Electric vehicles again

By August 22, 2018Other

In the week since I last wrote the NEG has been replaced by the leadership issue as the principal topic of political discussion in our country. The search for agreement that I wrote about has failed. There is none. What we have is a reversal of aspects of the Prime Minister’s proclaimed policy, and a challenge to Mr Turnbull’s leadership by Minister Peter Dutton, which failed by a few votes. Every day there is a new story. I said that sooner or later someone would have to face the reality of the energy problem. No one has said anything about what a Dutton Government would do about the NEG, and the reason may well be that Mr Dutton himself doesn’t know. Certainly he has not said anything about it. I’m not sure the moment of truth has come, but the general impatience with what we have is obvious. The media portray it as a leadership race, because that is far easier a story to tell than the awkwardness of what is wrong with the NEG. But the policy issue  is the immediate cause of it, and the Prime Minister’s determination to have his cake and eat it too — that is, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and energy prices at the same time. It just can’t be done, and increasing numbers of MPs are wondering why he is so obsessed with it.

At a lunchtime meeting the other day one of those present said that any policy was better than what we had now. Later I realised that what we have now is indeed our current policy, and it means in fact higher energy prices for as far ahead as you can see; I might have said so at the time. Back to Square One. If you want lower energy prices, and Australia is one of the few countries in the world capable of meeting its gas and electricity demand from its own resources, then you ensure that coal carries the base load for electricity, you make it easier to build nuclear power stations, and you remove the restrictions on exploiting our gas reserves. That’s all relatively easy. You want to place more responsibility on solar and wind? Then you are prepared to have higher energy prices, because solar and wind need extensive back-up, mostly from gas, and they cannot carry the base load that keeps everything running reliably and cheaply. As I said last week, all this has been known for a decade at least…

My helpless quasi-fury at this ridiculous state of affairs was given an outlet by a news story on Channel 9 to the effect that a new electric vehicle (EV) charging station had been opened somewhere in Canberra. The take-home message was that this was a sign of the future awaiting us. I missed the exact context, but the figure of 300 EV cars for Canberra was mentioned, and that triggered the rest of this essay. Why should we be excited about 300 electric vehicles in our city? Three hundred out of how many? Just last month, or the past year, or since when? Off to the Internet, at least as a first source of information.

The first source is climateworksaustralia, founded by  the Myer Foundation and Monash University, which claims to provide independent expert advice for Australia to transition to zero net emissions by 2050. It starts from an alarmist position, as you see. I should say here that to use ‘alarmist’ in this context is neither an insult nor intended to be one. These people are raising the alarm at what they see as the problem of greenhouse gas emissions. It seems to me a perfectly accurate label. I could use ‘orthodox’, but the widespread use of EVs is not yet, I think, an orthodox position on the part of our governments, though it may be ‘trending’ that way.

Wherever you look, there is furious debate, EVs being seen as the future (making up half of all new car sales by 2030 in one projection), and as doomed (lots). Hard figures are hard to come by (Tesla doesn’t report sales), and the ABS wasn’t much help, but here’s what seems like a hard figure from an industry sourceIn 2017, a record 1,189,116 new cars were sold in Australia, with just 1123 electric cars accounting for a tiny 0.09 per cent of the market share. I assume that these are the figures for pure rather than hybrid vehicles. Again, it is not easy to find the hybrid figures either. Carsales.com offers for second-hand sale 130 pure EVs, from lots of Teslas at more than $109k to various versions of the Mitsubishi MIEV at under $20k. The first sign of why Australians are not really gearing up to the EV revolution is that these cars are pricey. If you live in an utterly urban environment, and you can charge your car every evening at home, and you never go anywhere else than a restricted urban setting, then an EV may make really good sense. If registration were nominal, then you could afford to have an EV just for local shopping, and leave the long trips for your other internal combustion engine (ICE) car. When I first lived in England my landlord had three cheap cars, a Goggomobil to go to work in, a family station wagon, and a lovely old Wolseley sedan to go to see his parents in Wales. The registration fees were trivial. That’s probably changed.

 The climateworks stuff was interesting, so I’ve used it as well. It states that in 2017, 2,284 EVs were sold, about double the figure above (climateworks includes an estimate for Tesla sales, which might explain the difference). It says also that only five of the nine new models expected next year will cost less than $60k apiece. The number of charging stations is also increasing. Even more interesting to me were the results of a survey of people in NSW, Victoria and the ACT, seeking replies as to how they would ‘source’ their electricity to charge their vehicle. To a simple-minded lad like me that is an empty question. You turn the charging switch on, and the electricity available charges the car. At the moment coal supplies 70 per cent of it. But apparently people think they can have ‘a green power or emissions offset contract’. What this is not clear to me, and whether or not it is cheaper is no less unclear. A third of the respondents thought they would consider solar and battery options. What would they be?

Where are EVs most popular? In South Australia and the ACT. In 2017 South Australians bought 22 EVs for every 10,000 vehicles sold, with 21 EVs sold in the ACT within the same total. It is hard to see the coming EV revolution in these figures. At the other end of the scale, sales were almost non-existent in Tasmania and the Northern Territory. Who buys them? Business accounts for almost two-thirds, mostly manufacturer fleets and dealer demonstrators. Private buyers are at 34 per cent, government providing the rest.

I am sure that EVs will increase in number, and that there will come technological improvements that make some of their problems less irksome. Of course, the same can be said for ICE cars, which are very much better in every way than they were thirty years ago, and keep getting better, too. But with 70 per cent of the power generated to keep the EVs running coming from coal, the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from using an EV cannot be striking, and the data don’t suggest they are. So why are we doing it? It isn’t surprising the SA and the ACT lead the pack, so to speak, because South Australia’s population is concentrated in Adelaide (about 70 per cent) while Canberra is an almost entirely urban setting. As I said above, an EV can be just want you want, so long as you don’t want to go driving any long distances. Unless charging rates are quickened, EVs don’t make great sense for those wanting to drive from one major city to another (and we do our share of that).

What I see is a solution looking desperately for a problem. And the climateworks document says, almost plaintively, at the end, that we have to consider Australia’s commitment to have net zero emissions by the second half of the century. Maybe we do, but 2051 is a long way off. In the meantime Australians do not seem especially interested in EVs, despite the urging of climateworks and similarly interested bodies.

And the 300 EVs in Canberra? I think that was the number of new EVs sold in 2017 — it looks about right, given the registration statistics. Why did the television channel think it was a news story? My guess is that, like so many others, it has an editorial commitment to alternative energy sources, and sees anything like this as ‘a good news story’. I don’t think it is, really, hence this essay.




Join the discussion 63 Comments

  • Neville says:

    I’m happy for people to waste their money any way they please, but don’t start urging the rest of us to follow their stupidity.
    Even if the EV sales pick up slightly it will make not a jot of difference to temp, climate, droughts, floods, extreme events, GBR , MDB, etc by 2040 or 2100.
    Using the IEA data we can say that S&W energy has been a disaster and EVs will run a close second as more and more sheeple are sucked into this new money waster.

  • BB says:

    For the record black coal and brown coal combined it in 2017 produced 75.54% of the electricity on the eastern grid. Add natural gas to that and you get 86.8%. Wind produced 5.79% and grid scale solar 0.32%.

    There are a number of electric charging stations at the Belconnen markets but I have never seen any car charging. The only electric car I have seen in the Belconnen area is a Tesla S owned by the manager of project lighting. There is a large Tesla charging station at Wodonga which I visited a number of times over a weekend. Did not see a Tesla for there. At the stations you will be there for an hour and 20 minutes to fully charge!

    • JimboR says:

      The final 20% is the real killer to charge times. The winning strategy for roadtrips is to pull into a supercharger at 10% and 30 minutes later you’ll be up to 80%. I’ve got buddies who regularly drive from Auckland to Wellington and back, and San Francisco to San Diego and back, using that strategy. Tesla’s Australian supercharger network can now get you from Brisbane to Adelaide via Sydney and Melbourne…. not so good if you want to go the direct inland route though or any other scenic route.

      • spangled drongo says:

        Another “killer” for the daily commuter is the fact that you can’t use solar energy because you get home too late and leave too early.

        But perhaps if every car had two sets of batteries and you changed them over each night, that might be a more effective killer….

      • spangled drongo says:

        Or maybe they will become like trade tools. Get an assortment of vehicles and one battery to run the lot.

    • JimboR says:

      Everyone I know with an electric car charges for free at work.


      • spangled drongo says:

        That’s nice, jimb.

        Must be luvley to have a job in such a cosy, accommodating place.

      • spangled drongo says:

        They not only milk the taxpayer for their cars, but also for the fuel to run them.

        Oh, to be born entitled like that!

  • Neville says:

    Electric cars are just another Green energy con. It’s amazing what people tend to believe.

  • Art says:

    What would it mean to our potentially overloaded power system if 50 % of the cars sold were EVs – blackouts galore as the system struggled to meet the need? What about those needing to travel at night in non-windy conditions? How long does it take to charge a car battery for a journey equivalent to an ICV full tank of petrol? Imagine the queues. at the refill stations. Every EV should probably be equipped with one or more bicycles.

    One positive benefit of EVs would to ameliorate our growing population? W use our ears quite a bit to warn us of on coming traffic. There is quite an increased potential for pedestrian deaths, especially for those whose eyes are glued to smart phones as they walk along. We could do with fewer of those.

    Just the demented musings of a long time petrol hesad.

  • Tezza says:

    I suspect that of the tiny number of electric vehicles sold in the ACT, the vast majority would be sales to the ANU, the ACT local government and the Federal environment department. All virtue-signalling ( or should that be stupidity-signalling?) with other peoples’ money.

    I also suspect you are being much too kind, Don, in conceding that electric cars might make good sense in a limited urban environment. The analysis regularly updated on Watts Up With That and Jo Nova’ sites show whole-of-life energy demands and environmental costs of electric vehicles are much higher than of ICE vehicles. That’s where virtue signalling becomes stupidity signalling.

    Finally, the fetish for electric cars is a classic case of Green overreach in the face of all practical experience. There are two classes of electric vehicles that make eminent good sense for everyday urban use at present, and the Greens never refer to them: mobility scooters, and electric bicycles. Both substitute for CO2-emitting alternatives, if that is what floats your boat. But because they are practical, affordable and useful, Greens ignore them. The main objective of Greens is to make life inconvenient.

    • Brian Austen says:

      I haven’t done any calculations but I wonder if there might be some sense for the Tasmanian government to promote electric vehicle usage as an alternative to the Bass Strait cable.

      The objective would be to reduce fossil fuel use.

  • Don Aitkin says:

    A brief piece on WUWT today says that more than 400 fully electric or hybrid electric vehicles have been announced. BMW plans to introduce 12 all-electric cars and 13 hybrids into its line-up by 2025. Ford has a similar target. Everyone wants to be in the game. But where is the demand?

  • Chris Warren says:

    Electric cars – PROVIDED – the energy to make the car and battery, and run the vehicle are non-fossil, will alleviate global warming to some extent.

    The issue is not “where is the demand”. The demand is for transportation services and if only EV’s are available, there will be automatic demand for EVs.

    • spangled drongo says:

      EVs are like rooftop solar, blith.

      Rich and middleclass welfare at the expense of the people who can’t afford them and no solution whatsoever.

      Until we introduce much better technology for our electric power production such as fission or fusion they are a sick joke.

  • Aert Driessen says:

    I was hoping to see some information on running costs but haven’t. I’m not tech-savvy enough to work this out, so can anyone tell me how much I would be charged for enough electricity to take me 100 km so that I can compare this to a fuel price of $1.55/litre? I’ll work out my own opportunity cost of time spent at the recharge station.

    • JimboR says:

      Varies a bit with driving conditions, but you should be able to get about 5km / kWH put in. So 100km would take 20 kWH. Here in SEQ I pay 24.59c per kWH inclusive of GST, so that’d be about $4.92 to go 100km. Some owners hook theirs up to off peak meters/tariffs in which case you can lower that further if you’re happy to only charge at night.

    • JimboR says:

      The incremental cost to the corporate electric bill is so small that companies often throw it in for free as an enticement…. come work for us and we’ll charge your car for free while you do, or in the case of WholeFoods come shop with us and we’ll charge your car for free while you do.

    • Mike dinn says:

      And also what about the energy and costs to heat or cool an EV?

  • Bryan Rpoberts says:

    I recently visited Saigon and Kuala Lumpur. Saigon has about 8 million motorbikes, and KL has approximately 5 million cars. The internal combustion engine is not going to disappear anytime soon.

  • Bryan Roberts says:

    I recently visited Saigon and Kuala Lumpur. Saigon has 8 million motorcycles; Kuala Lumpur 5 million cars. The internal combustion engine is not going to disappear anytime soon, and what Australia does (or does not do) will be completely irrelevant.

  • Neville says:

    Here’s another Green scam to help us. Dr Roy Spencer explores this little gem to help us extract energy from traffic driven wind turbines.
    Just another version of a perpetual motion machine that seems to pop up on a regular basis.

  • Colin Davidson says:

    Electric: Heavy. Less internal volume. As polluting as electric generators. Low range. Long refill times. Poor cold weather performance. Inconvenient. Unsuitable for trucks. If the power does not have to be carried can be cheaper (trams, trains). Prospects for significant improvements in power/weight ratios for batteries are nil.

    Fossil Fuelled: Light. Fuel readily available. High internal vehicle volume. long range. Fast refill times. Good cold weather performance. Convenient. Only realistic option for heavy transport (planes, trucks)

    Hybrid: Has potential to improve fossil fuelled efficiency, but at the cost of internal volume and weight.

    Nuclear: Best for ships, but expensive due to over-safe regulations.

    Hydrogen: To carry a sufficient amount you need either to liquify it (-200DegC) or pressurise it. Both these are heavy and use up internal volume. Unlikely to be a practical future fuel.

  • Neville says:

    More problems for a quick changeover to renewables and more problems for EVs in Germany.
    The German states want Merkel to delay the closure of RELIABLE coal power stns for another 30 years.
    For starters there’s the loss of 60,000 jobs, but if coal stays until 2050 EVs will be mostly powered by dirty???? coal until that time.
    Germany has wasted 100s of billions on this nonsense for decades and STILL their fossil fuel energy percentage ( more co2 emissions) is higher than the USA. OH and Germany only emits about 2.1% of the world’s co2.
    S&W has been a disaster for Germany and caused a lot of pain and suffering for zero change by 2040 or 2100.
    These sums, data, evidence etc are easy to understand yet our Pollies, Scientists and Media continue to believe their fairy stories. At least a cornered (under oath) Dr Finkel spilled the beans at a recent Senate inquiry.


  • Neville says:

    Let’s hope Angus Taylor ( our new Energy minister) can start to educate everyone about the cost and stupidity of the S&W fairy tale. Time will tell.


    • spangled drongo says:

      “…..start to educate everyone about the cost and stupidity of the S&W fairy tale.”

      Yes, Neville, that is sorely needed. We urgently need to have someone like Lomborg constantly spelling it out and explaining the flaws in the system in simple language.

      He was seen as far too dangerous to the religious groupthink and it was not for nothing that the left progressives made him unemployable in this country but that now needs to be reversed and the population need to be better educated on this crucial subject.

    • Chris Warren says:


      Thank you for your “stupid fairytale”.

      But the dust is in your eyes.

  • Neville says:

    A very interesting summary from Terry McCrann on the clueless OZ Business Council and the BIG end of town compared to real businesses and the people who run them. This S&W lunacy has to be stopped ASAP. See his OZ column at this link.


    • Chris Warren says:


      Thank you for your “clueless lunacy”.

      You are true to type.

      • JMO says:

        Chris, as Richo ( Graham Richardson) says -” the mob will always work you out”. In this case, they figured out the truth of renewables. They have seen their electricity bills skyrocket in direct relation to the spread of windmills and solar panels. They have witnessed the ever increasing brown-outs and black -outs. where even a whole state is blacked out (crickey that was that a wake up call or what).

        They are bewildered how Australia’s once cheap and reliable power grid has been vandalised to an expensive and unreliable service. They are furious that our plentiful bounty of gas and top grade coal is shunted overseas and vast gas resources are banned from mining and we have to make do with unreliable intermittent expensive electricity and yet the 3 largest CO2 emitters get free passes.

        They no longer believe the propaganda that this is merely a transitional process ( a dust in the kitchen issue). They now know the truth – more renewables = more expensive and unreliable expensive electricity PERMANENTLY. They remember Rudd in 2008 saying it will only cost $1/year extra for a complete transition away from fossil fuels. They now know they have been CONNED and are FURIOUS.

        • Chris Warren says:


          That was an example of Neville’s “Clueless lunacy”.

          If it was true, candidates standing on such nonsense would fill the Parliament.

          The opposite is true – those lonely few who preach this dogma within the Liberals are a laughable rump hanging-off Tony Abbott like the dags they are. The others are well and truly isolated in a chaotic morass of rightwing Trotskyite sects such as Katter’s, Bernardi’s, Palmer’s onetime sect and Hanson’s sect.

          In the ALP such elements are of no account and generally regarded as both mad and bad.

          • JMO says:

            Chris – I can see you are not paying the electricity bills. Neither do you drive much out to the countryside to see the desecration of our unique beautiful country with wind sourced power stations (they are not farms!).
            You seem quite happy to join the virtual signalling mugs in this country seeing our top grade thermal coal, gas and uranium being exported O.S.to provide them cheap reliable power and leave us with the expensive unreliables.

            On top of that the effective life of windmills is 15-20 years and solar panels maybe 20. Coal fire power stations have shown to last much longer (50 years) and nuclear power stations longer. About 1/3 of US windmills will be probably be decommissioned by early 2020s. They have figured out how to recycle the bird killing blades and they are still not sure what to do about the hundreds of tonnes of concrete bases – which by the way emitted so much CO2 to produce the cement (yes I did work once at a cement factory) that I doubt the windmill would have repaid the CO2 debt during their lives.

            Oh, but the eyes of the world are watching Australia! Isn’t that what you lot say? What was the country again? Was it Austria?

        • JMO says:

          Correction – They have NOT figured out figured out how to recycle the bird killing blades.

          • Chris Warren says:


            Sorry, far too much assertion to be taken seriously.

            However you should present data on CO2 emissions from cement per wind turbine as this is of interest. There may be a CO2 debt here.

          • JimboR says:

            Don’t fall for it Chris. Published LCAs have to conform with the relevant ISO standard. A typical wind turbine pays back it’s carbon debt after 93.9 days of operation and its total energy debt after 146 days of operation. These guys just make this stuff up and the churn it around and around in their echo chamber hoping someone will someday believe some of it.


          • spangled drongo says:

            Jimb, if the economic cost of providing power sources available on demand to balance the grid and to meet changes in demand, set against collapses in wind power output, is greater than the economic value of the wind power produced, your “carbon debt” is a joke.

            This also creates a big increase in CO2 production which you choose to ignore.

            And never forget that the states with the most renewables are the states with the highest power prices.

  • Peter E says:

    It seems that the ‘inevitable transition’ to renewables and electric cars isn’t so inevitable after all; both have probably peaked already.

  • spangled drongo says:

    But the way the climate is “improving” we may yet not need to impoverish ourselves with EVs:

    “Summer is over, and Greenland’s surface has gained 510 billion tons of ice over the past year – about 40% above normal.

    Greenland Gains Huge Amounts Of Ice For The Second Year In A Row”


    • spangled drongo says:

      But in spite of the real world facts the kiddies must be indoctrinated and brainwashed with the HCCC religion:

      “Churchill, Manitoba, is the polar bear capital of the world. Every winter, tourists flock to the tiny town to watch the bears hunt and frolic on the frozen waters of the Hudson Bay. This year, though, the tourists are in for a big surprise … Winston! A smart, fierce, brave bear, Winston of Churchill has noticed that his icy home is slowly melting away. He explains to the other bears why the ice is melting then, using the stirring words of his famous namesake, rallies the bears to convince humans to save their Arctic home. But in the process, Winston learns an unexpected lesson and realizes that he, too, must change his ways. This timely, funny story helps children understand that in the face of global warming, everyone must do their part, no matter how small.”


      • spangled drongo says:

        Wouldn’t it be nice to see the kiddies taught a few historical facts instead:?

        “Another piece of historical evidence they ignore is known as the Hunger Stones…. Throughout the centuries, there have been these cycles of extreme heat followed by extreme cold. Such events have been recorded when drought has resulted in the low level of water in the Elbe river.”


  • Anders Valland says:

    Norway is a poster-child for EV’s. During the past 5 years new car sales have increased from 2% to 50% EVs. Yes, it is a very small market in real numbers, but in %…wow!

    The thing is, we have a perfect setup for doing this. 50% of the price of a new car is taxes, and the government just cut those 50% for EVs. That is how an expensive Tesla suddenly came within range for a whole lot of norwegians, and why we are Musks favourite idiots. Even though the Nissan Leaf seems to be the top seller, with the VW e-Golf following close behind. EVs still get free pass in highway toll stations, don’t pay road tax, have free ferry crossings and freeparking. It is about to change, though, since a lot of cars are now EVs and all of the aforementioned are losing money because of that. EVs will eventually have to pay.

    EVs are very good for the local city environment. In Norway we even have the benefit of a 99% hydropower fed electrical grid, so we can claim it’s emission free. But, alas, we are also closer to one of the poles than most people on this planet, and that is manifest for almost 2/3 of the year. During winter, the effective range of any pure EV drops by almost 50%. Some manufacturers are fitting cars with battery pre-heaters to increase the range in cold climates, but this of course wreaks havoc on the otherwise good 0.2 kWh/10 km mileage you tend to get from the EV.

    Is all sunshine, then? By no means. Norwegians are very fond of doing stuff that requires pulling a trailer of some sort behind their car. Typically going to and from their cabins on weekends. Getting an EV with a trailer hitch is demanding, and if you do you have to say goodbye to the otherwise good mileage. Trailing something means much less range, even for the Tesla X. And going to the mountains means, well, going uphill. Your uphill electric kilometers are way shorter than your downhill kilometers. And then comes the real bummer: the grid. That is the achilles heel of these things. You cannot do a rapid charge since that puts a heavy power demand on the grid. We have all the energy we need, but the ability to deliver power anywhere is restricted. With an ever increasing number of EVs the norwegian society is waking up to the cost.

    I myself have a plug-in hybrid. It is the best of both worlds, really. I get some reduced tax when I buy the car, reduced road tax but have to pay for toll and parking. I do enjoy the trailer hitch, have the range of any ICE car and the power of an EV. My electric mileage is that of an EV, and the ICE mileage is from 2 l/100 km up to 5 l/100 km depending on distance and weather. That is using regenartive braking, of course. This summer I towed a glider from Trondheim to Elverum, distance of about 450 km, using less than 5 l/100 km. That is pretty good I think. The glider and trailer weighs approximately 600 kg.

    PS! The ‘silence problem’ is really not a problem. Yes, EVs are silent when moving very slowly, but once they pass 10 km/h they tend to give the same noise as any modern car. After all, noise is primarily from tires and drag these days. And a lot of them have the high pitch from the power electronics. They are not silent, just different.

    • JimboR says:

      “the otherwise good 0.2 kWh/10 km mileage you tend to get from the EV”

      Is that a typo? That seems to be about 10x better than what most of them get.

    • Neville says:

      Anders your country only emits 0.1% of global co2 and you have a very high Hydro generation. Ditto Denmark.
      Why not be happy with your present position and forget stupid EVs and the messy on /off taxes on these cars.
      Your pop is about 5.3 million so you’ve proved nothing by dabbling in this EV charade. Here’s Norway’s IEA TOTAL energy generation showing geo +S&W at about 1%. Easy sums to understand.

      • Anders Valland says:

        I don’t decide policy here, Neville. I am all with you on this, alas the majority is…well, as majorities are…

  • spangled drongo says:

    Yes, Anders, if the world wants to indulge in EVs it’s first got to be like Norway WRT emissions and reliable energy:


  • The problem is that we need to change the whole system. Yes, when a car is produced at the factory it consumes energy with is taken from burning coal at power plants, but if we change the nation power producing system we can actually lower the environmental impact that energy takes on the environment. A single electric car is not going to solve the environmental pollution problem, we need to change the whole system or else the electric car doesn’t work.

  • CHIRPegt says:

    the spread of parchment.

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