Electric vehicles Will we ever see them in any great numbers on our roads?
I’d have to say that my own attempts to convert my Zephyr to run on electricity alone proved to be a dismal failure — for a number of reasons. Finding a powerful-enough electric motor was the first challenge. Even fitting a 0.2kw (ex washing machine) to each wheel didn’t provide the power necessary to do the all-important wheelies (read: ‘sustained loss of traction’) at boy-racer events. Another problem was finding an electrical retailer that could supply several kilometres of three-core flex for the extension cord, not to mention the school kids walking past my gate and tripping over the cord and thereby pulling the plug out of the socket in my garage. As well, with the continental kit on the back of the convertible preventing the fitting of a tow bar for the trailer (to hold the huge coil of cable), the cable roll went onto the back seat, which caused the seat back to catch fire, thanks to the friction as it unravelled.
Batteries were the final straw. It was obvious that some 600 of the 1.5-volt torch batteries were never going to be a successful power source, hence the trials with extension cords, so I abandoned the exercise in the development stages.
I’m jesting of course! In any event, a classic car powered by an electric motor of any kind will never sound as good as a petrol motor with a decent exhaust system. However, I’m following the progress of electric cars with some interest, and, as some readers will recall, I have written about them previously. Here’s an update.
Seriously, and contrary to my previous predictions, electric cars do seem to be taking off (figuratively speaking), with Tesla (US) seemingly the leading manufacturer, and, to be honest, its promotional models look quite good. However, it would appear that its sales predictions have fallen rather short of what they need to be to ensure profitability.
Tesla reportedly continues to dominate when it comes to long-range electric vehicles (EVS). But that may not be the case for long. A slew of automakers have plans to roll out EVS with a range of 320km or more by 2020, and many of these upcoming vehicles are high-end luxury cars, making them direct competitors with Tesla’s Model S.
By way of example, Porsche’s fully electric car will be on the road before the end of the decade. Porsche confirmed, in December 2015, that it would invest some $1.09 billion in new facilities to begin production of its first all-electric car. It will be based on a concept Porsche revealed last September, dubbed the ‘Mission E’.
Like the concept car, the production vehicle is expected to have a range of about 500km per charge and will be capable of charging to about 80 per cent in just 15 minutes. However, it’s worth noting that the range is probably based on European testing and not EPA standards, so it might be closer to around 390km. In addition to the long range and quick charging time, the car will be capable of going from zero to 96.5kph in just 3.5 seconds.
Audi will begin production of its fully electric SUV by 2018. It confirmed, in January 2016, that it plans to begin production of its first all-electric SUV at its Brussels plant in 2018. The new vehicle will be heavily inspired by the company’s e-tron Quattro concept, which the company originally unveiled at the International Motor Show in Frankfurt in September 2015. Its new SUV will have three motors, a range of 500km on a single charge, and quick-charging capabilities, the company also confirmed in January. The name of the new car has not been officially announced, but it is rumoured to be called the ‘Q6’.
Volvo’s first fully electric car will arrive in 2019. Volvo aims to sell 1 million electrified vehicles by 2025 and plans to bring its first fully electric car to market by 2019. The company has not yet shared range details for its EV, and it hasn’t said which of its vehicles will be the first to go fully electric.
The major problem that I see is the cost of a new electric car. For example, Telsa’s Model X has a tentative price of $150K–$200K! I can’t envisage a great take-up of these for, for instance, government-department fleet vehicles. At today’s prices, a forward-thinking employer could buy three Ford Mustangs (yeah!) with the same amount of money — and they’d sound heaps better going past! For the more budget conscious, Nissan’s Leaf model has sold out in New Zealand and wannabe purchasers will need to import theirs at an approximate cost of $20K–$45K.
Another important issue is where the battery can be charged. With projected driving ranges between 100km and approximately 400km, going for a cruise in the more limitedrange EVS will be much like when I had a Harley-davidson with what was known as a ‘peanut’ tank. With a range of just 80km before having to switch to reserve, and then around no more than 18km left before spluttering to a halt, cruises were limited to those between petrol stations! And that was ensuring that you set off on the cruise with a full tank.
According to figures I have obtained (and assuming that the internet site is accurate), there are approximately 500 or so plug-in electric cars in New Zealand as at April 2016, although another site claims that, at the end of 2015, there were some 695. Maybe some of them have short-circuited?
Z Energy (formerly Shell) maintains that overseas trends show that most EV owners want to be able quickly top up their battery’s charge at any opportunity. The first public rapid-charging station in New Zealand opened in Whangarei in 2014. Apparently, as of July 2016, Z Energy and charge.net.nz are installing Tritium Veefil rapid-charging stations at sites in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch. These rapid chargers deliver up to 50kw of DC power directly into an EV’S battery and can top up an entry-level EV, like a Nissan Leaf, in the time it takes to buy and drink a cup of coffee. If your EV is running on empty, a fill-up will only cost between $5 and $10 and will give you another 120km of range (the distance you can drive before you’ll need to top up). Given the average Kiwi commute in urban centres only clocks in at 22km per day, this more than covers most needs. Which means that ‘off-roading’ in an EV is not an option at this time, and heading into the wilds of Central Otago is off the table as well — which will be good news for Search and Rescue, I reckon!
On the upside, apparently there was a thought that, at least in Auckland, EVS would be allowed to use the bus lanes — presumably as some sort of incentive to make you want to own one. But then, given that some of the EVS don’t look too dissimilar to your average Toyotas, Nissans, and Mazdas of the same era, any fool can glue an EV badge on the back of their petrol or diesel car and probably get away with it. In fact, I’m going to make some EV badges for the Zephyrs, just in case!
So, will we see a significant rise in the number of EVS on the road? Until every petrol station has a topping-up charging facility, and having regards to the prices of the half-decent models, probably not in the foreseeable future — unless you only intend to drive close to home.
In the meantime, drive safely out there — and try not to have any ‘shocking’ experiences!