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Electric cars


Some time back, I wrote a piece on the demise of electric cars in the US, having watched an interesting documentary entitled Who killed the Electric Car? The 2006 documentary made this tantalizing comment by way of an introduction: “In 1996, electric cars began to appear on roads all over California. They were quiet and fast, produced no exhaust and ran without gasoline. Ten years later these cars were destroyed!”

You will, no doubt, recall that around 1996 there was unrest in the Middle East leading to rising petrol prices, global warming, and pollution. The documentary claimed that there was an alternative — the electric car, known simply as ‘EV1’. The thrust of the documentary was simply that the oil industry, together with the automakers, had conspired to defeat the electric car concept.

However, not all car manufacturers were content to consign the electric car concept to the scrap heap — Toyota [to name but one — Ed.] says that hybrid-electric vehicles comprise 10 per cent of its global sales, which amounts to approximately 1 million vehicles.

For those who are not familiar with the hybrid concept, the theory is simply this: once the car has reached the end of its power cord (and the plug is yanked out of the socket) the driver switches to petrol. Though, of course, an obvious problem with electric cars occurs when the car reaches the end of its cord — it can be quite dangerous to persons nearby when the cord automatically retracts, pulling the car backwards at a great rate of knots. I’m kidding, of course. And there is absolutely no truth in the rumour that the cost of extension cords was the driving force in making electric cars unprofitable.

Vested interest

What has caused me to resurrect this topic is that someone with an obvious vested interest has gone public in maintaining that the New Zealand Government should be the driving force (no pun intended) in pushing for New Zealand to power all its cars with electricity. No surprises that this person was the CEO of a major power company. This CEO claims that New Zealand has enough wind farms and hydro and geothermal power stations to power every car in the country.

As I understand the statistics at the moment, there are something like around 4 million vehicles known to the NZTA. However, the majority of these would either need to be replaced or converted to meet this aim of having the entire New Zealand fleet running on electric power.

Well, I have personally checked all our vehicles, and there is simply no room anywhere on them (motorcycles) or in them (cars) for any kind of electric motor — with the exception of our old Bedford ambulance.

And, on the subject of converting the existing national fleet to plug-in power, where on earth would we find up to 4 million suitable electric motors and 4 million suitable battery packs? And, anyway, just who would handle all those conversions and who would pick up the tab for installation costs? Or perhaps this is this yet more subterfuge to get rid of old cars.

Another problem would be providing enough facilities throughout the country at which people could recharge their electric car, and yet another problem would be the price of power. Remember when a former energy minister claimed that ‘privatizing’ the energy industry would result in more competition? The only competition we ever saw was which company could increase its charges the quickest! When I lived in Auckland years ago, I used to baulk at paying around $90 per month for my power account. This time last year, my average winter monthly account was in the vicinity of $400 to $500! Perhaps that former government minister can explain just when I can expect to see the types of power price reductions he was promising?

I think that some CEOs simply have far too much time on their hands between board meetings, or perhaps they consume too much wine at lunch?

I’m not saying that there isn’t room in the country’s vehicle fleet for electric cars (we have some 750 in our national fleet at the moment), but don’t impose an unworkable, unrealistic concept on the majority of us who are not on six-figure CEO remuneration, thus are in no position financially to replace our vehicles with electric cars — that will serve no useful purpose other than to further inflate some power companies’ profits and, presumably, their CEOs’ personal bank accounts.

Must go — I have to buy another extension cord, or three, just in case!

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