Greener sourcing – a personal tale

Last year I moved out of London and bought an electric scooter from these guys for driving the 3.5 miles between my new house and the train station.

The story so far:
1. When it first arrived it didn’t work: the batteries weren’t functional. It took a good two weeks to get it workable.
2. Finding an insurer was a mission. There’s apparently only one in the UK. They aren’t cheap.
3. Stuff just fell off the scooter. Nothing major (yet). But still I haven’t got working replacements.
4. One of the options I bought they never even delivered. Kept fobbing me off for best part of 9 months (and I didn’t have time to chase every day).
5. It was vandalised once (someone yanked an important cable out) – and the supplier  expected me to be able to fix it. Heck, I don’t even own a soldering iron, let alone feel confident digging around in the bowels of the scooter.
6. Kids have sniggered at the man on the scooter … Until they realise it’s electric whereupon their sniggers are replaced by wows.
7. Fellow commuters are impressed by the electric scooter. Then they overtake me on the way home.
8. It is fun to drive a nearly silent machine. But it would be nice if it would go faster.
9. It’s nice not to need to stop and fill up with petrol (though I have no idea whether the electricity I use to charge it is cleaner, greener and/or cheaper than petrol would be).

It’s clear that this bike is still bleeding edge. It’s still the domain of enthusiast hackers. Definitely not ready for consumer prime time.

Parallels for professional buyers:

Beware of getting too far ahead of yourselves on green initiatives. Unless you have the time, inclination and executive support get too far ahead of the pack and you could struggle (1,2,3,4,5).

There is a good marketing angle (6,7).

And, heck, it might even make you feel better (8,9).

To be honest: When I look at my buying decisions at work I haven’t gone out of my way to buy greener at work. The only thing I can recall doing recently is ticking the box marked “plant a tree for every server” on a hosting deal.


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2 responses to “Greener sourcing – a personal tale”

  1. Energy Watch have a site to compare CO2 emissions from UK power suppliers – it doesn’t include all domestic suppliers; if yours isn’t listed, you would need to find out who owns them, or have look on their own web page. It’s not fool proof though, being based on data for the year ended 31/03/07. For example, several of the UK’s nuclear power stations are offline at present so British Energy is buying a lot of “dirty” power from coal generators to supplement their own capacity, which raises their overall footprint somewhat. There are also problems with double counting and real availability of green power, considering for example that the wind doesn’t blow continuously – if it’s too low, the turbines won’t turn; paradoxically you also have to turn them off if it’s too strong!

    Perhaps it would be safest to use the UK average of 474 grammes of CO2 equivalent per kWh of electricity.

    The Powabyke website suggests that you can go for 20 miles on 0.75kW of electricity (if you’re 95kg and on an undulating road…) which is unfortunately pretty meaningless – perhaps you are supposed to multiply the 0.75kW by the eight hour charge time to give 6kWh or perhaps they mean 0.75kWh?
    Let’s assume the higher – then an entire charge will have a carbon footprint of around 2.84 kg of CO2, which is 142.2 grammes per mile.
    That seems surprisingly high – if you check your transformer it should have a rating that will enable you to work out how much energy it will use when plugged in for eight hours. Multiply the input voltage (assume 240) by the current, by eight hours and divide by a thousand for kWh.
    Compare with the published emissions data for your car of choice and hey presto – Robert’s your mother’s brother.
    If you’re driving a Bentley Continental GT, for example, you will be emitting a shade under 660g of CO2 per luxurious mile as you sneer at the lesser mortals you leave in your calfskin coddled wake.
    If you want to be yet more obsessive, know that your generator’s fuel mix disclosure data is the footprint at the point of generation, and you need to know how much is lost from the wires between the power station and your home… Also how much CO2 is emitted in the manufacture of your car and scooter, divided by the likely life-miles of the vehicle and you start to understand why Walker’s are the only company in the UK doing any carbon footprint labelling at the moment.

    Come back Clive Sinclair, all is forgiven!

    My final observation is that, with a “regulated top speed of 15mph” you might as well get a push bike, go faster, get fitter, and emit almost no CO2 at all!

  2. I think you’re right about the pushbike, GAH.

    Mind you I had a go on a Vectrix bike yesterday ( and that was something else completely. A bit bulky for a commute to the station but interesting to see how the technology for electric vehicles has moved on leaps and bounds over the past year or two.

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