River Wissey Lovell Fuller


May 2010

Ron mounts his soapbox to give his views on several current activities

The Election

Whoever wins the election it is certain that the resulting parliament will not be a fair representation of the views of the electorate. There were nearly four hundred 'safe' seats so that the majority of MPs new beforehand that they would be elected. Voters in their constituencies that didn't support the winning party might just as well not have voted, if they did vote their vote would count for nothing.

Despite attempts to correct anomalies in the numbers of voters in the constituencies by boundary adjustments, the adjustments always lag behind the actual situation so that one or other party is disadvantaged, on this occasion it was the Conservatives.

One way or another it is an appalling electoral system and this should be the last parliament elected by it, but it probably won't be. To date both major parties have been too wedded to the absolute power that is conferred upon them if they obtain an overall majority and, once in power, have no wish to change the system.

The Nissan Leaf

This is yet another attempt by a major motor manufacturer at producing an electric car. In this instance it is a simple battery driven vehicle that has to be charged from an external source. Newspaper reports give only limited technical details. It is claimed that an 8hour (trickle?) charge will give the car a 100mile range or, alternatively, it can obtain an 80% charge in 30mins from special 50kW chargers wherever they will be.

The same concerns about electric cars expressed before in 'The Pump' remain:

Charging from a domestic circuit would only seem to be practical if the car can be taken off the road on private property close to a power source, this is not possible in many urban situations yet that is where this type of car would be best suited. The high speed charging would have to be from, as yet non-existent, specially built facilities, the term 'highspeed' is relative, of course, a wait of 30minutes could be very inconvenient at times.

This car has an 80kW (107hp) motor that is claimed will propel the car at up to 90mph.

A 30min charge at 50kW would provide a total energy of 25kWH, if that is 80% of its full capacity the implication is that the full capacity of the battery is 31kWh. This would imply 23mins of operation at maximum power - 35miles at maximum speed. It also implies that the trickle charge is no less than 3.5kW.

At 45mph the power requirement would be approximately 15kW. That would give an operating time of 2hours and a range of 90miles.

Nissan claim a range of 100miles and that would seem to be reasonable but it is clearly very dependent on the way in which it is driven. It would seem to be feasible to use such a car to go from here to Hunstanton say, but anything beyond that and you would start to worry about the amount of charge left and probably there would be a tendency to drive slowly to ensure that you could get home.

I have no information on the rate at which the battery capacity might reduce with age but that could result in a reduction in the range.

At present prices a full charge would cost about £5, a similar sized diesel would cost almost twice as much for fuel. There has been no announcement on the price of the car. The Lithium-iron batteries are expensive and, despite the expected government subsidy of £5000, the purchase price is likely to be quite high such that it will probably offset the benefit of lower running costs. Bearing in mind that the reduction in CO2 emissions is very little I wonder why the government would want to subsidize their purchase.

Battery life is unknown but replacement batteries would be very expensive (the cost of the batteries is a significant part of the initial cost of the car).

Overall the conclusion must be that, whilst the Nissan Leaf might be quite pleasant to drive with the ability to accelerate briskly, it is essentially a car that is only suitable for use on journeys of less than 80miles. For some people that would be adequate, and for others it might be enough for up to 90% of their journeys, but they would be left with the problem of the remaining 10% or more. Perhaps the Vauxhall Ampera might be a better choice for them, or the Toyota Prius (with the proposed modification to allow top up charging from an external source). Or perhaps they might just decide to buy a diesel Focus or Astra which would be almost as green in terms of CO2 output and would be less complex and cheaper.

British Summer Time

Regular readers will be aware that I have a number of hobby horses, the date for altering clocks is one of them and I am pleased to note that there seems to be some renewed agitation from some quarters for change. I have always held the view that we hang on to GMT too long before we put the clocks forward, we put the clocks back about 8 weeks before the winter solstice but wait until about 15 weeks after that before we put them forward again. Many will remember that during the second world war we had BST through the winter and put the clocks forward as usual in the spring to give us BST +1 that was often referred to as Double British Summer Time. Over the last hundred years there have been a number of adjustments to these time changes. The Germans were the first to put clocks forward an hour during the summer months in 1916, to save fuel, Britain quickly followed. Since then we have tried different arrangements, BST has started as early as February 18 and has extended as late as November 19. I believe there was one experiment in the sixties when BST was kept through the winter for one year, but I am not sure of that.

The present arrangement was introduced in 1972 and, although the matter has been raised in parliament since then, notably a 'green paper' in 1989, nothing has changed. In 1981 our European partners came into line with us so that we all change our clocks on the same days although, of course, we remain one hour behind. The opportunity for change of dates is further reduced as a consequence and the only realistic option for us is to bring ourselves completely in line with the Europeans, that would mean that we would revert to the arrangement that we had during the war with BST in the winter and double BST in the summer. This has been proposed more than once but has been strongly opposed by the farmers, especially in Scotland. Personally I do not see why the farmers could not just start there day one hour later by the clock, after all a change in the clock does not change the number of daylight hours.

It can be argued that there are a number of advantages associated with adopting European time:

It facilitates dealings with the rest of Europe.

It is thought that it would boost spending by tourists.

It would reduce road accidents - research has led to the conclusion that it would save 80 lives and 200 serious injuries/year.

It would cut emissions.

It would please those that prefer light evenings.

Of course in the end it is a personal view whether you prefer to have the daylight in the evening or in the morning. I will watch this latest push for change with interest.


"Politics is not the art of the possible. It consists in choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable"

J K Galbraith, US economist (1908 - 2006)

Ron Watts

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