Keeping your electric car well maintained

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Image via Flickr creative commons from motorblog

If you’re a keen motorist then you’ll probably be well aware that electric cars have really gained rapidly in popularity over the last decade or so. There have been experiments with electric cars for well over a century – in fact, at one point they were the most popular cars on the market until petrol-powered vehicles took over – and after some ill-fated attempts, electric cars have started to gain mainstream popularity more recently. Electric cars have fallen in price in recent years – but if you’re still a bit strapped for cash, you may be interested to learn that you may be able to buy used electric vehicles with second-hand car finance from ACF Car Finance.

However, there are a number of questions which deter many people from opting to buy electric cars. One thing that puts some drivers off is maintenance – what sort of maintenance electric cars need, how much this is likely to cost and so on. An article from eHow.com offers some pointers when it comes to electric car maintenance. It notes that, in fact, electric cars are mechanically considerably simpler than vehicles with internal combustion engines. However, while electric cars generally require fewer parts than their petrol or diesel-powered counterparts, it is still important to maintain them properly so that you get as much mileage as you can out of them.

Obviously, both electric and petrol/diesel-powered cars have certain maintenance tasks in common – so it’s important not to neglect these if you do opt for an electric-powered vehicle. Make sure you check your tyre pressure regularly, have your brakes serviced at regular intervals and ensure your shock absorbers, struts and other parts are given the once-over every so often. This might sound like an obvious point to make, but nonetheless you should bear it in mind.

Also, electric cars are powered by lithium-ion batteries. It should stand to reason that the more regularly you use your electric car, the quicker its battery will expire. Batteries only have a limited cycle life, so after they’ve been charged and discharged a certain number of times, they’ll no longer work and will need to be replaced. If you start to notice that your electric car’s battery needs charging more frequently, it may be worth taking it to the mechanic so a professional can take a closer look at it. Nevertheless, you will need to replace your car’s battery every few years – this is, as things stand, unavoidable.

You may also be wondering just how much it’ll cost you to maintain your electric car. An article from HowStuffWorks.com provides us with some insight in this regard. It points out that new battery packs can costs thousands of pounds, although manufacturers are looking to develop cheaper and longer-lasting batteries. It also observes that so long as their battery continues to function normally, electric cars should require less maintenance than petrol or diesel-powered cars. This is something you should look very carefully into before you make the decision as to whether you’re going to buy an electric or fossil fuel-powered vehicle.

 

What Are The Greener Options For Charging Your Phone Or Tablet?

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Image via Flickr creative commons from markguim

Gadgets can suck up a fair bit of energy over their lifetime and it is unsurprising that more and more people are looking for ways to reduce their energy spend and bring down household bills at the same time as doing their bit for the environment. The good news is that there a number of ways that you can be more environmentally aware when it comes to charging up your gadgets such as smartphones and tablets. Charging them is easy, especially when you have covers from the Snugg UK that allow easy access to all of the ports. What is not so easy is remembering to be green – here are a few helpful tips!

Think carefully before charging overnight

One of the best and probably one of the simplest ways to save money and energy when it comes to charging gadgets is to make sure you think carefully about when you do it. Something that many people do is charge their smartphones and tablets up during the night when they’re not in use. Unfortunately today’s gadgets don’t actually take that long to charge up and so they remain plugged in and drawing down electricity even after they are fully charged. While you’re very unlikely to notice a spike in your electricity bill from doing this now and again, it’s important to remember that you are wasting electricity which is not only costing the environment but also hurting your wallet.

Don’t leave your charger plugged in at the wall

Taking appliances off charge once the batteries are full isn’t the only thing you’ll have to remember. It’s also important to make sure that you have turned off the charger at the socket once you’re done. Even if the device has been unplugged, a small amount of electricity can still be used by the plug. Cut out waste – turn it off.

Go for a timer

If you really don’t have the option of charging up your tablet or phone in the daytime or during the evening, then consider investing in a device to cut off power after a set period. It is possible to buy low-cost outlet timers that will automatically turn themselves off and stop drawing down power after a fixed period – perfect if your device will only take four hours to charge but you’re going to be in the land of nod for eight hours!

Harness the power of the sun!

If you’re not too keen on drawing down power from your home’s electricity supply then how about harnessing the power of the sun and getting some juice for free. It is now possible to buy solar-powered phone and tablet chargers that will drink up the sun’s rays and then dispense it into your gadgets when you’re ready. This type of device can be great for when you are travelling and don’t have a mains power source handy, or alternatively, is just a fab way of staying powered-up without harming the environment. Everyone wins!

The evolution of the electric car

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Image via Flickr creative commons from exfordy

One of the most striking automotive technological developments of the last few years has been the electric car. At a time when the need to take decisive steps to tackle the growing problem of climate change is becoming ever more apparent, there are those who hope that the electric car will eventually come to supersede petrol and diesel-powered cars. However, it has to be said that electric cars are yet to make the break into the mainstream and so remain relatively niche. However, it is interesting to look at just how the electric car has evolved over the years. Contrary to being a brand new innovation, its history does in fact back well over a century.

According to an article from About.com, it is still disputed as to just who invented the first-ever electric car, but Hungarian Anyos Jedlik did invent a small-scale vehicle powered by an electric motor he designed himself as far back as 1828. Another electric-powered carriage was invented by Scotsman Robert Anderson as some point between 1832 and 1839, while a Professor Stratingh of Holland and his assistant Christopher Becker designed a small-scale electric car of their own in 1835. In that same year, another small electric car was created by American blacksmith Thomas Davenport.

Around 1842, both Davenport and Anderson devised improved electric-powered road vehicles, powered by non-rechargeable electric batteries. Frenchman Gaston Plante developed a more effective battery in 1865, while his compatriot Camille Faure improved on Plante’s battery in 1881. Because the newer generations of batteries provided more effective storage and were longer-lasting, they therefore enabled electric cars of the era to become more practical. Of course, it would prove to be some time before the electric car truly made an impact on the mainstream consciousness. Nevertheless, there have been experiments with electric vehicles for many years.

By the turn of the century, electric, steam and petrol-powered cars were available in the US. As we now know, it was the latter which went on to be comfortably the biggest seller and remains so to this day. However, electric vehicles did still have selling points over and above their gasoline-fuelled counterparts in the early 20th century. They were free of the not-inconsiderable noise, grime and pollution associated with petrol-powered vehicles, for one thing. However, by the 1920s, the need for longer-range journeys lent the gasoline car a crucial advantage over its electric and steam-powered rivals. Charles Kettering’s invention of the electric starter in 1912 also eliminated the need for the hand crank. By the mid-1930s, electric cars had almost disappeared entirely.

As an article from the Guardian points out, it wasn’t for another three decades that the electric car would resurface. The oil price spike of the late 1960s into the 1970s would prompt a global economic crisis which took more than a decade to play out. While Ford, GM and AMC all started to carry out tentative experiments with new electric cars, the eventual decline in oil prices brought this phase to an end. It wasn’t until the 1990s that electric cars once again started to attract the attention of the dominant car manufacturers.

GM’s EV1 attracted a great deal of media attention, but was eventually widely derided as a failure – and within a decade of its appearance, more or less every EV1 had been recalled or destroyed. At around the turn of the millennium, however, manufacturers such as Nissan and Mitsubishi had more success with their own electric cars and in 2011, it was predicted that electric cars would account for 20 per cent of all vehicle sales come 2016. If you’re thinking of buying a used car – and there is used car finance available from ACF Car Finance, incidentally – then you’ll find there are a lot of models to choose from. But don’t overlook the electric car right away, because you could be surprised at what you find.

What is fracking and why is it so controversial?

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Image from Flickr creative commons via Franziska Lux

Fracking – or hydraulic fracturing – in its simplest terms is the process of extracting natural gas from layers of rock deep within the Earth. It is a relatively new process in the world of fossil fuels and has allowed gas extraction at depths that were previously unreachable.

It is estimated that at least 60 per cent of all new oil and gas wells worldwide were being hydraulically fractured. Most commonly, the process involves drilling a horizontal hole into the rock layer – sometimes it is also done vertically. A high pressure mix of water, sand and chemicals is then injected into the rock, allowing the gas inside to flow out.

Its first experimental use was in the late 1940s and fracking was first commercially successful in 1949. By 2012, 2.5 million hydraulic fracturing jobs have been performed on oil and gas wells worldwide.

But, it is not as simple as that. It is a controversial process. Much of the water used is collected from the well and processed but there are concerns carcinogenic chemicals can escape and find their way into drinking water. It has also been reported by NBC News in the US that tap water becomes flammable as a result of nearby fracking.

Tim Yeo MP, chair of the energy select committee, has refuted some of these claims. He told the BBC in 2011 that problems experienced in the States could be overcome with tight regulation and practice.

He said: “We can’t see any evidence that UK water supplies might be at risk from shale gas – if it is done properly.”

Perhaps predictably, the industry itself also denies that shale gas is unsafe and similarly declares incidents of pollution to be examples of bad practice, rather than of a risky technique.

Some will also claim that the gas extracted through fracking presents a danger to the environment. As a cheaper substitute for renewable energy sources, it is easy to see why certain companies with more of an eye on their wallets than on the planet would go down this line.

However, emissions from natural gas are a small proportion of those emitted from other fossil fuels like coal and oil.

An imminent report by the British Geological Survey is expected to announce that shale gas deposits are far larger than previously predicted. Experts say we could be sitting on enough gas reserves to supply the nation for more than a century.

It has also been suggested that two small earthquakes in Blackpool in 2011 (measuring 1.5 and 2.2 on the Richter scale) were a result of nearby fracking operations. Drilling was suspended while an investigation took place. When the company in charge of the project, Cuadrilla, returned to a second site in Fylde in May 2013 they were greeted by hundreds of protestors.

Protestor Max Walton, told the Blackpool Gazette: “Fracking will not bring gas bills down, will damage our countryside, and will not provide long term jobs to help counter unemployment… Camp Frack Two [the name of the protest] is designed to help local people learn more about fracking.”

Talking about its potential to cause earthquakes, Professor Ernie Rutter from the University of Manchester said: “It’s always recognised as a potential hazard of the technique… But they’re unlikely to be felt by many people and very unlikely to cause any damage.”

A conclusion, though, seems far from close. Professor Richard Davies from Durham University’s Energy Institute led an investigation into the process of fracking which concluded in April of this year.

It found the tremors caused were the equivalent of someone “jumping off a ladder” and that is was it is “extremely unlikely that any of us will ever be able to feel an earthquake caused by fracking”.

Prof Davies said: “In almost all cases, the seismic events caused by hydraulic fracturing have been undetectable other than by geoscientists. It is also low compared to other man-made triggers… whereas, most fracking-related events release a negligible amount of energy roughly equivalent to someone jumping off a ladder onto the floor.”

The Durham University team collated data on all earthquakes caused by human industrial activity since 1929. The largest tremor due to the fracking process was at Horn River Basin in Canada in 2011. It measured 3.8 in magnitude, something they said would feel like no more than a shudder to most people.

Earthquakes caused by activities such as mining can measure as high as 5.6 on the Richter scale, while reservoir filling can measure up to 7.9.