Saturday, 16 March 2013

Electric Cars: the big polluter ?

Electric vehicles have been around a long time while not going very a long way...that is to say at an economic production cost for end price we are looking at 100km range from a mid sized car (compact )

Of course the anti-environmentalists argue that emissions or net carbon are equally bad for el'auto because the power station network is dirty, and about to get dirtier ie less nuclear and possibly less private investment in wind farms and even abandonment of uneconomic ones as happens in the USA.
However of course there are several shibboleths and outright lies.

On the strategic side: without affordable, tried and tested technology we will never reduce personal transport emissions. Already in many countries el' cars are economic to buy and run compared to the same say golf or focus. However long term battery cost may be higher, service costs will be somewhat lower though. So the ball is rolling as an alternative and the public-manufacturer-legislative-tax equation can evolve. Meanwhile, power generation needs to be tackled on an EU wide basis to reduce net CO2 and other pollutants.

Firstly quoted fuel economies are now widely seen as 'factory fiddles:   which can bear shockingly little resemblance to actual fuel economy achieved. Also journey types and the average speed and importantly, idle time and acceleration are factors which help swing the pendulum to el' cars for town and medium commute. El' cars give out very much less carbon while stationary. Given a cold winter day though and you will soon need to find a plug at your office car park and already those freebie outlets are getting crowded. The solution is installation of twin phase, 430V charging which gives four times the kw per hour, thus making a 45 minute charge up while shopping or in the firms cellar while sharing a cable through the day with many other cars. It gives then a 3 hour charge which gives you roughly 40% of an average charge up for this new breed of cars currently  on sale. I dont see much of this remaining free unless tax advantages for firms are extended, but a 220-240V 15A charge for 8 hours can cost as little as 2 Euros for 100km of use.

Here in Norway now there is a clear and somewhat unfair advantage for pure el' over hybrid. El cars glide through the auto road tolls scott free and in some major towns can also scurry along the bus lanes! For a local journey of 90 km per day, with six toll station passes in total this means a saving of almost 30 euros per day!! With the government having slashed vehicle sales tax for pure el cars it makes them more affordable than compareable cars on a clean capital balance sheet! Whereas the hybrids pay the tolls still, which I think is ridiculous given that they are potentially better than petrol and are better in local emissions than diesel.

The solution I think is a mixture of hybrids which have a transponder "brick" which is linked to the vehicle power management and shows that the car is running on pure el' going through a toll. Free tolls then and lower ozone etc in towns. If you charge at home, you then get another economic benefit.

Soon though the type of hybrids we see now in numbers ( small to medium, light vehicles) will be replaced by pure el' cars because the type of journeys they do are on average under 60km per day and people will find that charging is cheaper than running the engine. Then the other larger and longer range family car will be a hybrid: perhaps like the new 4x4 volvo, with other benefits of el-drive. Another thing is the spread of car-clubs and swap leasing where you get temporary access to longer range internal combustion or maybe top end expensive el cars and vans when you need them. This is problematic for countries like Norway where holidays are taken at fast times through the year and are very car dependent.

Commuter car sharing of ownership for colleagues on the same route is already a fact of life here, with some of my colleagues buying a Mu together to shoosh in along those buslanes and care free through the three tolls each way: all at 25 kr return fair!