Cars don’t do very much

For the past couple of weeks (and probably the next two) I’ve been repairing a wall at the front of my house.  The street is for all practical purposes, the car park of the local railway station which is the start and end of the working day for many local residents.   During the day, the street is home to a flock of thirty to forty cars, at weekends they may roam the car parks of the town and the surrounding supermarkets and once a year they take flight to Cornwall or the Lake District, but they spend a lot of time doing nothing.

I  have gazed at these vehicles with a mug of tea in hand, putting off mixing another batch of mortar and wondered if things could be different.  The following will not survive any form of analysis or review, but it passed the time.

There are no electric vehicles parked in the street, but there are two or three hybrids.  I’m not convinced by hybrids, my understanding is that they attain a high level of fuel efficiency by using an electric motor and battery to optimise the usage of a petrol engine.  This is achieved at the expense of weight and complexity, if I were to consider buying a new car I would opt for something small and light with a simple but efficient drive train or something electric if it cost the same.  Hybrids and electric vehicles have batteries and that’s what makes them interesting.

A short walk to the north takes you to a couple of oddly sited charging points for electric vehicles.  If these were located closer to the station an owner of an electric vehicle could leave it to charge during the day.

A short stroll to east takes you to a park which on a clear day gives you a distant view of the location of a planned offshore wind farm.  I am an enthusiast for wind and solar energy, but I perceive them as weather dependent sources which stall with clouds and calm which require some form of buffer storage to even out the gaps between supply and demand.

In many homes, the commuter is away all day at work and children are at school so apart from an over enthusiastic robotic vacuum cleaners, domestic electricity consumption is relatively low during the day. It is in the evening that the home wakes up, lights go on, meals are cooked and hair is straightened.

In an integrated world, the car has found something to do when otherwise it would be idle, during the day it has been harvesting electricity from an offshore wind farm, in the evening when it arrives home some of that energy is used to meet its owners energy needs.  The technology used to get solar panels to feed into the grid, is the same as that needed to use energy stored in the car’s battery.  In this scenario one battery is contributing to the domestic energy economy and transport.

Its not difficult to pick holes in this scheme and one bit which does need some innovation is the tariff under which this would operate.  Electric vehicles only make some economic sense if they have access to off-peak electricity, storing electricity bought at peak rates makes little sense.


About SolarBucket

I trained as a mechanical engineer in the 1970's and then spent most of the following 25 years doing sums and software for Oil and Gas Exploration. Current interests are the study of wind and solar resources.
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