and the Quantya off-road bike are astonishing (F1 are considering electric Grand Prix). Batteries work for vans and buses even better than family cars – but range is low: 60-100 miles per charge.

They are very low-cost (tax, insurance, parking, “fuel”) to run, very green and make a quiet statement about the future as they whisper by.

As to practicalities: charging (sometimes free, need to plan long journeys); lifetime cost (replacing batteries is a big deal); capacity (G-Wiz is tiny for someone over 5ft tall – ask Jeremy Clarkson – the Tazzari is fine and the Citroen C-Zero is a 4-seater). There was clearly huge affection for these cars – or perhaps the idea of these cars – with evangelical early adopters showing us the way. Perhaps they are a way forward, but if everyone got electric cars tomorrow, the UK grid couldn’t cope.

So back to bicycles. I tried a couple and was surprised how easy they were – different, particularly when cycling (driving?) slowly, but exhilarating feeling the kick when I wanted it. They are similar in price to un-assisted, high-spec bicycles: around £500 – £1,000 (hello Bike & Run). Security of the battery pack can be an issue – some can be removed almost as easily as bike lights. Range for pedal assisted bicycles – as opposed to electric scooters – can be 40-60 miles: plenty for most commutes.

Would I buy an electric car? Not yet, for a family car, but if I had to have a second (weatherproof) vehicle I’d consider it. I would buy an electric bicycle: love those hills!

Ace Cafe
Newride: recharge points
Info on Electric Cars
Info on Electric Bicycles


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