It was clear at the conference that companies are struggling to find a business model that funds the new infrastructure, particularly when one of the main selling points is the cheapness of electricity compared with petrol or diesel.
Charging your car while it is parked or while you are at work might cost a pound or two, but would block the charging post for most of the day, meaning the revenue from the post might be less than £5 per day for a busy site. For a widely spread infrastructure that would have to be regularly checked and maintained that wouldn’t enough to pay for the maintenance, let alone the installation. The problem is compounded during the early stages of EV adoption when charging posts would have to be installed well ahead of any substantial demand for them.
The high currents required to charge the batteries are also a concern. With electric cars requiring 20-30KWh for a full charge the maths shows that currents of 100A or more are required to charge a car within an hour. With the target being 15 minutes or less for charging it is clear that massive currents would be required, overwhelming the current cabling and substations. Smart Metering can mitigate some of the effects for overnight charging but that still leaves the issue of daytime charging.
It seems that manufacturers are producing electric cars with performance akin to petrol/diesel vehicles, from goods vehicles to sports cars, albeit with limited ranges at the moment. Although in reality most journeys are short enough to use an electric vehicle, drivers either want more or lack confidence in the quoted ranges. So, although getting better, electric vehicles haven’t yet reached the tipping point advantage that will drive them into the mainstream. It had been hoped that with low servicing costs and low fuel costs the TCO for electric vehicles might be enough to persuade fleet managers, but the life and replacement costs for batteries means that the residual value after 4 years, which has a large effect on TCO, is almost nil. Until the range and battery cost issues have been addressed electric vehicles are likely to remain the preserve of pioneers and early adopters.
So is there any good news? The technology continues to march on and charging times and range do continue to increase. Technology solutions, like fuel cells and modular batteries, keep popping up. Given the clear alignment with high level government strategies on energy and climate change around the world, electric vehicles will eventually become the norm, but – not just yet!
Tags: electric vehicles, smart grids, smart meter