EV use helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions
NZ’s Emission Reduction Plan sets national targets for reducing transport emissions: The stated intention is to
- rapidly increase purchase of low-emissions vehicles
- reduce our reliance on cars, and support people to walk, cycle and use public transport; and
- begin work to decarbonise heavy transport and freight
Reducing travel frequency and car sharing are also recognised as valuable actions.
We will give updates on several of these other transport priorities over the next few weeks.
Robust estimates of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are published by
Statistics NZ. They report that GHG emissions from transport increased 16.6 percent from 2005 to 2020 (the latest figures published)
Almost half of New Zealand’s CO2 total emissions are now from domestic transport, of which two-thirds are emitted by light vehicles – cars, SUVs, vans, utes and trucks under 3.5 tonnes. See the stats here.
The Government now subsidises purchase of low and zero emission vehicles
The Ministry of Transport (Te Manatu Waka) explains how the scheme is designed to encourage demand for low and zero emission vehicles. EVs bought since July 1, 2021, qualify for taxpayer-funded rebates of $8625 for a new electric or plug-in hybrid car (PHEV is $5750), and $3,450 for imported used EVs.
When debating the pros and cons of electric cars vs petrol cars, their cost and how much money you can save is often discussed. EV’s are still relatively expensive to buy but are very much cheaper to use.
Drive Electric states
If you drive an average of 25-30km a day (like most Kiwis), the cost of charging an EV is roughly equivalent to paying 30c per litre for petrol.
Electric vehicles are powered by lithium-ion batteries (also called Li-ion batteries). There are around one billion Li-ion battery powered products (including computers and phones) used globally. They can be flammable, particularly when unsuitable batteries are exposed for lengthy periods to extreme conditions or if the power cells are damaged and short-circuiting occurs.
Electric vehicles now have battery management systems (BMS). BMS manage the energy that is provided by the batteries to ensure their safety and reliability. (Sanguesa et al 2021, A
Review on Electric Vehicles: Technologies and Challenges, Smart Cities) This includes thermal cooling them under load and heating them for fast charging and charging management.
Battery safety is checked by regulators. For example, the US Dept of Energy states
“Commercially available electric-drive vehicles must meet the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and undergo the same rigorous safety testing as conventional
vehicles sold in the United States.” https://afdc.energy.gov/vehicles/electric_maintenance.html;
An American consumer group states that
“Today’s lithium-ion battery technology is dependable, safe, and long-lasting. That means you can expect the battery in an electric car to outlast the car itself. Plus, the lack of a combustion-engine allows for design decisions that keep you and your passengers safer in the event of a collision compared to a gas-powered car.
An American insurance study suggests that EVs are far less likely to catch fire than other vehicles; about 25 events recorded per 100,000 vehicles (compared to nn for ICEs?) => https://www.autoinsuranceez.com/gas–vs–electric–car–fires/’
Other studies confirm this, for example, “Today’s lithium-ion battery technology isdependable, safe, and long-lasting.” Reuters. See here.
EV safety is helped by the fact that they do not have a large/heavy engine up front and so the zone that absorbs the energy in a collision is larger and hence affords more protection.
The AA has a lot of information about EVs including this item about choice of tyres. See here.
Maintaining battery health
All EVs display battery characteristics to the driver. This includes percentage of battery capacity remaining during trips and overall state of health. A diagnostic tool can be plugged in and a battery health check easily performed.
Most new EVs have battery warranties that guarantee the battery for a certain length of time (typically 5-8 years, sometimes longer) or distance (such as 100,000km). Over time, EV battery capacity gradually decreases the more it is used, like a mobile phone. This can also happen when a vehicle is parked up and not being used. Decreased capacity means the car won’t travel as far on a single charge. It will still work well and will be a good option for car buyers who don’t need to travel so far between charges. Technical developments continue to improve both their energy density and longevity.
When you purchase an EV, it’ll come with a charging cable that can be plugged into the standard 3-pin NZ power outlet. This is okay for overnight, standard charging.
Charging is programmable using either the car or an operating app. Most will include a timer that can be set to ensure you’re not needlessly charging a full battery. Some of these wall stations even offer an accompanying app to monitor charge status and other information. The connection is protected by a cover – especially important if your car lives in a car port where weather (temperature is weather in a car port) is a factor. Often these units will have safety features like surge protection and auto shut off.
Most electricity suppliers in NZ still offer lower night rates to reduce charging costs, and newer EVs can be programmed to charge within the restricted times.
Nickel-manganese-cobalt (NMC) and nickel-cobalt-aluminium (NCA) are the preferred cathodes in EV batteries. Battery manufacture accounts for over half of cobalt mined globally each year. Amnesty has highlighted health risks to child and adult workers in cobalt mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the largest source. It is also mined in Australia.
Lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries, which don’t use cobalt, are now increasingly being used. See here.
Battery lifecycle management
EVs have embedded carbon during manufacture, mainly due to the contribution of battery manufacture, but this is offset by the reduced carbon emissions during their use. The actual break-even period depends on the source of electricity for charging and how many kms are travelled in a year. Typical figures for NZ would suggest that an EV contributes about 70 gm/km of CO2 equivalent while a similar sized petrol engine car would contribute about 200 gm/km across their lifetimes.
This remains an issue but has to be balanced against the fact that EV travel does not emit CO2.
Many businesses and research labs are working on this major issue including NZ businesses. For example, Blue Cars has a prototype which fits new cells into an existing Leaf battery pack https://bluecars.nz/nissan-leaf-battery-replacement-project/; In Auckland the Battery Leaders Group has contributed to research commissioned by Vector on circular economy opportunities for lithium-ion batteries, with a view to responsible end-of-life management. In Europe developing the circular economy for batteries is seen as big business. The European Union countries are investing heavily in this field through their European Battery Alliance. https://www.eba250.com/;\
The Government has just announced an EV charging infrastructure plan. Locally, there are EV charging stations at
- Golden Bay I site visitor centre, Takaka
- Abel Tasman lodge, Marahau
- Kaiteriteri recreation reserve
- Motueka New World supermarket
- Richmond public library’
- Nelson I site visitor centre
- Nelson New World supermarket
Charging sites throughout NZ can be found on Apps like Plugshare (plugshare.com) and for specific networks (Chargenet – charge.net.nz). Planning trips away to include appropriate charging stops is accomplished using Apps like A Better Route
Planner(abetterrouteplanner.com). Using these Apps to plan trips avoids so-called range anxiety and usually allows charging to be planned around refreshment stops.
EV car sharing in Los Angeles
BlueLA now has 300 shared vehicles (BEVs) in a one-way carsharing model in locations throughout central LA that include two parking spots with EV charging equipment (electric vehicle supply equipment or EVSE) for each vehicle. The service is based in “disadvantaged communities” as defined by the state model that accounts for income and air pollution exposure. The goal is to recruit at least 7,000 new users within three years of project launch, who are expected to sell or avoid purchase of 1,000 private vehicles, reducing an estimated 2,150 tons of GHGs annually.
Asthma New Zealand
“Asthma New Zealand replaced their petrol fleet with eight electric cars. Getting rid of emissions from petrol vehicles aligned with its strategic vision, cut running costs and helped increase the number of patients that staff can educate. The project received co-funding from the Government’s Low Emission Vehicles Contestable Fund.”
Between 1 Aug 2020 and 31 July 2021, Asthma NZ spent $2,604 total on charging, NZ Transport licence renewals, WOF and maintenance service.
Evolution of smart charging app
In the UK there are EV smart charging apps to help people find the best time to recharge the vehicle as prices and power availability fluctuate over a 24 hour period. See info here.
Some useful references
- Burrows L, 2021, Battery breakthrough for electric cars, Harvard Gazette
- EDF, Electric car batteries, https://www.edfenergy.com/electric-cars/batteries;
- Hales, S Charging Ahead: Evaluating Electric Vehicle Adoption Likelihood Based on
- Motoring Attitudes, University of Otago
- Jaishankar and Weaver, 2020, Electric Utilities and the EV Market: A Decision-Making Tool for State-Specific Strategies, Duke University
- NZTA, Charging an electric vehicle
- Tiwari V et al, 2019, Public Attitudes towards Electric Vehicle adoption using Structural Equation Modelling, Newcastle University