By Danni Levy
Quite possibly, though we’ve a way to go yet…
We all want to go green, but how straightforward is that when it comes to getting from A to B? Electric vehicles are gaining popularity. Tesla is the talk of the town. Is the motor trade ready for an influx of low batteries, or will we be left stranded at the side of the highway fighting for charge?
Paul Tanner is MD at Alan Day Volkswagen, London. He says the industry will be ready as soon as we are and that measures to cope with an increase in EV drivers are already being addressed. The savings to motorists making the switch from fuel cars are pretty tempting too!
“Volkswagen have put billions into electrifying their vehicles to get themselves ahead of the game,” says Paul. “Their platform for electric cars is now sold to other brands such as Ford, who use their technology. Over the next two years, Volkswagen have seven new electric cars coming out. Skoda, Porsche, Audi, Lamborghini and Seat are all bringing out ranges on the Volkswagen platform, making them one of the upcoming market leaders in electric cars. When Volkswagen introduced the ID.3, it was the biggest selling electric car in the world overall. We sold 36 electric cars within two hours when we unveiled the ID.3 at our London branch. The ID.3 is carbon neutral and setting new standards as Volkswagen’s first fully electric car. The ID.4, which is a 4×4, is out this season too and set to be a huge seller for Volkswagen. I don’t think you’ll see many petrol or diesel cars within five years in London. We don’t sell any diesel vehicles at all now.”
But what happens if you run out of energy?
“Even if you run out in an EV,” says Paul, “the recovery services have just announced they will be carrying new booster technology to give you a charge and help you on your way.”
How many miles can you drive before running Flat?
“Our cars do 310 miles to a charge,” says Paul. “Plus, they’re quieter and you can turn your air con or heating on from your phone before you start your journey. It’s amazing!”
And how long does an EV take to charge? Surely, we’ll all be queuing for hours at the charging points just to get going?
“If you want a fast charge of around 80% you can do that in half an hour,” says Paul. “You can go to get a coffee or go for a walk. Going forward, the infrastructure will change to give people home chargers and they’re already talking about street lights having electrical chargers installed. Some EVs in future will be able to charge on a mat without plugging in too. For now, though, there are no queues and you can go on an app and check for your nearest charging spot. There are plenty of them. The only people who won’t benefit are the petrol heads who want that loud engine noise. But in ten years’ time, I don’t think you’ll be able to buy a petrol or diesel vehicle in the big cities anyway.
“One thing we noticed in London during lockdown was the quality of the air and rivers were noticeably cleaner, justifying the push for zero emissions moving forward. You’ll have to replace the battery within eight-to-ten years but wear and tear is expected to be lower than that of a fuel car too. They’re also quicker and lighter than most gasoline-fuelled cars. They’re fully automatic and just go as soon as you put your foot on the accelerator. The faster you drive, the faster the battery will run out.”
Going electric sounds great, though I’m still a touch concerned about the charging time and convenience given I can only expect 310 miles a pop. Queue Trevor Jackson, a leading green engineer, who says he has the solution. Trevor has invented fuels cells that power vehicles for up to 1500 miles. This innovative technology can power a vehicle for 1500 miles with zero carbon. Trevor believes we will go fully electric, but not quite as we imagined. This conversion system can be added to a standard electric car and add considerable driving distance: www.metalectrique.com
“We will go fully electric in the future, because we have to,” says Trevor. “Oil means pollution in our cities which is now an official cause of death, and climate change has to be controlled otherwise we will suffer much worse calamities than pollution, loss of habitat, more deserts, mass migration, loss of coastal regions and loss of species . The other reason is that oil is finite and waning as a reliable source of fuel. A lot of oil is burned to make electricity so using this power to charge up batteries to drive cars is not solving the problem.
“Batteries for EVs are very expensive and a much bigger percentage cost for the manufacturer than for an equivalent fossil fuel powertrain. Profits on any car were always just a few percent so industry sources say that current EVs are loss leaders for manufacturers who want to gain mar- ket presence in the hope that battery prices will reduce. The trouble is that they won’t: the often quoted target of $100Kw is unlikely to ever be achieved, with some analysts stating that the best we can expect is $172 Kwh and that demand for raw materials will then cause that number to go back up.
“The other issue is mobility. EVs currently are a lot like a big mobile phone with wheels and, like mobile phones, they’re always plugged in. We need mobility and, at the moment, EVs reduce mobility. We’ve gone from a pay-drive-pay scenario with affordable fossil fuel cars to a wait….wait-pay-drive model with more expensive rechargeable EVs. That, plus the driver’s concern over low range are affecting the public perception of EVs. The fuel is the problem, so we need to change the fuel.”
So, what about fuel cells? Everybody’s heard about fuel cells and some cars are powered by them , but the technology has not had widespread adoption. Why?
“The reason is that the cost of the cell in a fuel cell is high,” says Trevor. “Another issue is how to store the hydrogen. Some of these systems drive around with a hydrogen bottle pressurised to seven hundred times our atmospheric pressure. That’s a really high pressure and needs spacecraft-level engineering to get enough range out of the car, but how safe is that when it’s ten years old, the pump stations needed to create that kind of pressure are going to have to be really high-powered to do that, so where is that power going to come from? And the hydrogen is normally made from oil refining, so this isn’t changing the fuel.
“Halfway between fuel cells and batteries lies a different technology- a semi-fuel cell- which is a combination of the best bits of both technologies. This technology uses metal as a ‘fuel’ anode and oxygen from the air as a cathode to make clean, recyclable power. There’s no stored charge, unlike in a battery, so it can’t explode. There are no fumes and no CO2. The metal provides the electrical power from the electricity used in making the metal originally. It’s like a power system forged in the mountains, as the best kind of semi-fuel cell is the aluminium-air battery and aluminium is made from mountain hydropower. The residue left after the huge mileage these systems can provide (non- stop 1500-mile tests have been done already) is sent back to the mountain hydro plant and converted back into metal.”
All sounds great, but what about charging?
“You don’t need to charge,” says Trevor. “The system is always available, cassette-based and is swapped at the grocery store, gas station, or at home every 1500 miles- you only pay for the power you’ve used and then 90 seconds later you drive on your way again. The cost is lower than gasoline and a lot cheaper than rechargeable battery car operating costs!”