Just Listen To Learn English-Electric Cars Please
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Transcript: Just Listen To Learn English-Electric Cars Please
Hi there, I’m Hilary and welcome to this latest podcast from Adept English. Here we are, helping you to learn English, with a variety of interesting topics for you to listen to. Private English lessons delivered straight to your ears! Adept English, where you’re learning English grammar automatically, as you listen.
What Does ‘Carbon Neutral’ mean?
Well, if you listen to Adept English podcasts regularly, you’ll know that we’re keen on talking about environmental issues. And this reflects the fact that in the UK at the moment, there’s a surge in interest and concern about the environment, and about climate change. So the UK government made a promise that we would be ‘carbon neutral’ by the year 2050. ‘Carbon neutral’ means that we will reduce the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere and balance the carbon that we do release by other measures. This is called ‘offsetting’.
So if you ‘offset’ carbon emissions – what you’re doing is reducing carbon in one place, to make up for, to compensate where carbon is released somewhere else. So that’s the verb ‘to offset’, O-F-F-S-E-T. The word ‘emission’, E-M-I-S--S-I-O-N, is a noun – and it means ‘the substance that you let out’ is an emission. You ‘emit something’, and the substance here is carbon, which is released from various activities. So ‘carbon neutral’ means that overall, there will be no extra carbon released into the atmosphere. There will be a balance – there is carbon release, but there’s also carbon reduction – so overall, it’s neutral, there’s zero extra carbon released.
So offsetting carbon emissions is a whole other topic. It can mean simply planting more trees, but also it can mean helping other countries, usually who’re less developed, to reduce their carbon emissions. For example, securing clean drinking water, so that people don’t need to heat, or boil their water before it’s safe to drink. This kind of project can help reduce overall carbon emissions. But obviously, it’s down to the developed countries to address their carbon release as well, because they’re the ones who do most damage to the environment.
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Move Away from Diesel
So one of the ways being discussed, of reducing our carbon emissions, would perhaps help this change happen by 2050 – and that is the move over to electric cars. In the UK and other parts of the world, we’ve moved across in the last few years from diesel cars back to petrol cars. Those are the two main fuel types for cars. And we’ve moved away from diesel because of concerns over the emissions from diesel engines. Diesel emissions are far more harmful to your health than was originally thought. But a few years ago, the UK government and others was encouraging us to all have diesel cars.
Taxation was less on diesel cars. Now other and additional scientific knowledge moves it back the other way. So we’re all being encouraged to have petrol – and some cities in the UK and in the rest of Europe as well, are talking about banning, forbidding the use of diesel cars altogether. Last week in the news, the city of Bristol in the UK was talking about banning diesel cars by 2021. Brussels too announced that they’re planning to ban all diesel cars by 2030 and all petrol cars by 2035. Now this is way into the future. What do they imagine is going to replace all those vehicles?
What About Electric Cars?
Well of course, the obvious solution put forward is electric cars. So what would it be like to own an electric car? In the UK, electric car ownership is increasing, but in the last year, only 1.1% of cars sold in the UK have been electric. That’s tiny. Well the first problem is cost. Electric cars are currently much more expensive than ordinary petrol or diesel cars. So they’re not affordable for everybody. A new Nissan Leaf electric car costs £28,000 – that’s not affordable for most people. Even the cheapest electric car – currently the Renault Zoe costs £18,000. As production increases, this should become less of a problem. And some of this is offset by how cheap electric cars are to run. The charging costs less than filling the tank with petrol or diesel. However, there are also problems with an essential part, an essential component of an electric car – and that is the battery. A battery, BATTERY.
That’s the power cell – it’s the same word for the little power cells that you might put into a torch – or in your mobile phone. That has a battery, which you recharge with electricity regularly, to keep your phone working. So obviously the battery which is needed to run a car is much bigger. And therein lies some of the problems with electric cars. For example, temperature is a problem. If you want to recharge an electric car battery, you’re going to have problems if the weather means that the temperature is less than 5C. Car batteries are made of lithium – and recharging doesn’t work at low temperatures. And if you’re in a country where the temperature goes above 45C – not in the UK of course, but there are countries that experience these high temperatures. Well, if it’s that hot, your battery may never work again, after a spell of hot weather. It damages the battery. That is clearly impractical, it’s not going to work. And if you live in a hot country, the life of your car battery, the length of time that your battery lasts, will be reduced because of the temperature. Just notice the amount of really useful vocabulary we’re covering here, helping you to learn English by understanding more and through that, you learn to speak English too – on topical issues!
Before we go further in this podcast, just a reminder that Adept English doesn’t just produce podcasts, but also offers you really good courses to improve your English. If you’re finding today’s podcast difficult, a challenge – and you’re having to look up lots of the words that I’m using, then you may benefit from our 500 Most Common Words Course. It’s a ‘listen and learn course’, which uses only the most common 500 words to help you to learn English. It’s English for speakers of other languages and makes learning English vocabulary easier. If you’re familiar with the most common words in English, then beginning to speak becomes much easier. You don’t need more than these 500 words. And if you feel you’re beyond this level, then please recommend it to somebody whose English would benefit from it, from this course.
Difficulties of Electric Cars
Back to electric cars. Another problem is range, R-A-N-G-E. ‘Range’ here means the distance that the car can cover on a single charge. In the older models of car, then you’d be lucky to get 150 miles out of a single charge. It is getting better – the newer and premium models of electric car can perhaps go 250 miles on a single charge – but that’s only if you don’t go too fast. If you keep accelerating a lot, then it’ll be much less! So range is still a problem. Maybe a solution in the future will be to carry a spare battery and just swap it over. But given that the cost of the battery is the most expensive bit of an electric car – perhaps that’s going to make it unaffordable again. ‘Unaffordable’ means it costs too much money for most people. Car batteries also don’t last very long – even in the right temperature. So you’d have to replace them reasonably frequently. Electric cars are not only more expensive, but they don’t last as long as diesel and petrol cars – so that’s another problem. And as the car gets older, the battery will become less and less efficient – will work less well, and will need charging more often. That’s not good either.
In the UK, and most other countries, the number of charging stations is a problem. There are just not enough of them – a charging station is where you plug in your car to recharge its battery. Can you imagine, running out of charge and desperately trying to find the nearest charging station? And then you get there, it’s occupied, someone else’s car is there already, charging up? And then there’s the length of time to charge an electric car. Well, it could be 8 hours! So if I was going to use an electric car to go and visit my relatives in the north of the UK, I would probably have to stay in a hotel halfway there, to allow me to recharge my electric car. That’s hardly practical. Where I do see a use for an electric car, is if you’re doing lots of short journeys from home – so that you could recharge your battery, on the driveway, like you do with your phone, overnight. I can kind of see that working.
There’s also another problem with electric vehicles currently. If everybody in the UK owned an electric vehicle and wanted to charge it overnight, there would not be enough electricity to enable us to do that. The physical infrastructure, what’s known as ‘The National Grid’ – that wouldn’t be able to provide enough electricity. It doesn’t have the capacity.
And another problem is the materials which go[es] into making the batteries – this is a whole other subject for another podcast, a whole other set of problems – and it’s already an issue already because of our use of mobile phone batteries. And that would be made worse by the use of electric cars. Plus the fact that the electricity that the cars use, has to be generated in a suitable way as well – without releasing carbon. How do we do that?
Let’s Hope Solutions Are Found
So let me be really clear here. I’m not saying that we should stick with petrol and diesel cars – not at all! Just that if we’re all going to move towards electric vehicles, there’s going to have to be a lot of investment, a lot of research to improve and make more practical what’s on offer. And we’re just not there yet. Let’s hope science solves these problems. I’d like to be driving an electric car because I’d like it to work! But it does need to be practical. Hopefully this is an interesting topic to help you learn English language in an entertaining way.
PS: “Electric Dreams”
You might not have deduced when listening to today's lesson that I am interested in buying an electric car. I know I listed a lot of issues, partly because as I investigated how workable it is to buy and then use an electric car in the UK for my particular needs I just kept finding more problems. So I thought that would be of interest for a podcast lesson.
I expect car companies will solve most of these issues with time and improvements in technology. The conclusion I drew from my efforts to save the planet by buying an electric car is; only people with more money than sense can justify being an early adopter in the UK right now.
"In the longer term, scientists are working on solid state batteries that don’t have liquid inside and won’t be so sensitive. But they’re still at the lab stage, so figure five to 10 years before you get to see one in your garage." Wired [Article]
These early adopters will help make it cheaper to go eclectic in the future, so I thank them for their sacrifice of cash and time.
I was looking forward to owning a new electric car but for now my tiny little 1.0 petrol liter Fiat (which has super low emissions anyway!) will keep me happy.