Factcheck: Misleading Headlines About Electric Car Charging While Boiling the Kettle
By Simon Evans
In recent days, a new round of misleading headlines said that homes won't be able to boil a kettle while also charging an electric car. Given how the traditional British cuppa holds near-sacred status, this subject was ready-made for attention.
Today, however, the vast majority of home car chargers are rated at or below seven kilowatts (kW) and can be run alongside kettles, ovens and any other domestic appliances without problems. The source of the headlines, a National Grid "thought piece" published in April, was about problems on home or local electricity circuits, that might arise in the future if they are not addressed.
Running 11kW fast chargers at the same time as kettles, on inadequate wiring, is one of these potential problems. But these high capacity units are "vanishingly rare," said James McKemey, head of the insight team for charge installation firm Pod Point. He told Carbon Brief, "When we go to site we have to assess the load there already. If running a kettle would mean blowing your main fuse, we can't install."
The media focus on electric cars has grown since environment secretary Michael Gove said on July 26 that the government wanted to ban the sales of "conventional" petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2040. (It remains unclear if hybrid vehicles would be allowed, as the ban has not been explained in detail.)
This ambition would entail a major transformation of the UK economy. It would pose significant challenges for the electricity grid, the exchequer's tax take, carmakers and the wider auto sector.
National Grid, which manages the UK power network, has been trying to work out what those challenges look like and what it will need to do to address them. This is an effort to identify potential problems so that they can be avoided, but has been widely misconstrued as a forecast of calamity.
Earlier headlines have suggested the UK will need six, ten or even 20 new nuclear plants to charge electric cars, which would raise peak demand by up to 50 percent. National Grid published a "myth buster" to explain why these headlines were wrong. It said:
"The government's recent announcement ... has led to lots of speculation in the media regarding the effects on the energy system. Often National Grid's Future Energy Scenarios (FES), which is our analysis of future energy demands, has been cited incorrectly and sometimes out of context. This article is intended to clear up some of the misconceptions."
As Carbon Brief explained in July, the reality is likely to be closer to a six gigawatt (GW) or 10 percent increase in peak demand due to electric cars in 2050, equivalent to two nuclear plants. This assumes smart car charging becomes the norm, extending the current trend in that direction.
Newspapers have also been quick to suggest that electric cars would massively increase annual demand for power. Obviously, electric cars will raise demand for electricity. (A reduction in demand from oil refineries will partly offset this. They use around 1.5 percent of current UK supply).
However, analysis from Cambridge Econometrics and National Grid suggests electric cars might raise annual demand by just 10 percent in 2050. Key uncertainties in this outlook include the rate of electric car adoption, the average number of miles driven per person in the future—this number peaked a decade ago—and whether autonomous vehicles or car sharing take off.
This week, headlines have found a new electric car problem to worry about—again, based on a piece of National Grid future-gazing. The Financial Times was first to the story on Aug. 20 under the headline, "Charge electric car but don't boil kettle, says National Grid."
It said homes using 11kW, 48 amp fast chargers might not be able to boil kettles at the same time, since most home electricity circuits can only handle 60-80 amps at one time. Kettles are limited to 13 amps, like many other domestic appliances.
The FT article noted that, as of today, only five percent of homes would be able to take an 11kW charger. It added that these homes would be able to handle fast chargers and kettles at the same time, if they fitted a 100 amp main fuse.
This was not enough to prevent the cuppa crisis from spreading, however. In subsequent headlines, the Telegraph ("Don't boil the kettle while charging your electric car because it will blow the fuse, National Grid warns"), Times ("Charging an electric car while the kettle is on may blow a fuse") and Mail Online ("Forget that cuppa: Charging an electric car at the same time as boiling your kettle will blow your fuse, National Grid warns") were among those following the FT's story.
By this point, caveats were often forgotten and growing certainty took hold. An Aug. 22 Telegraph editorial confidently said, "The National Grid says anyone driving an electric car should not charge it at home while boiling a kettle because the power surge would trip the main fuse."
@nationalgriduk Yesterday's Telegraph editorial (not online) joins the inaccurate electric car cuppa crisis bandwag… https://t.co/hqzwbUPWKL— Simon Evans (@Simon Evans)1503501491.0
In one Daily Mail piece published in print and online, veteran columnist Christopher Booker managed to pull together all the recent misleading headlines about electric cars into a single article.
It's worth returning to what the National Grid's thought piece actually said on this question. Note that it was published in April and has only now received widespread coverage. It said, in hypothetical terms:
"The average household is supplied with single phase electricity and is fitted with a main fuse of 60 to 80 amps. Using a 3.5kW battery charger requires 16 amps. If one were to use an above average power charger, say 11kW, this would require 48 amps. When using such a charger it would mean that you could not use other high demand electrical items (such as kettles, oven, and immersion heaters) without tripping the house's main fuse ...
"If your house had fitted the maximum 100 amp main fuse, then a more powerful 22kW charger could be used ... In reality, an 11kW charger, with an above average main fuse, is likely to be a good compromise."
It's worth repeating that very few homes are currently able to install an 11kW charger and Pod Point does not believe they are necessary. In any case, only high-end electric car models are able to use three-phase 11kW fast chargers, with most models restricted to 7 or 3.5kW units.
The spread of larger electric car batteries does not mean people will drive further, added McKemey, so 7kW chargers should remain adequate for almost all homes. Over the past 16 months, 33 percent of chargers installed by his firm were 3.5kW, another 67 percent were 7kW and just 0.1 percent were high capacity fast chargers.
National Grid went on to identify a second potential "pinch point," if multiple homes on a local electricity circuit all use car chargers at once. It said some 32 percent of low voltage circuits might need upgrading once electric car adoption reaches 40-70 percent, or more quickly if fast chargers are used.
The UK will need widespread adoption of electric cars, coupled to increased supplies of low-carbon electricity, if it is to meet its legally-binding carbon reduction targets. The government wants to ban sales of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040 and for "almost all" to be zero emission by 2050.
This shift will have wide-ranging effects, many of which will be positive. Roadside air pollution will be eased, motorists are likely to save money on fueling their vehicles and the UK will become less dependent on imported oil.
Other effects of electric cars will be more challenging. The treasury may need to find a new source of income as fuel duty income evaporates. Carmakers will have to develop new models and new supply chains. Mining for the components of batteries will pose different environmental risks. And electricity grids will need to adapt.
As Pod Point's McKemey said, however, the idea that no one is thinking about how to address these challenges "could not be less true."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Carbon Brief.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Watchdog Accuses Trump's NOAA of 'Choosing Extinction' for Right Whales by Hiding Scientific Evidence
By Julia Conley
As the North Atlantic right whale was placed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's list of critically endangered species Thursday, environmental protection groups accusing the U.S. government of bowing to fishing and fossil fuel industry pressure to downplay the threat and failing to enact common-sense restrictions to protect the animals.
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By Beth Ann Mayer
Since even moderate-intensity workouts offer a slew of benefits, walking is a good choice for people looking to stay healthy.
How to Rock Your Walk<p>Walking isn't just fun and healthy. It's accessible.</p><p>"Walking is cheap," says Dr. John Paul H. Rue, a sports medicine doctor at <a href="https://mdmercy.com/" target="_blank">Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore</a>. "You can do it anywhere at any time; [it] requires little to no special equipment and has many of the same cardio benefits as running or other more intense workouts."</p><p>Want to up your walking game? Try the tips below.</p>
Use Hand Weights<p>Cardio and strength training can go hand-in-hand when you add weights to your walk.</p><p>A <a href="https://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2019/03000/Associations_of_Resistance_Exercise_with.14.aspx" target="_blank">2019 study</a> found that weight training is good for your heart, and <a href="https://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(17)30167-2/abstract" target="_blank">research</a> shows it reduces the risk of developing a <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/nutrition-metabolism-disorders" target="_blank">metabolic disorder</a> by 17 percent. People with metabolic disorders have a higher chance of being diagnosed with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.</p><p>Rue suggests not carrying weights for your entire walk.</p><p>"Hand weights can give you an added level of energy burning, but you have to be careful with these because carrying [them] over a long period of time or while walking could actually lead to some overuse injuries," he says.</p>
Make It a Circuit<p>As another option, consider doing a circuit. First, put a pair of dumbbells on your lawn or somewhere in your home. Walk around the block once, then stop and do some bicep curls and tricep lifts before walking around the block again.</p><p>Rue recommends <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/exercise-fitness/running-with-weights" target="_blank">avoiding ankle weights</a> during cardio workouts, as they force you to use your quadriceps rather than hamstrings. They can also cause muscle imbalance, according to the <a href="https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/wearable-weights-how-they-can-help-or-hurt" target="_blank">Harvard Health Letter</a>.</p>
Find a Fitness Trail<p>Strength training isn't limited to weights. You can get stronger by <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/bodyweight-workout" target="_blank">simply using your body</a>.</p><p>Often found at parks, fitness trails are obstacle courses with equipment for pullups, pushups, rowing, and stretches to build upper and lower body strength.</p><p>Try searching "fitness trails near me" online, checking out your local parks and recreation website, or calling the municipal office to <a href="https://calisthenics-parks.com/" target="_blank">find one</a>.</p>
Recruit a Friend<p>People who workout together stay healthy together.</p><p><a href="https://bmcgeriatr.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12877-017-0584-3" target="_blank">One study</a> showed that older adults who exercised with a group improved or maintained their functional health and enjoyed their lives more.</p><p>Enlist the help of a walking buddy with a regimen you aspire to have. If you don't know anyone in your area, apps like <a href="https://www.strava.com/" target="_blank">Strava</a> have social networking features so you can get support from fellow exercisers.</p>
Try Meditation<p>According to the <a href="https://www.nccih.nih.gov/research/statistics/nhis/2017" target="_blank">2017 National Health Interview Survey</a>, published by the National Institutes of Health, meditation is on the rise, and for good reason.</p><p>Researchers <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29616846/" target="_blank">found</a> that mind-body relaxation practices can regulate inflammation, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/biological-rhythms" target="_blank">circadian rhythms</a>, and <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/glucose" target="_blank">glucose</a> metabolism, as well as lower <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/high-blood-pressure-hypertension" target="_blank">blood pressure</a>.</p><p>"Any form of exercise can be turned into a meditation of some type, either by the surroundings you are walking in, like a park or trail, or by blocking out the outside world with music on your headphones," Rue says.</p><p>You can also play a podcast or download an app like <a href="https://www.headspace.com/headspace-meditation-app" target="_blank">Headspace</a> that has a library of guided meditations to practice while you walk.</p>
Do Fartlek Walks<p>Typically used in running, fartlek intervals alternate periods of increased and decreased speed. These are <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-hiit" target="_blank">high-intensity interval training (HIIT)</a> workouts, which allow exercisers to accomplish more in less time.</p><p><a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0154075" target="_blank">One study</a> showed that 10-minute interval training improved <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/metabolic-syndrome" target="_blank">cardiometabolic</a> health, or lowered the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, just as well as working out at a continuous pace for 50 minutes.</p><p><a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0111489" target="_blank">Research</a> also shows that HIIT workouts increase muscle <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/fast-twitch-muscles" target="_blank">oxidative</a> capacity, or the ability to use oxygen. To do a fartlek walk, try walking at an increased pace for 3 minutes, slow down for 2 minutes, and repeat.</p>
Gradually Increase Pace<p>A faster walking pace is associated with a lower risk of <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/copd" target="_blank">chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)</a> and respiratory diseases, according to a <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30303933/" target="_blank">2019 study</a>.</p><p>Still, it's best not to go from a stroll to an Olympic-worthy power walk in a day. Instead, increase your pace gradually to prevent injury.</p><p>"Start by walking at a brisk pace for about 10 minutes per day, 3 to 5 days per week," Rue says. "Once you've done this for a few weeks, increase your time by 5 to 10 minutes per day until you get to 30 minutes."</p>
Add Stairs<p>You've likely heard that taking the stairs instead of an elevator is a way to add more movement into your daily routine. It's also a way to step up your walking. Stair climbing has been shown to <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2211335519301123?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">decrease the risk of mortality</a> and can easily add a bit more challenge to your walk.</p><p>If you don't have stairs in your home, you can often find them outside a local municipal building, train station, or at a high school stadium.</p>
Is Your Walk a True Cardio Workout?<p>Not all walks are equal. A walk that's too leisurely may not provide enough burn to qualify as cardio. To see if you're getting a good workout, try to <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-check-heart-rate" target="_blank">measure your heart rate</a> using a monitor.</p><p>"A target goal for a good walking workout heart rate is about 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate," Rue says, adding that maximum heart rate is <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/fat-burning-heart-rate" target="_blank">typically calculated</a> by 220 beats per minute minus your age.</p><p>You can also monitor how easily you can carry on a conversation while you walk to gauge your heart rate.</p><p>"If you can walk and carry on a normal conversation, that's probably a lower intensity walk," says Rue. "If you are slightly breathless but can still have a conversation, that's probably a moderate workout. If you are out of breath and can't talk normally, that's a vigorous workout."</p>
Takeaway<p>By shaking up your routine, you can add excitement to your workout and reap even more rewards than a basic walk provides. Increasing the pace and intensity of a workout will make it more effective.</p><p>Simply pick your favorite variation to add some spice to your next walk.</p>
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