Obviously climate change is an urgent global issue and our government is dragging the chain on constructive action. Meanwhile, many Byron locals are passionate about being part of the solution. Last month local activist group ZEB (Zero Emissions Byron) held an Electric Vehicle Forum at the Byron Bay Cavanbah Centre to help locals understand more about electric vehicles (EVs). There were talks and presentations from industry experts – and everything on display from the latest new EVs to e-bikes, e-outboard motors and an e-rickshaw – but the idea was also for local owners to bring their EVs along so interested newbies could get hands-on information from real people, not just salesmen.
Like many mainstream motorists, it’s likely that that the next car I buy will be electric. Even though this may be a couple of years away, I’ve decided to have a look at how feasible – and expensive – this transition might be.
Electric Vehicle Car Models
When it comes to choice, there are more electric vehicle (EV) models on the market every year. Tesla ran the show for a while. They were the first dedicated EV maker and there’s a handful of the prestige ($140k) Model S Teslas humming quietly around the shire. The more realistically priced Model 3 from $71K, will arrive in Australia later this year. Tesla’s founder, Elon Musk, is a visionary who made his billions as the brains behind PayPal. But he’s also seen as a troubled eccentric. He’s bank rolling private space travel, gained notoriety by slurring through a 2018 US radio interview while slurping whisky and pulling on a spliff – and insisted on a farting seat function in the $250k-plus top of the range Tesla X. Many wonder whether Tesla will survive, or become a colourful footnote in EV history.
Meanwhile, any conventional carmaker
with any sense has been getting into the EV action too. The best-known non-Tesla
EVs in Australia are Hyundai’s Kona and Ioniq, Nissan’s Leaf and the Renault
Bangalow couple Christobel Munson and Chris Sanderson were at the EV forum with their two-month old Hyundai Kona Highlander SUV. You can really feel their excitement when they talk about their Kona. Christobel says, ‘It’s amazing to drive. It has what Chris calls “Effortless Power”. Since it doesn’t have to go through gear changes, it seems to glide into full power. Passing long trucks is not a problem at all.’
Chris and Christobel are committed to renewables. They have 10kW of solar panels and two 10kW batteries at home and have driven hybrid Toyota Priuses for years while they’ve waited for an EV with a greater driving range to come on the market. (EV owners already talk about ‘range anxiety’.)
They chose the new Kona for its 450km range. This is about double what other EVs with smaller batteries can manage. ‘We do most of our driving locally,’ said Chris. ‘But we figured that 450kms would get us up to Brisbane and back (170kms each way) with about 100kms left for running around at either end.’
The Kona has a display, which tells Chris and Christobel how much range is left and the location of the nearest charging station, but they say they have yet to use a public charging station.
Charging it up
‘You get used to another way of thinking about your car,’ said Christobel. ‘With a petrol car you might run it down to nearly empty and then just fill up. But with the Kona, if we’re at home and the sun is shining we plug it in so we know we’ve always got range when we want to use it.’
‘And home trickle charging is much
better for battery health and longevity than fast ‘supercharging’,’ adds Chris.
Plugging in to a Station
Although EV owners will do most of their charging at home, the availability of charging stations remains an issue. At the moment the world of EV charging is a bit like the competing Beta and VHS formats in the early days of video. With EVs it all comes down to plugs and as it stands there are two types of charging stations using different plugs – Tesla’s and almost everyone else’s, known as CCS2s. (EV-land is a forest of acronyms.)
Over time one format – one type of plug – will probably dominate and all EVs will use the same charging system. But not yet. Tesla presently has a network of ‘Supercharger’ stations (some of which also offer CCS2 charging) and there is a growing network of dedicated CCS2 charging stations for almost all other makes of EV.
Byron Bay Area Charging Stations
Around Byron, there are public charging stations at Byron Library, Habitat, Byron at Byron and a Tesla Supercharger at Macadamia Castle, with others springing up all the time. (In Queensland the government has set up the ‘Queensland Electric Superhighway’, a network of superchargers running the 2000kms from Coolangatta to Cairns.)
How Much to Charge?
When it comes to expense, the running cost of an EV really comes down to how much you pay for your electricity – either the upfront expense but ongoing economy of solar panels (and batteries if you’ve bitten that bullet already) or adding home charging onto your quarterly power bill.
Chris and Christobel are still connected to the grid. (They are enthusiastic customers of local energy supplier Enova.) On a sunny day, they aren’t paying to charge their car at all. If the sun don’t shine, they charge overnight on off-peak rates. Chris estimates that charging their Kona uses about 5 kWhs per day.
Servicing EVs should be vastly cheaper than it is for fossil fuel cars. (Chris says that servicing their Kona will cost about $150/year.) But looking into the future, as fossil fuel sales decline, so too will the excise governments earn and this will have to be recouped somehow from car owners and drivers. One suggestion has even been to replace fuel excise with a tax on car tyres.
How Much and Where
EVs in Australia are still expensive – expect to pay about double the cost of an equivalent fossil fuel car. The cheapest new EV is the base model Renault Zoe with a book price of about $48,000. But new EV prices are coming down every year and interestingly, the used EV market, while small, is relatively soft because EV technology is progressing so quickly and used EVs become out-dated much faster than conventional vehicles.
For more information on Zero Emissions Byron: https://zerobyron.org/
Giles also produces these excellent sites on renewables and off the grid living: https://onestepoffthegrid.com.au/ and https://reneweconomy.com.au
And if you’re interested in how to take care of your FAIR SHARE of global emissions: http://www.climatefairshares.org/methodology