Driving forces in EV uptake
CHANGE is not easy. Any company that has marketed electric vehicles in Australia can tell you that.
Worldwide, a push towards utilising electric power has slowly filtered Down Under and anyone who attended the recent Brisbane Truck Show could tell you that the move towards electric power seems imminent.
OEM manufacturers, both truck and driveline, have shown what is possible with current technology.
Australia is a special case in relation to electric vehicles and this third and final article in the EVolution series looks at uniquely Aussie issues and innovations, what is driving interest in CEV forward and what is holding it back.
Between 2017 and '18, the increase in the population of capital cities accounted for 79 per cent of all Australia's population growth. On average, commuters drive only 42km a day. Our population is becoming centralised and people aren't travelling as far.
These are the perfect conditions for the current technology found in electric vehicles.
City driving, which includes braking to aid regeneration, does not require large-range capacity. This allows a commercial driver to carry out their run and return to base using the current battery technology more suited to light/medium commercials whose natural habitat is metro areas.
It seems the light/medium commercial range will be the starting point for rolling out commercial electric vehicles. Current battery technology allows for these vehicles to run a 300-400km range, however much like a diesel engine the range can change depending upon the freight carried, weight of the truck itself and driving style.
All of these factors are controllable though. The amount of freight carried can be fine-tuned to allow for additional range, much like weight can be shaved from a truck by running alloy rims instead of steel ones, removing the spare tyre and ensuring there is no superfluous weight.
When asked about how soon we will see electric vehicles on our roads, Viva Energy, the exclusive supplier of Shell fuels and lubricants in Australia through its 1200-strong service station system, told us: "It is our view that internal combustion engines will remain a significant portion of the Australian carpark (the average age of vehicles in Australia is approximately 10 years).
"This, along with other impediments to rapid electric vehicle take-up, such as range anxiety, cost of vehicles and policy support, means that we expect the take-up to be slower than elsewhere globally.
"Growing our current business to be the strongest network in the country will leave us well-positioned to be the partner of choice when and if future fuels evolve to become a mainstream offer.”
One Australian company that is attempting to make inroads into the electric commercial vehicle market is the ACE-EV Group. With both German and Taiwanese corporate partners, the firm launched their Australian assembled ACE Cargo at the Sydney International Convention Centre in April.
Planning to make Australia the home base for right-hand-drive light CEV, ACE-EV Group believes our country has the resources for EV and quality processes that are attractive to target countries in Asia.
With a manufacturing plant in Wingfield, South Australia, the company plans to assemble 100 vehicles throughout 2019.
When asked about the obstacles to growth in the EV market, ACE-EV managing director Gregory McGarvie told us a lack of clear government policy caused the ACE-EV group to lose $5 million seed funding in late 2017.
He said false facts about electric vehicles and poor understanding of the possible benefits of running an EV were also impeding progress for the sector.
"These include the opportunity to improve energy security, reduce the cost of importation of fossil fuels, plus the underlying health and transport efficiency benefits,” he said.
"The typical range for the smaller 30kWh battery is 250km, whereas the larger 60kWh battery will travel 500km. The reality will be to treat your vehicle like a mobile phone on wheels. Whenever not in use, plug it in, your home garage or carport will be an e-fuel station charging at a rate of 1.5 toasters plugged in. Running costs from a home e-fuelled vehicle is equivalent to running an internal combustion powered car for 2.24l per 100km.”
Peter Fox, of Linfox, last year made a statement that pointed out Linfox's interest in being one of the first movers towards CEV in the trucking industry, depending on the development of supporting infrastructure and manufacturers' supply of appropriate vehicles.
Linfox is also moving forward by ensuring CEV requirements are taken into consideration on any new sites the company builds.
Woolworths and Linfox are part of the Australian Logistics Council's new Electric Vehicles Working Group, a group of some of the biggest companies in freight, working towards the viability of CEV on Australian roads.
The age of the commercial electric vehicle is approaching. However the speed at which we reach a stage where CEV is the norm will be affected by a set of circumstances unique to Australia.
Our environment, the tyranny of distance and culture will dictate the rate of change in our industry.