Thursday, July 31, 2008

Damon Hill and the New Tesla Sportscar

Today I caught up with Damon Hill as he was driving a black Tesla Roadster around London for the Greenfleet fuel challenge. The model is based on the Lotus Elise, and is in fact assembled by Lotus for Tesla in the UK.

Q: Good morning Damon. Can you tell us a bit about the Tesla, and what you think about it so far?

DH: Well, it's a sports car. It's designed on the model of a small sports car, so I think they're [Tesla] trying to say that, just because it's got an electric motor doesn't mean it can't be fun. I think that's very important to explain to people that this isn't some sort of puritanical kind of attempt to spoil everyone's enjoyment of the car....because those people love cars in their various forms, but we have to be able to make them accept the challenge that we need to try to make the world a better place and pollute less.

Q: Right. And how about performance?

DH: Well so far so good. I haven't really had a chance to take it out yet. I'm going to be driving around London as well, so the objective here is to see how efficient it is here, certainly on an urban cycle.

Q: Just practically, it gets 250 miles per charge, takes 3 hours to charge up, 0-60 in 4 seconds. How's that compare to, like a Porsche Carrera or something?

DH: I think you've probably got a ways to go as far as comparing performance to those sort of cars, but you could also ask, well, why do we need cars that perform like that on the road. I mean, the whole thing is an issue, and it's a question and I think by and large, it's pointless having a vehicle that can do 200 miles an hour if you're going to drive from Newham to London.

Q: So it's a nice way to..say your a business executive or a trader, you can still have a fun car but still, you know, flash around London

DH: I think it's about trying to be intelligent about it. I mean I don't think anyone wants to spoil anyone's fun, but we have to be a bit more intelligent I think about things because the message is quite clear that we can't keep on going like this.

For anyone interested, special edition models are still available for £79k

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Mundo Launch a Success

Last Friday we launched Mundo Cars in the UK. The Alliance is encouraging MEPs and MPs to get involved.

Jean Lambert MEP came and gave a great speech, and even helped us push for new fuel efficient cars.

According to Jean, "Londoners are forced to live with poor air quality on a daily basis and suffer the health effects of road transport pollution. Enough is enough. There is no place for highly polluting cars in London where air quality consistently fails basic EU standards."

"I encourage citizens and politicians to support this campaign for stricter fuel efficiency standards. The car industry should be making use of the full range of technology to make cleaner cars and the Government must support this change by introducing tough targets and penalties for those unwilling to reform."

The car industry is actively blocking meaningful regulations that would make vehicles significantly less costly to run, and that is hurting everyone while oil prices soar. The recent King Review pointed to the fact that although the technology is now available to produce more fuel efficient cars, manufacturers are by and large not doing so.

With fuel prices ever escalating, there is both an economic and an environmental necessity for cleaner cars. For our launch film we interviewed people who were filling their tanks up at fuel stations. They were horrified about how much they have to spend on petrol and all agreed that they would be willing to pay more for a more fuel-efficient car if they would then pay less for fuel. The public are ready for the cars of the future – now the EU and UK Governments must push for stringent CO2 targets.

We are encouraging car manufacturers to think big and be bold – and only when the EU and the UK Government push for stringent fuel efficiency targets will this happen in a creative and radical way.

Mundo Cars is already attracting political support from other MEPs.

Green MEP Caroline Lucas said: “The point is it’s not rocket science. Some cars have the ability to meet the 120g/km standard now so the technology does exist. That’s why the Mundo Cars campaign is so important. It demonstrates what the car of the future could be like. I think it’s an inspiring idea and an inspiring campaign. I urge people to get involved and be part of the solution.”

Robert Evans Labour MEP said, “The time for action on climate change is now. We cannot wait any longer for the effects to be seen across the world and so I urge everyone, public and politicians alike, to support strong targets on C02 emissions from cars. We must do more to discourage the highest carbon producing cars so that we can all tackle climate change before it is too late. Experts suggest the changes might be irreversible in just seven years time."

According to Fiona Hall, Lib Dem MEP, “some 19% of all Europe’s carbon emissions come from passenger cars and light-commercial vehicles. Absolute volumes are increasing because there are more cars being put on the road. The vehicles are heavier (up 15% in the past decade) and more powerful (up 28%) even though speed limits have not risen anywhere in Europe. We now need to set mandatory requirements to make a difference. I recently argued that the Commission's proposals did not go far enough and that the regulation should push for average fleet emissions of 120 g/km by 2012 achieved by vehicle improvements alone. Such targets would only be achievable with consequent penalties, which would put pressure on the manufacturers.”

Claude Moraes MEP said “We [Labour MEPs] believe that the car industry has had a long time to clean up its act and while progress has been made it has not been sufficient. Time has come for strict mandatory targets to be put in place as soon as possible.”

The automobile designers are the captains of the ship, not the consumers as they so often suggest. The industry signals the intention and the direction for the car market by their designs. To date they have been designing highly polluting and consuming vehicles. But times are rapidly changing, and we need a whole new evolution in the approach to making and powering a car, and that needs a heroic effort.

Help Mundo push for fuel efficient cars. Join the campaign.

Alliance Launches Mundo Cars

You know, back in 2003 when we started ticketing 4x4s in Camden, I never thought we'd be launching a car company. But that's where we've come to out of necessity. 25% of our UK carbon emissions come from transport.

Now, cars aren't going to disappear in the short term, as much as some of the green activists would like, so we need aspirational cars now more than ever. But we need cars that don't cost us the earth.

So, in 2008, here we are, working alongside groups across Europe to launch a new car company called Mundo. Mundo of course means the Earth in Spanish.

Most car companies advertise all the special things their cars Does - faster speed, better braking. We wanted to start a car company that brags about all the things it Doesn't.

Doesn't do what? Well, it doesn't use greenwash to sell cars. It doesn't create toxic levels of air pollution. It doesn't advertise itself in far away exotic places most of us will never go. It doesn't flout emissions regulations. It doesn't avoid change.

In fact, Mundo doesn't exist. Not yet. And that's why we need everyone's help. For starters we need to press for sane CO2 targets from all the car makers. They all need a clear direction, and they need a binding target to steer for. Challenge, creative friction and pressure is good. It's healthy. It's how all of us grow and mature.

So we need all of you to help Mundo to grow, to talk to people who can change cars to become Mundo Cars.

Mundo - Cars that DON'T. Instead of cars that DO.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Get Lost Porsche - Make Room for the New Sports Cars

Move over Porsche.

The futuristic sports cars for the 21st Century are being developed by Tesla, RiverSimple, and now, the Lightning Motor Company.

According to reports, "the Electric Lightning GT appears to have everything an ecoconscious lover of British sports cars could want: a luxury interior, a top speed of 130mph and acceleration that would put a Porsche to shame." The Lightning GT will accelerate from 0-60mph in four seconds and will be able to travel up to 200 miles on a single battery charge.

They replaced the fuel tank, engine and transmission system found in standard vehicles with an electric motor inside each wheel. There is no gear stick, axle or drive shaft. "All of the power is generated at the wheel, the point at which it's required, which eliminates mechanical complexity and power losses experienced in standard sports cars," the company says.

The new prototype car will be unveiled at the British Motor Show in July.

California to Shame Owners of Gas-Guzzlers

We were sent this cool article from the Independent today abut tagging cars so that everyone can see the actual carbon footprint of the vehicle. We had a similar idea to tag band G cars with a red label and band A&B cars with Green labels. The red tag idea was for the Hester Prynne effect, taken from the novel the Scarlet Letter. I print the article in full:

'As if sky-rocketing petrol prices weren't already hurting them enough, the drivers of America's fleet of Hummers, monster trucks, and gas-guzzling SUVs are about to suffer sustained public humiliation, courtesy of the green lobby.'

'The state of California has announced plans for all new vehicles to carry "global warming" stickers next to their number plate, giving car owners – and their fellow motorists – an instant assessment of their carbon footprint.'

'Under the scheme, which became law this week, a "global warming score" and "smog score" of between one and 10 will appear on green information labels. The higher each 'score, the more environmentally friendly the car.'

'In the short term, authorities hope to help consumers choose vehicles with low carbon footprints. In the longer term, it is designed to turn SUV driving into a social taboo on a par with smoking cigarettes. "This label will arm consumers with the information they need to choose a vehicle that saves gas, reduces greenhouse gas emissions and helps fight smog all at once," said Mary Nichols, chairman of the California Air Resources Board. "Consumer choice is an especially powerful tool in our fight against climate change."'

'Green stickers are expected to start appearing later this month. New York has its own version of the labelling scheme due to take effect in 2010.'

'Whether the stickers work or not, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's commitment to reduce vehicle emissions by 30 per cent in the next eight years is already being helped by petrol prices that have broken $4.50 (£2.25) a gallon – a 400 per cent increase in the past five years – leading to an unprecedented drop in road use, and a collapse in the market for bigger cars.''

'Right-wing commentators, who call the most popular hybrid vehicle the "Toyota Pious", have branded the scheme as illiberal. They say it will add more bureaucracy to the state's already bloated vehicle licensing authority.'

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

London Mayor Drops Pollution Battle Against Porsche

Well, thanks to our new mayor, the car maker Porsche will carry on building and
selling luxury gas guzzling sports cars without addressing the problem of rising carbon emissions from London's road transport.

Early this year Porsche announced it would take Mayor Livingstone to court over charging drivers of the most polluting types of vehicles (VED Band G) £25 each time they entered central London. The German firm argued that the rise, due to come into force in October, was "unfair and disproportionate".

On Monday, the Mayor withdrew Ken Livingstone's proposal. By not challenging Porsche in court, the mayor was told to pay Porsche's legal costs.

According to the Guardian, 'London mayor Boris Johnson is to pay about £400,000 to Porsche after agreeing to scrap a plan to levy a £25 charge on the most polluting vehicles in the capital, it emerged last night.'

Last night Jenny Jones, Green party assembly member, said she was appalled by the decision. "This is a mayor who is telling us he wants to see value for money, and to account for every penny, and here he is paying one of the richest car companies in the world hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money."

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Push for Fuel Efficiency Cars

The Alliance joined green campaigners today in urging the European Union to 'push for fuel efficiency' and agree tough targets for reducing the fuel consumption of cars.

As European officials come under mounting pressure from car manufacturers to weaken proposed legislation, Friends of the Earth Europe and other environment groups pushed vehicles around European capital cities and called on environment ministers meeting at the informal Environment and Energy Council in Paris to push ahead with targets to reduce the fuel consumption of new cars by 25 per cent by 2012.

The EU is discussing regulations to reduce the CO2 emissions of new cars by 25 per cent to 120g/km by 2012, but car manufacturers are attempting to delay and weaken the targets. Friends of the Earth Europe points to the wealth of evidence that 120g CO2/km by 2012 is easily achievable, and that a majority of EU citizens would be prepared to pay more for a car which consumes less, although more efficient cars do not have to be more expensive.

If all cars met the standard of the most fuel efficient models in their class already on the market, the proposed 2012 target could be reached today.

As part of their campaign for strong EU legislation, and to increase consumer demand for fuel efficient cars, we have joined environmental groups across Europe and have launched a fictional brand, 'Mundo cars'. We intend to use 'Mundo cars' to offer an alternative vision of cars.