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Exclusive interview: Alistair Clarke, Founder and MD, eConnect

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eConnect founder Alistair Clarke, a chartered accountant who spent the past 10 years with BG Group, saw how vital it was to apply the right technology and optimal solutions to the challenges we face. In particular in the discovery, distribution and utilisation of energy. He believes that the development in the technology and inherent capabilities of electric vehicles is an excellent example of where we have an opportunity to apply a practical, intelligent approach. He talks to Blue & Green.

In 140 characters or less – what is eConnect Cars?

eConnect cars is pioneering the switch from diesel and hybrid taxis to 100% electric vehicles. We are the only operator in London to offer both a standard (Nissan Leaf) and executive (Tesla Model S) zero emission service.

What was the driver for creating eConnect Cars – what gap did it fill?

London and other major cities are struggling with the challenges of urban growth, congestion and pollution. eConnect cars is investing in a modern business model that provides a zero emission service, integrated with other forms of transport and urban mobility providers. This approach fits with the trend of car owners becoming car users and mobility on demand.

Who does it primarily serve?

eConnect currently focuses on the corporate market and offering bundled services through its arrangement with transport providers such as Great Western Railway. It also works with transport aggregators such as One Transport and platform apps such as Karhoo.

What difference does eConnect Cars want to make?

eConnect wants to drive the shift towards more sustainable transport and be part of the solution towards cleaner air. Pollution in London currently cost the lives of approximately 9,000 people per year.

What are the barriers to making that difference?

The technology to auto dispatch taxis, taking into account battery status is not available. In addition, rapid charging infrastructure in London is currently insufficient to support the large scale deployment of commercial electric vehicle fleets.

Who’s helping you overcome those barriers?

eConnect has secured a grant from Innovate UK to undertake a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with London Metropolitan University. This project will create the technology needed to manage not only our own fleet but can also be licensed to other logistics operators globally. With respect to rapid charging infrastructure, the Government has allocated the budget but this now needs to be allocated and spent to increase the number of rapid chargers available.

Is government and automotive industry action commensurate with the air pollution issues we face?

Through the Ultra-Low City Scheme, I believe the Government is encouraging action although my concern is that the response from the Local councils etc. is not ambitious enough. The same can be said for the ULEZ in London which is a great idea in practice but has been watered down through the consultation rounds in response to lobbying by large business. As a result, we may lose an excellent opportunity to make a real difference. As a result, I expect it will be people who will demand the change that will see businesses react and government then follow with supportive legislation.

Any comment on Volkswagen and Dieselgate?

I think that people have known for a while that the emissions and performance tests do not provide a reliable guide to real world conditions but could be used to compare one diesel vehicle against another. With the revelations around VW and the availability of alternative drivetrains, a more robust scorecard needs to be introduced to better inform consumers as to the pros and cons of the choices they face. In terms of the impact on our health of the NOx emissions, I think we are only just getting to grips with this and having watched the BBC panorama show the other night, I have my doubts that VW will be the only manufacturer having to answer difficult questions.

Give a choice Tesla or Nissan?

If money was no object – Tesla.

How can people – individuals and organisations – find out more about eConnect Cars?

Through our website www.econnectcars.com which includes a number of articles we have written in our news area. For information on the Crowdcube fund raising campaign specifically, please look here.

If they wish to give our service a try in either a Leaf or a Tesla a try – just call 0203 002 5544 and book a cash or credit card job (no account required).

 

 

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Energy

Is Wood Burning Sustainable For Your Home?

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sustainable wood burning ideas

Wood is a classic heat source, whether we think about people gathered around a campfire or wood stoves in old cabins, but is it a sustainable source of heat in modern society? The answer is an ambivalent one. In certain settings, wood heat is an ideal solution, but for the majority of homes, it isn’t especially suitable. So what’s the tipping point?

Wood heat is ideal for small homes on large properties, for individuals who can gather their own wood, and who have modern wood burning ovens. A green approach to wood heat is one of biofuel on the smallest of scales.

Is Biofuel Green?

One of the reasons that wood heat is a source of so much divide in the eco-friendly community is that it’s a renewable resource and renewable has become synonymous with green. What wood heat isn’t, though, is clean or healthy. It lets off a significant amount of carbon and particulates, and trees certainly don’t grow as quickly as it’s consumed for heat.

Of course, wood is a much less harmful source of heat than coal, but for scientists interested in developing green energy sources, it makes more sense to focus on solar and wind power. Why, then, would they invest in improved wood burning technology?

Homegrown Technology

Solar and wind technology are good large-scale energy solutions, but when it comes to small-space heating, wood has its own advantages. First, wood heat is in keeping with the DIY spirit of homesteaders and tiny house enthusiasts. These individuals are more likely to be driven to gather their own wood and live in small spaces that can be effectively heated as such.

Wood heat is also very effective on an individual scale because it requires very little infrastructure. Modern wood stoves made of steel rather than cast iron are built to EPA specifications, and the only additional necessary tools include a quality axe, somewhere to store the wood, and an appropriate covering to keep it dry. And all the wood can come from your own land.

Wood heat is also ideal for people living off the grid or in cold areas prone to frequent power outages, as it’s constantly reliable. Even if the power goes out, you know that you’ll be able to turn up the heat. That’s important if you live somewhere like Maine where the winters can get exceedingly cold. People have even successfully heated a 40’x34’ home with a single stove.

Benefits Of Biomass

The ultimate question regarding wood heat is whether any energy source that’s dangerous on the large scale is acceptable on a smaller one. For now, the best answer is that with a growing population and limited progress towards “pure” green energy, wood should remain a viable option, specifically because it’s used on a limited scale. Biomass heat is even included in the UK’s Renewable Heat Initiative and minor modifications can make it even more sustainable.

Wood stoves, when embraced in conjunction with pellet stoves, geothermal heating, and masonry heaters, all more efficient forms of sustainable heat, should be part of a modern energy strategy. Ultimately, we’re headed in the direction of diversified energy – all of it cleaner – and wood has a place in the big picture, serving small homes and off-the-grid structures, while solar, wind, and other large-scale initiatives fuel our cities.

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Energy

7 Benefits You Should Consider Giving Your Energy Employees

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As an energy startup, you’re always looking to offer the most competitive packages to entice top-tier talent. This can be tough, especially when trying to put something together that’s both affordable but also has perks that employees are after.

After all, this is an incredibly competitive field and one that’s constantly doing what it can to stay ahead. However, that’s why I’m bringing you a few helpful benefits that could be what bolsters you ahead of your competition. Check them out below:

Financial Advising

One benefit commonly overlooked by companies is offering your employees financial advising services, which could help them tremendously in planning for their long-term goals with your firm. This includes anything from budgeting and savings plans to recommendations for credit repair services and investments. Try to take a look at if your energy company could bring on an extra person or two specifically for this role, as it will pay off tremendously regarding retention and employee happiness.

Life Insurance

While often included in a lot of health benefits packages, offering your employees life insurance could be an excellent addition to your current perks. Although seldom used, life insurance is a small sign that shows you care about the life of their family beyond just office hours. Additionally, at such a low cost, this is a pretty simple aspect to add to your packages. Try contacting some brokers or insurance agents to see if you can find a policy that’s right for your firm.

Dedicated Time To Enjoy Their Hobbies

Although something seen more often in startups in Silicon Valley, having dedicated office time for employees to enjoy their passions is something that has shown great results. Whether it be learning the piano or taking on building a video game, having your team spend some time on the things they truly enjoy can translate to increased productivity. Why? Because giving them the ability to better themselves, they’ll in turn bring that to their work as well.

The Ability To Work Remotely

It’s no secret that a lot of employers despise the idea of letting their employees work remotely. However, it’s actually proven to hold some amazing benefits. According to Global Workplace Analytics, 95% of employers that allow their employees to telework reported an increased rate of retention, saving on both turnover and sick days. Depending on the needs of each individual role, this can be a strategy to implement either whenever your team wants or on assigned days. Either way, this is one perk almost everyone will love.

Health Insurance

Even though it’s mandated for companies with over 50 employees, offering health insurance regardless is arguably a benefit well received across the board. In fact, as noted in research compiled by KFF, 28.6% of employers with less than 50 people still offered health care. Why is that the case? Because it shows you care about their well-being, and know that a healthy employee is one that doesn’t have to worry about astronomical medical bills.

Unlimited Time Off

This is a perk that almost no employer offers but should be regarded as something to consider. According to The Washington Post, only 1-2% of companies offer unlimited vacation, which it’s easy to see why. A true “unlimited vacation” program could be a firm’s worse nightmare, with employees skipping out every other week to enjoy themselves. However, with the right model in place that rewards hard work with days off, your employees will absolutely adore this policy.

A Full Pantry

Finally, having a pantry full of food can be one perk that’s not only relatively inexpensive but also adds to the value of the workplace. As noted by USA Today, when surveying employees who had snacks versus those who didn’t, 67% of those who did reported they were “very happy” with their work life. You’d be surprised at how much of a difference this could make, especially when considering the price point. Consider adding a kitchen to your office if you haven’t already, and always keep the snacks and drinks everyone wants fully stocked. Doing so will increase morale tremendously.

Final Thoughts

Compiling a great package for your energy company is going to take some time in looking at what you can afford versus what’s the most you can offer. While it might mean cutting back in other areas, having a workforce that feels like you genuinely want to take care of them can take you far. And with so many different benefits to include in your energy company’s package, which one is your favorite? Comment with your answers below!

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