Dare to Dream

Wild Idea #1

I was reading an article the other day, in which the author was discussing how the National Grid would cope with the extra load come the day when we are all driving Electric Vehicles. The conclusion seemed to be that it would cope fairly well but unfortunately I've mislaid the article. If you come across it, please let me know as I found it quite interesting.

However, it got me thinking whether we could reduce the burden on the National Grid and this in turn prompted an idea I'd like to run by you because it seems to me that the advent of EVs, with a modicum of ingenuity, might open the door to us being able to drive our vehicles at almost no cost.

So imagine if you will, a day some time in the near future when you own an EV. You've driven to work and back that day, maybe to the shops and back and so forth. You arrive home at night and plug in the car to re-charge while you are asleep.

You could recharge at one of the thousands of recharging stations that have by that time replaced or at least largely phased out petrol stations, which is quicker because they use more powerful chargers than the one you plug into at home but costs more. Your car on full charge has a range of, say, 160 miles and like most people you tend to average, say, about 20 miles of driving in any one day so your lithium-ion battery most days just needs a top-up. On the other hand if you are, say, a taxi driver or are in some other profession that does more miles, you might need a full re-charge on a daily basis.

Whatever the case, you plug your car in and leave it to charge up. The electricity is supplied by the Grid. The UK currently gets more than half its power needs from renewable resources such as wind farms. By the time most of us are driving EVs, that percentage will probably be near or at one hundred.

But supposing, instead of getting its electricity from the Grid, your charger receives its electricity from a small wind turbine or similar device that some bright engineer has designed and some some enterprising company is selling to the public. The wind turbine isn't very large and is designed to be set up in your back yard, on your roof or your garage or wherever is workable. It might be able to supply more (Who knows? Maybe even power most of the appliances in your house!) but for the sake of argument let's imagine it only supplies enough electricity to charge up the battery of your EV overnight. It comes complete with a battery that acts as a power reservoir against times when the wind isn't blowing (but if you live where I do, there's enough of a breeze blowing most of the time sufficient to keep the blades of a lightweight turbine turning).

Let's imagine too that the turbine kit costs you £500 from your local DIY superstore and another £300 to have it installed if you don't want to install it yourself.

But get this: once your turbine is installed, recharging your car from it costs you NOTHING and potentially you can run your car from that point on at NO FUEL COSTS. So from there on out your car does not have to cost you a penny to fuel it year in and year out whilst providing it with fuel in the most environmentally-friendly way imaginable.

This led to another wild idea. What if you live in an apartment block or don't own your own home or simply don't want to plonk a small wind turbine on the roof of your house? Well okay, so let's imagine some bright engineers have managed to design and build a small turbine that can be stored away in a cupboard and brought out in the evening when you need it to free-stand next your your parked vehicle or even be clipped to your roof rack. You plug your car into it and there you go!

And this led to yet another idea. Have you ever noticed how windy it is next to a busy main road or motorway? The slipstream from fast-moving traffic comprises a heck of a lot of un-utilised free energy that it would be a shame to waste, especially when it could be harnessed.

So think of the M25 that circles London in a 200+ mile unbroken loop of motorway that is virtually ALWAYS busy and ALWAYS windy with the slipstream of endlessly passing vehicles.

And imagine a tube, say a metre in diameter, that runs the entire length of this loop along the central reservation and even, if you will, two similar tubes that run along both sides of the motorway just outside the crash barriers. The tubes contain slatted vents angled to catch the slipstream of passing traffic and direct it into the tubes which results in a continuous fast flow of air along the tubes.

Within the tubes at regular intervals are small turbines that are turned by that continuous air flow and thus generate electricity.

The M25 will in effect become one ruddy great wind farm with over 200 miles of turbines generating God alone knows how much power.

This system will likely generate a lot more but it could at least be used to power the various service areas dotted along the motorway, with their cafes and vehicle charging points.

The land used is land that cannot be used for anything else and the tubes could be built in prefabricated sections, then brought in, assembled and connected up with relatively little upheaval.

Once built, and aside from routine maintenance costs, the system essentially provides free, clean electricity.

Okay so these are wild ideas, flights of imagination.

But all innovation starts with imagination, from the invention of the wheel right on up through space exploration.

So let's dare to dream!