Prayer Email for 4/08/19: Climate Emergency – Action Stations

Readings for this week :

Verses for meditation:

” So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.  Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly…”
(Colossians 3:1-5a)

Reflection on the verses:

“The values from above should shape our earth.  Paul does not call us to escape this earth for heaven but to transform the earth with the gospel of heaven.   In so doing, we have the promise: ‘When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you will also be revealed with him in glory.'”
Robert Smith,  Commentary on Colossians 3:1-11, A Plain Account

 

Coming Up This Fortnight

For prayer before, during or after the events…

9 August – International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples

12 August – International Youth Day
2019 Theme: Transforming Education. Info from the UN. Could youth in your church lead prayers for young people worldwide?

19 August – World Humanitarian Day
2019 theme: Women Humanitarians. Pray for humanitarian workers/efforts worldwide. Info from UN

Items for Prayer

Emergency – Action Stations

As we’ve been writing the Pray and Fast for the Climate prayer points this week, I (Maranda) have had company. A group of bluetits and a mistle thrush have taken up residence outside my office window. They flit from the rosebush to the windowsill, tap the sill probingly (it’s metal – not much satisfaction there) and then flit back. The rose’s pale pink blossoms nod as they land in its branches – and nod again as they take off for the nearby elder, whose darkening berries are an abundant source of food.

It’s all very idyllic – the kind of thing that recalls nineteenth century poetry: “the lark’s on the wing; the snail’s on the thorn: God’s in His heaven – all’s right with the world.” Juxtaposing that with the climate impacts I’ve been writing about has been somewhat jarring. It has highlighted one of the problems many of us in the UK  face: surrounded by a natural world which, on the surface, doesn’t look that different from the one we and our parents and grandparents have grown up loving, how can we maintain our focus on confronting  the very real planetary crisis that means that all is decidedly not right with the world?

For me, the hardest  prayer item to write was the one about the Arctic. What’s happening there is deeply disconcerting. There is the incongruity of intense heating in the coldest regions. Record-breaking heat in contexts where you expect heat is one thing. But three straight months of above average temperatures and highs above 30 in Alaska? Then there are the reports of mass animal deaths in recent years – tufted puffins starving, most likely  because of the warming seas, and thousands of Cassin’s Auklets being washed ashore. And finally there  is something that is both present and imminent – the awareness that the Arctic impacts that we are seeing are themselves drivers of accelerated heating – that we are looking at the type of feedback loops that scientists have long warned pose a primary threat to our ability to avoid runaway global heating. Ice melt means that less heat gets reflected and so leads to further ice melt; wildfires spread soot, increasing heat absorption that helps to create the conditions for further wildfires; the fires’ heat warms permafrost, releasing long-sequestered carbon ….

The crisis is real. And if we’re honest, it’s present even in our part of our common home. The birds at my window are lovely – but where are the flocks of swifts that used to wheel around the village? The roses are beautiful, but what about the more shallow-rooted plants, that have withered in the heat? If I’m working late at night, can I fail to notice that there are fewer moths bumping against the windowpane, trying to reach the light? The quiet apocalypse is a reality here, too.

This is why the language of emergency – climate emergency and, more generally, planetary emergency – feels so important. Human beings are, by nature, adaptively resilient. When things change, we change, too. If the change is gradual enough, it’s easy to embed the ‘new normal’ in our established patterns of language and action, shifting definitions so  that we can disguise from ourselves the significance of what’s happening. A ‘hot summer’s day’ this year is 38, but because we talk about  summer heat and ‘ice-cream weather’ as we once would have to describe a day of 30 degrees, it feels less threatening. The language of emergency cuts through this, acknowledging that what we are seeing is not a temporary extreme that we can fit within our extant paradigms, but part of an abnormal shift that can’t be ignored.

But there’s a challenge with ’emergency’ language, too. For some people, it feels disempowering, as if we’re saying that the situation is beyond our control, too difficult to resolve and hence pointless to fight. We may feel that it invites us to become like that stock figure of disaster films and real-life situations – the person who disconsolately moans ‘We’re doomed’ as a  crisis becomes apparent.

There are, however, other models.  One that springs to mind is the airline pilot  ‘Sully’ Sullenberge and his team. Sullenberger famously landed a crippled, engine-less jet in the Hudson River without loss of life. In what was a seemingly hopeless emergency, with only four minutes from engine failure to impact, he drew on decades of experience, his own courage and skill, the absolute knowledge of what the technology he commanded *could* do, and a well-trained team. He, his co-pilot, the air traffic controllers who alerted those in their path, the flight attendants who then helped evacuate the passengers,  the ferry and boat crews who rescued them, and the passengers themselves (barring one who panicked and opened a rear door) saw what needed to be done, and did it.

For us, too, the declaration of an emergency can be the impetus not for panic but for a focused, realistic assessment of where we are, the tools we have available to us, the changes that need to happen, and how we can both implement them on a small scale and work with others to see them implemented on a large scale.

Neither the climate crisis nor the broader planetary environmental crisis is going to be simple to resolve. But one of the main merits of the Paris Agreement is that it has given us a clear long-term goal for climate action – and it’s now generally recognised that the world has to get to net zero emissions globally by mid-century. In this, developed countries need to lead the way as ‘early adopters’. This goal provides a framework for our efforts: it’s not just about doing this or that action, advocating for this or that policy. It’s about assessing now what it would take for us – individually, as Christian communities, as part of our wider societies –  to begin to approach the net zero target in a scientifically and morally credible time frame.

How we do this isn’t simply a technical matter. Any attempt to answer the question ‘How then shall we live?’ brings us back to the first principles of our faith – the nature of God, what it means to be human, what the relationships between God, humanity and the rest of creation – now so often manifestly broken – are meant to look like.   As Christians, our faith gives us some clear principles that can be a gift to the general response – a worldview that sees the intrinsic value of all creation, for example; a calling to love of neighbour which incorporates the need for climate justice; and a trust in the One who created, redeems and sustains all that is – the wellspring of our hope. Perhaps our first challenge is truly to ‘own’ the things we say we believe – so that they become the deeply embedded foundations on which we seek, by God’s grace and using all the technical tools at our disposal, to build a concrete reality.

In four weeks’ time, we start the Season of Creation, which runs from 1 September to 4 October and this year has the theme ‘Web of Life – Biodiversity as God’s blessing’. It’s a time for people and churches who are already deeply committed to caring for creation as part of discipleship to take stock and to renew that commitment … and for those just exploring this aspect of discipleship to take the first steps.

We hope and pray that it will be a time to celebrate the glorious diversity of what Richard Bauckham calls ‘the community of creation’. We hope and pray that it will be a time to pray together in repentance, praise, thanksgiving and intercession for the creation. But we also hope and pray that this won’t just be ‘the time of the year when we think about creation’ but a time to start or review a long-term plan for living as we have to live if we are to be responsible members of the creation before God. What would it look like, for example, if our churches committed, this Season of Creation, to developing over the coming year a credible net zero plan  and/or a credible plan to celebrate and protect biodiversity… and then began a year-long process of exploring the underlying principles and the technical tools that could shape their response?

This week, in our resources section, we highlight the official Season of Creation resources. But with the aim of helping churches to think about long term plans, as well as celebrating the season,  each subsequent week’s  resources section will have a particular focus: understanding and explaining the crises facing the planet, reflecting on our Christian calling, practical tools for action, and tools that help us connect with each other and our communities. At every point, we’d love to hear from you about things you’ve found helpful – so please do write in with suggestions! Please also let us know if you’d like to be part of a process of thinking through how we, ecumenically, can strengthen each other’s response. And please pray that this Season will further a restoration of relationships between God, humanity and all creation.

DRC Update: Ebola and Wider Concerns

Please continue to pray for the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo, especially in the eastern provinces. In the province of Ituri, a renewed outbreak of violence has led to many deaths and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom have fled to the city of Bunia. Pray for all affected,  especially for people who have lost loved ones, homes and livelihoods. Pray too for those who are seeking to offer assistance to people who have been displaced, and especially for Caritas Bunia, which is coordinating aid to people in camps.

Ituri, together with the province of Nord Kivu, is also affected by the Ebola outbreak, which, one year after it began, has now claitled over 1,838 lives. On 17 July, the World Health Organization declared that the Ebola outbreak is a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. The immediate causes for the declaration included the first Ebola case in the provincial capital of Goma. Goma is a major transport and trading hub, and there has long been concern that if cases began to appear in the city, the virus could spread more widely from there to other parts of the DRC and potentially to other countries.

Part of the hesitation in declaring a Public Health Emergency of International Concern has been a fear, especially within the Congolese government, that such a declaration could result in countries closing their borders with the eastern DRC – something which would further destabilise the already fragile economy there. The declaration explicitly asked neighbouring countries not to do this; thus far, most seem to have complied, and while Rwanda temporarily closed its border with Goma, it appears to have reopened it.

The declaration has had a positive effect in mobilising resources for the health response, and numerous countries and agencies, including the World Bank, have increased their involement.

Pray  that countries will continue to keep their borders open and that the declaration will continue to have a positive impact on the resources available for prevention and treatment.

In another development at the end of July, the oversight of the Ebola response was switched from the Minister of Health to a team of experts, led by Professor Jean-Jacques Muyembe Tamfum, reporting directly to the President. The shift may be related to questions of which vaccines and vaccination strategies to use, concerning which there has been a division of opinion (perspectives: RFI, Muyembe press conference, Minister of Health’s letterPeter Piot and Harvard Business Review). We pray for the new team as they take on their new responsibilities, asking God to give them wisdom and strength.

Finally, the Congo Church Association recently sent out its newsletter. We rightly hear much about the difficulties that people in the DRC face – we must be aware and pray in response. But in the newsletter, we also hear about the loving and courageous work that Congolese Anglican churches are doing, by God’s grace, to show God’s love in word and deed. We need to hear about this, too. Do take a look at this and at the Caritas Bunia website – and pray for Christians in the DRC, thanking God for them and asking God to guide and bless them and their ministries.

Some more prayers for the DRC can be found here and from the Congo Church Association. CAFOD has a prayer specifically for those affected by Ebola.

Short Notes

Yemen
845,017 people. It’s a little more than the total population of Berkshire – and it’s the number of people who are thought to have contracted cholera in Yemen between January 2018 and 7 July 2019. More than 1,230 have died. An estimated 3.3 million Yemenis have been displaced; 10 million are in need of food aid.

Please continue to pray for the people of Yemen, especially for the many civilians for whom the war and humanitarian crisis have meant loss of family, friends, health, homes and livelihoods. Pray that an apparent deal to increase the flow of aid will last and will be effective. Give thanks for all people of good will who are working for peace and to provide assistance to those in need. Pray for their safety and effectiveness.

Pray, too for all parties in the conflict – that they may seek a just peace. As the United Arab Emirates draw down their troops, pray that the result is an opening for a negotiated peace.

Sudan
Sudan’s army and its main opposition coalition have signed a constitutional declaration that sets out a plan for a transitional government. Pray that this development leads to justice and stability for all inhabitants of Sudan. Pray for those who will lead the new transitional government, as they seek to negotiate the country’s economic and political challenges.

Hong Kong
Please continue to hold the people and government of Hong Kong in your prayers. As protests and strikes continue, tensions also continue to mount, and there is concern about China’s response. Please pray for wisdom for all involved. Pray, too, that the  situation may end in a just resolution, by which the human rights, freedoms and safety of all Hong Kong’s inhabitants – and the preservation of their distinctive place – can be guaranteed.

For Prayerful Action

WIn addition to starting to plan for Season of Creation, could you:

 

Resources to help you pray and act

Season of Ceation

Put together by a global team, this year’s Season of Creation resources include a full celebration guide with information about the theme, a ‘Season of Creation’ prayer and further worship resources, and suggestions for events. The website’s resources section also includes  promotional materials, materials for young people and clergy, and a space for sharing community-created resources. Take a look.

We also still have some of Elizabeth’s beautiful Time for Creation postcards, which you can use as invitations to special events. They’re free; all we ask is a donation to cover postage and packing. Email if you’d like some.

 

This email was sent to you by Christian Concern for One World.(CCOW), The Rectory, Church End, Blewbury OX11 9QH. If you’d like to receive it in your inbox, please email us at info@ccow.org.uk

If you find our resources helpful, please consider donating to CCOW online or by cheque or standing order.

One Small Step – Barry’s Story

As Christians, we know we’re called to live in ways that show love of God and neighbour. But how do we make changes to live this call out in practical ways in our daily life?

For many of us, practical changes often take place because we’re inspired by someone else – seeing them doing something or acting in a certain way.

CCOW’s ‘One Small Step’ series shares stories of change — the small steps individuals have taken to live more in keeping with their faith – to help inspire and encourage all of us on our journeys.

In this ‘One Small Step’, Barry shares his story which starts with some plastic bottles by the side of the road …

Download Barry’s Story here.

One Small Step – Diana’s Story

As Christians, we know we’re called to live in ways that show love of God and neighbour. But how do we make changes to live this call out in practical ways in our daily life?

For many of us, practical changes often take place because we’re inspired by someone else – seeing them doing something or acting in a certain way.

CCOW’s ‘One Small Step’ series shares stories of change — the small steps individuals have taken to live more in keeping with their faith – to help inspire and encourage all of us on our journeys.

In this story, Diana, a Reader from Lichfield, shares her story, which starts with a coffee cup …

Download Diana’s Story here.

2018 Dates for Prayer and Action, One Small Step, Short Notes: 7 to 13 January 2018

In this email:

  • Dates for Prayer and Action 2018
  • One Small Step: Diana’s Story
  • Short Notes: Cholera Outbreak, Christmas in Mosul, South Sudan, Rohingya Repatriation, Meltdown and Spectre

Whether you celebrated with the readings for Epiphany, the Baptism of Christ or the Orthodox Christmas this Sunday, we hope that it was joyful! And we pray that this year will be full of opportunities to see Christ more clearly, love Him more dearly, and follow Him more nearly.

Dates for Prayer and Action 2018

“For God so loved the world that He sent His only son ….” John 3:16

Throughout Christmas and Epiphany, we’re reminded of the many ways that the wider world is engaged in the story of Christ’s Incarnation. Christmas is anything but private. >Mary, Joseph and their new baby boy find themselves interacting in unexpected ways with creation itself, marginalised shepherds, foreigners seeking truth, a hostile governing power, and servants of God in the temple. The heavens show God’s glory; outsiders are invited in to worship; political powers are shaken; the quiet, hidden faithful rejoice at what God has revealed to them.
As servants of the Incarnate Christ, we’re called today to pray for and serve the world to which he came and of which we are a part. As we seek to help our churches – and ourselves – live out this calling, we give thanks for those who provide resources to help us. Some of those resources are gathered in the attached list of dates for prayer and action. We pray that God will guide and bless the prayer and work that they inspire.

One Small Step: Diana’s Story

As ever, for the New Year, there’s a lot being written about New Year’s resolutions … much of it focusing on why we do or don’t follow through on them. There’s lots of good advice about the need to set achievable goals and to take simple steps to change our habits.

Even doing that, though, can be harder than it looks. We need to have a sense that what we are doing will genuinely make a difference. And sometimes we can get stymied as we consider how we’ll work out the practicalities – figuring out not only what we want to do, but also how we can do it without spending more time, money or effort than we feel we can afford.

For many of us, when practical changes do take place, it’s often because we’re inspired by someone else – seeing them doing something or acting in a certain way. Sometimes they might be doing something we’ve half thought about, but their example shows that a theory can be a lived reality, and their practice can help us turn our idea into a practical proposition. Sometimes they may have an insight about what to do and how to do it that would never have occurred to us. Either way, their story can help us to a deeper understanding of what it means to follow Christ – and how we can do it in specific ways.

With this is mind we at CCOW want to share stories of change – the small steps individuals have taken to live more in keeping with their faith – to help inspire and encourage others on their journeys.  Appropriately enough, in a week when the scale of waste caused by single-use coffee cups is much in the news (did you know that around 500,000 coffee cups are littered every day in the UK?!), the first of our ‘One Small Step’ series starts with a reusable coffee cup. We hope you’ll enjoy and be inspired by the story, and please pray:

  • that the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee report on disposable coffee cups (very readable, and fascinating – and here’s a summary, too) will lead to real change in the industry and in people’s consumption patterns
  • that stories like Diana’s will inspire people to make a switch to reusable cups – and that they in turn will inspire others, creating a critical mass and shifting norms
  • that this will be part of a larger effort to reduce the unsustainable amounts of waste that are contaminating our environment

Action Point: If you’re looking for reviews of reusable cups to decide which one you want, here are some suggestions and reviews from The Independent, Friends of the Earth, and Wirecutter.

Short Notes: Cholera Outbreak, Christmas in Mosul, South Sudan, Rohingya Repatriation, Meltdown and Spectre

  • We’ve had a prayer request relating to a cholera outbreak affecting Lusaka and other parts of Zambia. The outbreak is reported to have caused 50 deaths in the country; schools are closed, and churches are either restricting their services or, in some cases, not holding services to avoid spreading the disease.Please pray for all affected directly through illness or death of loved ones and for all affected indirectly, especially students and those with particular pastoral needs. Pray for all working to contain the epidemic and for the success of the forthcoming vaccination programme.
  • Read this article quoting the Chaldean Patriarch – and give thanks for the celebrations of Christmas that took place in Mosul and other parts of Iraq this year, as well as for the wide support for them.
  • The South Sudanese ceasefire, which was supposed to take effect on 24 December, has reportedly been violated by all sides. The US, UK, and Norway – the troika that supported negotiations leading to the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Accord – have called for an end to violence and threatened sanctions against those who violate the ceasefire.Please pray for all parties to observe the ceasefire, and for it to be a step towards a lasting and just peace in South Sudan. Pray for all affected by the conflict, and all working to provide short and long-term assistance.
  • There are very grave concerns about the proposed repatriation of Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh to Myanmar, for which the Myanmar government has been preparing  and which it says is ‘on track’ to begin in a little under two weeks. In actuality, Rohingya have been continuing to arrive in Bangladesh; the conditions for repatriated Rohingya are worrying; and the level of trauma experienced by  refugees – many of them minors – makes them fearful of returning. Agencies such as the International Crisis Group have expressed their worries.Please pray that the UN and international community will take steps to ensure that no repatriations take place that would put people at risk. Pray for those who are uncertain about their future – that God will give them calm and time to heal. And pray for all who are working to ensure a long-term outcome that gives justice and peace to the Rohingya people.Action Point: Donate to a Rohingya Crisis Appeal, such as those run by CAFODChristian Aid, or Tearfund.
  • First a public service announcement relating to Meltdown and Spectre: if you haven’t already applied the relevant updates to your computer’s and phone’s operating systems, checked your system’s vulnerability with Intel’s detection tools, updated with the requisite firmware, and taken steps to protect your computer and phone browsers – please do!  (Email us if you’d like links)More broadly, the discovery of these weaknesses reminds us of the vulnerability of the networks on which we increasingly depend. Pray for all who are working to find ways to mitigate the risks from Meltdown and Spectre. Pray that the vulnerabilities aren’t exploited in harmful ways. And pray that this may be a reminder to us all to think about the technology we use and how we use it, rather than just taking it for granted.

Consider an electric car …

Electric Cars

This is, as Elizabeth notes, a slightly different piece from our usual, not least in that it discusses particular products and services. It’s very hard to discuss electric cars, which are an important part of the move to reduce carbon and hence a topic for prayer, without such references, as people’s questions and experiences are inherently quite specific. The references to particular products and services, however, reflect the views of those writing; CCOW is not endorsing any particular product or service.

I (Elizabeth) enjoy driving and love travelling… but hate the fact I’m adding to the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere when I do. So imagine my delight at now being at least part way to carbon zero travel. A month ago we bought an electric car (it turns out we are in very good company as the Pope has also recently gone electric!). It’s been such an interesting and surprising journey that I wanted to share my experiences, not least because since going electric I have become aware that many other people are toying with the idea but have lots of uncertainties, as we did. So here I will briefly review some facts and figures about electric vehicles and then try to answer the questions people commonly have about their practicality and cost.

As this is not the usual kind of prayer email item we offer, I am suggesting the following prayer points at the beginning, rather than the end, of the piece. Please pray:

  • In thanksgiving for the scientists, designers and engineers whose work and vision have brought the electric vehicle market to where it is today
  • For innovators as they imagine a more sustainable future for travel – that they may be inspired, encouraged and supported to develop new ways of doing things that promote the common good.
  • that the actions of governments, businesses and individuals will enable the renewables sector to grow further
  • For all of us as we strive to reduce our carbon footprints wherever we can.

 

Sales of electric vehicles in the UK and globally – and the outlook for an electric future

In the UK, sales of electric vehicles have increased dramatically in the last two years. On average more than 3,000 electric vehicles have been registered per month over the past 12 months – up from 500 per month in the first half of 2014. There are around 100,000 electric vehicles altogether in the UK. Globally, the number of plug-in vehicles passed the 2 million mark at the end of last year (61 % pure electric vehicles, 39 % plug-in hybrids).

As a percentage of overall vehicle numbers, these sales are undeniably modest: for the first 3 months of 2017, electric vehicles accounted for 1.5% of vehicle sales in the UK; globally they have just a 0.85% market share. However, these figures mask some encouraging developments. For example, Norway had 24% plug-in share in 2016 and the Netherlands 5%. China’s “New Energy Vehicle” market increased 85% compared to 2015, with over 350,000 electric cars being sold – as well as nearly 160,000 commercial vehicles (mostly all-electric buses). The Electric Vehicle World Sales database says, “Plug-in volumes have more than tripled since 2013 and continuing on last year’s growth rate of 42 % would mean 8 out of 10 cars sold being Plug-ins in 2030. Inconceivable today, not impossible for the future”.

Last year’s Paris motor show also points to a changing landscape. Transport and Environment noted, “On the surface, the figures are modest but dig deeper and the earthquake is finally shaking carmakers from their complacency. The Paris Motor Show in October may well be remembered as a seminal moment.” Many media outlets concur with their assessment, with headlines such as “At the Paris Auto Show, the electric future is now” (Bloomberg) and “Car makers embrace an electric future at Paris motor show” (Financial Times). In his blog Beginning of the end for the infernal combustion engine?” Greg Archer attributes this shift to the dramatic fall in the cost of batteries and the increased range of electric vehicles, the success of the Paris climate talks and consequent push to reduce CO2 emissions, and the desire of car manufacturers not to be left behind in a clearly growing electric vehicle market. Astonishingly, there have already been nearly 400,000 orders for the new Tesla Model 3 sedan, less than a month after it was unveiled.

Frequently asked questions

So, what are the main questions people tend to have about electric cars? I have found they cluster around four issues:

  1. Range anxiety
  2. Cost
  3. Are they really ‘green’?
  4. How do they perform as cars?

In trying to answer these questions I will be drawing on the experiences of friends as well as my own more limited experience. Kevin and Ros (fellow pilgrims on the Pilgrimage to Paris) have a Renault Zoe with a 22kWh battery; we have a 30kWh Nissan Leaf; and our friend Gary has a top-end 85 kWh Model S Tesla – so between us we cover a good range of the available electric cars in the UK.

  1. Range anxiety: how far can you go between charges? Where do you recharge?

The range of an electric car depends on its battery size, how efficiently you drive and the air temperature. Kevin and Ros’s 22kWh Renault Zoe has a range of 70 to 100 miles – the lower figure being the range in winter months. Our 30kWh Nissan Leaf is currently giving us around 125 to 130 miles – and range just isn’t an issue for Gary, who can get from Somerset to Edinburgh and back on only two charging stops! The range of electric cars is increasing all the time. The new 41kWh Renault Zoe has a range of 180 miles and Nissan is expected to unveil a 60kWh Leaf later this year or early next year, with a range of over 200 miles. So already electric cars have a range that covers the majority of journeys people make and very soon electric cars will standardly have a range that covers what can sensibly be undertaken without a break. If you’re really worried, it’s worth noting that Nissan will lend Leaf owners a petrol or diesel car for up to 14 days free of charge.

We have found that, like most other electric car drivers, we do most of our charging at home. We are waiting to have our home charger installed (cost £75 – but can be free, as in the experience of Kevin and Ros; government grants are currently available), which will allow us to fully charge the battery in 4 hours. At the moment we ‘trickle charge’ overnight from an ordinary socket.

The real difference from Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) driving is that you have to think about your journeys more carefully. Obviously, you have to plan ahead to charge the battery if your journey exceeds the car’s range.

There are currently nearly 4,400 public charging locations in the UK (see ZapMap) – a number that is increasing all the time (28 rapid charging points were added to the network in the last 30 days). Rapid chargers provide an 80% charge in around 30 minutes and are available in 700 locations, including motorway service stations, supermarkets and public car parks. The car’s display lets you know what range you have available and the on-board sat-nav shows you the locations of nearby charge points. We have found locating charge points easy; it’s building in the time element that is the challenge if, like us, you’re used to being ‘efficient’ – i.e. cramming as much into as short a time as possible!

  1. How much does an electric car cost – both to buy and to run?

The ticket price of a new electric car is high – and because of that we had assumed it was out of the question – but that’s probably not the best way to think about the cost of owning an electric car. Like many people, we have ‘bought’ our car through a Personal Contract Purchase, which is essentially like leasing the car with the option to buy at the end of the loan period. The cost of a PCP depends on a number of factors, including your expected mileage, but a brand new Nissan Leaf, for example, can be bought this way for £219 – £259 per month currently if you shop around … and there are other cheaper options.

This is a substantial amount of money – but there are other factors to consider. The most obvious is the potential saving you will make on the cost of running the car – no road tax (for most models) and the cheaper cost of electricity over diesel or petrol (which I’ll come on to below), plus the fact there’s simply less to go wrong with an electric car. It’s also worth realising that when you buy a car outright, the depreciation can be quite a large (though hidden) cost when averaged per month. So for our older car, the difference in its value between when we bought it and now averaged over the time we have had it comes out at over £260 per month – more than we are paying for the electric car.

So what about the cost of running an electric car? This, of course, depends on the price you pay for your electricity. Our plan is to charge our car overnight using the cheapest tariff electricity (in our case Green Energy at 4.99p per kWh). With our 30 kWh battery it will therefore cost £1.50 to charge the battery fully. We can expect to get around 125 miles from a full charge, meaning it will cost around 1.2p per mile. This compares to 9.2p per mile at current prices for our fuel-efficient diesel car (which does roughly 60 mpg). Over the 15,000 miles we expect to do each year in the electric car, we could therefore expect to save around £1,200 if we did all our charging at home at the cheapest rate – £100 per month. Obviously, we won’t do all our charging at home, so what does it cost to charge when out and about? Ecotricity rapid charge points are free for Ecotricity customers – and as these are at almost every motorway service station, this is a real bonus. Otherwise, it is £6 per rapid charge at an Ecotricity rapid charger. We have POLAR Plus membership (standardly £7.85 a month), which gives access to thousands of charge points across the UK, the majority of charges then being free.

  1. Are electric cars really ‘green’? As someone put it, “Is this just a means of distancing a car’s pollution and telling yourself you’re not polluting the atmosphere here (like building taller chimneys)?”

The answer to this question really depends on your electricity provider. If you use electricity from 100% renewable sources and always charge at home, then yes, you can be carbon neutral in your motoring. And the rapid chargers at motorway services are run by Ecotricity, so are also 100% green. This is not the case for other charge points. However, even with a very conservative estimate of charging for only 80% of the time at home, we can expect to cut our carbon dioxide emissions by 2.3 tonnes per year compared with using our diesel car (which we bought because it was at the low end for CO2 emissions at 119g/km). There are, of course, also the emissions from manufacturing to consider, though that is the case for any car.

  1. How does it perform as a car? One friend asked, “what about speed and acceleration (important for us men!)?”

I can only speak from my experience, but our car is fantastic to drive. Speed and acceleration are absolutely no problem – in fact, you (as in ‘I’!) have to be very careful with speed because of not having the usual sound clues as to how fast you are going… which highlights the other very enjoyable feature of electric cars – how quiet they are.

What are other people’s experiences of driving electric cars?

First, Gary’s thoughts on his:

“Living with the car is best summed up as ‘FUN’. We use it for most journeys because it is easy to drive, fun to drive and very economical to drive. We can and have driven to Edinburgh and back again for approximately £6.00 with only two charging stops. We get free charging on the road as would any other electric car drivers if they join Ecotricity. We have driven around Europe covering 2,600 miles including the Alps with no problem. In fact watching your battery recharge as you go down the hills without wearing your brakes out due to regenerative charging can make the whole electric driving experience make sense. Our total mileage over the last 21 months is 32,500 relatively guilt free. We intend ‘doing’ the western highlands of Scotland this summer.

“The only negative I can think of is being aware winter and bad weather can affect your range more in some cars than others. The upsides far outweigh this.”

And these are Kevin and Ros’s thoughts on going electric:

“Like many people, we purchased a diesel car in the mistaken belief that it was better for the environment. In fact although it produced less CO2, it was a worse pollutant than anything that we’d had before!

“Once we realised our error, every trip out in it just felt wrong but we still needed the use of a car.  We cut down, used public transport as much as possible and lived with the compromise for the best part of two years. Things changed when we went to a Green Party talk by a friend on her experiences with having an electric car. As part of this she costed it all out and showed that running an electric car was financially possible for anyone on a ‘Citizens Income’.

“Previously we had assumed electric cars were out of our price range but this challenged our thinking.  We decided to investigate.  We worked out what our diesel car was costing us (£150 a month) and found that the cheapest option for an electric was for a Renault Zoe (£180 a month) with a deposit of £900 payable over 2 years with the option of buying after this period or taking out another contract with a new car. We arranged a local test drive and really enjoyed the experience, but we knew the big issue was the range of the battery (70-100 miles). It also became clear that a smart phone for all the charging apps was a prerequisite too.

“The car dealers know that switching to electric is a complete sea-change and you need to be sure so they kindly agreed to us doing a day long test drive to see how we got on charging the car on a long distance trip to Oxford that we often take*. It took extra time (rapid charge takes at least 30 minutes) and significant planning, but we experienced no difficulty and took driving an automatic in our stride.

“We have now had the car 8 months and have no regrets.  It was a bonus that we had the charge point installed externally at home for free.  There are also considerable benefits from having your electricity from Ecotricity. We have never broken down and whenever we have experienced a problem with a charging point the engineers on the end of the phone have been really helpful and the problem resolved in no time. We have only had to wait for a charging point once in all that time.

“Many people stop and talk to us when we charge at motorway service stations and the rapport with other electric car users has also been an enjoyable feature.  The after care service from Renault has been also very positive.

“Things we have learnt:

  • During the winter months, the range of the battery falls to about 70 miles and requires two rapid charges at service stations.  Other electric cars now have a better range than the Zoe.
  • There were additional costs we hadn’t anticipated – mainly around the ongoing service of the vehicle which because of the technical complexity of the vehicle needs to be done by Renault and costs around an extra £11.38 a month**.  Whilst a charging lead is provided with the car to use with charging points, it is also possible to purchase a lead that can be used with a normal electric socket.  But this is over £600.
  • We have some qualms about what happens to the car when we trade it in.  Because the technology is improving all the time, Renault expect their customers to want to exchange for the next up to date model.  This seems very wasteful.”

* Just to add, we did a 6-day test drive of a Nissan Leaf while deciding if an electric car was for us. As Kevin and Ros say, car dealers know it is a big change and offer extended test drives.

** We don’t have this extra cost with our Nissan Leaf.

 

Photo Credit: 2011 Nissan Leaf Electric Car by mariordo59, reproduced with permission via Creative Commons License