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Electric Vehicles (EVs)

EVs, Power Bills and Emissions

How do we change a system employed by government?  If we went cold turkey on many of our traditional national policies the flow on effects throughout the public and business sectors would be ruinous.  If you believe the headlines which state that traditional motor vehicles are heading for a cliff edge where there will be no more fossil fuels available to power them, and that the environment will be so much the better without vehicles that are powered by conventional fossil fuels, then things look pretty dismal.  But is this actually so?

There are numerous countries around the world that have their special governmental team of policymakers pushing for electric vehicles (EVs) to be subsidised and made easier for those who can afford an expensive EV to buy one.  Across the ditch the New Zealand Labour/Green government are creating a fast track for EV purchase in the hopes to lessen greenhouse emissions and keep NZ green.  And in America they have recently brought in policy that reduces the initial purchase price of an EV by up to $7500 USD.  Of course, the subsidizing is paid for by the tax payer.  Those who cannot afford to buy a new electric vehicle pay for the privileges that the wealthier EV owners enjoy – like free use of public charging stations and preferential access to carpool lanes.  What about the grand schemes and plans of making some American States totally EV and thus pronouncing the ban of all internal combustion vehicles by 2040 (California).  Is this really fair?

Could this thinking and ideology be the motivation behind EVs in Australia?  How could the typical Australian on an average wage manage a law that states that you must drive a new and expensive EV by 2040?  By the way, we’ll also use your current taxes to help the wealthy buy an EV quickly (and enjoy its benefits) while you struggle to put the food on the table, let alone by an EV!

Let’s also remember that most of Australia’s electricity is made by coal and other natural resource plants.  A large fleet of EVs across Australia will draw down on the current available power supplies very heavily.  But wait, I know, we could use people’s current taxes to build more expensive cleaner power plants and provide bigger, better power networks!  That will make Australia a better place.  Power companies will enjoy the profits and will be sure to put the price of power up once electricity comes in short supply.

Hang on!  Are electric vehicles really as great as they claim to be?  Supporters of the EV suggest that EVs will reduce air pollution and tackle climate change.  But will they?  (Climate change is another issue – and one that many can make plenty of money, too)  It’s evident that a new vehicle powered by the modern conventional internal combustion engine is, in fact, way more pollutant-free than one might tend to think.  Extracting Lithium and other materials for batteries has an environmental impact of its own.

The appropriate comparison at governmental levels for evaluating the benefits of all those new electric vehicle subsidies, mandates and ideologies should be the difference between an electric car and a new petrol-or-diesel-car.  New internal combustion engines are very clean and emit only about 1 percent of the pollution that older vehicles did back in the 1960s.  New innovations on internal combustion engines continue to improve these engines and their efficiency and cleanliness.

When we consider EVs, and their large appetite for electricity, the energy to power them has to come from somewhere.  Cars are charged from the nation’s electrical grid, which will mean that they’re only as “clean” as Australia’s mix of power sources.  An environmental impact in the mining of the lithium, cobalt, and nickel that go into car batteries is evident.  Extracting Lithium is actually not so bad; most of it is extracted from brines that are evaporated by the sun, but it has a sizeable carbon and physical footprint.  We have a long, long way to go before the production of electricity for the main grid looks as green and as clean as an EV appears.

What’s the inexpensive answer?

Private Fleet Car Review: 2018 Toyota Camry SL V6 & Ascent Hybrid.

Car reviews are always a personal point of view. People have a love for a brand and that’s personal. Toyota has that brand loyalty and it’s won them millions of customers over decades. Toyota‘s Camry is a big part of that loyalty here in Australia and we first saw it as a five door hatch somewhere in the 1980s.The mid noughties saw the V6 Camry reborn as the Aurion and was sold side by side with the four cylinder and hybrid Camrys. Now, in 2018, we’re back to no Aurion and a V6 Camry. One of those, the top of the range 2018 Toyota Camry V6 SL trim spec, with barely two hundred kilometres on the clock, graced the driveway. There’s also a Hybrid version that sits above the Prius range and below the similarly styled Lexus offering.Exterior and interior styling are strongly reminiscent of Toyota’s luxury brand, Lexus. Tweaked for Toyota’s audience, there’s sharply angled headlights with LED lighting at both ends on the V6, standard globes for the Hybrid, a full length glass roof with sunroof offered for the full petrol car, and an almost coupe rear roofline. There’s aerodynamic strakes on the wing mirrors and embedded in the rear light plastics. The boot itself has a designed in extended lid that doubles as a spoiler. It’s perhaps the front end that brings a Spock like raised eyebrow, with a twin level V that stretches from each side to meet at the (blue hued on the Hybrid) Toyota logo.Inside it’s strongly Lexus, with multiple dash folds, a beige and black trim combination in the V6 car supplied, some buttons too easily hidden by the steering wheel, and a disturbingly cheap look plastic on the centre console compared to the rest of the interior. The dash design is an S shape line from the driver’s binnacle that winds down to finish near the passenger’s knee. Leg room isn’t an issue though, nor is cargo space. The Hybrid has moved the battery pack from the boot to under the rear seats, giving a full 524L of space. With a 2825mm wheelbase, an increase of 50mm over the outgoing version, front and rear leg room is more than adequate for intended passengers. What isn’t is no USB ports for them in the Ascent, that’s left for the SX and SL to deliver.Up front is a easily spun 3.5L V6. Peak power is 224 “killerwasps” at a almost stratospheric 6600rpm. Peak torque is 362Nm at a more typical petrol rev point of 4700rpm with quoted economy of 8.9L/100km for the combined. This is quite achievable in real world driving but utilise the spirited V6’s revving ability and that figure goes south and quickly. Power is put through to the ground via an eight speed auto connected to the front wheels. It’s not the most refined eight speeder around, with each change regardless of throttle position having the body rocking back and forth in sympathy. Compared to the super smooth nine speed in the ZB Commodore tested immediately before, it was almost harsh in its changes.The Hybrid counters this with a combined total of 160kW however this is less than the full capacities available from the petrol and battery system separately. The four is a 2.5L unit with 131kW and 88kW from the electrical side. Transmission here is a CVT and rarely does it feel out of step with the drive-train. It’s also a combination that equals the urge of the V6 when pushed, will quietly hum away on a (very) light throttle, and will pick up its side skirts and bootscoot away rapidly anywhere in between. Economy is quoted as 4.2L/100 km of 95RON or E10. AWT saw a best of 5.0L/100km and that was on a fuel sapping run to Canberra and back. The tank in the Camry seems to be of a V shape, meaning as the fuel level lowers the trips towards half, quarter, empty become quicker.Camrys have, somewhat fairly, been tagged as whitegoods on wheels. There’s little engagement, they’re designed to move human bodies from A to B and back again without issue. And these two do. If the word fun can be injected into these two, it’s the Hybrid more likely to do so but only just ahead of the V6, in a driver’s sense. A niggle with the Hybrid that AWT has had is the all too quick engagement of the petrol engine to supplement the battery system. On a flat road and with an eggshell’s pressure on the accelerator, the Hybrid will move away under battery only up to a point where the computer, regardless of whether EV has been selected via a button in the centre console, brings in the petrol engine.A dash screen on both allows varying info such as navigation, audio, and in the Hybrid, shows the power distribution and battery level. It shows the change between battery only, both, or when the petrol is driving and charging the battery. It’s here that faint thunks from the CVT as it deals with the changing drive inputs can be felt.

Road holding in a straight line shows that the Camry V6’s rear end is too soft. Every minor ripple set the Camry’s rear bouncing, and more often than not a good dip would have it on the bumpstops. The front was defineably tauter, with the same bumps that had the rear flustered consigned to a mere bump. Combined with a V6 and front driven wheels, a heavy foot will also induce a phenomenon rarely seen in cars nowadays. Torque steer. Some plough on understeer was noted as well with Bridgestone Turanza 235/45/18 rubber not seemingly up to the task. Another disconcerting suspension issue was the readiness of the rear end to skip sideways when on a turn and hitting even a small irregularity.Somehow, the Camry Hybrid felt better sorted at both front and rear. Float was reduced, turn in was crisper, there was a lesser feeling of understeer, a minimised lateral movement and compression at the rear. Ride felt more confident, perhaps thanks to the Michelin Primacy 215/55/17 tyres. Even in the rainy periods that struck Australia’s most populous city during the test week, the Hybrid gave a more composed and sedate performance on road, instilling a higher level of confidence.Features wise there’s plenty. DAB audio is in both and the model dependent varying sized touchscreens are easy to use although have a pre-programmed split screen look. Default mode has a map on two thirds and audio on the other third, however the soft touch Audio button then brings up the chosen source. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto aren’t installed but a connected smartphone allows music apps to be used. There’s a charging pad for compatible smartphones snuggled in under the lower dash fold, next to a 12V and USB/3.5mm socket connector. The tiller has tabs on the left spoke that allow access to the dash screen. Cupholders front and rear via the console and pull-down are in, as are door mounted bottle holders. LED lighting is featured and the glass roof in the V6 was simple to operate via the standard roof mounted toggles.Airbags (seven, including kneebag) and driving aids abound, with the Hybrid having the drive mode options in the console. The SL trim level has a Head Up Display which is discrete to the point it’s almost unnoticeable. Park Assist front and rear is fitted and it’s a doddle to use. Reverse parking comes with a camera and guidelines on the screen to help in tighter car park and roadside kerb parking. Blind Spot Monitoring and Rear Cross Traffic Alert is SL specific.

At The End Of The Drive.
Pricing for the 2018 Camry range starts from a manufacturers list price of $27,690 for the four cylinder Ascent. The Hybrid Ascent is $29,990. Go to the Hybrid SL and you’re looking at $40,990. The SL V6 is $43,990, bot of course check with your dealership and for special offers head to Toyota Australia’s website

The cars themselves will sell to the Toyota faithful and potentially steal a few from elsewhere. Pedaled hard the Hybrid edges ahead of the V6 purely on driveability, is definitely more economical, and in SL form they have a goodly range of kit. From a driver’s point of view however there still doesn’t seem to be a real level of engagement, that sense of momentary flutter when getting in. For AWT it’s perhaps the somewhat disjointed looking dash design and the V6 SL’s lack of real ride as opposed to what a free revving V6 engine offers. That’s possibly best left to the V6 SX for those that want a rorty and sporty V6 Camry.

 

The Electric Highway.

One of the appeals of the Australian landscape is its huge gaps between the cities, allowing an almost uninterrupted view of the beautiful world we live on. That also means that using a car not powered by diesel or petrol may be limited in its ability to traverse the distances between them.Come the Electric Highway. Founded by the Tesla Owners Club of Australia, TOCA, they took up a joint initiative with the Australian Electric Vehicle Association to literally fill in the gaps. With a smattering of Tesla supercharger and destination charger points mainly spread along points of the east coast and largely between Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane, a driver can now drive no more than 200 to 300 kilometres before seeing another charging point. The network is made up of 32 amp three-phase chargers which are about 200km apart on average, with the furthest distance between charge points being 400km. Most are capable of adding 110km of range in 30 minutes.

Tesla itself is looking at another eighteen superchargers around Australia by the end of 2019 which is complemented by the Australian Capital Territory’s decision to install fifty dual Electric Vehicle charging points at government sites in order to reach its zero emissions goal by 2022 for government cars.

Although most states have so far effectively failed to get on the electric car wagon, Queensland has bucked that trend by investing heavily in charger points.In that state, EV drivers can travel from Coolangatta to Cairns, and west from Brisbane to Toowoomba, using the government’s fast charger network, which is also vehicle agnostic. This means that the charger points are able to deal with the various car charging point designs, which does beg the question of why a global standard appears to not have been settled on. The rollout was completed in January of 2018.It’s also worth noting that the Western Australian government owned power company, Synergy, did assist the TOCA initiative. In WA alone, more than 70 charge points were installed in towns and roadhouses on all major roads in the south and east of the state, as well as some remote locations in the north.

The initiative, a team effort by Synergy and the WA branch of the Australian Electric Vehicle Association, is installing three-phase charge points in towns and roadhouses on all major roads in the south and east of the state, as well as some remote locations in the north.

WA’s regional utility, Horizon Power, also contributed to the roll-out, with installations of 3 phase outlets in the Kimberley area.

“We’re endeavouring to show that there is ‘people power’ behind the drive to EV’s, and hopefully governments can follow,” said Richard McNeall, a TOCA member and coordinator of the Round Australia Project.Currently most charger points are free, however there is a mooted change to this, but not at a huge impost. With pricing yet to be settled upon it’ll be worth looking out for press releases on this matter.

UK car maker Jaguar Land Rover has also announced plans to add a charging network in Australia, ahead of the release of its first EV, the I-PACE all-electric SUV, later this year. JLR Australia says the up to $4 million network would include 150 changing stations, using 100kW DC chargers provided by Jet Charge.

Plug Share is the site to go to to find out where the charge points are located.

BMW’s EV Wireless Charging

BMW’s Wireless Charging

The new BMW 5-Series iPerformance models boast some very cool ‘world-first’ technology.  Available factory-fitted with a fully integrated inductive charging facility means that you can arrive home, park over a ground pad (the inductive charging facility/station) and hey-presto your car charges up, ready for your next trip away.

BMW’s Wireless Charging consists of the GroundPad (an inductive charging station), that can be installed either in a garage or outdoors, and the CarPad, which is fixed to the underside of the vehicle will connect to the GroundPad once parked appropriately.  This technology is available as an option on the new BMW 530e iPerformance model.  The GroundPad generates a magnetic field that induces an electric current in the CarPad, which then charges the battery in the car.

BMW’s 530e iPerformance model has the parking systems that help the driver to manoeuvre into the correct parking position over the GroundPad using a WiFi connection between the charging station and the vehicle.  Once the connection has been made, an overhead view of the car and its surroundings then appears in the car’s display screen with coloured lines that help guide the driver into position.  An icon shows up on the screen when the correct parking position is reached for the process of inductive charging.  BMW say the position for parking over the top of the GroundPad isn’t difficult to locate as the position can deviate by up to 7 cm longitudinally and up to 14 cm laterally – so it has plenty of buffering for getting a good connection.  To easy!

We already are becoming familiar with the wireless charging systems inside many new cars from different manufacturers where mobile phones and electric toothbrushes can be wirelessly charged inside the car.  BMW says its wireless charging uses the same inductive charging technology already widely used for supplying power to devices such as these.

BMW has unveiled a wireless charging system that will be available in Germany, followed shortly by the UK, the US, Japan and China.  It’s nice to be able to boast this technology and do away with cords and manual contraptions for charging your hybrid.  Germany and Europe seem to be leading the way with cutting edge EV technology, and this inductive charging system, created by BMW, will set the ball rolling for other manufacturers to follow suit.

I can imagine, like BMW, a world where you just pull up to your car park in the city, and the wireless inductive charging facility that’s set in place, in the road, underneath your EV will charge up your car while you duck into the café for a coffee or buy the necessary office equipment for your business.  This is all pretty cool technology!

EV Ponderings

EV Networking

With all the fuss and excitement of electric vehicles paving the way of the future it’s worth pondering what sort of new electric-vehicle technology could be part of our automotive future.  Interesting current discussion regarding what sort of electric-vehicle (EV) fuel stations, networking and technology Australia might employ is necessary for keeping the Australian EV fleet ready for the road.  Plenty of excellent EV and EV-infrastructure planning and  management has to happen now for us to get the best EV product rolled out for our country.

EVs need a simple and accessible recharging station that’s always handy – whether it be at home or on the move.  If we have too few power-up stations available, then the incentive to buy an EV becomes less appealing to the public.  At present the best EV technology manages to get some of the EV cars travelling around 300-to-400 km in ideal conditions before they require a recharge of their batteries.  Many cars, in real life, can hardly make it to 200 km before they require a top-up.  This makes country folk who travel large distances unlikely to want to buy a new EV – particularly if there is no handy recharge stations on-route.

Is it feasible to place powering-up stations every 100 km – or so – along a main arterial route between cities?  The answer is yes, and it is happening in places like Germany where German carmakers hope a network of high-power charging stations they are rolling out with Ford will set an industry standard for plugs and protocols that will give them the edge over other electric car rivals and manufacturers.  This competition is encouraging EV charging stations to be put in quickly across some of their main roads, making it easier to top-up the batteries on longer drives.  EV station points are slowly growing inside Australia’s main cities, but little is being done with regards to connecting the main centres with additional intercity recharging stations.  The sooner this is done, then the sooner we’ll see a big growth in Australian EV sales.

Connecting the EV power stations to the main grid is relatively straight forward.  However, it would be even better to have isolated EV micro grids where each EV power station can generate its own power for recharging vehicles so that any looming main-grid power outages are isolated from the micro grids.  When everybody and every-business in Australia switches to buying themselves a new EV, then it would seem a great doorway to causing nationwide havoc if some unseemly group takes out the major power stations across Australia!  Having a micro-grid that sources Australia’s abundant solar and wind energy could also tick the right boxes.

An interesting EV progression in Sweden is the creation of an electrified road (the world’s first) that can charge EVs as they drive along, potentially helping to cut the high cost of electric cars.  An electrified rail embedded in the tarmac of the 2 km road charges an EV truck automatically as it travels above it.  A movable arm attached to the truck detects the rail’s location in the road, and charging stops when the vehicle is overtaking or coming to a halt.  The system also calculates the vehicle’s energy consumption, which enables electricity costs to be debited per vehicle and per user.  Could Australia embrace this type of innovation and join Sweden in leading the way forward, allowing electric cars to be even cheaper than fossil fuel ones?

The new BMW i3 and i3s, Hyundai IONIQ, Jaguar I-PACE, Nissan LEAF and Renault Kangoo ZE are some of the latest EVs arriving in Australia.  I would encourage Australia to think outside the square and get onto the EV and power station new wave of technology for powering our nations new fleet of EVs.  Australia could even create their own unique plug-in technology and high-output stations for the best environmentally-friendly Australian EV system.

Are you an EV driver?  If you are, or even if you are taken by this new breed of vehicle, are there any items and processes you would like to see put in place so as we can all enjoy a premium Australia EV network?

EV Networking