What looks like an old horse-drawn carriage has appeared in the Science Museum, but looks are deceptive, for this was an exceptionally early electric car. This is the Bersey Electric Cab, but if you’ve never heard of it, don’t be surprised, as the company, set up in 1897, closed down just two years later.

This horseless carriage is the highlight of an exhibition looking at how society is transitioning to cleaner energy – both at the point of production but also where it’s consumed.

One of the more fascinating objects is a cutaway of a superconducting power cable—and that fist-sized size can carry the same amount of electricity that could be generated by two average nuclear power stations. Being able to move huge amounts of electricity over long distances will be increasingly necessary as we transition to renewable energy to manage the vagaries of the sun and wind.

There’s also one of the first rechargeable batteries — from around 1860 — and if only oil hadn’t been so easy to use, could the battery revolution have taken place a century earlier than it did?

Generating that electricity is looked at—from the walk-through fusion reactor to a parabolic mirror used in solar farms. Solar cells still fascinate me in the way I can remember my first ever solar-powered calculator and thinking how amazing it was that literally space-age technology used to power satellites was now in my hand.

Just enough to power a small calculator, and in a way, even more amazing because of its limitations. Today, that magical material is generating gigawatt hours of electricity all over the world.

Renewables aren’t reliable (yet), so some level of baseload backup will be needed to power our homes, and the exhibition doesn’t shy away from nuclear — and probably the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen – a cut-through of a waste canister.

These are the canisters that are filled in Sellafield and put into storage, and I’ve had the privilege of standing in the storage room where they’re housed. The heat is still very apparent, even through the concrete and rubber seals. The example on display is inert, but it’s something I’d never have expected to see.

Elsewhere, the exhibition looks at everything from low-carbon building materials to cargo bikes and biofuels.

The good thing is that it shows off the wide variety of tools available to reduce our use of fossil fuels, so that we can slow and eventually reverse climate change.

The tools exist and are being used, and the exhibition is an uplifting view of how we can achieve net zero. All we need to do now is build the future.

The Energy Revolution exhibition is open now as a permanent display in the Science Museum.

The only downside is that the exhibition is exceptionally difficult to find. Ignore instructions to go to the second floor, as the main stairs won’t take you there. Instead, on the ground floor, go to the back of the museum where the IMAX cinema is, then find the lifts and then go up to the second floor, as it’s in an isolated room away from the rest of the building, or use the back stairs to get up there.


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One comment
  1. Reaper says:

    Presumable it didnt have to pay the ULEZ charge to get there.

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