Posts Tagged ‘environment’

Anybody who’s caught half an episode a show like Grand Designs knows how great timber buildings can be in terms of architecture and stablility.

Thing is there’s been a lot of mixed press as to just how sustainable and green timber is as a building product. You can’t go anywhere near a building yard at your local garden centre without hearing about forestry regualtions but lately there’s been talk about how timber buildings aren’t that beneficial to the environment. Apparently when trees are converted for building purposes the CO2 is trapped and stored.

Now, though, a bit of good news. Using timber for large-scale commercial buildings is beneficial for the environment. The energy use over a 60-year life cycles of buildings constructed with concrete, steel, timber and ‘timber-plus’ has shown that the ‘timber-plus’ offers the lowest environmental impact.

Using timber for a building’s structure and fit-out produces 4,500 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivelent comparred to timber’s 5,454 tonnes and the close-to 7,000 tonnes produced by a steel built commercial building.

While this is probably massive news to those in the building trade or with an ultra-fine eye for eco details, to me it means two things. Firstly that at least these things are being considered and secondly that I can still watch Grand Designs and enjoy the timber buildings without worrying about how “green” it makes a building.

Earlier in the year, the Italian government took a step to help an ailing automotive industry and the environment in one measure. They offered a cash-back type deal for people that traded in their polluting old motors for a more economical, new car.

Worth £2000 Cash?

Worth £2000 Cash?

It meant massive surges in demand for smaller cars like the new Fiat 500 and helped get some smokey, gas guzzlers off the roads at the same time. While the government in the UK hasn’t done anything as concrete yet and any financial decision made is under huge press scrutiny, Citroen have decided to do it themselves.

The French car maker is offering cash incentives to customers that trade in their old cars to be scrapped. If the car was registered before 2000, customers are being offered £2000 and, on those between 2000 and 2002, £1000 though with obligation for the second grouping to be scrapped – there’s good money for dealers in used Citroen cars after all. 

France, Spain and Germany already have such schemes – in Germany it kicked car sales up by 21% in February and here automotive bodies are lining up to get behind it. 

While it may be well supported and good for the environment too, the real question is whether a £2000 cash incentive for your old car (on top of whatever offers they’re already running) will encourage you to buy a new Citroen? Should this be something all manufacturers do or a government-run scheme instead?

Personally, I think it would be more effective than a bailout arrangement – what’s the point of building lots of cars if customers don’t have the incentive to buy.

I spent this weekend in Paris as I often do (some would say I’m lucky) and I noticed something new – hybrid taxis. Now, ordinarily, my disdain for the “hybrid solution” is pretty well documented but if mass use of these cars could be useful anywhere it could be the centres of cities.toyota prius

Let’s face it, for all its charm and romantic-connotations, Paris is a pretty filthy city. Not just in terms of general dirt but pollution too. There’s no congestion-zone charge there and the traffic around the centre is usually packed. It made a pleasant change to see the clean-looking Toyota Prius (albeit one with loud livery) moving through traffic. Plus, if governments are as serious in moving green as they pay lip-service too then I’m sure some sort of incentive or funding scheme can be set up. Come on, if France in all their nuclear-reliance can make this a reality (and there may well be others I’m not aware of) this could be done elsewhere. 

The same could easily be said for other cities across the world, be it London, New York or…. Delhi. In larger, capital cities, there’s a huge amount of taxis on the road and if public transport could shift toward hybrid vehicles it could be of huge benefit. 

 Surely this is better than individuals using hybrids? From an objective point of view, far too many people are unlikely to even consider buying a hybrid. Yes, there’s some that do and their voices are loud – but there’s not enough structure in place (certainly not here in the UK) in terms of places to top up and the stigma attached to them is pretty powerful. Not to mention that nobodies really created one that looks halfway decent. 

However, from a passenger point of view it doesn’t really matter if you’re arriving at your destination in the back of a Prius or the back of an Audi. All that really governs it is the price of your transit and, if they’re as good on the juice as advertised, hybrid cars should make for cheaper taxis…

if more taxi companies shifted to hybrid vehicles (whether it be Insight or Prius it doesn’t really matter) is it likely to have more of an impact on inner city pollution than congestion-zone charges or the odd celebrity smug-fest promoting the virtues of going green?

It used to be some guy called Raymond, but now everybody loves economy. Fuel economy, that is, and everybody being car buyers. Well, that’s what the car makers believe as they’re lining up to push new, increasingly economical versions of their cars onto the roads.

A new version of the already perfect-for-the-city, new Fiat 500 yesterday with what they call the Start&Stop system on vehicles with the 1.2 litre engine. The system basically turns off the 500’s engine when you bring it to complete stop and put it in neutral. When you want to move off you simply put drop the clutch to put it in gear and the engine will restart.  

Now, given that I’ve been told countless times that turning things off then back on actually uses more energy than leaving them running for a few minutes, I was impressed to find out that this ups the new Fiat‘s city fuel economy to 49.6mpg (from 44.1) and the combined fuel to 58.9mpg (from 55.4). It also cuts down those dirty CO2 emissions to 113g/km too.

It costs a little more but the fuel savings will make that extra £200 back pretty quick and there’s plenty of value in feeling like you’re helping the planet a bit too. Just don’t get too smug about it or you may as well have a Prius. 

I hope we can look forward to more auto makers looking at this method – anyone who’s been stuck in either inner city or M25 traffic jam surrounded by cars with engines running and trying not to be sick from the fumes will agree I’m sure.

You know, it’s strange. Initially I wasn’t too fussed about it but now the Superb is fast becoming one of my favourite new cars. While – as someone who grew up in the time of the box-like lumps they used to call Skodas – is kind of strange, isn’t that surprising given the current economical conditions.  

Skoda's Superb Greenline

Skoda's Superb Greenline

And now the new Skoda Superb has become even more appealing for times of economic and environmental turmoil. The GreenLine edition sees Skoda roll their fuel-saving and planet-saving approach out into their new exec-slayer. It’s got a 1.9 litre turbodiesel that still kicks out the power but kicks out less into the air – emissions have dropped to just 139g/km. If that’s baffling you as much as those stats do me, this one won’t – it’ll now offer up 55.4 mpg! Which means you’ll spend less time at the pumps and less money on road tax too thanks to the emissions cut. 

Skoda have basically tweaked the engine, added some low resistance tyres, thery’ve done something to the gears and improved the aerodynamics. Oh, and they’ve dropped it a bit lower too which means it looks a little skleeker as well as, presumably, helping it acheive those stats. Though I’m still not likely to give up my Alfa keys, it does look pretty swish.

While this is great, and all kudos to Skoda for planning to roll this across their entire vehicle range this year,  I have to wonder – why isn’t this done anyway? If it’s possible to do this, then why not do it in the first place rather than create it as a unique model?

It’s still months away but the Tokyo Motor Show is already starting to pop up in the headlines. One of the expected stars at the show is the nation’s own manufacturer Mitsubishi with the unveiling of their new plug-in hybrid. mitsubishi hybrid

 The new Mitsubishi seems to be the prime focus of the Japanese auto maker as they’ve pulled their motor sports engineers to work on their electric vehicle program and an exec from the company has stated that their main target now is in developing smaller and more fuel-efficient engines to power their SUVs. 

As for the Mitsubishi plug-in, it’s expected to be the size of a Nissan Qashaqai and will be based on the Concept cX the company previously unveiled.

The real question though, is whether all these plug-in hybrids are really worth all the hype and attention. You may not be using fuel from the pump but you’ll still be using it from the switch instead and that still comes from the lovely, dirty, smelly and polluting old fossil source.

Should companies continue to push such vehicles or focus on genuinely ‘green’ methods such as hydrogen cells? Are we replacing one environment drain with another?