Home > Environment > Electric cars: coming soon to a country near you?

Electric cars: coming soon to a country near you?

November 6th, 2016

In thinking about how the global economy can be decarbonized, I’ve focused on the electricity sector, and particularly the elimination of coal-fired electricity generation. In the transport sector, I’ve pushed for fuel efficiency standards, but have generally assumed that internal combustion cars are going to be around for a long time to come. That’s consistent with Australian experience where annual sales of electric vehicles are counted in the hundreds, and with the US, where cheap petrol has held electrics to a market share of a couple of percentage points.

So, I was quite surprised to find out that lots of European countries, including Germany, Norway and the Netherlands, are talking about ending sales of petrol driven vehicles in the near future (2025 or 2030), with diesel possibly being banned even earlier.

Obviously, achieving these goals will require some pretty strong policy encouragement, including subsidies and planned provision of infrastructure, and targets are easier to announce than to hit. Still, it looks as if eliminating internal combustion engine cars is not a distant dream but a feasible policy goal.

That raises the question of whether we could make a similar shift in Australia. The big barrier to complete replacement of internal combustion cars has been the prevalence of long distance driving, combined with the limited range and long recharge time for electrics. However, the latest Tesla models have reached a point wherean intercity drive (say Sydney to Brisbane, which is 950km) could be managed in a single day. The maximum electric range currently is around 500km (Tesla) and the best recharge gives 250km in 30 minutes. So, with a driving speed of 100km, and alternating 2.5 hours of driving with a 30 minute break, a long-distance trip is feasible. From a road safety viewpoint, compulsory recharging breaks would be a good thing. Of course, Teslas aren’t an affordable choice for most, but these technologies generally flow through to the mass market a few years after they appear in luxury brands.

If the government’s rhetoric about “Direct Action” meant anything, this would be the kind of policy option they would be pursuing. Of course, as with the equal marriage plebiscite, the whole point of Direct Action is as a cover for inaction. But when this lot are finally gone, Australia is going to be close to exhausting its carbon budget. Carbon pricing alone is unlikely to deliver change fast enough to reach our targets. A large scale initiative in developing infrastructure and forcing car importers to increase the share of electrics may be the only way to go.

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  1. Ben
    November 6th, 2016 at 09:57 | #1

    Many of the perceived disadvantages of EVs are overstated as far as I am concerned. EVs can replace the second car in many households today with a range of 100-150km (and I happily tell people that my EV is already obsolete). Recharging can occur overnight each night without high-speed chargers and there is no loss of amenity (home charging is very convenient). The fact that most EVs cannot yet handle the corner cases (eg, driving from Sydney to Melbourne) doesn’t strike me as a reason to delay on EVs.

    As one US utility CEO said, “EV plus PV equals game over”.

  2. Ikonoclast
    November 6th, 2016 at 09:59 | #2

    I largely agree with that. Will Australia need to exempt diesel from the phase-out, or mandate diesel heavy vehicles and machinery be switched to natural gas for an interim period until long-distance vehicles and heavy machinery be powered by electrical power? In urban, semi-urban and mine site areas there is no reason why heavy machinery cannot be plugged in to heavy-duty electrical power.

  3. November 6th, 2016 at 10:09 | #3

    The introduction of Electric Cars is another infrastructure funding problem. Remove the cost of interest and inflation and infrastructure is affordable. If you have the infrastructure (fast recharging places at fast food restaurants, rest areas, parking garages and easy recharging at home), then EV will come. I don’t think governments are going to do anything and I see no reason for corporations selling petrol infrastructure or petrol vehicles to do it. That leaves community groups. The NRMA for example. If NRMA doesn’t do it then, we can set up some crowdfunded groups.

  4. Donald Oats
    November 6th, 2016 at 12:03 | #4

    Once again, this was something we could have encouraged our (car) manufacturing industry to adopt, a shift over to electric car manufacture, along with some mechanism for encouraging people to purchase them in Oz. Once again, Australian government is too pathetic for words to properly convey; even now, they are running the standard denier tune, i.e. first it is not happening, then it is not really a big deal anyway—but either way, we ain’t gonna do nuthin’ about it.

    As you say, Direct Inaction was actually the correct epithet.

  5. Jon Brodie
    November 6th, 2016 at 12:58 | #5

    Where do hybrids fit in here. I’ll shortly buy a hybrid SUV (Mitsubishi for example), drive to work each day on stored PV, recharge overnight and only use petrol on my occasional long trips. This seems a lot more doable than buying a full electic in the near future.

  6. Ronald Brakk
    November 6th, 2016 at 13:25 | #6

    LG Chem sells lithium-ion battery cells to General Motors for $190 Australian per kilowatt-hour. Tesla also sources its battery cells quite cheaply. At these sort of prices electric cars compete with petrol and diesel on overall cost. The price of petrol and diesel include a large tax component, but this isn’t likely to go away. And considering the health and environment effects using petroleum based fuels has, it shouldn’t.

    As electric vehicles also have performance advantages, and batteries will continue to fall in price, it seems certain that electric car numbers will rapidly expand.

    If autonomous driving results in a large reduction in private car ownership by providing cheaper taxi services, there could be a very rapid reduction in internal combustion engine cars in the reasonably near future.

    I expect oil prices will start to rise within the next few years due to depletion of existing fields, but increasing electric car use will reduce demand and cause oil prices to fall to a low level after that.

    Electric buses now appear cheaper to run than diesel ones and so I expect them to take off fairly rapidly. Currently China has over 100,000 in service.

    In the developed world we see electric vehicles going from luxury cars to well off cars with the coming release of the GM Bolt and Tesla E and in India and China there are companies working the other end. India’s Mahindra has released an electric vehicle that starts at around $11,000 Australian. I am not terribly familiar with the Indian car market, but I presume it can compete with $11,000 internal combustion engine cars.

  7. Lt. Fred
    November 6th, 2016 at 14:06 | #7

    The electric car is actually pretty trivial in climate terms. A electric motorist living in a suburb generates more carbon than a petrol motorist living in a dense community, because they drive far less. The transport solution to climate change is very simple: eliminate the department of main roads, pump the money you save into additional rail construction. Rewrite zoning codes to encourage apartment living, rather than banning it. Etc.

  8. Paul Wellings
    November 6th, 2016 at 15:51 | #8

    If the electricity that powers these cars is made with the current generation mix of thermal and renewable energy (or the prospective mix with the renewable energy target), while there be a net decrease in carbon emissions?

  9. Lt. Fred
    November 6th, 2016 at 15:59 | #9

    A meaningless one. You also have to make everyone drive an electric car, at great cost. Much easier to just build rail – after all, its cheaper, with ten times the capacity, no congestion and moves faster.

  10. Ben
    November 6th, 2016 at 16:07 | #10

    @Paul Wellings
    Supposing your petrol car has 10L/100km fuel economy, that’s 23 kg CO2 per 100 km. Doing that in an EV with economy of 15 kWh per 100 km ~= 12 kg CO2 when using NSW grid electricity. Much lower emissions in SA and Tasmania. Of course, we have much more efficient cars than 10L/100km. A small petrol car can be below 6L/100km which is on-par with an EV charged from NSW grid electricity. However, the grid continues to become less emissions intensive over the lifetime of the car.

  11. derrida derider
    November 6th, 2016 at 16:37 | #11

    I can see EVs taking a lot of the city commuter/runabout car market; a hybrid is already a bit of a no-brainer if you spend all your time stopping and starting at lights.

    But I can’t see how people living in the bush or even regional cities could ever be sold on it – 150km range with overnight charging is just not much use to them. And I similarly can’t see electric semi-trailers being popular soon, for similar reasons. I’m all for cutting carbon emissions but ultimately I think that will be done by leaving lots of carbon solids, not hydrocarbon gas or liquid, in the ground.

    As for the centralised/decentralised renewables issue, the advantages of scale in generation and large grids seem quite sizeable to me. But I’m less certain of that, and think others should be too. Besides the main thing is to get carbon priced right; then we can let the economics in time determine how many solar farms/ pumped storage versus how many solar rooftops/Tesla powerwalls we’ll have.

  12. Ken Fabian
    November 6th, 2016 at 17:11 | #12

    Rather than overnight charging, charging whilst it’s in the workplace car-park looks better suited to the PV fitted householders to me.

  13. Paul Wellings
    November 6th, 2016 at 17:11 | #13

    @derrida derider

    the main thing is to get carbon priced right

    2006 called. It wants its big new policy idea back.

    Efficient pricing of carbon emissions is not going to happen. The politics are just too toxic. And, anyway, what’s a little (or even a lot of) economic inefficiency if the future of the planet is at stake?

  14. rog
    November 6th, 2016 at 18:26 | #14

    @derrida derider “But I can’t see…”

    Imagine if Sydney’s future, and Australia’s, was limited to Capt Cooks vision, what he “could see”.

  15. ZM
    November 6th, 2016 at 19:31 | #15

    Derrida Derider,

    “But I can’t see how people living in the bush or even regional cities could ever be sold on it – 150km range with overnight charging is just not much use to them.”

    I think most people in country towns and regional cities actually travel less daily than people in the capital cities simply because the town sizes are smaller, and distances between the small towns and the larger towns are shorter than the vaster distances between the outer suburbs and the city CBD in capital cities.

    Only commuters would travel longer distances regularly, and maybe some people in the trades who are called out to outlying farms or something to do jobs regularly. Commuters take the train more and more these days if they are on the train line and the trains are frequent enough.

    Portugal did a lot of work making an ev charging network and they are not as rich a country as Australia.

    I would say in Australia the first step would be concentrating on changing over cars that are used for daily travel, and leave the long distance problem for a bit later since it needs more planning. You would include it in the plan, but say you would work on it in 5 or 10 years or something, depending on what is feasible and necessary for climate change.

    Also possibly the network of charging stations should be staged to start with capital cities and regional cities and towns close by, and then move on to the further out towns.

    The best idea would probably to start with a few suburbs and towns as a trial to get an idea of what works well and what doesn’t work. You could start a trial like that pretty quickly if you made the policy, like within 12 months of an announcement probably.

    The Minister For Cities has been turned into a sort of Parliamentary Secretary for Cities and Digital Transformation, so Malcolm Turnbull’s office would be right contact if people were going to make a petition about an ev charging network policy or something.

  16. ZM
    November 6th, 2016 at 19:35 | #16

    John Quiggin, you are on the Climate Council, they could probably hire a transport planner to do a plan and then petition the government about implementing a trial in some suburbs and towns. You could probably make this quite inexpensive for the government with a public-private partnership with some vehicle or charging company or something.

  17. November 6th, 2016 at 22:29 | #17

    Interestingly our original carbon tax exempted petrol. I think politicians are very scared of the motoring lobby. So I don’t think Australia will lead on electric cars. But when they get cheap, we will adopt them.

    And if you look at lifetime costs, I imagine that maintenance will be a lot cheaper.

    When one looks at their limitations you need to realise we already make these decisions. Do I buy a car without a tow bar? Then I can’t take a trailer load of rubbish to the tip. But I don’t do that very often – so I can live without a tow bar. I’ll organise something else for those rare tip visits.

  18. ZM
    November 6th, 2016 at 22:44 | #18

    Beyond Zero Emissions released a pretty through looking report this year in August about Electric Vehicles, with modelling of a transition to 100% electric vehicles by 2025 which they estimate as a 25% increased cost from BAU, or even equal cost if technology develops quickly and is able to be deployed at lower cost. Costs could be even less if behaviour change interventions decreased car use.

    http://media.bze.org.au/ev/bze_ev_report.pdf

  19. Socrates
    November 6th, 2016 at 22:51 | #19

    A few points on this.

    Infrastructure: Overall (compared to the costs of cars themselves, roads uneven public transport), the electric charging stations are cheap. A full charging station for an electric bus (much more powerful than needed for a car) is about 500,000 Euro for a twin installation.

    Vehicle costs: These are already coming own; Tesla’s next promised model is comparable to a moderately up-market mid sized sedan.

    Diesel: So many good reasons to restrict use of this. Apart from CO2 its particulate emissions have bad health impacts. Also the lighter crude oils in Australia and SE Asia are lacking in the heavier components that are cracked into diesel. So we will run short of diesel well before petrol. It is quite hard to make an efficient truck powers by something else.

    If we were serious even the public transport choices we make should change. Modern light rail vehicles use about 1/5 to 1/10 of the energy per passenger of a modern bus. (They can have regenerative braking similar to hybrid cars).

  20. Jimmy
    November 7th, 2016 at 06:25 | #20

    I was in Sweden recently and I saw so many Teslas. Of course we already have electric vehicles that are cheap and widely available: trams and trains.

  21. Moz of Yarramulla
    November 7th, 2016 at 06:54 | #21

    @Socrates

    It is quite hard to make an efficient truck powers by something else.

    Actually, trains work remarkably well even when they’re electric. As do trams. Back in the olden days both were used to carry freight that’s now moved by trucks.

    I’m impressed by modern trolley buses, too, the ones that have small batteries on board so they can do a few kilometres without overhead power. That lets them drive around problems on their normal route, and also extend the official route somewhat off the overhead area (it makes navigation within the depot much easier too). I occasionally wonder whether you could get electric trucks using the same system, once you had trolley buses.

    In Wellington, NZ, it looks as though they have finally got rid of their trolley buses in favour of diesel, because the government there is much more committed to climate change than even Australia.

  22. Salient Green
    November 7th, 2016 at 07:29 | #22

    Motor vehicle registrations with a component of penalty for high emissions intensity and, particularly for heavy transport, road damage, would help nudge things in the right direction.
    Government encouragement of car sharing would also help.

  23. Moz of Yarramulla
    November 7th, 2016 at 08:01 | #23

    Salient Green :
    Government encouragement of car sharing would also help.

    Don’t we have that? Our local governments are defying the NSW state government on the issue by putting care share parking spots all over the place. I suggest that this issue is one where you can reasonably expect to influence government, as councils are normally quite vulnerable to pressure from even single residents. Again, though, mediated by the neoliberal belief that bigger is necessarily better leading to a lot of forced amalgamations. I wonder why they don’t apply that to the next level up? 😛

  24. wilful
    November 7th, 2016 at 09:19 | #24

    ZM :
    Derrida Derider,
    “But I can’t see how people living in the bush or even regional cities could ever be sold on it – 150km range with overnight charging is just not much use to them.”
    I think most people in country towns and regional cities actually travel less daily than people in the capital cities simply because the town sizes are smaller, and distances between the small towns and the larger towns are shorter than the vaster distances between the outer suburbs and the city CBD in capital cities.

    ZM, not to be fighty, but you’re not correct. My family live in a regional area and our primary vehicle does 50 000 km a year, our secondary 30 000. Many days are 500km days. For the foreseeable future, we could not maintain our mobility with electric vehicles. I’m all in favour of them, but I’m also in favour of maintaining my job and my connections with extended family and friends. At this stage of my life, they just don’t work for me. I realise that I’m in a minority, and hopefully there will be significant improvements in the next decade, but there will certainly have to be. Any stick-like regulatory change would have to be very carefully thought through to not severely alienate people like me.

    As an aside, commuter trains from regional centres are mostly crap. they could be a lot better. Thankfully in Victoria the Andrews government is making some small positive changes.

  25. Newtownian
    November 7th, 2016 at 10:30 | #25

    derrida derider :
    I can see EVs taking a lot of the city commuter/runabout car market; a hybrid is already a bit of a no-brainer if you spend all your time stopping and starting at lights.
    But I can’t see how people living in the bush or even regional cities could ever be sold on it – 150km range with overnight charging is just not much use to them. And I similarly can’t see electric semi-trailers being popular soon, for similar reasons. I’m all for cutting carbon emissions but ultimately I think that will be done by leaving lots of carbon solids, not hydrocarbon gas or liquid, in the ground.

    This is the problem isnt it. How well can reality mess with very simplified models of the future.

    It would be good for JQ to provide some links to some meaty details that would make the proposed changes viable, or failing that further indication of the make/break logistics challenges.

    Is there a good review somewhere of the a fully costed future electric car system? Its not of course an easy question. For example petrol may be cheap at the moment but this does not counts things like massive military subsidies for oil wars.

    Certainly batteries can probably replace fossil fuels. But at what cost? A simple comparison we have at the moment is the Corrolla hybrid (27K) v. Corrolla petrol (23 K for equivalent). Which is not too bad and has provisionally sold me on the next car.

    Pure battery cars though are more difficult unless you want to stay in a city straightjacket most of the time and are happy with a smartcar. Here are some interesting contrasts.

    – As a reference 50 L of petrol to rapidly fill a small car tank has 34*50 MJ = 1700 MJ.

    – What is this is Lithium batteries? Their energy density is about 0.5 MJ/kg so to store the same total energy my small car would need to have a 3.4 tonne battery assembly plus structure!

    – A seperate issue is how much Lithium is required per vehicle (or alternative)? Is Lithium storage resource constrained?

    – A few years ago the reserves were put by USGS at 13,000,000 tonnes which doesnt really seem that much. How many cars might be be able to run? Crudely there are 8 grams needed per 100 Wh = 0.36 MJ. So to replace the energy in the petrol tanks you need about 40 kg or Lithium (Its interesting to see how little lithium is actually in a lithium battery). Overall this suggests very crudely (better figures appreciated) a few hundreds million cars would be the maximum….even before you build a power wall.

    – What about other battery technologies? Nickel is a bit better with global reserves of about 100 million tonnes but batteries are a lot heavier and have only half the capacity per kg of Lithium batteries. You seem to need approximately 2 kg per kWh of nickel too. So energy storage wise there is not much in it storage potential wise.

    Now I know this is a bit of a straw man e.g. 60% of petroleum energy is actually lost. Still it does illustrate the battery energy/weight ratio and resourcing problems. And this is before we get to:
    – the scale and difficulty of providing recharging logistics – not everyone has a garage to house the installations ( and at what cost) – especially in the increasingly constricted inner city.
    – the cost of underground charging circuitry – an estimate for putting the current lines underground is 60 billion http://www.aph.gov.au/sitecore/content/Home/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/Publications_Archive/CIB/CIB9697/97cib11
    – the problem of choosing a single car – the hybrid looks best
    – what about the demands of the trucking fleets?
    etc.

  26. derrida derider
    November 7th, 2016 at 10:30 | #26

    Laws Amighty you lot are as tribal as those jerks over at Catallaxy. You think everyone lives like you.

    The ultimate is ZM presuming to speak for everyone who lacks a use for short range small cars or who lives somewhere where frequent and affordable public transport will always be impractical. Closely followed by Paul Wellings who thinks that because a very imperfect carbon pricing scheme failed to get up in a small country at the arse end of the world then that somehow means the politics of all such schemes are impossible for all times and all places and consequently the economics of it will never prevail.

  27. Newtownian
    November 7th, 2016 at 11:03 | #27

    @wilful

    ZM, not to be fighty, but you’re not correct. My family live in a regional area and our primary vehicle does 50 000 km a year, our secondary 30 000. Many days are 500km days. For the foreseeable future, we could not maintain our mobility with electric vehicles.

    A question that need to be asked along with speculation on electtric cars is what sort of future do we want generally? Do we want to live the same way we live now, driving insane distances, working ourselves into madness in the quest for a constantly increasingly expanding economy, which is simply not viable long term. Or do we want some kind of slower paced world where an electric bike would generally be fast enough thank you?

    In short what needs commenting on then (and transport needs to be a big part) is what future do we have envisioned here..which will determine what cars etc. are used v. the current model of using the transport system as a primary driver for urban redevelopment. If you arent in Sydney you might look at the megalomania of Lucy Turnbull’s Greater Sydney commission http://www.greatersydneycommission.nsw.gov.au/ . Its nightmare vision is that people other than the priveleged of Vaucluse will live in dog box condominiums in locations dictated by the proposed transport systems where much resources will go into pay as you go motorways.

    The principles seem to be thus:
    1. business rules
    2. businiess needs physical as well as electronic communication of the same kind as we have now plus lots of tunnels because boring machines are now more mature.
    3. people need to fit in with business and its models not vice versa.

    Amusingly/unsurprisingly a search of this site contains zilch on ‘electric car’ or ‘electric vehicle’ or ‘electric bicycle’.

  28. Jim Birch
    November 7th, 2016 at 11:25 | #28

    I think that self-driving cars are going to be the norm inside 20 years – cost-driven – and they will be mostly electric because they can wander off somewhere to charge themselves.

  29. Anthony
    November 7th, 2016 at 12:11 | #29

    @Jim Birch
    … and in the scenario outlined in the OP. You could take an electric SDV halfway, it goes of to charge iself whilst you jump into a fully charged vehicle for the second half of the journey.

  30. John Quiggin
    November 7th, 2016 at 12:27 | #30

    @derrida derider

    If you’re going to be snarky, you should at least read the OP. Your entire argument relies on obsolete figures.

  31. ZM
    November 7th, 2016 at 13:10 | #31

    @wilful

    I tried to think of exceptions of people who travel longer distances for work in my comment, like tradies who service rural farms or something, and commuters. I don’t think its the majority of people who travel those sorts of longer distances frequently. I live in a regional town in Victoria on a train line, so there are a lot of people who commute to Melbourne by train, but also a lot who use cars to commute.

    I would think any ev charging network trial would not make 100% of people in the trial area switch to electric vehicles, 100% might be a 10-15 year goal or something. John Quiggin wrote that the current maximum ev range is 500km so that would pretty much suit your circumstances.

    The train on my line is pretty good, although the government swapped the North Melbourne stop for a Footscray stop which is less convenient overall but on the other hand it does mean I can shop at the market there. Some services are overcrowded at the moment and they might need some additional carriages. Also I will be pleased when the trains get wi fi. Otherwise they are pretty good I think.

  32. wilful
    November 7th, 2016 at 13:59 | #32

    ZM, the point remains, unquestionably, and I really don’t think I’m a major outlier, 500km range is the bare bare minimum range I could tolerate. It needs to get more than that, and while carrying a small trailer, before it is a goer. I have as much tolerance for range anxiety as the average car buyer, which is to say, very little.

    And you have the privilege of living on a train line (Ballarat or Bendigo) that ends where there were a couple of Labor members or the chance of a Labor member in the Bracks government. Gippsland was S.O.L. there, and has many towns not serviced by any effective public transport.

    I’m more likely to get an electric dirt bike. Range 150 km is not an issue, and the noise reduction would be great, along with the torque.

  33. adelady
    November 7th, 2016 at 15:49 | #33

    @John Brookes

    So I don’t think Australia will lead on electric cars. But when they get cheap, we will adopt them. And if you look at lifetime costs, I imagine that maintenance will be a lot cheaper.

    Remember, a lot of car purchase decisions are made by fleet and group buyers and they have a huge flow-on effect to the market as a whole. If you were responsible for a fleet of several dozen or a couple of hundred cars, your eyes would go round like Bugs Bunny catherine wheels when you put the running and maintenance costs into your spreadsheet.

    Tony Seba makes the point that an ICE vehicle has over 2000 moving parts as against an EV that has less than 30. (I’m not entirely sure he’s right, but even if there are 50 or 70, that’s still an order of magnitude less.) The reduced cost of ordinary servicing alongside the reduction in fuel costs makes a very big difference when you’re talking multiple units as against an individual household looking for one or two. They don’t even have to be especially cheap to buy once an organisation factors maintenance costs in.

    Then of course, comes the individual’s desire for an EV. Once they experience that torque and the ease of driving with no gears at all in an employer’s car, they’ll be lining up like there’s another episode of the Harry Potter series on sale. Out the door and round the corner.

  34. Ben
    November 7th, 2016 at 16:17 | #34

    @adelady
    EV servicing is very cheap. It’s so simple I am contemplating doing services myself in future just for the satisfaction of it. By way of example, the 12 month service of my EV requires: (1) replace in-cabin air filter, (2) rotate tyres, (3) inspect brake lines/cables, brake pads, charging port, drive shaft boots, battery report, reduction gear oil.

  35. November 7th, 2016 at 16:32 | #35

    To flesh out the technology issue. The learning rate for lithium-ion batteries is given by Nykvist as 6%-9%, more in line with wind than PV solar. But as the annual growth rate has been spectacular, the annual fall in costs has been closer to 14%. Progress takes the form of significant increases in density as well as falls in cost (contrast the very slow gains in PV efficiency). This matters for increasing EV range. Cost reductions benefit BEVs more than hybrids, which include the static ICE component. Hybrids are therefore only a transitional technology.A

    In the policy side, JQ is right to recall that continued groeth of EVs and getting down the learning curve to ICEV parity depends on keeping high subsidies in key markets. Could these run into strong opposition, as has happened recently to solar? The oil companies have ample funds for an effective lobbying effort. So far they ate not trying, and complacently assume BAU. I suspect that when they wake up to the threat, it will be too late. Tesla and BYD, the two main specialist BEV companies, are already large companies with clout. The legacy carmakers are mostly committed to the switch, to varying degrees of seriousness: Renault- Nissan and GM in the lead, the Germans, Koreans and Ford behind. They might lobby against an early date for stopping sales of ICEVs, but won’t oppose EV subsidies benefiting them. Two other powerful lobbies support EVs: the electric utilities, for whom charging (largely at night) offers rare growth market with nearly ideal load characteristics, off-peak and flexible; and the medical profession, now aware of the multi-trillion $ health costs of vehicle emissions. Finally, technical progress is so rapid that the subsidies only need another ten years or so, reassuring politicians.

    The relative pace of change will depend almost as much on city policies as national ones. (The driving role of California in the US is unlikely to be replicated elsewhere.) London is planning a low- emissions central zone, and is being followed by other British cities. The political risks to mayors look acceptable. Citywide EV policies covering cars, buses, taxis and delivery vans and trucks may well catch on.

    It was fun to see Sigmar Gabriel’s outraged sqwalk against Chinese EV quotas, which dithering German carmakers are not ready to meet. Unfair protectionism! Tough luck. The Chinese aim to build an internationally successful car industry – an electric one. They will probably get there.

  36. Ronald Brakels
    November 7th, 2016 at 16:34 | #36

    We are definitely likely to see more electric cars similar to the GM Bolt and Tesla 3 which have ranges of 383km and 346km. The GM Bolt has a 60 kilowatt-hour battery pack. One estimate of the cost of the battery pack as a whole and not just the individual cells is around $17,000 Australian. This is sure to decline and because the rest of the car is much cheaper to build than a comparable internal combustion engine car they will be able to compete with internal combustion engine cars on price.

    For people who don’t want to stop for to charge batteries when driving over 380km or perhaps more, many of the advantages of an electric car can be obtained by using a hybrid vehicle. One example is the current Prius, but this parallel style hybrid which sends power to the wheels from both a petrol engine and an electric motor may be beaten on price by series hybrids which use only an electric motor to send power to the wheels and use a petrol engine solely to generate electricity. These can have enough battery capacity so they can be charged and operate all electric when driving around town and use petrol (or diesel or LPG) for long distance driving.

  37. Luke Elford
    November 7th, 2016 at 16:34 | #37

    How about some statistics rather than anecdotes, eh?

    It’s certainly not true that people in regional and rural areas travel less daily (particularly by car), but it’s also not true that they’re typically travelling hundreds and hundreds of kilometres per day—this, after all, would mean hours and hours of travel.

    Average vehicle kilometres travelled (VKT) in Wingecarribee Shire, south-west of Sydney, for example, is 109.9 km per household per day, with an average of 1.9 vehicles per household.

    By comparison, VKT is 24.9 km per household per day in Leichhardt, 45.2 km in Parramatta, and 83.0 km in Penrith. For Sydney overall, it is 47.1 km.

    Even in regional areas, people make long-distance car trips only very infrequently. For the regional areas covered by the Victorian Integrated Survey of Travel Activity, for example, trips of 150 km and over comprise only half a per cent of all vehicle driver trips. That’s 10 to 12 trips per household per year.

  38. November 7th, 2016 at 16:35 | #38

    Sorry for the typos, which either the website software or Android stopped me from correcting.

  39. ZM
    November 7th, 2016 at 18:58 | #39

    @Luke Elford

    Thanks — VISTA is a good reference, I hadn’t seen that before 🙂

    It says in the regional centres report that the average number of trips a day is 3.3 trips per person and 9.5km is the average distance per trip, and 31km is the average distance travelled per day. In Melbourne it is slightly less than this at 2.9 trips per day, 8.9km average distance per trip, and 26km traveled per day.

    So for people in the average travel section electric vehicles would be fine.

  40. ZM
    November 7th, 2016 at 19:15 | #40

    @wilful

    “Gippsland was S.O.L. there, and has many towns not serviced by any effective public transport.”

    Yes, you’re right, I have an aunt who lives out that way, and its not well serviced by public transport at all.

    The government is going to have to work with the communities in the Latrobe Valley area about transitioning the economy from coal mining and power stations, so maybe upgrading the public transport network will be part of that. Decent public transport is better for tourism I think.

  41. Collin Street
    November 7th, 2016 at 21:26 | #41

    So for people in the average travel section electric vehicles would be fine.

    But people don’t only make their typical journeys; an incomplete solution is, in isolation, not a solution.

    [I wouldn’t call once a month “very infrequently”, either.]

  42. Luke Elford
    November 7th, 2016 at 22:49 | #42

    @Collin Street

    “I wouldn’t call once a month “very infrequently”, either.”

    Well, the relevant trip length is 500 km, but it’s tricky to get a figure for how many car trips are longer than that—because they’re so rare. I’d need the raw data, which I can’t access for Australian travel surveys.

    But just for you, I’ve accessed data from the American national household travel survey. Of the records that Excel could load, there were 482,403 trips by car, of which 0.9 per cent were 95 miles (about 150 km) or longer, with 0.1 per cent longer than 300 miles (about 500 km).

    Per person, this is one trip per year.

    As for solutions for longer trips, did you actually read Professor Quiggin’s post?

  43. November 8th, 2016 at 02:59 | #43

    In the world car market, Australia is a rounding error. Most of the world’s drivers live in regions of much higher density, like the US East, Western Europe and Eastern China. Air pollution is a much bigger issue there, and maximum range less. Germany is another exception on the downside, because of the grip of the now largely impracticable fantast of driving long distances on empty autobahns at 180 kph, which even Teslas can’t do. But so why. Every other country in Europe has a maximum speed limit: 130 kph in France, 120 kph in Spain. These are so well accepted that the PP government in Spain has quietly shelved its demagogic promise two elections ago to raise it to 130 kph. Electrics can handle this fine.

  44. John Quiggin
    November 8th, 2016 at 08:06 | #44

    To sum up, assuming a mass market car with the same range and recharge characteristics as a Tesla, the average person would have to add an extra hour or two of recharging time to a trip they take once or twice a year. This would still leave them taking breaks shorter than those recommended on safety grounds.

    Some of the discussion here reminds me of the anti-renewable arguments that presume we need to perfectly replicate all the features of coal-fired power. Another shared characteristic is a reliance on obsolete perceptions (for example, the repeated reference to 150 km range in the thread).

  45. Ikonoclast
    November 8th, 2016 at 09:04 | #45

    “An incomplete solution is, in isolation, not a solution.”

    In the real world there are no complete (i.e. no perfect solutions); everything involves costs, benefits and trade-offs. I love the way (no, I don’t of course), anti-renewables proponents accept highly imperfect solutions from the fossil fuel economy but demand perfect solutions from a renewable economy. If the solution isn’t both perfect (and perfectly conformable to the way a fossil fuel economy does things, as J.Q. pointed out) then the solution is no good.

    The reasoning of the anti-renewables lobby is “If renewables are not perfect then they are no good at all. If the clean, renewable glass isn’t 100% full and perfect, then tip it all out. I’d rather drink my half-full, highly polluted glass of fossil fuel economy thank you, and wreck the climate while I do it.”

    The thing is as Monbiot says;

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/georgemonbiot/2014/may/09/why-we-couldnt-care-less-about-the-natural-world

    People are not going to start caring until massive natural disasters begin to kill, injure and terrify them in droves. That’s what it’s going to take, unfortunately.

  46. wilful
    November 8th, 2016 at 09:32 | #46

    Collin Street :
    So for people in the average travel section electric vehicles would be fine.
    But people don’t only make their typical journeys; an incomplete solution is, in isolation, not a solution.
    [I wouldn’t call once a month “very infrequently”, either.]

    I agree with this. I would do the +500 km journey monthly, to be sure. And stopping to recharge for 30 minutes or more would not be satisfactory at all. I know others that do that many km most days, and their business would have to be entirely restructured to avoid this. Which I’m not saying is impossible, but it is not a small issue to be ignored.
    But I acknowledge that some regional people in particular are a bit of an outlier, and I would expect that hybrids (say with a speed limit of 90kph) with a range of 800 km and a fuel consumption of biodiesel at ~4l/100km should be eminently achievable in the next ten years.

  47. Ernestine Gross
    November 8th, 2016 at 09:49 | #47

    The German car industry is non-trivial in size in the global market. Moreover, their prestige cars (Mercs, Audies, BMW, Porsche) sell internationally to the high income-high wealth population
    segments. My hypothesis is that the German proposal (by the current opposition) to allow only electric cars to be registered as of some time in 2030 has the function of coordinating the research efforts of one of Germany’s export revenue spinners industries. That is, ‘competition’ needs coordination. [1] Surely, there are some engineers who welcome the challenge to develop electric Porsches – some of them might have become quite bored with the marginal improvement stuff – to fit the image of high speed sleek Porsches racing along an autobahn. (I did do one course in advertising decades ago!)

    Assuming the proposal or something very close to it will become law, then petrol powered cars can be expected to be around until at least 2040 in Germany and elsewhere, becoming relatively fewer over time. They may sell ‘cheaper’ over time (possibly destroying one of Joe Hockey’s preconceived ideas).

    [1] For a very long time German governments have used regulations to ‘stimulate’ industry and hence economic activity.

    Without wishing to in any way express my opinion on Trump versus Clinton, there is one setence Hillary said which is not watertight as a criticism of Trump as a businessman. She said Trump imported ‘cheap’ whatever (I forgot what it was) while arguing against international trade. Her criticism is not watertight because it is the case that with ‘free trade’, business has to source inputs from the cheapest location to remain ‘competitive’. By contrast, a national government can source locally. The German governments (all parties) seem to understand there is a demand for regulation in the business sector.

  48. Paul Wellings
    November 8th, 2016 at 09:50 | #48

    The OP assumes that electric vehicles will become affordable. Maybe, but they’ve got a long way to go. A new Tesla “drive away” price today is $115,980. That’s 5 times the price of a new Corolla and three times the price of a new Commodore.

  49. Ivor
    November 8th, 2016 at 10:30 | #49

    @Paul Wellings

    Bloody capitalists stuffing everything up.

    They are deliberately pricing at one segement of the market.

  50. wilful
    November 8th, 2016 at 10:45 | #50

    Paul Wellings :
    The OP assumes that electric vehicles will become affordable. Maybe, but they’ve got a long way to go. A new Tesla “drive away” price today is $115,980. That’s 5 times the price of a new Corolla and three times the price of a new Commodore.

    A Tesla Model 3 is aiming for a price in the US in USD of $35k. More than a quarter of a million people have paid a deposit for one. There’s speculation about a 450 km range. This is very much within reach and reason for many people.

  51. wilful
    November 8th, 2016 at 10:50 | #51

    While getting the figures for that last post, I notice that the Model X has a claimed 542 (how precise!) range. Which is really something. But costs $112k, which is something I would never countenance.

  52. Paul Wellings
    November 8th, 2016 at 11:12 | #52

    @wilful

    At that price in the US – if it happens – it will sell for at least $70K in Australia, taking into account the exchange rate, shipping costs, GST, the 5% tariff, the luxury car tax, and the fact that cars in Australia are in general much more expensive than in the US.

  53. wilful
    November 8th, 2016 at 14:34 | #53

    Paul, the base model X costs $80k in the US, $112k in Australia. This is one of the best indicators of final pricing, and suggests that a model 3 should be ~$55k.

  54. November 8th, 2016 at 19:28 | #54

    @Collin Street

    Look, to state the bleeding obvious, if an electric vehicle does not suit your needs, don’t buy one. In the future, with a proper price on carbon, you’ll pay for the privilege, and that is fine.

    We should make a world where rational choices lead to the outcomes we need. I hate the “morality” arguments. Just hit people in the hip pocket, and let them decide.

  55. James Wimberley
    November 9th, 2016 at 01:43 | #55

    @James Wimberley
    References:
    Nykvist’s battery learning curve. Note the very wide error ranges. This reflects both a lot of uncertainty, and the oligopolistic structure of the industry (inlike the competitive pv one). The details of Tesla’s contracts with Panasonic and [email protected] with LG are closely guarded commercial secrets. They release just enough selective information to keep investors happy, plus hige clouds of PR smoke. BYD is its own batter supplier.
    Battery energy density chart.
    THis isn’t a professional literature survey, these are just to show I’m not making stuff up.

  56. James Wimberley
    November 9th, 2016 at 01:45 | #56

    @James Wimberley
    Sod the absence of comment editing.

  57. November 9th, 2016 at 10:23 | #57

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  58. Paul Wellings
    November 9th, 2016 at 13:23 | #58

    In the scheme of things, how far electric cars can travel on on one charge is the least of our problems.

  59. derrida derider
    November 9th, 2016 at 14:06 | #59

    FFS, no one here is “anti-renewables”. We’re mainly debating whether on present trends and policies EVs WILL replace fossil fuel powered cars, not whether they SHOULD. Separate the normative and positive please.

    And I remain sceptical that EVs will replace fossil fuelled vehicles for all major applications in the near future. Especially at the heavier end of the market. City runabouts, yes, trucks, not so much.

    For example, on those quoted ranges I’d lay odds there is a lot of fine print in those manufacturer’s claims. I’d like to see the ranges measured using the same cycles currently used for quoting fuel economy so we can compare apples with apples. Plus for long distance applications there is a big difference between a few minutes refilling a fuel tank and several hours recharging a huge battery pack.

    I guess I’m mindful of Robert Gordon’s dictum that “a new technology generally changes our lives more profoundly than we think. But it generally takes much longer to do so than we think”.

  60. jrkrideau
    November 9th, 2016 at 21:16 | #60

    # 37 Luke Elford

    Interesting figures. Any idea of the median? My uneducated guess suspects a non-nomal distribution with a few outliers doing a lot of driving due to work or housing location.

    I suspect that we often exaggerate the distances people travel on a normal day.

    A few years ago I looked up the commuting distances for Canadians from Statistics Canada. It worked out that roughly 65% of the population commuted less than 10km. A bicycle is more than sufficient for such a distance.

    # 41 Collin Street

    an incomplete solution is, in isolation, not a solution.

    Very true. I live in Canada and it is extremely difficult to drive to Melbourne or Brisbane.

  61. Ronald Brakels
    November 11th, 2016 at 10:20 | #61

    Private car owners are willing to pay a premium for the increased performance electric vehicles offer. Road freight companies aren’t. Or can’t and stay in business. But provided the cost of batteries continues to decline and other alternatives do not, then in the future electric vehicles will be used for long distance heavy road transport. This is simply because transport companies will use whatever method is the cheapest, taking into account operating costs, operating life, and capital utilization.

    Mining companies have already, to a large extent, switched from diesel only to diesel electric mining trucks due to lower fuel use and lower maintenance costs.

  62. Collin Street
    November 11th, 2016 at 21:22 | #62

    It worked out that roughly 65% of the population commuted less than 10km. A bicycle is more than sufficient for such a distance.

    Pretty much, and for longer distances you can use public transport[1] and for heavier loads you can hire vehicles. The niche that “private electric car” fills is pretty damned narrow, and for most people I doubt it’d be worth the fixed costs. Hell, for a lot of people petrol cars are already not worth the hassle.

    The question is “how to move people and stuff”, not “how to replace the car carbon-negatively”.

    [1] You need public transport anyway, for the irreduceable population of undriveables; this means sunk cost, and because a lot of the cost is capital the actual marginal cost of decent public transport is fairly low.

  63. Collin Street
    November 11th, 2016 at 21:23 | #63

    Very true. I live in Canada and it is extremely difficult to drive to Melbourne or Brisbane.

    Indeed, which is why we have airplanes. The words “in isolation” were written for a reason, you know.

  64. Jim Rose
    November 17th, 2016 at 21:18 | #64

    When otherwise identical petrol fueled car survive in the market if it had to take as long as the electric car to refuel?

  65. Ronald Brakels
    November 19th, 2016 at 12:09 | #65

    Imagine how well otherwise identical petrol fueled cars would sell if they came with free petrol but a few times a year that you’d know of in advance you’d have to wait an hour to get fuel.

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