Zoe Gets Its Own Petrolhead Incident

Zoe Suffers Lack of Charging Stations (Image: Turbo/Automobile-Propre.com)
Zoe Suffers Lack of Charging Stations (Image: Turbo/Automobile-Propre.com)

What is it with petrolheads? Can’t they enjoy a car when it doesn’t burn fossil fuels – even if it has the same performance and is as much fun to drive (if not better)?

Most people are aware of the big spat between Tesla and Top Gear after Top Gear tested the Roadster in 2008 around a track then showed it being pushed into a hangar, even though it hadn’t actually run out of charge.

Perhaps less well known is that they repeated the incident when they reviewed a Nissan LEAF in 2011.

So has journalism regarding EVs progressed since then? Apparently not. On 8 February the New York Times published an article by John Broder about a road trip he attempted to take in a Tesla Model S, from Washington to Boston. The aim was to make use of new Tesla Superchargers installed on the route. He failed to make the distance and his article headlines with a picture of the Model S on a flatbed truck.

However, Tesla – after its experiences with Top Gear – had instrumented the car and were able to show from the logged data that Broder had done a number of things to cause the incident (such as driving in circles) – or at least had missed a number of opportunities to avoid the incident (such as not fully charging) – depending on who you believe (see Tesla’s Elon Musk & NY Times, NYT Public Editor Dings Both Sides).

One long term outcome may be the creation of a new expression, to ‘broder’, meaning:

“to purposely or with wilful ignorance run down the battery pack of an electric vehicle to the point that it no longer moves the vehicle”

The Zoe is the latest victim of this type of journalism. This week the motoring show Turbo (France’s equivalent of Top Gear) featured the Zoe. Instead of describing the car, and how it drives, half of the time was devoted to following a particular route to highlight its lack of fast charging stations (equivalent to the Tesla Superchargers in the Broder article).

So can anything positive be taken from these incidents? One thing, I believe. The first two incidents were presented like this: ‘These cars are electric and will quickly run out of charge. Chargers are slow and hard to find. Therefore these cars are no good.’ The most recent incidents were presented like this: ‘These cars are electric and will run out of charge. Fast chargers are hard to find. Therefore these cars are no good for long distance journeys.’

Some progress, perhaps.

Zoe Deliveries Begin in France

Zoe Charges Ahead (Image: DBT/Automobile-Propre.com)
Zoe Charges Ahead (Image: DBT/Automobile-Propre.com)

After a series of delays in the planned delivery dates for the Zoe there is light at the end of the tunnel – finally some good news, at least for the French.

Firstly, the registration figures for electric cars in France for January 2013 show, for the first time, a significant number of registrations for the Zoe. In fact, seventy were registered which instantly propelled Zoe to the top of the list of EV registrations for the month (see AVEM and Automobile-Propre).

Secondly, Renault announced at the 2nd AVEM National Conference on Infrastructure Charging in Nice that the Zoe launch is now going full speed ahead.

Key milestones in the launch calendar include:

  1. Zoes will arrive in the Renault network in France in late February
  2. A total of 1,000 will be provided ready for the first two weeks of March
  3. Television advertisements will run from 9 March
  4. Renault will hold open days on 14 and 15 March
  5. A local print advertisement campaign begins 16 March
  6. Buyers in the Alsace region (up against a deadline for a local EV subsidy) will get deliveries by 31 March
  7. Buyers who ordered in October at the Paris Motor Show will get deliveries from mid-April

If everything goes according to plan we should expect there to be another small set of registrations in February, then significant and accelerating numbers for March, April and onwards.

Renault to Supply 2,000 ZOE Vehicles to UGAP

Renault to supply 2,000 ZOE and 100 Fluence Z.E. vehicles to UGAP

February 20, 2013

Renault to supply 2,000 ZOE vehicles to UGAP
Renault to supply 2,000 ZOE vehicles to UGAP
  • Renault has won the “Versatile 4-seater electric vehicle” and “Compact electric sedan” contracts in a new call for bids launched by Union des Groupements d’Achats Publics (UGAP, a public procurement group).
  • 2,000 Renault ZOE and 100 Renault Fluence Z.E. vehicles will be ordered over three years.

Attribution via a succession of contracts

As part of the call for bids launched in October 2012, Renault positioned ZOE in the “Versatile 4-seater electric vehicle” category and Fluence Z.E. in the “Compact electric sedan” category.

With Renault ZOE and Renault Fluence Z.E., UGAP benefits from a comprehensive, cutting-edge electric mobility offering that meets the needs of the government and public authorities and contributes to the development of the public electric vehicle population.

In all, Renault will supply more than 17,000 electric vehicles in the next three years to UGAP for the public order and to the order group of 20 large companies for the initial call for bids, as part of which more than 15,000 Kangoo Z.E. vehicles are currently being delivered.

Renault ZOE, a compact electric hatchback for everyday use

Renault ZOE ushers in a new era of widely affordable electric mobility. Launched in France in late 2012 and retailing from €13,700 incl. VAT (tax incentive deducted, battery rental starting at €79 a month incl. VAT for an annual 12,500 km over three years), Renault ZOE will be broadly available in the French sales network from March 2013 and in other European countries in the following months.

The first car designed to be full electric, Renault ZOE features leading-edge electric technology in a compact and appealing design. With over 60 patents filed in the development process, Renault ZOE claims six world firsts in terms of range, user friendliness and connectivity. Renault ZOE is the first mass-production vehicle to be homologated with a range of 210 km (NEDC [1]).

In everyday use, ZOE has a range of 100 km to 150 km depending on driving style and weather conditions. This performance was made possible by the “Range OptimiZEr” system fitted as standard on all Renault ZOE models and which increases vehicle range by nearly 25% thanks to three major technological innovations:

– new-generation regenerative braking,
– a heat pump,
– MICHELIN EnergyTM E-V tires.

Renault ZOE is a major step forward for the automobile and for Renault, which in 115 years of history has developed innovation after innovation with the firm aim of making technology available to the greatest number.


[1] New European Driving Cycle

Yelvertoft Wind Farm

Blades Being Installed on Turbine 5, Yelvertoft Wind Farm (Image: T. Larkum)
Blades Being Installed on Turbine 5, Yelvertoft Wind Farm (Image: T. Larkum)

Since writing about Milton Keynes Wind Farm I have become interested in visiting wind farms in my area, England’s East Midlands. Last Friday I had the opportunity to visit the new Yelvertoft Wind Farm which is currently in the process of having its wind turbines installed. It is located near Junction 18 of the M1 motorway. Construction began in June 2012 but, following the building of roadways and foundations, all the turbines are due to be installed between February and April this year.

Turbine Foundations, extending as far as the grassed areas (Image: T. Larkum)
The Foundations of a Turbine, extending as far as the grassed areas (Image: T. Larkum)

A wind turbine is installed in a specific sequence. First of all the foundations go in, essentially a large metal base (like an upturned plate) embedded in concrete. A duct allows for cables from the central structure to pass through the foundations and out along a trench to a central control point.

Turbine Base, with cables emerging from duct (Image: T. Larkum)
A Turbine Base, with cables emerging from duct (Image: T. Larkum)

Next a tower is built is built on the base, consisting of a set of tapering tower sections (three, in this case).

Turbine 5 Tower Lower Section Being Installed (Image: AES)
Turbine 5 Tower Lower Section Being Installed (Image: AES)

On top of this goes the main generator housing, the nacelle. It contains the generator plus electric motors for rotating the turbine to face into the wind, and for adjusting the pitch of the blades for maximum efficiency in a given wind speed. This is the single heaviest lift, about 70 tonnes.

A Turbine Hub Waiting To Be Installed (Image: T. Larkum)
A Turbine Hub Waiting To Be Installed (Image: T. Larkum)

Finally the main rotor hub is fitted to the front of this, with the three turbine blades already attached to it (though sometimes they can be installed separately).

A Set of Turbine Blades Waiting To Be Installed (Image: T. Larkum)
A Set of Turbine Blades Waiting To Be Installed (Image: T. Larkum)

This wind farm will eventually have 8 turbines. The particular type used here is the MM92 made by REpower. The MM92 is intended for medium and low wind locations. It has a rotor diameter of 92.5m and delivers a nominal power of 2MW, at a typical wind speed of 12m/s.

Installation Complete (Image: T. Larkum)
Installation Complete (Image: T. Larkum)

At Yelvertoft each turbine is mounted on a tower 80m high, making a total maximum height of about 125m.

Crane Withdraws (Image: T. Larkum)
Crane Withdraws (Image: T. Larkum)

My thanks go to Mark Mealing, the Site Engineer, for giving me a comprehensive tour of the location. One interesting thing I learned was that the complete wind turbine assembly comes to about 900 tonnes – but two-thirds of this is below ground, and mostly the weight of the concrete foundation.

Why the Price of Oil Went Up

Why the Price of Oil Went Up

Alister Hamilton (Electric Ali)

Oil Export Terminal, Saudi Arabia (Image: 2B1stConsulting.com)
Oil Export Terminal, Saudi Arabia (Image: 2B1stConsulting.com)

While OPEC is the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, not all oil exporting countries are members of OPEC. As we have seen in my first post, UK Fossil Fuel Production: A Brief History, the UK was an exporter of oil between 1980 and 2005 when output from the North Sea was in full flow, but has since returned to its more accustomed role of oil importer, importing approximately half a million barrels of oil per day in 2011, according to BP data.

In 2005, there were 33 net oil exporting countries in the world. That number has declined since as Argentina, Malaysia and Vietnam have left the unofficial club of net oil exporters. More countries will follow. Using data mostly from the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2012 together with a small amount of data from the US Energy Information Administration, we can build up a picture of oil production from the 33 net oil exporting countries.

Net Oil Exporters (2005): Production (Image: A. Hamilton)
Figure 1: Net Oil Exporters (2005): Production (Image: A. Hamilton)

As we can see from the figure, oil production from these countries has increased only very slightly in the six years from 2005 to 2011, by just over 1 million barrels per day. This is by far the lowest rate of growth in oil production from these countries in any six year period since the oil shocks of the 1970’s and represents an effective six year production plateau.

When we look at oil consumption in these countries, we see a somewhat different picture. Oil consumption in the 33 net oil exporting countries has increased over the decade to 2011 at an average rate of 2.9% per year. Oil consumption has grown by 2.91 million barrels per day in the period 2005 through to 2011.

Net Oil Exporters (2005): Consumption (Image: A. Hamilton)
Figure 2: Net Oil Exporters (2005): Consumption (Image: A. Hamilton)

By taking oil consumption away from oil production for the 33 net oil exporting countries, we get a picture of the net oil exports available for the rest of the world to import – countries like the UK. What we see is that, although production increased by 6.8 million barrels a day between 2002 and 2004, exports only increased by 5.7 million barrels per day due to rising internal consumption in oil exporting countries. And the maximum amount of oil exported by oil exporting countries was 45.87 million barrels per day in 2005. Since 2005, net exports have declined by 1.89 million barrels per day as oil production in the 33 net oil exporting countries has been approximately flat, while internal consumption has increased. This decline in available exports since 2005 has pushed up the price of oil on the market.

Net Oil Exporters (2005): Net Exports (Image: A. Hamilton)
Figure 3: Net Oil Exporters (2005): Net Exports (Image: A. Hamilton)

Now let’s factor in the massive increase in oil imports in rapidly growing India and China. If we treat India and China as one country, we can take their combined oil consumption away from their combined oil production to get a picture of their combined net oil imports as shown in the figure. The slightly alarming thing about oil imports by China and India is the rate of increase, an average of 10.1% per year between 2002 and 2011.

Now let’s try playing around with the numbers.

Let’s assume that oil production by the top 33 net oil exporters remains constant at just over 63 million barrels per day. Let’s also assume that the internal rate of oil consumption increase within the top 33 net oil exporters remains at 2.9% per annum. And finally, let’s assume that the rate of increase in oil imports by China and India combined continues at 10.1%. That is, things continue as they have been for the last few years.

If things keep going the way they have done recently, by 2026 – just 13 years away – the amount of oil on the market would be enough to supply China and India alone. There would not be enough oil for anyone else. None for the USA. None for the EU. None for the UK. Scary stuff.

India and China Net Oil Imports (Image: A. Hamilton)
Figure 4: India and China Net Oil Imports (Image: A. Hamilton)

But things won’t work out quite like that. They’ll probably be much worse! I’ll go into the reasons for that in my next post. But for now, let’s take a look at what might be called “Available” Net Exports defined here as the net exports from the 33 net oil exporting countries in 2005 minus the oil imports of China and India, i.e. the oil exports “available” to everyone else.

Net Oil Exporters (2005): Available Net Exports (Image: A. Hamilton)
Figure 5: Net Oil Exporters (2005): Available Net Exports (Image: A. Hamilton)

An even clearer picture now emerges. The pool of oil on the market “available” to countries other than India and China to import reached its maximum extent at 40.74 million barrels per day in 2005. That pool of oil has declined in size ever since due to a plateau in oil production in oil exporting countries, increasing internal consumption in oil exporting countries and dramatically increasing demand from the emerging economies of India and China, home to around 2.5 billion souls. The decline since 2005 is 12.38%.

Due to the basic economics of supply and demand, the price of oil on the market should have started rising around 2005 as net exports and “available” net exports peaked. And if we take a look at the price of Brent crude oil, here plotted as the average oil price over each year, that is exactly what we see:

Brent Oil Price, US$ per barrel, annualised (Image: A. Hamilton)
Figure 6: Brent Oil Price, US$ per barrel, annualised (Image: A. Hamilton)

Others have noticed and reported on these trends before and I am particularly appreciative of the work of Jeffery Brown and Kjell Aleklett of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil (ASPO). The term “Available” Net Exports is taken from the work of Jeffrey Brown, who has kindly supported my work via personal communication.

All graphs produced by the author using BP and US EIA data.