leading ELECTRIC CARS: the charge
Right now the entire human race has car trouble. There are about a billion of them, they are polluting our atmosphere, and they are running out of affordable fuel.
Most serious commentators now agree that Peak Oil has either already happened or will happen in the next few years. This means oil will become increasingly costly and risky to extract, and the price of a tank of petrol or diesel is on a long-term upward spiral, making the electric alternative increasingly attractive.
We may have got used to seeing the occasional hybrid gliding along our roads, but there are currently only a handful of all-electric private vehicles cruising New Zealand’s streets. The newly formed Association for the Promotion of Electric Vehicles (APEV) of New Zealand is hoping to change that. Kick-started with cash from the chairman of APEV in Japan, the association is being hosted in the NZ Clean Energy Centre in Taupo.
Freshly appointed APEV executive director Rob McEwen said: “The benefits of electric vehicles are numerous, including reducing the almost $8 billion a year we send overseas to oil companies, reducing greenhouse gasses that contribute to global warming and increasing our energy security through the use of local renewable electricity.”
Nissan, Mitsubishi and General Motors all have mass-produced electric cars on the market, and all the other major manufacturers look set to follow suit within the next five years, including prestige names like BMW, Mercedes and Audi. APEV is working with the producers, as well as trade associations, parts manufacturers and suppliers. But they are also looking for opportunities for kiwi companies to get involved in this growing global market.
Currently the main thing stopping motorists from switching to electric is the cost. The Mitsubishi iMiEV four-door hatchback is currently priced at $60,000, more than double the price of its 1.5 litre petrol equivalent, and the same price as a new two-litre BMW.
McEwen says: “Preliminary studies show that the majority would be happy to drive an electric vehicle if we could make the numbers work. All other things being equal, if the iMiEV was the same price as its petrol brother, they would be flying off the shelves.” The major players are obviously aware of this, and are working to bring the price down. This includes proposals to lease the vehicle battery packs rather than selling them, both to reduce the initial spend and create opportunities for future upgrades.
As well as new cars, there is also a growing interest in converting conventional cars to electric power. Conversion guidelines are now in place, and certifiers are being trained to inspect work to ensure it meets an acceptable standard. The aim is to get conversion prices for existing cars to about $20,000, or about $10,000 if the battery system is leased.
In the past another hurdle was whether an electric car would be fast enough, but with a growing number of electric racing cars out there, and the mass-produced Tesla Roadster Sport clocking up 0 – 100 kph in 3.7 seconds those doubts have all but disappeared. Instead people fear running out of batteries before their drive is done.
But McEwen points out that about 90% of New Zealand’s cars in are driven less than 85km per day, which is well within the range of today’s electric vehicles. And with so many homes in New Zealand already equipped with powered up garages suitable for charging, he believes there is little now standing in the way of a motoring revolution.
Nissan, Mitsubishi and General Motors all have mass-produced electric cars on the market, and all the other major manufacturers look set to follow suit within the next five years.