Electric dreams

Ok, despite my anti-consumer credentials, I must admit that I have become a small time fan of electric vehicles.

I have become more convinced over recent months that electric cars, vans and motorcycles are an important part of a cleaner, greener future. I dont mean that we should all just jump in to electric vehicles to do the school run – there needs to be more walking and cycling generally, and better use of public transport.

One of the things I like about living where I do, is that many people dont have cars, they cant afford them. So they make better use of bikes and legs, and of buses too. I often see the kind of sights I used to only associate with trips to India and other developing nations – incongruous loads balanced precariously on push bikes. I’ve seen all kinds of things carried on handlebars and cross bars, including more than one passenger, bags of compost, vacuum cleaners and in one memorable case, a large road sign.

But reality is that we cant expect to do everything by bike or on foot, it’s simply not going to happen – and in many places we can’t always rely on public transport either.

So realistically there needs to be a ‘mixed economy’ of transport solutions – for us that involves public transport (we took the train from Grimsby to the south of France this year – great way to travel and amazingly cheap in comparison with car or train) and also some car hire (for longish car journeys where train or bus travel doesnt work for one of various reasons).

That’s why I’m basically in favour of electric  vehicles, be they motorbikes which you can charge up in your house by plugging them into to your mains supply (8p per charge, up to 30 miles range, 25mph all the way, ideal for a commute) or larger vehicles.

Certainly at the moment there are various problems with the electric vehicle industry, they are basically cost, range, speed, charging, and power generation, but I think these are on their way to being tackled.

Cost – the new cars are out for around £15,000 – £30,000 which is a lot, but as things progress prices will come down for sure. You can buy an electric scooter/motorbike for less than £1000.  Prices are bound to level out as other factors are sorted out and demand increases.

Range – the cars will go about 100 miles on a full charge, which isnt far enough for many people, although with average journeys being somewhat less than 20 miles, its surely enough for many of us. The scooters will go for about 30 miles, which is plenty for getting around town. The likelihood is that solutions will be presented before too long in the shape of places where you can simply swap out your battery, just as if you were filling up with petrol. That and better battery technology should mean range becomes less of a problem.

Speed – the electric scooters on the road are generally not getting up to 30mph, topping out about 25mph; the cars with their bigger batteries are apparently hitting 85mph+ which is pretty impressive. To be honest a push bike around town will go at about 25mph tops for a person of average fitness, wheras the scooter doesnt require any level of fitness – and will maintain its speed for the whole journey (except going up hill). So, this thing of speed is not really an issue, its simply a matter or perception and expectation.

The elephant in the room is power generation, if we’re just burning coal to power these electric vehicles then they are basically powered by fossil fuels – so what’s the difference? In the first place these vehicles are technologically advanced, and use less power than a conventional car, so in the first place they are estimate to equate in terms of emissions to the most fuel efficient of petrol/diesel cars. In the second place, the UK is rapidly developing its renewable energy sources, and before too long there should adequate to good supplies of wind power, enough to allow us to run electric vehicles at considerably less carbon cost.

The big question for me is about tax – at the moment electric scooters are tax exempt, and electric cars are considerably cheaper to tax than their petrol counterparts. But if there’s a big shift, the government are going to need to raise their vehicle tax revenue some how, and a considerable amount of the cost savings one can gain from running an electric vehicle will be cut back. There is also an issue of second hand vehicles, unless the batteries are standardised, and one is able to swap them in and out as per the above – people arent going to be keen on buying a second hand electric car as they will know the battery is likely to be pretty ropey.

So yes, I do think electric vehicles are part of the solution to our transport needs, and I think we need to invest time and money into developing them – they arent the panacea, they wont cure all ills, but they are part of the solution for sure.

Then, perhaps, we will indeed be together, forever in electric dreams.


Some videos

Today I am feeling both old and celebratory.

So I was delighted to find a couple of wry and amusing videos in my rss reader this morning – having been away all day yesterday.

Hope you enjoy them too – the second one is a bit sweary (in case you’re young).

ht’s to howies in the first instance, and various for the second.

New Year cycling, spam and music

Well the last few days have seen me back at the pedals, commuting to and from meetings etc in the customary black cycling gear, I reckon that over the winter I probably didnt even touch the bike for about six weeks – no wonder my legs are a tad sore.Three days of cycling, and I’ve almost been bashed twice – the second time by another bike! The Kona travels at such a lick that people seem to misjudge how fast I am going and think they can cut across me. Tsk tsk.

Also back in my life is spam, for some reason it seemed to stop around Christmas time, I’m sure it wasn’t my imagination, the spam genuinely seemed to be much less – but now its well and truly back. Hey ho.

Meanwhile I have been changing my general listening habits, current favourites are the Avalanches ‘Since I left you’ – classic album, can’t believe its nearly a decade old already! Frontier Psychiatrist is still one of my favourite tracks, and the whole album is a work of art.  Manu Chao’s ‘Clandestino’, superb, I can’t imagine Bongo Bong will ever sound old. I found eldest offspring with the track on repeat in the living room the other night, beating seven shades of blue out of a small drum. That’s my girl.

Also on the go is the most recent edition of the Johnny Cash ‘American Recordings’ series – ‘Aint no grave’ – beautiful stuff, that really is a wonderful set of albums. Ska Cubano’s ‘Ay Caramba!’ really seems to capture their live sound, I love it. And finally Tony Allen’s ‘Secret Agent’ – what a great piece of work, contemporary Afrobeat at its brilliant best.

Having said all that, I must now admit that at the moment Kel is away from home, and last night when I went to bed, I put on some Mozart. What on earth has happened to me?

How to deal with an insurance company, without resorting to legal action

In May of this year, I was hit by a car while riding my bike.

As it happens, I was very fortunate, I wasnt too badly hurt, and the lady who was driving was a) insured and b) very helpful.

So anyway, after a trip to the hospital I was diagnosed with a fractured wrist, and a broken toe, it was at that point I started being told to ‘get a lawyer’. But as you may have guessed, I am not keen on the kind of ambulance chasing legal action which goes on these days, and which has massively inflated not only our general insurance premiums, but also the bank balances of certain lawyers. So to put it mildly I wasnt keen to go down that route.

However, I was in a quandry, I wanted to get compensated for the work that I was unable to do for a month while my wrist repaired, and I also felt it was fair to ask the insurers to pay me something by way of compensation for the pain I had suffered. Granted a broken wrist is not the most horrific of injuries, but it’s sore none-the-less, and jolly inconvenient, as is a broken toe.

So on reflection I decided to speak to the insurers and see if I couldnt deal with them myself, without suing anyone, and without retaining the services of a law firm. To put it mildly the insurers were suprised and a bit taken aback, but they finally accepted that yes, they could indeed do their job and work with me as an individual, instead of entering into some ridiculous legal battle.

I have now, within six months, got a small settlement from them, which compensates me adequately, and hasnt contributed to the advancement of insurance premiums for everyone else. Nor have I sued anyone – which is something I am very glad about – it was an accident after all!

So anyway, if you feel like me, and you would prefer not to use lawyers in a simple accident situation, here are my top tips for dealing with an insurance company without resorting to legal action. To be totally clear, I am not a legal expert, and my experience is only really relevant to those who have simple injuries which are completely healed within a few months. As the insurers would no doubt tell you, if your inury is complex or serious, you will need to do something else. However, even if you do enter into a ‘direct’ dealing with the insurers, you still have the right to retain legal help should you need it.

Top tips on dealing directly with an insurance company.

First of all – when you are hit by a car, van, bus, whatever, find out who their insurer is, and take their details as if it were a car accident. You can then contact them.  And when you do…

1) Don’t be greedy – an accident should not be seen as an earning opportunity. It is an accident. If you treat it that way, and they do too, then you can come to a reasonable agreement.

2) Document everything that happens, from your visits to the hospital to your correspondance with the insurers, and keep a file with all the details and documents. Take photographs of any damage, and write down anything that happened in a clear and precise way. Be prepared to send them any information they need, and comply readily with their requests for you to get medical assesments done etc.

3) Be scrupulously open and honest. This goes with the first point about not being greedy, don’t try and claim for things which aren’t real, dont claim your bike was a £2000.00 Trek when it was a £50.00 mongrel, and dont say you have whiplash if you just bent your finger back. Don’t say anything you can’t demonstrate is true, and don’t try to con anyone, as it’s wrong, and you will probably get caught. If the accident was your own flippin’ fault – then dont try and blame someone else either, that isnt fair.

4) Confirm that any compensation to be paid in respect of injury is in line with the guidelines set out by the Judicial Studies Board. Just writing to the insurers to say this should show them that you know what is expected of them, and will hopefully mean they wont try and fob you off with a fiver for a broken arm. To explain compensation for a moment – you need to understand that there are three ways in which it will be paid: a) your bike or skateboard , clothing or whatever else was damaged in your accident should be replaced – they should pay you the replacement value. b) any lost work should be compensated, you will need to demonstrate that you have lost money, they will want paperwork for this. c) you are entitled to be compensated for any injuries – guidelines for how much you should be paid are set out by the JSB, but you should understand that if like me you have two injuries, or more, then its not like a shopping list, the full price doesnt get added on with each injury, because in each case there is an amount for emotional disturbance included, and this would not be doubled just because you hurt your nose AND your toe.

If you do these things, and nag the insurance company to make sure they havent forgotten about you, then they should treat you properly, and the whole thing can be sorted out amicably between you and the insurer concerned. That way we avoid making lawyers even richer, and help keep down the insurance premiums for everyone.


More low-tech madness

At the risk of provoking a similar kind of outburst as the post about humanure (poo) I am yet again inspired to link you – dear reader to the ineffable Low-Tech magazine, who this time have provided a lengthy treatment of the ‘Velomobile’.

There’s a velomobile user local to me, who rockets along the main road every day in his supercool recumbent. What worries me about him is that he is not very visible. As someone who has been hit by a car while riding a large, brightly coloured mountain bike, I am concerned that drivers are less likely to see the velomobile, and that they are at ‘crushing’ level – rather than bonnet ‘bashing’ level. In otherwords I’m concerned the car would actually go right over the velomobile, rather than sending the rider over the bonnet – the former seems to me to be a nastier way to go.

But that said, I’m very impressed by the energy saving stats, apparently it uses three to four times less energy- nice! Cruising speed of 25mph doesnt sound massively faster than my cruising speed, but I guess the issue is how long it can be sustained for.

On the other hand, one of the things I love about bikes is the ability to dodge traffic, to get round slow cars, to blast away at junctions and so on, I feel this would be less possible in a velomobile.

But if you are looking for a replacement to the car for a daily commute (I only have to commute to the spare room) then this looks like a good option.

Worth a read anyway, especially if you’re interested in bikes – my real burning question is not really answered: can you do stunts in them? Answers on a postcard please.

Normal service is about to recommence

Good news today, my wrist is all healed up – what a relief! I no longer have a cast on, only a rather medical looking ‘splint’ to be worn when needed.

Now I can type again, and as of tomorrow will be getting back to work (and blogging) proper. Unfortunately I now have a very long to-do list, but I’m sure I’ll get through it eventually.

At the moment I’m also awaiting the arrival of my new (second hand) bike, which is to replace my old mountain bike which doesnt seem to have healed itself over the last few weeks. The good thing is that the insurance has paid for the bike to be replaced, and because I’ve bought second hand (thanks ebay!) I’ve ended up with a better bike than I started off with. Just hope I can remember how to ride it 😉

And right now, as I type – rather gingerly it must be said – I’m taking the opportunity to listen to the Charlie Gillett tribute show that was broadcast over on Radio 3 recently. It’s a really great show, and a fulsome tribute to a wonderful broadcaster. Check it out if you have any interest in music that isn’t mainstream.

As I listen I am also looking forward to WOMAD in the summer, from where I hope to be doing some live blogging. The lineup is looking really good already, more on that some other time.

Steve and I have also been working on plans for a big exhibition of comic art work in the autumn, we’re really excited about it – more details as they emerge…

Last but not least to mention, the garden, its a wonderful time of year on the allotment, lots of greenery everywhere. I popped down to do some watering earlier and came home with cabbage, spinach, asparagus and radishes. Fortunately it seems that not all of my potatoes were too badly affected by the frost last week, so the future is looking bright for them after all – what a relief  🙂

So as of tomorrow morning its back to my portfolio of work after a four week hiatus – rather looking forward to it actually.

Daddy, what did you do in the bike wars?

I got this wound, my deary… when a car (remember them? They burned oil!) hit me and knocked me flying! Ah yes I remember it well, funnily enough it happened on almost exactly the same spot as the great seedling massacre of 2009…

“That must have made typing awkward daddy!”

It certainly did, and gardening, and cycling!

“Any other injuries?”

Yeah… rather embaressingly…

Not all glamour those bike war days…