With apologies to Bishop brennan, Father Ted & Mr Bean[i]
There’s unstoppable momentum for Battery Electric cars (EVs) now, yet Rowan Atkinson seems to have successfully resurrected many of the ancient debunked myths around EVs this week (full debunk here courtesy Auke Hoekstra – update 8/6/2023 factcheck/debunk also from the Guardian).
However, the key aim of Irish Government transport policy to 2030 is to reduce car Km travelled by 20%, as well as put more EVs on the roads by 2030[ii].
Given that Irish cars travelled 44%[iii] more than European average[iv] in 2019 – our last ‘normal’ year. This makes the target of a 20% reduction in Km travelled regardless of what car you drive a good thing for our wallets and climate action / CO₂ₑ reduction.
How to reduce car Km travelled?
The last Dept of Transport graphic I saw suggested switching at least one journey per week to active modes, which I think is a very good start: It gets us to think about each and every journey, whilst helping us all adopt the avoid, shift, improve[v] model to meeting our travel needs.
Are eBikes an answer?
As a recent buyer of a 60km range ebike (for gravel), I have tried and failed to get anywhere near its limits in the first few months of use (typical heavy use only discharges the battery to 30% remaining in a week) due to cycling in neutral a lot more than I expected.
However, the recent fine weather offered an opportunity for a spin over the Dublin mountains, usually I’d do this on a road (push) bike, but the group is fitter than me, so it seemed like a good time to use the eBike (plus some of the lads suggested I use it – I think they wanted to get home before dark).
So for a change I engaged the electric assist throughout this 90km cycle, you can see the (very scenic cycle) route via Strava: https://strava.app.link/7GU5MhlXlAb
How did this 60km range ebike do?
Well 6% battery remaining at journey’s end may sound low until you take into account the following;
- 242 Watt Hour (.24kWh) battery
- No regen or ‘engine’ braking only human assist
- Specified range is 60km
All in all I am very happy with a 90+km range from this 60km range eBike (16kg as bought, 20kg as cycled with racks bottles etc.)
Going back to Rowan’s myths & legends, electric cars are better for the environment in reduced CO₂ₑ emissions, inclusive of their life cycle emissions from mining, recycling and reusing the batteries.
Don’t take my word for it, I am quoting the EU compendium of research on the topic (2020), see the JEC Well to Wheel report 2020 (same findings in previous editions) https://op.europa.eu/en/publication-detail/-/publication/7a2ecdc8-fed8-11ea-b44f-01aa75ed71a1/language-en key graphic below.
In Mr Bean terms; we only have to mine lithium once, we have to mine and refine fossil fuels continuously.
So what was the CO₂ₑ/km for this ebike and journey: Here’s the screenshots from the eBike makers app (different stats than Strava):
Electrical energy consumption (excluding me and my breakfast, banana, coffee & scone etc.) was 228Watts:
- 228.2W of energy consumed is c.250W – after allowing for charging losses of a worst case 10%.
- 250W is .25kWh consumed over 90Km or 0.28kWh/100km and 0.0028kWh/Km
- In 2021 SEAI[vi] confirm the Irish grid average was 347.8gCO₂ₑ/kWh making the emissions roughly 1gCO₂ₑ/Km
- That’s 347.8 X 0.0028 = 0.974gCO₂ₑ/Km rounded up to 1g for ease of reading
- Yesterday 3rd June the Irish grid was actually lower than 2021 at 267gCO₂ₑ/kWh – see https://www.smartgriddashboard.com/#all/CO₂ₑ – making it .75gramme CO₂ₑ/kWh.
- What about Rowan’s embedded emissions from the ebike battery?
- Well I’ve no idea what the embedded emissions are for this eBike’s battery, but Mike Berners Lee did the calculations for his book ‘How bad are bananas’ and reckons we should add 0.5g per mile to account for an eBike’s life cycle (manufacturing) emissions, accounting for ebikes travelling further than an ordinary bike. 0.5g per mile is roughly 0.3g/Km so total is 1.3g/Km. Mike’s figure per mile was 5g for a total of 5.5g/mile excluding human input.
I hope you found this exercise useful, if I have dropped a decimal or similar error pls do comment below and I will correct.
Ireland has abundant wind power onshore and offshore the electric grid, to access it we need more pylons, wind turbines and yes solar power, as well as gas-fired back-up generation. So please support your local pylon, wind or solar farm and anaerobic digestion plant.
Please visit your local bike store and test ride a electric bike as soon as you can, it will put a smile on your face and Euro in your back pocket when reducing the km you travel by car.
Lastly a plug for my new book A Light Guide to Energy Savings in Transport https://www.routledge.com/A-Light-Guide-to-Energy-Savings-in-Transport/Molloy/p/book/9788770227209#
Update 12th July – Commute
Had a chances to do a commute type cycle in traffic and weather to and from town. Took me 30+mins each way (vs 40+ in car) and used just 10% of battery, amazing performance.
[i] My bum / ass / arse is fine thank you very much, but I’ve been looking for an opportunity to use that headline for ages.
[ii] CAP23 Page 193 Table 15.6 – Total abatement -2.09 MtCO2eq. comprising 20% reduction in total vehicle kms, 20% reduction in total car kms, 20% reduction in ‘commuting’ car kms, amounting to a 50% reduction in fuel usage. https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/7bd8c-climate-action-plan-2023/
[iii] https://www.cso.ie/en/statistics/transport/transportomnibus/ 16,352km per car in 2019 i.e. 16,352 (IE) -11,313 (EU) = 5,039km more per year or 44%. Although 2021 13,436km per car, trend is back to 2019 average.
[iv] EU average was 11,313km in 2019 see https://www.odyssee-mure.eu/publications/efficiency-by-sector/transport/distance-travelled-by-car.html
[v] Avoid travel when you can, Shift to more active modes such as walking, cycling and public transport, improve the performance of the car you have now with ecodriving, only then should you consider an alternative fuel such as battery electric. Or see my blog post for a fuller explanation https://aems.ie/blog/asi/