‘We need to use more renewable energy to cut C02 emissions’ Electric era has new set of issues
ELECTRIC vehicles are a new phenomenon raising a host of issues we have not had to confront with conventional cars.
These include recharging infrastructure, the ability of the electricity grid to cope, the cost of running and maintaining the vehicle and the environmental impact.
To help convey the whole-of-life impact of EVs on the community, Mitsubishi Motors Australia has invited Dr Peter Pudney along to its national briefing roadshow for the introduction of their i-MiEV.
Dr Pudney is senior research fellow in applied mathematics at the University of South Australia and has researched the impact of EVs on CO2 emissions and the electricity grid.
Dr Pudney drives a Peugeot 206, supports the introduction of EVs for environmental reasons and believes the electricity grid can cope with the demands of charging the vehicles.
He says EVs at present have a range of about 100-200km but believes this is more than enough for most urban motorists.
His research shows that in Adelaide, 98 per cent of all daily travel is less than 100km and these trips represent 92 per cent of the daily distance covered.
In Sydney, 87 per cent of trips are less than 100km, representing 59 per cent of the daily distance travelled.
‘‘Some people will regularly drive more than 100km and some will hardly ever drive 100km,’’ he says.
‘‘Most households have more than one car. ‘‘One of those cars could be an EV.’’ Dr Pudney says a shift to EVs using current available power would not significantly reduce CO2 until more use was made of renewable energy.
Under current electricity generation output, each state produces a different level of CO2 emissions per kilowatt/hour.
According to the Department of Climate Change, Tasmania, with its high level of hydroelectric generation, has a low level of 0.24g of CO2 per kW/h. The highest is Victoria at 1.35g/kW/h.
Others are: Northern Territory 0.79, South Australia 0.92, Western Australia 0.94, Queensland 1.01 and NSW and ACT 1.07.
Dr Pudney says that EVs would produce different levels of CO2 depending on their state.
The highest level would be in Victoria (120-270g/km), followed by NSW (130-220), Queensland (125/210), WA (120-190), SA (120-180), NT (100-160) and Tasmania (25-45).
This compares with the new car average of about 235g/km and the best petrol car of about 110g/km.
‘‘The message is don’t abandon clean cars; abandon dirty energy,’’ Dr Pudney says.
He believes the current national electricity grid could cope even if all urban vehicles became EVs, so long as recharging was done at low demand times.
‘‘The electricity industry has struggled to cope with the demand from the explosion in our community of airconditioning units and now it is faced with the coming EV revolution,’’ he says.
‘‘We have the peakiest energy demand in the world.
‘‘Power demand drops dramatically overnight, so we would need to charge EVs at night.
‘‘All state electricity grids could cope at low peak times as they have the spare capacity.
‘‘However, we would have to generate 11 per cent more electricity to cope.’’
Dr Pudney says the answer
is ‘‘smart-charging’’ systems that calculate how much power to supply and when to charge.
‘‘It could be as simple as a timer switch,’’ he says.
‘‘Electricity generating companies can now remotely switch on and off our hot water systems, so why not our EV charging outlets?’’
Mitsubishi Motors Australia corporate affairs vice-president Paul Stevenson says he doesn’t believe recharging infrastructure will be a hurdle to the introduction of EVs.
‘‘We have grown used to plugging in our mobile phones at the end of each day,’’ he says.
‘‘EVs will be the same. Fleets might want to have a fast charger at their site to top up vehicles during the day, but it’s not critical for home use.
‘‘The need for a public recharging infrastructure will reduce as battery technology improves.’’
Dr Pudney says the cost of running an EV would be about 4-6¢/km, which is no more expensive than running the most frugal of petrol cars and substantially less than the average cost of running a new car, which is about 11¢/km.
Stevenson says servicing costs also will be minimal, although they haven’t produced a servicing schedule for the i-MiEV yet. ‘‘They don’t require all that much; no oil, no tune up, no oil filter,’’ he says.
‘‘Brakes and airconditioning are the main servicing areas.
‘‘Because it runs at less than 330V it doesn’t need to be serviced by an electrician.’’
CLEAN CARS: Dr Peter Pudney, of the University of South Australia, is researching the effect of electric vehicles on the community.