EVal­u­a­tion

Hen­rik Moller is a re­tired sus­tain­abil­ity sci­en­tist from Dunedin who takes an un­bi­ased look at what’s hap­pen­ing in the world of elec­tric ve­hi­cles – EVs. Here’s his first col­umn for

Motor Equipment News - - CONTENTS - Mo­torEquip­men­tNews.

Elec­tric Ve­hi­cles (EVs) are on the rise in New Zealand: but are they re­ally bet­ter for your purse, peo­ple and the planet? Will they rev­o­lu­tionise mo­bil­ity? Could they even drive many re­pair, ser­vice and parts providers out of busi­ness? A group of “ci­ti­zen sci­en­tists” have clubbed together in an or­gan­i­sa­tion called ‘Flip the Fleet’ to pool data from their EVs each month. They pledge to put their cars to ob­jec­tive test and an­swer some of th­ese more un­set­tling ques­tions.

Techies recog­nise a “Gart­ner Hype Cy­cle” around new breakthroughs such as EVs. Ex­cite­ment builds around proud “early adopters”, of­ten lead­ing to un­re­al­is­tic ex­pec­ta­tions at first. This in­evitably in­vites dis­il­lu­sion­ment or mis­trust. Prod­uct im­prove­ment (such as bet­ter bat­ter­ies for EVs) and in­vest­ment in as­so­ci­ated in­fra­struc­ture (such as more rapid charg­ers along our high­ways) brings more sus­tained up­take of the new tech, with less hype.

In­formed choice and adap­ta­tion even­tu­ally ush­ers in a new and bet­ter world. If EVs de­liver even some of their prom­ise, we will all ben­e­fit from low cost and more en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly mo­tor­ing. They will also need on­go­ing sup­port of ded­i­cated mo­tor equip­ment re­pairs and ser­vice providers to keep ev­ery­one safe and connected with each other. mean­ing “EVan­ge­lists” will deepen dis­il­lu­sion­ment. This plays into the hands of vested in­ter­ests who spout mis­in­for­ma­tion to block the break­through be­cause they are prof­it­ing from busi­ness as usual.

The ab­sence of re­li­able in­for­ma­tion and the new­ness of the prod­uct leave a vacuum for peo­ple to be­lieve what­ever they want to be­lieve. This makes it more likely that we ei­ther miss out on the op­por­tu­ni­ties, or get burnt by adopt­ing too early. Well in­formed and open-minded me­chan­ics, ser­vice providers and au­to­mo­tive deal­ers are im­por­tant ex­perts to guide us through this wave and make sure we get the best choices for New Zealan­ders as quickly as pos­si­ble.

Flip the Fleet is ded­i­cated to sci­en­tific anal­y­sis of lo­cally sourced data from an­other im­por­tant group of ex­perts – that’s the early adopters who are al­ready driv­ing EVs. Own­ers of more than 1,000 EVs have signed up to upload data read from their EV dash­boards or scan tools each month. They hooked up to EVs for dif­fer­ent rea­sons, and they don’t like be­ing pi­geon­holed – one owner told us that the first thing he did when he got his Leaf was to re­move the “Zero Emis­sions” badges be­cause “No-one was go­ing to call me a gree­nie”!

Flip the Fleet is a vol­un­tary project run by Dima Ivanov, a busi­ness bench­mark­ing spe­cial­ist, statis­ti­cian Daniel Myall,and me, a sus­tain­abil­ity sci­en­tist. All three of us love our Nis­san Leafs but we are the first to ad­mit that cur­rent EVs won’t meet ev­ery­one’s needs.

Two of us bought our Leafs to save money, the other mainly to com­bat cli­mate change. We will ex­plore the ben­e­fits and lim­i­ta­tions of EVs in New Zealand in Mo­torEquip­men­tNews over com­ing months. We’ll cover bat­tery care and re­place­ment, gen­eral re­pairs and main­te­nance costs, emis­sion re­duc­tions, fuel use, EVs to be avoided, and snip­pets of so­cial re­search done along­side EV mon­i­tor­ing to ex­plore how own­ers feel about their cars – for ex­am­ple, how does charg­ing at home com­pared to vis­it­ing a petrol sta­tion fit into their weekly rhythms?

Some of the chal­lenges we ex­plore with EV own­ers are not much dif­fer­ent from those faced by own­ers of com­bus­tion ve­hi­cles – but of­ten there is a lit­tle twist for those who have switched to elec­tric. For ex­am­ple, last month we asked the Flip the Fleet mem­bers how of­ten they check their tyre pres­sures. Only about a third (36 per­cent) check them at least once a month (the best prac­tice rec­om­men­da­tion), most (48 per­cent) do it a cou­ple of times a year, and six per­cent never check them – they rely on their me­chanic dur­ing ser­vic­ing or wait for the ‘Tyre Pres­sure Man­age­ment Sys­tem’ to flash a warn­ing on their dash (th­ese trig­ger at crit­i­cally low pres­sure, way be­low the rec­om­mended pres­sure).

Tyres gen­er­ally lose 1-2 psi per month, so most EV driv­ers are com­pro­mis­ing their safety and en­ergy ef­fi­ciency by run­ning on un­der­in­flated tyres. If you think that’s bad, what about the con­ven­tional ve­hi­cle own­ers?

Many EV own­ers check their tyres more fre­quently than when they owned a com­bus­tion ve­hi­cle, mainly be­cause they want to max­imise range on a full bat­tery (part of range anx­i­ety). So com­bus­tion ve­hi­cles prob­a­bly have even flat­ter tyres than EVs. Clearly, we all have a job to do to get all car own­ers to pump up to keep safe, make their tyres last longer and waste less en­ergy. This is im­por­tant whether our fuel of choice is petrol, diesel or elec­tric­ity.

Hen­rik Moller is a re­tired sus­tain­abil­ity sci­en­tist from Dunedin and co-founder of Flip The Fleet. More in­for­ma­tion on EVs is avail­able on dis­cus­sion and re­sources pages of www.flipthe­fleet.org. Queries can be emailed to we­can@flipthe­fleet.org.

Stake­hold­ers on both sides can make the new tech roller coaster ride worse. Ex­ag­ger­a­tions by well-

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