e-mobility NSR – some take-away points

April 12, 2014 § Leave a comment

Flyerbild_01Some notes from the e-mobility NSR (North Sea Region) conference at London Metropolitan University, April 11th – an event as much about, I think, acknowledging the slow take-up of EVs so far and the continuing barriers as it was about cheerleading for the future.  There’s a lengthy library of reports and resources from the project here, and presentation slides from the event are also to be posted, I understand, but some of my own scribblings (more to follow, perhaps) from the talks and discussions… Day ended with a Skype link-up with Paul Scott (a co-founder of Plug In America), characteristically upbeat about the future of EVs. Some input from him in response to specific questions from the plenary round-up:

  • Fleet leaders in the USA look at total cost for three-year leases and are finding now in many cases that electric trucks cost less – fleets such as FedEx, UPS, Frito-Lay, Coca-Cola are starting to find them more profitable.
  • Legislative support for EVs is still necessary in California, due to the cheap cost of diesel/gasoline – in the US, subsidized by society! EVs need equivalent subsidies too, but there’s a need for sticks as well as carrots.
  • ICT can make a difference in logistics (for e-fleets), with better routing, energy-efficient optimising, real-time info (all also relevant to non-EV). But “educating drivers is a much bigger deal, how to drive more efficiently”. Estimates 30% of fuel is wasted by poor driving technique.
  • Vast majority of EVs sold in US are to single-family households (ie in detached houses) – but in cities like LA, off-street parking is an issue. States/federal government needs to install street-level infrastructure, change laws to enable this. In California, NRG is installing 10,000 charging points in multi-family housing/apartment buildings – though there are problems with antiquated wiring systems to deal with. Investment must be made, and workplace charging needs to come in faster.
  • An initiative in Santa Monica with free public charging is generating revenue – encouraging EV drivers to come into the city, spend their money locally i.e. the cash they’ve saved on fuel, on local goods and services; with local/regional electricity generation, money stays within the state.
  • But in the future there will be some need to tax EVs (more) to get some income towards road maintenance, etc; suggests a tax based on weight/mileage.
  • In the bigger picture, decarbonised electricity is feasible for the US, which is on-target to close coal and natural gas plants in 30-40 years, installing more wind and solar now… solar is already cheaper than nuclear, and close to the cost of wind; the economics, not the environmentalists, are killing nuclear; and wind is much cheaper than coal.
  • Reckons that autonomous vehicles will be on the market “within 10 years”, talks about summoning a car, Uber-style, without a driver, and for shared/autonomous cars (in operation 24/7) to be mass transit alongside buses and trains. “That’s the future you guarantee is coming, and it’ll come a lot faster than you people think”.
  • Sees a global carbon tax as crucial. And “utilities see energy storage as a huge deal, you need to be able to store electricity for wind and solar”… V2G, using EV batteries as storage, “the technologies are already pretty close” – 3-4 years off.

On a fleet feedback note, some input from Jim York, VP of GoGreen DHL Supply Chain Europe:

  • DHL employs 500,000 worldwide in four divisions – Supply Chain, Express, Deutsche Post and freight. In aiming to reduce its CO2 emissions by 30% 2007-2020, had to tackle emissions from air freight, fleet and road transport, including at local subcontractors.
  • Air freight was relatively simple – updating fleet of planes – but road transport much more complex, with diverse range of vehicles around the world in much bigger numbers (60,000 vans in Germany alone; 7000 HGVs in the UK), so had to look at a breadth of different initiatives including telematics, aerodynamics, dual-fuel/natural gas.
  • EVs “come into their own” for urban operations and home deliveries; pilot projects in a number of countries. Challenge is with payload – range is an issue, but not so much for urban use, “can work within certain limitations”; lack of noise is a bonus; but need accurate info for driver on state of charge and displays.
  • Local infrastructure also needs to be powerful enough to support the number of vehicles.
  • Heating and cooling are “massive impacts on a vehicle’s energy consumption” and payload legislation needs addressing (having to upsize vans to get the desired payload).
  • But biggest issue is cost – actual trucks and battery packs, finance is a real issue; hefty additional purchase prices for base vehicle, fuel cost benefit not actually much gain over economical diesel over low-mileage routes; good carbon savings but overall lease costs, total cost of ownership bigger.
  • So looking at hybrid as a solution, more versatile; offsets some costs and increases range, giving greater flexibility. In conjunction with “step-change in operations” – ie consolidation centres, and using quiet EVs for overnight deliveries, all-round utilisation, whole thing becomes more commercially viable.
  • Future is definitely there with hybrid and electric, but need to work at getting over initial hurdles.
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