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Former hippy speeds into new energy age

By Ayesha Durgahee and Matthew Knight, CNN
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Wind powers new energy age
  • Dale Vince says his Nemesis electric car is the first to be fueled by wind power
  • A former traveler, Vince set up UK clean energy company Ecotricity in 1995
  • Company now has 52 wind turbines in operation powering 50,000 customers in the UK

(CNN) -- It looks flash, goes faster than a V12 Ferrari, but this is no ordinary gas-guzzling sports car says its creator, Dale Vince.

Nearly two years in the making at a cost of around $1.6 million, the Nemesis is an electric car powered by wind energy.

That's a lot of time and money to invest in one car but Vince, CEO of UK clean energy company Ecotricity, thinks it's all worthwhile if it helps raise awareness of alternative energy.

"We call our car a wind-powered car because we think it's important not to lose sight in the debate. We all need to switch to electric vehicles, but that energy has to come from somewhere," Vince said.

Borrowing the chassis of a Lotus Exige, the Nemesis is powered by two 125 kilowatt motors which produce 330 brake horsepower. The lithium polymer battery can be recharged in less than two hours and will run for 100-150 miles before it runs out.

UK drivers alone clock up 150 billion miles every year, Vince says, burning 25 million tons of oil in the process.

I just wanted to make big windmills. I used to simply sit around at night and say, why don't they build windmills to make electricity?
--Dale Vince, CEO Ecotricity

"If we all had electric cars we could do that with 10,000 of today's windmills or 5,000 of tomorrows because they double in size every few years," he said.

Vince hasn't stopped at cars. An electric tractor is in development and he entered an electric bike at this year's Isle of Man TT Zero Race.

"Motor sport generally is a place of drama and excitement and if we can demonstrate green technologies there, we can show that actually living a more sustainable life isn't about giving something up you can still have fun but we can just do it cleanly," he said.

Vince's passion for renewable energy dates back to 1991, when he was traveling around in a clapped-out bus and living in a trailer pursuing what he describes as "an alternative way of life."

Back then he was unemployed. Today, he employs nearly 200 staff and provides clean power for over 50,000 UK customers.

His transformation from traveler to green tycoon started on a hill outside the town of Stroud in Gloucestershire where he built his first windmill to power his trailer.

He did everything himself from digging the foundation hole to fighting protracted battles with power grid companies and planners. The experience, he says, served as a blueprint for what became Ecotricity, which eventually launched in 1995.

Sixteen years on, Vince operates 52 turbines at locations all over the UK, with dozens more being built or in the pipeline.

Vince never doubted that the company would be a success, but the scale of it has surprised him.

When he started out he hadn't thought that he would be supplying other people with their electricity.

"I just wanted to make big windmills. I used to simply sit around at night and say, why don't they build windmills to make electricity?" he said.

"And it dawned on me, who are 'they?' Why not me, why don't I do it? So I did."