Edi­tor’s desk

New Zealand Company Vehicle - - Contents - John Ox­ley

I’ve re­cently be­gun in­ves­ti­gat­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of hav­ing a so­lar en­ergy sys­tem in­stalled in my next home, and it’s in­ter­est­ing to see the re­ac­tion of some of the power com­pa­nies to this facet of “go­ing green”.

Quite frankly, it seems some of them pay only lip ser­vice to “buy­ing back” the power from home so­lar gen­er­a­tors, with the pos­si­bil­ity of “one-for- one” buy- backs be­ing com­pli­cated by for­mu­lae that re­duce the buy- back price to less than half what you pay when you’re buy­ing from the elec­tric­ity com­pany.

So what has this got to do with my com­pany fleet, you ask? Well apart from the ob­vi­ous one of “green­ing” the planet, and cut­ting down on costly power gen­er­a­tion, quite a lot, ac­tu­ally!

That’s be­cause I’ve just re­ceived a re­lease from Chrysler about re­search it’s been un­der­tak­ing with a fleet of Voyager people movers, de­signed to in­ves­ti­gate whether elec­tric car own­ers could sell the power they don’t use back to elec­tric­ity com­pa­nies.

The re­search is in­ves­ti­gat­ing us­ing fleets of elec­tric cars to store sur­plus elec­tric­ity that has been gen­er­ated dur­ing low de­mand pe­ri­ods, and then draw down on the re­serves dur­ing spikes in de­mand.

Own­ers would be paid for the use of their ve­hi­cles, and be able to ben­e­fit from sell­ing and buy­ing elec­tric­ity at the best prices. Chrysler says the whole process would be to­tally au­to­mated, and would mean that an EV would make its owner money when not in use, while al­ways en­sur­ing the ve­hi­cle had suf­fi­cient power to be ready for use.

In petrol or diesel car terms, it would be like car own­ers be­ing able to sell back fuel to petrol sta­tions when they are not us­ing the cars, sell­ing it when the petrol price was at its high­est, and buy­ing it back when it was at its low­est, al­low­ing petrol sta­tions to store their fuel in your car while they waited for other car own­ers to buy the fuel – all while pay­ing you for the ser­vice while your car sat in your garage or car park!

Among the sce­nar­ios un­der study is re­duced re­liance on “spin­ning re­serves” – the ex­pen­sive prac­tice of hav­ing huge gen­er­a­tors at the ready to bal­ance spikes in en­ergy de­mand.

If EVs were linked to­gether in suf­fi­cient num­bers, and their com­bined sur­plus power was sold to elec­tric­ity com­pa­nies, they could con­ceiv­ably off­set de­mand surges. The ex­pec­ta­tion is that tap­ping such a reser­voir would cut costs for power com­pa­nies, while also putting money into the pock­ets of EV own­ers.

Sim­i­larly, a mini-grid com­posed of EVs would en­able “peak-shav­ing,” which would see EV own­ers draw from their own power re­serves dur­ing those hours when de­mand for elec­tric­ity – along with its price – is high­est.

The project also con­sid­ers the im­pact of cloudy days on so­lar panel func­tion. EVs could pro­vide a ray of sun­shine in the form of sup­ple­men­tal power, a process known as “gen­er­a­tion-firm­ing.”

I like that last part – but for the rest, I’m afraid Chrysler’s project is go­ing to be still­born in New Zealand, sim­ply be­cause the power com­pa­nies, while they’ll no doubt pay lip ser­vice to it, won’t come to the party where it re­ally counts – by pay­ing fair prices for the elec­tric­ity they’re buy­ing from con­sumers.

Self- driv­ing cars

We were hav­ing a chat in the of­fice the other day, and I re­counted my ex­pe­ri­ence with the new Mercedes E- Class cars, and steer­ing as­sis­tance pro­gramme – the first step to­wards a car that steers it­self ( see page 18).

A cou­ple of com­pa­nies, no­tably Volvo and Honda, are get­ting close to pro­duc­ing ve­hi­cles that will be able to drive them­selves – or, rather, to fol­low line astern be­hind a “lead” ve­hi­cle, with­out you hav­ing to get in­volved.

And that led to the in­evitable, “Does that mean I’ll be able to let the car drive me home if I’ve had one too many to drink? ”

But quick as a flash he an­swered his own ques­tion, “I sup­pose I’ll still be in charge of the car, just as I would be if my daugh­ter was driv­ing me home on her learner’s.”

Com­mon sense pre­vailed.

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