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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 24th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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The year of the EV?

12 July 2017

This year, like last year and next year, will be the year of the electric vehicle.

Yeah, right!

Hands up everyone who remembers "The Year of the LAN".

How about the year of the paperless office?

Maybe the year that Linux eclipsed MS Windows on the desktop?

Yeah... these are things that have been predicted but never actually happened -- at least not within the span of a single year.

But what about EVs... are we about to see the CO2-belching, dino-juice guzzling internal combustion engine replaced by the much quieter, cleaner and more efficient electric motor?

Yes we are.

However, just as in all the cases previously cited, it's not going to happen overnight, nor even during a single year.

However, I am picking that in some parts of the world, it will happen over the next decade or so.

Bookmark this page and call me a liar if, by 2027, more than half the vehicles on our commuter roads aren't electric.

Of course there are some huge hurdles to this evo/revolution in our transport fleet...

No, it's not EV technology, that's already reached the point where such vehicles are very practical and affordable for city-dwellers.

The real hurdles will be ones of infrastructure.

If half of Auckland's car-owners switched to EVs I expect that the overnight load on the electricity infrastructure would be catastrophic -- especially in mid-winter.

Although improvements in the efficiency of our electrical appliances, lighting and heating have meant that we have an over-supply of electricity generation in NZ right now, that surplus would become a huge peak deficit if 50% of Kiwis switched to EVs within the span of a few short years. What's more, with the vast majority of the power use for EVs occurring in Auckland itself, I'm not even sure that the grid would have sufficient capacity to bring that many gigawatt-hours up from the deep South.

Perhaps the only solution would be a nuclear plant on the outskirts of the city or tidal generation between the Waitemata and Manukau harbours or perhaps at the Kaipara harbour entrance. Without this big boost to available energy, the growth of the EV could pose massive problems for our largest city.

There are a few other problems that should also be kept in the back of people's minds, when it comes to EVs.

Hands up all those who remember the great Auckland power outage in the 1990s...

What would you do with your EV if such a thing was to happen again?

Due to their greater range and the fact that you can load up the boot with 20ltr containers filled with petrol, it would be easy enough to drive even a couple of hundred Km to fill your car if local refueling infrastructure failed. That's just not the case with an EV though. If the power is out for a 100Km radius you can't just fill the tank from a 20lt container in the garage and by the time you get back from your 200Km round-trip for a recharge, your battery is almost flat again.

If I was buying an EV I'd also have the roof of my garage covered with solar arrays that could also serve as a source of energy for charging. Then, in the event of a major power outage I'd at least be able to drive for a day or two per week -- perhaps every second day in mid-summer.

So yes, "The Year of the EV" is almost upon us. Now all we have to worry about is peak-lithium :-)

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