PIE, Design, E Scooters and Queen Alexandria


PIE, Design, E Scooters and Queen Alexandria

Welcome to PIE all you lucky people that can actually be there. I can’t, boo hoo! Just over a year ago, SWMBO and I were packing our bags in Auckland New Zealand eager to board an airplane to LAX and then on to San Diego via the Pacific Surfliner. We had planned a circumnavigation. This would have been the penultimate stage before heading home. Along came Covid and the rest, you know. A year and a bit on, and I still can’t come. 

Even if I could, and I am not sure that I can even come into America right now, I would have to spend ten days locked down in an airport hotel when I get back. Ten days in prison for a few days in Dallas; sorry, no. So, I will miss you all and let’s all hope that, by the time we get to Temecula in October, the world will be a better place.

This car park design book is getting very interesting. I am pretty certain that most of the structural design calculations are still based on assumptions on car weights made back in the 70s in the original edition. Copy and paste is always so much simpler than thinking. Here’s the thing, cars are getting heavier. 

For example, today’s VW Golf is over 60 percent heavier than the Golf 1 of the early 80s. Now, I estimate that a battery powered car is about 30 percent heavier than the same car with an ICE. That means that tomorrow’s car could be over twice the weight of the design vehicle from the 70s. That’s a big issue. 

Further, if all the vehicles are going to be electric in the future, they will need charging. This means that the parking bays will need to be longer, to accommodate the charging infrastructure. Optimistically, let’s say that this would require an extra half a meter (20 inches for those still insist on using measurements based on the length of a Plantagenet King’s arm). 

Many charging points are big and chunky, at least a meter deep, that’s OK outside, but not in a building, where their size will impact the building design and cost. Manufacturers will have to do better. This means that the floor slab needs to be a meter wider and hold twice the load going forward. Some pretty fundamental redesigning needed there, methinks. 

This is really something that you need to get involved in John Van Horn, otherwise, there is a danger that people will be designing 50-year car parks that are not going to be fit for purpose within a decade.

All this, of course, depends upon the electricity supply grid being able to support the anticipated demand. There was a short item on the BBC this morning that highlights just how far we have to go with this. The UK head of torch batteries was very upbeat, she was completely sanguine about the ability of the grid to cope, with just a giveaway at the end that all this depended on the BIG assumption that most cars would be charged at home, overnight. Maybe, maybe not. By contrast, her equivalent from the great state of California offered little comfort. “We are already having to plan for brownouts,” he said. He didn’t really have to say more.

The received wisdom is that the internal combustion engine has had its day and electricity is the way to go. Well, it looks like that may not be the whole story. JC Banford, or JCB, the people that make the yellow and black back-hoes and construction vehicles used all over the world, have been doing research into hydrogen power. They have developed a hydrogen fuel cell engine suitable for their type of vehicle at a unit cost of about £100,000 per unit. 

But here’s the thing, they have also developed a hydrogen-fuelled internal combustion engine to do the same job. This has been developed straight out of their latest diesel engine, using many of the same components at a rather more modest cost of £10,000 a time. The exhaust emission is pure water, which can be recycled to generate more hydrogen by electrolysis. 

Some years ago, I heard a pundit opining that if cars were invented today (the last quarter of the 20th century) then given what we know about safety, pollution and so on, the inventor would have been taken to a secure institution to protect public safety. This came to mind as I looked at recent coverage over here on the use of e-scooters. 

The government still insists that they are the best thing since sliced bread, at the same time as running trials to actually find what the pros and cons are. Now many of these trials are deeply flawed. The government’s thesis is that the scooters will replace car travel and yet the trial areas are mostly just in city centers, so the potential trips are too short. 

Almost daily, more voices are raised against them, perhaps the most telling being a number of Police and Crime Commissioners, the elected officials that run our regional Police services. Notwithstanding the restrictions surrounding their use, hundreds of thousands have been sold to people who use them illegally on the roads and footways. Worryingly, The Police are beginning to find scooters that have been modified to travel at up to 50mph. 

In response to this The Police seem to be changing their posture from one of stopping and warning, to seizure, fines and prosecution. As it counts as an unlicensed and uninsured motor vehicle, users are being fined and even having their licenses suspended. As the data is beginning to be accumulated, the true risk is beginning to be understood. Transport for London estimates that e-scooters are up to 100 times more dangerous than a cycle.

I just read an article on options for payment, via card vs phone vs cash. OK, it was looking at the relative costs, but nowhere, not once, did the words customer and customer preference appear. Note to self, check if we are still a service industry.

And finally, did you know that the very first multi-story car park in the world was built in London? It was opened in May 1901 by The City and Suburban Electric Carriage Company just off Piccadilly Circus. It was a seven story 19,000 sq. ft. building with a capacity of 100 electric vehicles! This company sold and supported electric vehicles with a range of about 40 miles and a top speed of about 20 mph. An early adopter was Queen Alexandria, the wife of Edward VII.

Article contributed by:
Peter Guest
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