2010 EV Festival

This years Australian EV Festival was held in Adelaide. Friday was a conference day, with a speakers from Universities, wind power and charge point companies, car companies, state government, and EV drivers. Many, many really smart people. Lots of great ideas. I talk about some of them below.

The photos are from Saturday, where there was a public display of home converted and commercial EVs. This photo is Rosemary talking about our EV to Michael Harbison, the Lord Mayor of Adelaide, who is quite keen on Electric Vehicles:

Peak Oil is Main Stream

I was surprised at how many speakers cited Peak Oil. This is a big change from a few years ago. For example Tom Kenyon MP had the opinion that EV take-up will occur due to sky-rocketing oil prices over the coming decade, due to world wide economic recovery and diminishing oil supplies. Environmental reasons, though important, just don’t motivate the same way the price of petrol does.

Range Anxiety

I heard the term “range anxiety” for the first time from Peter Pudney. This is a great term – describes the main concern the general public has when thinking about EVs. It evaporates after you drive an EV for a few days. I don’t even know what the range of our EV is, we just drive wherever we want each day and plug it in each night.

It’s like a threshold, once your EV has enough range for the sum of your daily trips, range is a non-issue. This depends on your city and your commute. Peter presented some great graphs on this. For Adelaide (1.2M people), 92% of people have a total daily drive of less than 100km. This is the range of todays average Lithium powered EV.

I guess 100 years ago early ICE drivers had similar anxiety over finding gasoline stations.

Charging Points – Do We Need Them?

Charge Point Australia had a interesting talk about their very high tech charging points (charging bollards). They even use mesh networking to connect their smart charging bollards, have a network management system, billing system etc. Reminds me of the technology used in the Village Telco and Flusko projects.

Anyway the idea behind smart charge points is that I can use GPS and my smart phone to direct me to a vacant charge point so I can recharge my thirsty EV while I shop for a few hours. The electricity then gets billed to me, and I get all sorts of stats on economy, a map of where I have charged etc.

Only, it’s not a problem that I need solved, at least for day-day driving. I am a real-world EV driver, with a modest EV, living in a medium size city, and I don’t need to charge during the day. Charge points might be useful for short country trips, but we only make these a few times a year.

See the 92% figure from Peter Pudney above – most people won’t drive far enough to need a charge point. Now for larger cities in todays Gen 1, 100km range EVs I can see some need for charge points. However the 200km EV (possible today, likely tomorrow) will make public charging even less common.

Actually I have a bigger problem with the notion of charge points. There is a myth that we “need” charging infrastructure before large scale EV adoption can happen. It’s just not true, and this myth works against EV adoption. It’s EV-FUD based on range anxiety. Even in the largest cities vast chunks of the population drive less than 100km/day.

Honestly, our experience is that the “problem” of charging is largely solved by the humble General Purpose Outlet (GPO). I have about 30 in my house.

Fast Charge

There were some interesting ideas around fast charging (20 minutes or so) stations. They could look like regular gas stations, and people could buy a coffee or check their email while they wait. A big problem is where to find the huge amounts of electricity needed to fast charge each car – e.g. 50kW per EV, or 500kW for 10 cars. This sort of power could be a show stopper. It’s the average power drawn by 500 houses. It means rewiring a city and dealing with massive peak loads.

If you want this technology for long distance EV driving, then you need huge amounts of power available in the between cities. Right where the power is not available at the moment. That’s a lot of expensive infrastructure.

To me, this sort of thinking is an attempt to map Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) thinking to EVs. We currently use gas stations, so we must continue to use gas stations. We can currently “charge” quickly with fossil fuels, so we must continue to “charge” quickly.

I bet none of these guys actually drive an EV. We just plug our EV in at night like a mobile phone. It takes 5 seconds to plug in and walk away. Would you take your mobile phone to a special place and wait 20 minutes just to have a fast charge? No, neither would I. Do you like going to gas stations? No, neither do I. It’s so much nicer to refuel your car at home.

Refuelling an EV is already a better experience than refuelling an ICE vehicle.

Supply of EVs is the Problem

There is a lot of demand for EVs that people can buy and drive away. Several presenters pointed out that supply of EVs, not demand, is the problem. So where are the EVs?

Mitusbushi have done a great job by having a number (112) MIEVs on the road here in Australia, most of them have been leased to governments for trials. However the price ($60,000 for a 3 year lease plus, I presume, a residual) is very expensive, over 3 times what a equivalent internal combustion car would cost.

As several people pointed out, it’s cheaper to buy a new internal combustion car, through away the CO2 generator, and convert it to an electric car with equivalent performance. When asked about the price, the expense of the battery pack was mentioned. However I can (and did) buy an equivalent battery pack for $6,000. In quantity 1.

The University of Western Australia presenter described just how disruptive this technology is. The Australian government gets $15B from fuel tax – and we have some of the lowest fuel taxes in the world. Car dealerships depend on servicing income, which evaporates with EVs that require near-zero servicing. So you can see why big car companies would be in no rush to deploy EVs.

As other EVs come to the market, I think competition will fix the price issue. There are many new EVs planned for release over the next few years. I figure with steady competition, the $15,000 EV is coming.

Thanks

A big thanks to the people who helped put on the EV Festival – especially Eric Rodda who I know worked very hard for this event. Here is an under the bonnet photo of Eric’s very nice EV conversion, which he recently completed:

Some University students built this novel, self balancing EV:

David Sharpe drove his EV to Adelaide from interstate. He has 3 Zivan chargers for fast charging and an auxillary generator for emergencies. He typically drives for 1-2 hours, then charges for one hour. A novel, relaxed way of travelling long distances.

5 thoughts on “2010 EV Festival”

  1. Hi,
    I am actually quite interested in finding more out about the Univerity Contraption you showed a picture, do you have any ideas on where there woudl be more information?

    Ian

  2. I can see a Village EV now, a mesh network of EV-to-EV fast charge for people to share their excess charge on the go (for the dills that run their EV flat or for those needing interstate travel). Just plug into the nearest EV (with a magnetic plug or wirelessly on the go with RF coils).

    South Korea just invested heavily in superconductors for infrastructure. ABC radio had the solar roadways man on recently.

  3. I agree with your thoughts on charging points for people that live in cities, and use their car just for day-to-day commuting and running around. Most people wouldn’t need the charging stations most of the time, so the current “once a week petrol station visit” business model no longer applies.

    But do you have any ideas for what people could do if they want/need to travel further? Without some workable solution, people are going to resist on this point.

    Sure, we don’t go outside our commute range all that often, but we DO need to do it on occasion. It’s like towbars – I don’t tow all that often, but I need the ability to do so occasionally so I need at least one car in the family that can tow.

    Most households with more than one car should be able to replace one of them with an EV without restricting their current usage patterns. But most families won’t be able to go all-EV until there is a practical solution to the range problem available.

  4. Hi Darren,

    We have a petrol car we use for the occasional longer trip. This is non ideal, as it sits around most of the time, but as it’s not driven much the maintenance and fuel costs are low. In our case, it costs us less to run (insure, register, maintain, fuel) two cars (an EV plus petrol car) than it did to run just the petrol car a few years ago.

    Rather than having two cars (one petrol, one electric) another possibility is fractional ownership of a petrol car (share with other family members), or rental of petrol cars for long distance.

    I can see another possibility where today’s needs and wants are re-aligned. Today’s car driving habits are based on cheap fossil fuels. But other scenarios might suddenly make an EV very attractive, like $5/litre petrol. Faced with the possibility of not being able to afford driving at all, the “but I need to drive to Melbourne” argument will seem less compelling.

    – David

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