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When Tesla first brought out its Lotus Elise-based Roadster EV back in 2008 I have to admit that I was openly skeptical.
Sure it was fast but it was also expensive, had limited range and was hardly a practical option for most folks. In fact I did a video way back then saying that I didn't think it was a viable product and that practical EVs were still a way off.
Was I right?
Well in some ways I was because it's now 13 years later and we're only now seeing practical, (almost) affordable EVs coming to market. However, I must concede that I expected it to take much longer than it has.
The reality is that the transition to EVs is now happening much faster than I and a lot of other people expected.
Did you know, for example, that in September, the Tesla Model 3 was the second most popular new car in New Zealand, based on new-vehicle registrations?
It might surprise you even more to learn that it was the number-one selling new car in the UK last month.
Holy crap, that's impressive!
Okay, perhaps we should temper our awe and astonishment just a little by remembering that there is a global chip shortage and Tesla seems to have been smart enough to remain relatively unaffected by this -- whilst many other auto-makers have been crippled by it. You can't buy what isn't for sale can you?
I'm pretty sure that recent petrol shortages in the UK may have caused some panic-buying of EVs towards the end of last month, bumping the sales figures up just a little.
Regardless of these factors however, it is now obvious that people are not walking but running to get into EVs as their next new car purchase and that's going to change our world quite significantly over the coming years.
The first and most obvious change will be a reduction in our reliance on imported transport fuels. That's good for the balance of payments -- except that new EVs tend to be more than new fossil-fueled vehicles so there will be an offsetting element to that differential.
Secondly, there will be a growing burden on our electricity generation and reticulation network, something that I've covered in previous columns.
Thirdly, we could start to see jobs lost in the automotive servicing and repair industries due to the fact that EVs should be more reliable and require less preventative maintenance than their fossil-fueled equivalents.
And the changes don't stop there... I can think of a myriad of other ways that the shift to EVs will change our world.
Lower pollution levels, perhaps more pedestrian injuries/deaths due to the silent nature of EVs, more wear and tear on our roads due to the greater weight of an EV plus the greater torque of the powertrain, etc, etc, etc.
One of the most exciting aspects however, will be seen in a few years' time, once "used" EV battery packs start coming onto the market.
These packs of worn but not worn-out batteries will be put into service as solar-backup packs, allowing increased use of "off-grid" or grid-ancilliary power systems for homes and businesses. This could see a significant increase in the number of Kiwis who opt for "energy self-sufficiency" -- although the irony is that if they also have an EV then they're going to need a huge solar array to achieve that, especially during the winter months.
Whatever the future holds, it's looking good and EVs look as if they're going to be a gamechanger.
I just wish the local council had listened to me when I suggested they install a row of EV superchargers in the front of town and rebrand Tokoroa to become "EV Central on SH1" with the $4m they set aside for tarting up the front of town. Instead we got five stupid dunnies -- all of which required extensive remedial work after they were commissioned because they didn't work properly.
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