BMW have recently purchased an equity stake in UK Chargemaster, an electric vehicle charge point provider. The deal is part of the iBMW venture capital that is looking to expand the car company’s involvement in electric vehicles. This can be seen in context of the EU’s targeted reduction in average new car emissions from 130g of CO2 per kilometre in 2015 to 95g of CO2/km by 2020. BMW has recently released an i3 electric car. Further information can be read on this link.
Ecotricity, an energy company that specialises in renewable energy systems, has reported a large increase in usage of the motorway charging points it has installed. The firm’s motorway electric car charging network saw a huge 45-fold jump in use in the final quarter of 2012. Three fast-chargers, capable of recharging most electric cars’ batteries to 80 per cent in half an hour, have been installed at South Mimms, Oxford, Hopwood Park and Newport Pagnell. These have supplemented the slower chargers that had already been installed in these locations. Other Welcome Break sites will be fitted both standard and fast-chargers in an agreement between the organisations. Further details can be found on the Ecotricity web site.
Hull is now home to one of the largest biofuel production plants in Europe along with a ‘high technology’ demonstration / pilot plant for biofuel (biobutanol) development. A consortium including British Petroleum (BP), Associated British Foods plc (ABF) and DuPont established a new company called Vivergo Fuels to operate the plant. A variety of feedstocks, from wheat and sugar beet to ethanol, will produce 420 million litres of fuel ethanol a year.
The European Investment Bank (EIB) provided £60m of the finance for the project, although since granting the funds the European Union is now debating this type of investment from a climate change perspective. The European Environment Agency has warned that the current crop mix is not favourable to the environment (see this report). The EU is now considering a cap on the amount of fuel to be grown from crops. The plant will source crops from a local area and will need around 1.1m tonnes of wheat each year. Whether the wheat is better used to feed people or power machinery is up for debate, but given recent reports highlighting the need to import food to the UK from around the early part of August (much earlier than a decade or longer ago) there is an argument not to generate fuel from a food crop. The plant should produce around 500,000 tonnes a year of protein-rich animal feed for the UK market. Another food security concern was raised after last year’s bad harvest due to the very wet summer season: farmer’s predicted food prices rising 30% this year. Fortunately the crop should be better in 2013. An output from the plant is cattle feed from the waste products, so not all food value is lost.