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Our friends electric

June 28, 2010 – 10:51 am

You will either be sickened by England’s defeat, even more sickened by Lampard’s disallowed goal (which I didn’t even notice as I was watching the match on a German channel, being harrassed by small children), or just plain sick of hearing/reading/talking about our fateful exit from the World Cup yesterday afternoon (“a monument to mediocrity” as one pundit termed it).

So I’m going to tell you about something completely different, which has nothing whatsoever to do with football, or sport, or South Africa, or those noisy horn things everyone’s been complaining about, when they’re not demanding new Wimbledon-style technology to tell us whether the ball’s gone over the line (in the photos I saw, it clearly had).

The BBC has had a fantastic idea: to send an electric car off on a 4,000 mile (6,437km) road trip round Europe, to tell people that a) they do exist, b) they do work, c) you can recharge them, and b) they’re fun. A team headed by Peter Curran – a gloriously dry, droll Northern Irishman whom I used to listen to decades ago on GLR – left London on 7 June, and went via Denmark, Sweden, France, and is currently here in Spain – he arrived in Barcelona last Saturday, four days behind schedule, followed by Zaragoza, Madrid then Caceres, then to Portugal, and back to Valladolid on Tuesday, Salamanca on Wednesday, and Bilbao on Thursday.

Curran is not remotely preachy or earnest, which makes the whole adventure entertaining listening, as well as informative, interesting and inspiring (not that I’ll be changing my own car yet, sorry). The programme is called Electric Ride, as is being broadcast in various installments which you can listen to on the BBC iPlayer.

Now I know that the Electric Ride is not passing through in Andalucia – the closest would be Caceres, over the border in Extremadura – but it is such a brilliant jape, that I couldn’t resist telling you about it. The battery-powered EV (electric vehicle), a small red car reminiscent of a new-generation Fiat Cinquencento (Curran calls it “a tiny little Noddy car”), is provided by THINK; it is called a THINK city. The BBC team behind the project claims they are investigating the “technology and infrastructure and political will behind the growth of EV culture”. Many people point out that while the car is zero-emissions, the making of the battery itself is by no means environmentally perfect, and that the electrcity used to charge the battery is often produced by fossel fuels. Let’s see if Spain will have any solar-powered solutions. The lack of range is also cited as a problem, with 100-300km the norm (the THINK city’s is 160km).

A journalist friend of mine, who is also an eco-campaigner who puts his money where his mouth is (he installed a wind turbine in his house), convinced his local north London authority to install a recharging point for his electric car (his wife still prefers the Golf). That was a few years ago now, and London currently claims to be the EV capital of the world (100,000 cars have been promised, and 25,000 charging points, by 2015); there are 13 different models of EV available to buy in the UK. In Andalucia, since last year electric cars have been available to buy in Seville, with 75 recharging points planned (as well as Madrid and Barcelona). The Spanish government has pledged to have one million electric cars on the road by 2014, as part of Plan Movele.

I’m awaiting with much anticipation news updates on the team’s progress on the first part of the Spanish leg of their epic journey. Did they find it easy to locate charging points? Were people helpful? Did they laugh at the little car and the crazy British man driving it? I wait with baited breath to read his adventures.

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