Thinking about an electric car…

Updated June 2022

In mid 2021 a friend, considering taking the step to an electric car, was kind enough to ask my views on the choice available at the moment. There’s actually quite a lot to this question, just the sort of thing to set me thinking and then deciding that I might as well turn my thoughts into this post.

The question was asked kind of “context free” so before getting specific I’ll set out some thoughts about how you’d approach a decision.

Also, given that the choice is contantly evolving I thought I’d better make it a living post as well, so periodically I’m coming back with updates. It may not always be right up to date, but I’m trying to keep it close.

What’s it for ?

The first question (even before budget) is what are your use cases? Or, if you don’t happen to have an IT background, how do you expect to be using the car? This is because the big first question about an electric is always “what’s the range”, but what really matters is that range is enough for what you want to do. Plus, of course, there’s what you need the car for as well as where you plan to go with it.

It terms of what you need the car for, being electric makes no difference to this so you should know if you just want a local runabout just for you, a car that a couple of you use for commuting / shopping / tip (or IKEA) trips / occasional holidays or something that must have the capacity to accommodate a growing family. Do you value style over function or is the car just a thing that does a job? I think you get my gist and there are now electric cars that fit the spectrum (from city runabouts via family hatchbacks and a load of SUVs all the way to a 1,900bhp 2 seat sports car).

How far do you want to go ?

So on to the range question… Let me use myself as an example. I live in Yorkshire, north of Leeds. For 6 years I ran a Vauxhall Ampera plug-in hybrid and I reckon at least 50% of it’s mileage (and most journeys) were done on electric only, within its 30-35 mile electric range. However, my daughter lives in London, 209 miles away and every now and again we have reason to drive there. Or to my brother in Norfolk (170 miles) or sister in Birmingham (145 miles). So this was a significant factor in choosing an electric car to replace the Ampera.

You can buy a £70,000 Mercedes EQC that won’t get from Leeds to London without a recharge but you can get (as I did) a Kia e-Niro for half that money which will get to London with range to spare. But does that matter to you? How often do you need to do 100+ mile journeys? When you do, how relaxed an approach can you take to journey time? I don’t think I’ve ever driven from Leeds to London without a break, which is rarely less than 30 minutes, but I would typically drive non-stop to my sister’s. Will your electric car be a second car: in that case it may be that long distance factors are not a concern.

Important note: I’m basically assuming here that you can charge at home (a 13 amp plug can be good enough), so beginning every journey fully charged (if you so wish) is not an issue. If you need to rely on public charging that’s a whole extra factor to consider.

Additional thought: the psychology of charging vs fuelling: with petrol (or diesel) cars we typically have an approach to fuelling of top it up then drive it until it needs refilling. Maybe once a week, often less, but typically only when you need to. With an EV which you are charging at home you often adopt a very different philosophy: do a journey, top it up, another trip, top up again. You just come home and plug in. Very rarely do you leave a charge until you need it. Consequently, most of the time “rapid” charging isn’t important, because you have all night (or all day) for it. But every now and again you’ll make a trip where you do need to charge en route, and then (and only then) does range and rapid charging speed become significant.

So at this point think seriously about your use cases and what you need and I’ll move on to my thoughts on what you might want to choose.

Choices, choices…

So much that could be said, but here I’m aiming to be practical and pragmatic. First thing, of course, is budget. In 2022 electric cars are still significantly more expensive than their internal combustion engined (ICE) equivalents. This will change over time, current thinking being that the cross over will occur somewhere between 2025 and 2030. So when I originally wrote this blog I chose specifically to comment (mostly) on models which then fell under the UK Government’s £35,000 price cap on EVs that they supported with a £2,500 grant.

Then in December ’21, without notice, the government reduced the grant to £1,500 and the price cap to £32,000 and now, in June ’22, they’ve done it again and got rid of the grant altogether 😦 However I feel the original £35,000 level remains a reasonable boundary for “affordability” (in this context, if not absolutely) so I’m continuing to use it as a loose guide. In any case you may, like me, be buying on a lease or hire contract in which case monthly payment is more important than cash price. Sometimes this can produce a different affordability result for particular cars, but the broad picture will be similar.

Back to the plot…

The other thing is that, for obvious reasons, used choice is much more limited than with ICE cars. Whilst there are a load of new choices today, and many more coming soon, there are fewer practical used choices and, because of the current rise in interest, used prices have risen noticeably in the last couple of years.

So in my review here I will be focussing on choice assuming you are looking at new, but referencing the used options when it seems relevant. Broadly my thoughts are in rising order of range (and loosely price), but then I have various groupings of vehicles as well which would represent a spread of range/price options.

Where I refer to range or cost, I have taken the number from the Electric Vehicle Database, which seems to be recognised as the go-to place for real world EV range information. Because I’ve consistently used their range figures here they will usually be less than the figures you’ll see quoted by manufacturers and on some web sites. They may also be on the low side – for my Kia e-Niro they quote 230 miles, but I don’t think I’ve ever been that low.

So here we go:

Citroen Ami – a cute, quirky starting point, but really included only for completeness. Officially (I believe) an electric quadricycle, a really dinky 2 seater urban runabout. 43 miles (claimed) range, 28mph top speed and all the motoring journalists love it! Due to arrive this year, available to pre-order now, its price starts at £7,695.

Smart (part 1: now) – those familar city cars, available new in the UK as only the traditional two seaters (there is a four seater on the continent). Very limited range (55-60m) so definitely a city car. Reviews I’ve read have not been keen. There was an electric version of the previous model, so may be some used ones around but definitely cars for a narrow use case. Upside – you can get an open top version, if you like fresh (city) air.

But also something new for ’22, see further down.

Dacia Spring Electric (2022, maybe (or not)) – was supposed to be announced whether it will be available in the UK early in 2022 but nothing as of June. However they have announced there will be a new model in 2024 so I suspect that’s made it less likely we will see this one here. The current model has rather limited range (105m) and a limited top speed (77mph) but it’s pricing in Europe (~£14,500) makes it a good value local runabout.

Honda e / Mazda MX30 / Mini Electric – three very different cars that I group together because they are all smart, small city cars that prioritise style and compactness over range. With ranges of 105 – 115 miles, you’d not want to set off on a 100 mile journey without knowing you could make a charging stop. All get enthusiastic reviews and if you think they’d fit your usage definitely worth a look. Their limited batteries (= range) helps keep the price down.

The MX-30 may become a slight wild card here because although currently only pure electric it is supposed to be going to be released in late ’22 with a compact, rotary range extender engine. At that point its use case range changes significantly (though not, of course, if you do not want to burn petrol).

There was briefly an electric version of the old Mini, so there might be some of them around on the used market. I suspect the range was very limited.

Seat Mii Electric, Skoda Citigo-e iV, Volkswagen e-Up – three different badges (and bits of styling) on essentially the same car. Well made, practical, small city cars. No flash style and gizmos but relatively inexpensive EVs with 125 – 130 mile usable range. Reviewers and owners seem to like them, they do the job. I believe that only the VW is now available new but there may be some second hand ones around.

One thing to watch out for is that the VW e-Up has been around a bit longer with a smaller battery so make sure you know what you are looking at if considering second hand.

Fiat 500-e – in many ways the 4th member of the smart, small city cars group above: compact, stylish, cool and reasonably priced. However I’ve separated it out because (unless you buy the small battery budget version) it does have a usefully longer range than them. EV-database says 135 miles. Plus, like the Smart, you can get one with an opening roof if that’s your kind of thing.

MG – possibly today’s bargain masters. An English brand on cars from one of China’s big EV manufacturers their latest announcement could really help shake up the market. The current models are not massively inspiring but both give you a lot of car for your money:

  • ZS EV, electric version of their budget family SUV. Gets pretty average reviews (whether electric or ICE) but gives you a lot of car for your money. There was a significant update in November 21 where they smartened up the styling improved the interior and added a significantly larger battery option, the 230 mile ”Long Range” starting at £29,495. A good value option from this company, although higher spec versions move into the Kia e-Niro price space, which is generally considered a better car.
  • MG5, a car I have a real soft spot for. A decently sized estate car, available only as an EV and with a range of 180 miles I don’t think there’s anything else comes close as an EV family car for the money (£26,095). Not flash, but reportedly a “does what it says on the tin” kind of car, which happens to be the only electric estate car on the UK market. July 21 update: MG have added a “Long Range” version of this car with 210 miles range costing from £27,495.

MG have now shown a new model, called the Mulan in China. It is expected to come to the UK as the MG4. It is a very stylish, up to date, compact family SUV/hatchback sized car with a range expected to be over 200 miles on its basic battery, with a larger battery version offering closer to 300 miles. It has been announced to be available in the UK this year with a price anticipated to be starting at £26,000. If it lives up to its promise it will be a very strong competitor.

Nissan Leaf – having said what I just did about the MG5, just £900 more gets you an entry level Leaf with moderate (140 mile from 36 kWh) range. As with many new EVs you can also pay more and get more range, with the 200 mile 56kWh battery version being the epitome of a practical 2021 EV for under £32,945. Spacious, comfortable, usable, not exactly inspiring: what should I say about the car which was for many year’s the world’s best selling EV.

Because it’s been around for so long it’s also one of the most widely available used EVs. I couldn’t produce a buying guide, but (as with all second hand EVs) make sure you know what you are buying in terms of battery capacity / range because this keeps changing and advancing over the years and early Leafs have been known to show battery / range degradation. (Tech note: the Leaf uses an air cooled battery which I would say does not seem to hold up as well long term as the now more usual liquid cooled).

BMW i3 – another old-stager that started life as BMW’s radical production EV back in 2013 but they have announced they will be ceasing production in ’22. Compact, distinctive, dramatic, arguably still looking futuristic it’s high price limited UK sales. Ironically, before the government cut the £2,500 grant, as an under £32,000 new car with 145 mile range it possibly looked the best value it ever had, but hit by the change it now comes at a bit under £34,000, maybe not so good. It is a high end compact car, but quite spacious for its size, with a lot of high tech manufacturing.

Because it’s been around for a long time there are also quite a lot on the used market. Again, watch the battery spec – early ones had a range of well under 100 miles, although there was also a range extender version with a little petrol motor that feeds an empty battery, but it’s tank is dinky so needs refilling every 70-80 miles.

Citroen e-Berlingo / Citroen e-C4 / DS3 Crossback E-Tense / Peugeot e-208 / Peugeot e-2008 / Peugeot e-Rifter / Vauxhall Combo-e / Vauxhall Corsa-e / Vauxhall Mokka-e – what a collection of cars under one heading! Gathered here because, whilst offering an array of brands, styles, types (hatchback, SUV, something between, van based mini MPV – even a 7 seater!) and sizes underneath they use the same platform so all offer broadly similar performance and, according to EV database, 155 – 175 mile range (125ish for the van based MPVs) with prices starting at around £28,000. As such they probably represent today’s centre ground of price / range / practicality. Unusually all of these use the same battery and there are no larger battery / longer range options in this group, only levels of spec within the models. Have a look across the range and see which you fancy! (Note that there are also ICE versions of all of these, because this is a cross-functional platform, so they are not “pure EV” designs).

Of this collection, the Citroen is (I think) the largest, oriented towards comfort. For me it’s the most interesting, most appealing, but I do have a long standing bias towards Citroen. The DS majors on “French stylish luxury” with a distinctive look and really quite quirky, heavily styled interior. The Peugeots have a slightly more sporting inclination (I would say) with an upmarket style to their interiors which generally gets good ratings, albeit with the company’s distinctive and controversial e-cockpit (small steering wheel that you are supposed to look over for the instruments: I’ve never tried it). The Vauxhall’s are probably the most conventional of the set, especially the Corsa-e. The Mokka has a fresh style and a more digital “wide screen” interior style.

The e-Berlingo / e-Rifter / Combo-e represent a different direction, being essentially vans with seats and windows. If you value space and practicality over style then definitely worth a look. Plus the only option in this budget with 7 seats.

Hyundai Ioniq – today’s Mr Boring? Probably often overlooked, good sized family hatchback with a reasonable range at a reasonable price and nothing to get excited about. Definitely a practical choice. This year’s model range is quoted at 155 miles. They have been around for a few years so there are second hand options. Once again, check out the battery spec – the earlier ones didn’t go so far. This is also available as a plug-in and traditional hybrid.

Cupra Born / Skoda Enyaq / Volkswagen ID3 / Volkswagen ID4 – Like the Citroen / DS / Peugeot / Vauxhall collection above a range of cars built on the same platform. The difference here is that this VW’s purpose built new pure electric platform so what you have is a collection of true 2020s EVs with associated designs, software etc (VW has had a few challenges with the software, apparently there are still gitches but a significant update due this year).

The Cupra Born and VW ID3 are the family hatchback twins, the Skoda Enyaq and VW ID4 noticeably larger family SUVs, but all have versions that fit into my price parameters. They also have more expensive versions. The lowest reference range is 170 miles with the current base Skoda Enyaq having a larger battery and 205 mile range. All have larger, longer range batteries available with, for example, a 215 mile version of the ID3 within my price range.

Overall very interesting, practical, “affordable”, modern EVs which are definitely worth looking at. Pick your style, range and price. If you like SUVs the Enyaq looks me like a typically Skoda good value proposition. I’m keen to see what their version of the ID3 will be, when it comes (disappointingly not rumoured for ’22).

Ora Cat – a much trumpeted new entrant pure EV from one of China’s largest manufacturers. It’s very similar size to the VW ID3 with a retro/cute styling which I’m not sure about but some reviewers like. Whilst exterior is a bit retro interior is definitely up to date. 2 battery sizes with claimed ranges of 209 and 261 miles (realistically 165 and 210 maybe). If it lives up to its promise this will be a serious competitor. Deliveries are now expected in the autumn with a base battery model coming in at about £32,000 which is perhaps higher than anticipated. Larger battery longer range models will follow.

Smart (part 2: 22/23) – Announced in spring ’22 to be available at the start of ’23 a new Smart model, the #1. It’s a good looking, high tech compact family car sized electric SUV/hatchback with a realistic range of 230 miles and a price expected to be £35,000 so just fitting in here. It looks good.

Renault – they have one of the longest standing useful EVs and have also announced the really interesting looking Megane E-Tech.

  • Zoe – the third of the “old timers”, the Zoe has been around a long time as one of the most affordable, practical, compact family hatchback EVs. I believe is it essentially built on the same platform as the Nissan Leaf but with a more compact and arguably more stylish body style. It is also very practical, the current UK models all having a 195 mile range, which is an interesting contrast to the newer “stylish compacts” I referenced earlier. It is also available for about £3,000 less than a Leaf with similar range.
  • As with the others that have been around for several years, there are quite a few Zoes available second hand but, as ever, watch the battery spec! Early ones will only have a range of around 100 miles. Another factor here (which did also apply to the Leaf but less often) is that Renault often used to lease the battery which brought down the purchase price of the car but required a significant ongoing monthly outlay (I believe £75+). Watch for that!
  • Megane E-Tech (2022) – Renault’s competitor to the VW group models above, built on a new purpose built EV platform. Interesting looking “high rise hatchback” model with 150 and 220 mile range variants expected to come within the budget. However won’t actually be available here until “end of 2022” according to the Renault UK web site, although you can register interest now.

Hyundai Kona Electric / Kia e-Niro / Kia Soul – Again, three models on a common platform. The Kia e-Niro and Soul are only available with a 64kWh battery providing a 225 / 230 mile range, with the 64kWh Kona assessed as 245 miles. The Hyundai Kona has also been available for a while with a smaller, 39kWh, battery for 155 mile range and this was added as a reduced cost option for the e-Niro in ’21 (quoted at 145 miles) but quite quickly dropped.

All three are well liked, practical EVs with very good efficiency (hence range for the battery size). The Soul has its own upright, quirky styling: if you like it, there is no reason not to go for it. The e-Niro and Kona are family SUV style vehicles. The e-Niro is slightly larger, definitely more spacious inside, relatively plain looking whilst the Kona is a bit sportier with somewhat more distinctive styling. (The e-Niro is also available as plug-in and regular hybrids).

A new significantly updated and sharper looking e-Niro has been announced, due to arrive in mid-22. If it holds onto current pricing it will be very competitive.

Lastly, and breaking my budget. What if you need a car for regular trips up and down the length and breadth of Britain and/or across Europe? In 2022 the answer is buy a Tesla (any model). The thing is, Tesla is the complete EV package: car and charging network, properly integrated. No-one else comes close. Yet.

Additional background to making the decision

There are a few pages I’m going to point at that address other aspects of making the move to an electric car, covering things that I’ve consciously not looked at here.

One is on the Which? web site, with a self explanatory title Eight things electric car owners should know (I don’t think you have to be a member to read it)

The other is an interesting blog post by an ex-colleague, as he explores things that are significant in choosing to go electric for the first time: Five things the manufacturers don’t tell you about EVs

As a look a side of things people new to EVs might not think about, DriveElectric have published a blog post “What’s the Etiquette for Electric Vehicle Drivers?“. I mostly agree.

One of the big questions is, of course, about charging using the public networks. Because this is, in all honesty, still rather hit and miss in 2022 (though the direction is hopefully towards better) I’m keeping a blog of my charging experiences here. It is somewhat intermittent because much of my driving is relatively local so charging is done at home and so it only comes into play when I have the opportunity for a trip.

The first thing people often ask about EVs is the range, but there is another important aspect: efficiency. This is the electric equivalent of MPG for a petrol car and can be impacted by various things. I have a couple of posts about running the e-Niro, focussing on this topic. The first shares experience across a range of journeys from home and around Yorkshire, the second records the ups and downs of an 1,100 mile, 13 day holiday trip down south in May ’21.

However, whichever way you go, have fun!


Electric Ready (2)… ?

A few months in to electric car ownership Covid restrictions were easing and we were able to take another trip, this time sweeping south from Yorkshire to the south coast via Essex and London on the way out and Birmingham on the way back. It was a good, enjoyable trip and we never came close to stressing about running out of range.

However there was one particular afternoon when we had another “EV experience” which has prompted me to write this post. We’d been over to Walthamstow to visit God’s Own Junkyard (great place, good lunch!) and I thought it would be good to visit the Olympic Park in the afternoon and pick up a charge while we were there.

So we headed to Stratford, originally aiming for the rapid chargers at Stratford International station. However the vagaries of the road system brought us round to the Westfield Centre and ZapMap said there were chargers so I thought this would be an easier option than trying to find our way around to the station car park.

After all, if ever there’s going to be a place for “destination charging” it’s going to be a massive location like Westfield.

This proved to be an utter disaster. Zap Map brought us to the car park entrance, saying the chargers are in Car Park A. Car parks A and B use same entrance from the road, but you then have to decide which to choose. We saw no signage on the entrance indicating anything about EV charging.

So we drove in and around A seeing no sign of chargers and no signage (this is a big car park). We then asked the car wash staff (the only staff we could see) where the chargers were and were told “downstairs”: ie in car park B. So we exited A, fortunately being allowed out free, and made our way into B (which required driving out, up the road until a point where we could turn around and then back again).

Into car park B, found it even more massive than A with once again no signage and no sign of chargers. Eventually on our second lap we found some staff who directed us to upper level in B.

Once we’d found the ramp and gone up there we did find great array of Source London 3kw and 7kw chargers, with not a single one in use! I attempted to use 7kw charger, but it gave no response to my waved Visa card. I looked up the Source London website on my phone which says says they provide guest option – bit this was not apparent on these devices.

I tried the 020 phone number on website to find out what to do but the call failed to connect on repeated tries. The charging posts showed an 0845 number but I was not prepared to use this because of the cost of calling from a mobile. We admitted defeat, left and had the pleasure of a £3 charge to leave car park for this experience.

Westfield Source London non-chargers

I now decided to have another go at heading to the Stratford International car park. We found the car park and could see an array of chargers by exit, some in use, some free. However sign at entrance declared “event day charge £15” to enter car park. This was too much and with a heavy heart we turned away.

At this point we turned to Morrison’s. Chargers in their car parks had been our saviours on a trip to Norfolk last year and again they came up trumps. Stratford Morrison’s has two Geniepoint rapid chargers, both available as we drove in (though the second was also taken immediately alongside us). A bit of shopping, a coffee stop, a successful boost and the Olympic Park visit remains for another day.

Westfield, what’s up? Stratford, EV ready??

It’s just not good enough.

PS: if you want to know my charging experiences across the 1,100 mile trip it’s all here in my charging diary


Covid 19: UK – Australia update

I was initally going to add an addendum to my earlier post comparing the impact of Covid-19 on these two countries ( Covid 19: UK – Australia reflections ) but then decided I might as well make it a new post, because it can happily stand alone.

The figures I use in this post are drawn from the Financial Times Coronavirus Tracker tool, using the most recent data available as I write, which is for December 4th.

My earlier post reflected on the then massive difference in coronavirus death numbers between the UK and Australia. This wide difference has continued, however exploring the numbers brought something to light which I did find a bit shocking.

So, if we look at the raw numbers of deaths to 4th December 2020 we see:

  • Australia 908 (3.6 per 100,000 population)
  • UK 60,617 (90.7 per 100,000 population)

Then looking at the daily death rates, using the 7 day average figures (which smooth out daily variability):

  • Australia 0.1 deaths per day on Dec 4th
    • The rate has been less than 1 since 9th October
    • Since October 21st it has been 0.3 or less (ie 2 or fewer deaths per week across the country)
    • The state of Victoria, where Melbourne was the national epicentre, had its 36th day with 0 cases on Dec 4th
  • UK 438.3 deaths per day on Dec 4th
    • This is slightly down from the “second peak” of 486.6 which occurred on 28th November

In absolute terms this is a worrying comparison however, as I mentioned, looking back through the year there is something which seems to me rather more disturbing.

For over a month, between August 8th and 11th September the Covid 19 daily deaths in Australia were higher than in the UK. And those are absolute numbers, when the UK has over 2.5x the population of Australia. Since then Australian deaths have gone down to close to zero whilst the UK’s have gone in the opposite direction, on an upward rising curve until restrained by the November lockdown.

I hope the FT will forgive me, but this is how the chart looks:

We never actually had more recorded Covid-19 cases on any day in Australia than the UK, but the UK bottomed out at a 7 day average of 544.9 cases per day on July 8th whilst Australia peaked at 551.7 per day on August 5th (UK had already risen to 813 by then). Having said this, if we take population into account, Australia was running at a higher per capita 7 day case rate than the UK from 15th July to 12th August.

What this says to me is that there is not an inevitable direction when a country is running at over 500 covid cases a day. Why did we so diverge? Yes, Australia has closed its borders in a way the UK never could, but surely nearly all our transmission is domestic. If we had got on top of track and trace…? Do our people behave so badly…?

29th July is the mid point of the period when Australia had a higher per capita daily Covid 19 case rate than UK. Since then 19,448 Covid 19 deaths have been recorded in the UK, 732 in Australia. As of the beginning of December over 400 deaths are happening daily in the UK, less than one a week in Australia.

I don’t have any conclusions here except that, where this pandemic is concerned, Britain isn’t Great.


Electric ready… ?

After 6 years of plug-in hybrid driving I decided it was time to make the step to fully electric and on 1st September I became the happy driver of a Kia e-Niro.

A few days later my wife and I set off on our first trip, a long weekend in Northumberland. I’d checked out charging options and it was looking OK.

First charging stop was the main car park in Alnwick, a big tourist centre. When we arrived the single charger had a Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV connected to its CHAdeMO plug. The CCS I needed was free, but the charger can only supply one at a time. We went for a walk around the town centre and when we returned 25 minutes later fortunately the charger was free and I successfully connected and so then off we went for a coffee.

Charging in front of Alnwick Castle

Next time was in Seahouses, our home for the weekend, another very popular spot. It has a single charging station. When I turned up at this one there was a Tesla on the AC connection and a Jaguar iPace using the CCS. I returned to the apartment and tried again a bit later. This time I was relieved to get onto the CCS and have a successful charge. However, just as I had started the charge another iPace turned up, disappointed to find me there. (Chatting to him, I think he was also disappointed to hear that I had significantly better range than him, but that’s another story).

On the way home to Yorkshire we were projecting enough range to get home, but I decided we could do a quick top up stop at Scotch Corner, the most significant service stop for many miles in either direction on the A1. What did I find: 2 chargers, but only one with CCS and that was already feeding a VW e-Golf. Not wanting other than a quick stop I added just a few miles via the available AC charger.

Conclusion: up that way the infrastructure is way off what’s needed to support a significant electric car population. The numbers are already clearly rising and if we were to go back in 12 months I bet they would be double. But how much more infrastructure would there be?

A second aside: if we had been in one of the new 200ish mile range models that 3rd rapid charge stop would have been essential. I wonder how long we’d have waited at Scotch Corner?

In This World Together

Covid 19: UK – Australia reflections

(Written using published statistics for 26th April 2020)

A few weeks ago I became one of those people caught on the wrong side of the world by the rapidly unfolding corona virus pandemic. Back home in the UK I still have the ABC news app on my phone and I occasionally read updates about how coronavirus things are progressing in Australia. Yesterday they mentioned that Australia has carried out 506,000 tests which happened to be very close to our 517,000. Given their population is substantially smaller than ours I thought I’d have a little further dig. I have to say I was a bit shocked and surprised by what I found.

– population 67.4m
– 517,000 tests
– 148,377 cases
– 20,319 deaths (13.69% of cases, 301 per million population)

– population 25.5m
– 506,000 tests
– 6,711 cases
– 83 deaths (1.2% of cases, 3.25 per million population)

In case you think this might be because they are so so spread out through their enormous country, the UK’s population is 83% urban, Australia’s 88%!

At the end I’m not quite sure what to make of this. The test vs cases statistics suggest that maybe Australia adopted an early, aggressive test, track and trace policy (which apparently we abandoned on March 12th) but I don’t actually know that.

Australia did close its borders early, but I don’t think that many of our recent cases are imported. However perhaps the Australian effect was to stop additional cases coming in when the domestic incidence was still small and then get on top of and contain the internal spread. Clearly the UK did neither.

What is obvious is that the UK must have far more cases than recorded (I don’t believe Australians are that much more healthy and resistant!). The death rate discrepancy on cases suggests we must have 1.5M+ cases, deaths per capita that we could have approaching 15M cases: a heck of a lot, but still way short of “herd immunity”. Without testing, both for active cases and effectively for antibodies, we just don’t know.

As a semi-aside, on the same day, 26th April, the Australian government released its contact tracing phone app, which was downloaded over 1 million times that day. The UK began a limited test roll out of ours (in the Isle of Wight) on 9 days later.

So whilst we remain in (necessary) lock down and look for glimmers of hope in flattening figures I guess the only solid conclusion is we should have stayed on in Australia instead of rushing home!

In This World Together Political Comment

Political integrity (again)

Politicians wonder why people are cynical about their motivations and actions.
Financial Times on Friday 6th October: “Britain’s shale gas industry has won a big victory after the government overturned local council objections to a fracking scheme in Lancashire.”
Amber Rudd (then Energy Minister), May 2015: “We need to make decisions on energy more democratic and give our communities a direct say… In future, I want planning decisions… to be made by local people – not by politicians in Westminster.”
Ah, but then she was talking about the lowest cost form of renewable energy, wind, not a good CO2 emitting, environmentally iffy form of fossil fuel.
Local democracy matters when they think it will agree with what they want and…
The integrity of politicians. Sigh.


Windows 10 time (at last)

Having put it off for 11 months Windows 10 day finally arrived for my under-desk system. I’d been a bit wary because it started life with XP then upgraded to Win 7 and about the only original component is the box that all the bits are in. But it went OK with the only glitch I’ve seen so far being that my rather vintage (but good for me) Memeo backup software no longer works.

Unfortunately the supported update is priced in dollars ($49.99) and will now cost me over £4 more than it would have done pre June 23rd!

I’m exploring my options

Update after a little while, because not everything is immediately apparent.

First problem I noticed was that I had lost sound. However this was quickly resolved by deleting the sound card from device manager, rebooting and allowing it to be rediscovered, with a check for updated drivers.

Secondly I realised that my SugarSync backup and synchronisation was no longer working. That this should have failed without giving me any warning is not good. I only realised when I saw that a document I knew I had updated on this computer had not been synced to my laptop. I have raised a report with SugarSync to see what they say, rather than simply trying something like reinstalling the client.

This is the second problematic issue I have had with SugarSync this year and may cause me to rethink my use of it. Which is a shame because I don’t know of any other service that so smoothly meets my requirement to maintain file sync and provide cloud backup across two very differently structured systems.

In This World Together Political Comment

Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow. Seriously, Dave.

I am deeply concerned about the UK government’s recent actions on climate change / renewable energy related policy. In the Queen’s Speech they said “Man-made climate change is one of the most serious threats this country and the world faces” … “We are leading the way in clean technology and innovation, creating new jobs and helping to power our economic recovery”.

Fine words and yet a range of recent actions suggest that their priorities are quite different, to the extent that concern has been expressed by people such as the UN’s chief environment scientist and ex US Vice President Al Gore (whilst being politically careful with his words).

I believe that what they are doing is so wrong that I wanted to do something, so in the best tradition I decided I’d write to the Prime Minister; and the Chancellor; and the Energy and Climate Change Secretary. I was discussing this with a neighbour and they said they’d be keen to sign the letters as well. This started a ball rolling and earlier this week the letters were sent with 12 signatures, representing 6 households on this street.

I don’t have much faith that this will change government policy, but I’m sure it won’t do any harm. Plus I have sought the support of my MP (Greg Mulholland) and Labour’s shadow Energy and Climate Change secretary (Lisa Nandy). We shall see what happens.

However in the best campaigning style, I thought I’d put it out here as well in case anyone else wants to support us and below are links to depersonalised versions of the 3 letters that I wrote. I will be delighted it anyone wanted to download and use them themselves. The more the merrier!

Here are links to the letter (.doc format) – PM version : Chancellor version : Energy and Climate Change Secretary version

As an example, this is the first version of the letter that I wrote, to PM David Cameron – the man who once committed the lead “the greenest government ever”. Judge the politician by how his actions match to his words!!

Rt Hon David Cameron MP, Prime Minister

10 Downing Street, London, SW1A 2AA

21st October 2015

Dear Prime Minister,

We are writing to express our concern at a number of actions of your government which, taken together, strongly suggest that you are taking a policy direction which is against the long term good of UK citizens and business – and our planet.

We are referring to the range of actions that you have taken which will work to the detriment of the UK’s climate and to our (until now) growing and successful renewable energy businesses: ones which can only grow in importance in the coming years.

The actions we are referring to include:

  • Drastic changes to solar energy subsidies which pull the rug out from under a British green success
  • Cancellation of the climate change levy exemption for zero carbon energy
  • Cancellation of onshore wind support via the renewable obligation
  • Cancellation of our commitment to zero carbon homes
  • Withdrawal of this month’s Contract for Difference auction,
  • Cancellation of the Green Deal, reducing home insulation activity by 80%
  • Sale of the Green Investment Bank
  • And even removing the road fund tax penalties for running a “gas guzzler”

You concluded your speech to your party conference with the tune “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow” and yet from this perspective it seems this is what your government is resolutely not doing.

In the past few days we have seen the head of the IMF and the governor of the Bank of England being very clear about the costs of not addressing climate change and the CEO of Aviva has blogged about how these costs are already impacting his business.

Last month the director-general of the CBI expressed his concern about the impact of your policy changes on the UK’s renewable industries, a warning which is already being realised with the folding of 4 solar businesses in the last 2 weeks and, local to us, a world leading carbon capture project being abandoned (a technology which surely will be pivotal in the coming years).

You are leading a government which has to make some hard decisions, balancing the need to cut our deficit against longer term imperatives, and have shown you will do this eg:

  • You are cutting corporation tax, reducing short term income, because you believe that this will draw business investment which will lead to a net benefit
  • You have committed very large guarantees to new nuclear generation capacity because you believe it is essential for our long term energy security
  • Within a constrained budget you are compromising funding for our conventional armed forces because you believe it is imperative to maintain Britain’s nuclear deterrent, whilst hoping it will never be used

and yet

  • You are taking actions which undermine the UK’s nascent low carbon industries, that you know will be of globally strategic importance in this century, because…. ???

Actions, not words, are the measure of a person and a government. When you first became Prime Minister you said you would lead the greenest government ever. Five years on the case for this has grown substantially, yet you now appear to be actively driving in the opposite direction.

Please show us that we are wrong, that you are committed to the UK’s leadership in the 21st century’s critical growth industry, not by providing fine words but by actions. To start:

  • Revisit your plans for solar subsidies, giving the industry a realistic 5 year timeline to adapt to level competition with carbon based generation
  • Reassess the support for carbon capture and storage to allow us to grasp the opportunity for the UK to become a world leader
  • Symbolically, utilise the VW diesel controversy to revisit the budget proposals for road fund licence changes to ensure that the tax discourages running “gas guzzlers” and other environmentally damaging vehicles

Other great world powers are moving. Do not leave your legacy as the leader of the government that denied the UK the opportunity to play our proper part on this global stage.

Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow.

Yours very sincerely

(6 households on our street)


An update a few days later, as this story develops.

Firstly BBC news published a story which brings together the concerns driving our letter above in a very good summary Government energy policies ‘will increase CO2 emissions’

Then, just a couple of days later, another story broke Energy minister expects UK to miss renewables target, leaked letter shows

The astonishing thing, to me, is the way that the government are continuing to “talk the talk” and yet their actions make it clear that they do not believe this and are actively doing the opposite. Why? And do they think we will not notice?

Political Comment Price of Everything

Climate scepticism 2: who pays the piper?

A spin off from the post I just published Antarctica once had forests: so why should I worry about climate change ?

That discussion on Facebook had a number of threads, one of which included a “Republican” response. Within this a Richard posted this graphic and comments:

Richard Smith climate change in FY2011 budget

“You guys just want a doomsday to talk about

“And people are getting rich off it. It’s like religious people talking about revelations”

The argument that the climate change community have, in effect, created an industry to keep them in income is one that I’ve heard quite a few times from the sceptical side of the fence. Oddly, they never seem to question who might have a vested interest in the climate scepticism industry.

So I did a few minutes research and posted this response:

“Richard, you are so right to point out the importance of money in the way this issue gets discussed and publicised. The total of the Climate Change FY 2011 budget you list above was equal to 22 days worth of Exxon-Mobil’s PROFITS that year. Just that one company. Just profits.

“In 2011 9 of the top 12 companies in the Forbes Global 500 were petro-chemical.

“If you think the scientists are in it for the money, consider who’s funding the ‘sceptics’ “

In This World Together Political Comment

Antarctica once had forests: so why should I worry about climate change ?

I was recently drawn into a discussion on Facebook with someone whom, I presume, is a climate change sceptic. Because it addressed a not uncommon argument I thought I’d bring it out and share it here.

The discussion was prompted by a friend sharing this picture:

daily kos republicans on climate change picture

This prompted a response from someone called Peter:

“Interesting and funny but possibly not idiocy and possibly untrue: as a student of geology we were always told to look at the evidence in the rocks. 100m years ago there was an episode of global warming too and Antarctica was in fact covered in forests. This is borne out by the fossils you can find in Antarctica.That was not as a result of man’s interference in the ecosystem but an effect of nature so it might be unwise to assume that we are affecting the climate in the way the “climate change industry ” is trying to make us think. Have a look at this article:

Of course his facts are correct, but I believe the analysis is flawed so I provided the following reply:

“Peter, I think you have slightly missed the point. Climate change concern is not about global CO2 levels being unchanging over eons, but the risks to our current environment caused by human activity driven change at a rate never ever experienced before in the planet’s history.

“100M years ago CO2 levels were probably around 5x what they are now and at earlier times they were much higher. Indeed these were the levels that allowed the laying down of the carbon resources we have been exploiting rapidly over the last 150 years or so. The CO2 levels we have had over the last million years or so are the ones which have supported the climate which has allowed the successful rise of the human race. We are now carrying out an irreversible experiment to see whether that success can be sustained under the global environmental impact of a totally unprecedented rate of CO2 level change.

“Am I certain it’s us? The carbon resources we are exploiting were laid down over, say, 100M years. We have extracted, say, 10% of that and returned it to the atmosphere in 100 years: we are pushing it back at a rate of 100,000 times the rate it was laid down. And you doubt that will have an effect? It does not matter if my numbers are 100x out, you cannot expect to drive change into an ecosystem at that rate without effect.

“So let me flip your question. Given this, how do you prove to me that we can sustain what we are doing and it will have no problematic impact?”

So far he has not replied.