‘Record investment’ in low emission vehicles, but still paltry

The Government has announced more funding in support of the use of ‘low emission’ (mostly electric) vehicles, but it is still paltry amounts. It may be a bit more than lip service but it is hardly going to launch us into a transport revolution.

Energy and Resources Minister Megan Woods:  Record investment in low emissions vehicles announced

Low emission transport will receive a record boost totalling more than $11 million, Energy and Resources Minister Megan Woods announced today.

“Today I’m announcing the largest round of new funding from the Government’s Low Emission Vehicles Contestable Fund yet.

“Thirty one exciting new low emissions transport projects will share over $11 million of funding to help more Kiwis make use of new transport technology.

“This funding is made up of $4.3 million of government co-funding and $7.3 million of funds from the private sector. That’s a smart investment that means the maximum benefit for the taxpayers spend.

That’s $4.3 million of Government funding. It suggests that not a big priority is going alternative energy transport.

“This round of funding focuses on innovative projects that expand the use and possibilities of electric vehicles and other low emissions technology in the transport space. It’s about making new technology available to help Kiwis get around, lower our carbon emissions and contribute to our economy.

“From 100% electric campervans for tourists to hydrogen fuel cell powered buses at the Ports of Auckland to solar panel charged electric vehicles and trial of smart chargers in people’s homes, we’re backing new technologies that will make a difference.

“We’re also funding a further 34 new public charging spaces for electric vehicles right around New Zealand, including several at South Island tourism hot-spots. This is about creating a truly national infrastructure of EV charging so that all major trips around our country are available to EV users.

34 charging stations around the country is not a big boost – and it doesn’t solve all the problems of using EVs. A small increase in the number of charging stations will help a bit, but they are still few and scattered, and the range of EVs and the time required to charge them are still significant negatives.

“This is by far the biggest round of new projects delivered by the Fund. Each previous round has given the green light to between 14 and 18 projects. In total, the fund has committed $17.2 million in government funding to 93 projects. This is matched by over $45 million applicant funding.

Trying to talk up an underwhelming investment.

“Transport is responsible for about 18% of New Zealand’s total greenhouse gas emissions, so one of the most effective ways for us to help tackle climate change is to transition our fossil-fuelled transport fleet to run on clean, renewable energy sources. By helping to roll out that technology to more people than ever, today’s announcement helps more Kiwis cut their transport emissions.

It will help a small number of Kiwis charge their vehicles.

The 31 projects are listed, ranging from tens of thousands to a few hundred thousand dollars. It is hardly going to encourage people to invest more in electric vehicles.

But I guess it’s something.

For more information about the fund, visit www.eeca.govt.nz/funding-and-support/low-emission-vehicles-contestable-fund/

For general information about EVs, see www.electricvehicles.govt.nz

 

Huge investment in electric vehicles and batteries

World investment in electric vehicle and related battery technology looks set to surge, with Germany’s Volkswagen prominent, and nearly have the overall investment targeting the Chinese market.

A Reuters analysis of 29 global automakers found that they are investing at least $300 billion in electric vehicles, with more than 45 percent of that earmarked for China.

Global automakers are planning an unprecedented level of spending to develop and procure batteries and electric vehicles over the next five to 10 years, with a significant portion of their budgets targeted at China, according to a Reuters analysis of public data released by those companies.

Automakers’ plans to spend at least $300 billion on EVs are driven largely by environmental concerns and government policy, and supported by rapid technological advances that have improved battery cost, range and charging time. The accelerated rate of industry spending — much of it led by Germany’s Volkswagen — is greater than the economies of Egypt or Chile.

 

A significant portion of the global industry’s planned EV investment and procurement budget — more than $135 billion — will be spent in China, which is heavily promoting the production and sale of electric vehicles through a system of government-mandated quotas, credits and incentives. As a result, EV spending by major Chinese automakers from SAIC to Great Wall Motors could be matched or even exceeded by multinational joint-venture partners such Volkswagen, Daimler and General Motors.

The Reuters analysis details the EV investment plans of major manufacturers.

A lot of technology has already been developed for full electric and hybrid vehicles, but battery technology is still holding back the market, with vehicle range and recharging times still a deterrence, as well as the cost of EVs (although hybrids are now competitively priced, with Toyota Corolla hybrids similarly priced to standard models).

EE Times: The Race for a Better EV Battery

The race to dominate the electric car market hinges as much on battery technology and improved recharging infrastructure as it does on sticker price, software updates, and styling. Which is why Chinese companies are investing massive sums in matching and surpassing Tesla’s industry-leading battery technology and manufacturing capacity.

Nearly all of that capacity is focused on lithium-ion technology, but other approaches are emerging that promise to change the battery technology landscape to extend the range of electric vehicles. Increasing driving range to, say, the equivalent of a tank of gas could provide the inflection point that at last accelerates electric drivetrains past the internal combustion engine.

Aluminum- and zinc-air batteries
As new battery technologies emerge, new wireless schemes are also being demonstrated that could make recharging electric vehicle batteries as fast as filling a gas tank.

With lithium-ion battery technology perhaps approaching its own Moore’s Law ceiling, researchers are branching out to pursue technologies like aluminum- and zinc-air batteries that are just now entering the market. The key to those emerging technologies is boosting recharging capability while demonstrating the ability to lower energy storage cost to the baseline of roughly $100 per kilowatt-hour.

By some estimates, zinc-air batteries could hit the electric car market by as early as 2019 and eventually could be cheaper, lighter, and safer than lithium-ion.

Meanwhile, Tesla continues to ramp up lithium-ion battery production at its Gigafactory in Nevada and a planned battery factory in China — Tesla and battery partner Panasonic claim about 60% of global electric vehicle battery output.

A range of battery technologies are discussed in Future batteries, coming soon: Charge in seconds, last months and power over the air

The range of EVs, the recharging times and the availability of fast charge stations all need to improve before electric vehicles take over the car market. Up front cost of EVs is also a deterrence, as is the the cost of replacement batteries.

But all of this looks like changing quite rapidly if the large investments pay off.

This will raise another issue – where is all the electric power going to come from?

EV’s are still expensive and novelties in New Zealand. Drive Electric details makes and models available here, as well as costs. It includes plug in hybrids (which are also quite expensive).

There are just 10,000 electric vehicles on the road in New Zealand, just 0.25% of the total number of vehicles – see Increase in electric vehicle numbers, fleet still tiny.

 

Increase in electric vehicle numbers, fleet still tiny

The Government has significantly increased the number of electric vehicles in it’s fleet.

NZ Herald:  Just how green is the ministerial car fleet?

The Government has confirmed it intends to transition its full fleet, including the 32 BMW 7-series vehicles, to emissions-free vehicles by 2026.

In total, 29 per cent of all ministerial vehicles – including Crown and self-drive cars are electric vehicles (EVs). That’s up from 2 per cent this time last year.

A major increase, with plans to continue converting the fleet to EVs.

The complete Crown fleet is made up of 72 vehicles, both owned and leased.

But a tiny fleet.

EVs aren’t viable for everyone yet. The up front cost will put many people off, with few fully battery powered vehicles and chargeable hybrids costing from about $50 thousand. With reduced energy costs the life time cost may be lower, and the Government can ‘afford’ to invest up front, but many people will be reluctant to do this.

This comes not long after the number of electric vehicles (EVs) on New Zealand’s roads passed 10,000 – that’s up from just 210 five years ago.

Although that’s a dramatic increase, it makes up just 0.25 per cent of New Zealand’s total vehicle fleet.

A tiny fraction of cars on the road.

Apart from around town driving there are other drawbacks. One major one is the limited range of EVs – it is improving, but still well behind the range of a car on a tank of petrol.

There is also only a small number of charging stations around the country.

And even if you can find a charging station on a trip you have to wait until the car is recharged. This takes much longer than pumping petrol.

One option without the limitations are hybrid EVs that use a petrol engine supplemented by battery power. These are much more competitively priced – new Toyota Corolla hybrids cost much the same as conventional Corollas. But they only reduce fuel use by up to a third, a significant saving making these economically attractive, but only a partial solution in reducing fossil fuel use.

Another issue I haven’t seen addressed – if there was a major shift to EVs, where would the power come from to charge them? Most of our current power supply is renewable, mainly hydro, with some wind.  A big increase in wind generation would create continuity of supply problems because of weather variability. Wind power can only supplement on demand power sources.

The Government is setting a good example switching to EVs, but they would do much better if they came up with a plan for how to fuel the inevitable increase in EV use.