BIRD'S EYE VIEW: No spin behind Ford's propeller-powered line
09 April 2008
Guy Bird is our editor-at-large and political columnist
A new turbine that ensures a Ford engine-manufacturing site remains fully wind-powered is more than just PR hot air
Huge wind turbines, gracefully converting a naturally occurring and endlessly renewable power source into clean electricity, have become potent 'poster boys' for environmental best practice.
They are the antithesis of grimy old coal-fired power stations pumping out tonnes of smoke and gas into the atmosphere.
Their necessary large scale also advertises their eco presence. Install one and you're telling the world "I'm going green". Which is why I had thought, cynically, Ford's two wind turbines above its Dagenham Diesel Centre might barely contribute enough energy to power their associated PR campaign. However, the news this month that Ford is adding a third wind turbine at Dagenham - to make sure its diesel engine manufacturing site remains "100% wind powered" following the installation of a new TDCi engine line - suggests otherwise.
According to Ford's wind turbine provider, Ecotricity, the existing turbines power the whole process and have avoided 6500 tonnes of CO2 emissions every year since 2004. The third turbine would provide another 1.8 megawatts of electricity, equivalent to powering 1000 homes per year.
That the new turbine will generate energy to make modern and low emission diesel engines for the masses - rather than old inefficient petrol V8s or small volume hybrids for the few - makes the whole enterprise more laudable still.
What's all this got to do with fleets? One of the key recommendations of part two of the highly influential King Review commissioned by the Government last year and published last month was to investigate moving the existing tailpipe CO2 emissions measurement - for tax purposes, parking permits and more - to one reflecting the lifecycle emissions of manufacture and disposal too.
In this future scenario a diesel 1.6 Ford Focus Econetic is bound to have a total lifecycle CO2 emissions rating of more than its current 115g/km tailpipe figure - but once wind turbine manufacturing has been factored in it should sit very pretty compared to rivals made in fossil fuel-powered conventional plants.
A few big propellers over one plant won't affect your fleet drivers' tax bills today, but longer term, they just might. Meantime, with corporate social responsibility questions increasingly coming up in tender pitches, Ford of Britain is bound to look good.
It might have jumped too early in launching 'flex-fuel' vehicles enabled to run on first generation biofuels almost no-one can get hold of and which - judging by many important recent reports - might do more global harm than good anyway, but Ford's wind-powered engine plant seems a genuine breath of fresh air.