|Some modern electric cars|
Electric Cars – The Road Ahead?
The price of oil continues to rise. The motorist sees his costs soaring. What contribution might electric cars to this ongoing dilemma? This was the question asked by John Lilly of Dragon Electric Vehicles when he addressed the recent meeting of Pembrokeshire South East Energy Group.
In the early years of his career, John had been employed in the oil and gas industry. He had seen the problems caused in the mid 1970s by the first major oil crisis and had become heavily involved in energy conservation.
He realised that as oil was a finite resource, increasing world demand would inevitably push the price even higher. There had to be another answer. Thirty years ago John built his first electric vehicle and ten years ago set up his company Dragon Electric Vehicles.
To compete with the petrol engine is indeed a challenge. This has been developed and refined over the last hundred years. The electric vehicle is the new kid on the block. In the popular imagination these are still the ubiquitous milk floats, efficient but slow.
Modern electric cars are more refined, faster and have a greater range. However the contrast in efficiency terms with the petrol engine is striking. Whereas the petrol engine becomes more efficient at speeds of up to 60mph, the electric car is 80% efficient at low speeds and becomes less efficient as it gains speed. At motorway speeds there is little difference in efficiency.
The cost comparison is also interesting. Electricity is much cheaper than petrol or diesel. But when the cost of batteries is added to the equation (average £500 pa for lead acid batteries) the difference is less marked. Battery life is also a factor, with lead acid lasting three to four years and the far more expensive lithium having a projected life of ten to fifteen years.
When range is considered, even the most recent entry to the mass market, the Nissan Leaf, only boasts a range of 100 miles on one charge and this is significantly reduced if driven at higher speeds.
Service costs of electric cars are however cheaper as their engines has only one moving part – far less to go wrong than with the conventional petrol engine.
Over the next few years it is anticipated that seven or eight new electric cars will enter the market. All will probably show the same strengths and weaknesses. These will all be capable of motorway use, but long distance travelling will require additional battery charging. Many charging points would be needed. Fast charging is technically possible, but if undertaken by a significant number of cars at the same time would impose a huge strain on the National Grid.
It was John's considered view that it would be a long time before we would be able to produce an electric car that could go a decent distance and be as fast as a petrol driven car.
Government's approach was also interesting. Currently a grant of £5000 was payable on purchase of a new 'motorway capable' electric car – their less efficient use! Electric cars are most effective, efficient and environmentally friendly when used on short runs – ideal in modern towns. Government policy would be more constructive if this use was encouraged.
So where does the future lie? In the short term there is a strong case for owning two cars – one electric for local trips and a conventional petrol driven car for long runs. Both vehicles could then be used for work for which they were most suited.
In the longer term as petrol prices continue to soar, petrol engines may no longer be a practical proposition and for longer journeys it may once again become the age of the train.
The Chair thanked John for his highly objective, non-partisan and authoritative account of the practicality of the electric car.
|13th May 2011||Are electric cars the way forward?: A talk by John Lilly of Dragon Electric Vehicles.|
|22nd April 2011||Sustainability in Action: A visit to the Science & Technology Park (Technium) in Pembroke Dock|
|1st April 2011||A Revolution in Wind Energy?: A talk by Vaughan Griffiths from Quietrevolution, Pembroke Dock|
|25th February 2011||Preparing for Floods: A talk by Richard Wickes of the Environment Agency|
|14th January 2011||The Way Forward for Wind?: A talk by Steve Hack of Seren Energy|
|12th November 2010||How Green is your Castle?: The National Trust & Global Warming|
|15th October 2010||Challenge of the Rising Sea: The effects on the Pembrokeshire coastline|
|10th August 2010||The beautiful Welsh coastline: Response to possible rising sea levels|
|18th June 2010||Visit to Costain at Canaston Bridge: Not Costing the Earth|
|16th April 2010||Feed in Tariffs: Power to the People|
|12th March 2010||Heat Pumps & Photo Voltaic Panels: Prepare for the Goodlife|
|12th February 2010||Parliamentary Candiates at Green Question Time in Saundersfoot|
|15th January 2010||Weather & Climate: A Question of Energy|
|4th December 2009||Sustainable Community Ventures: Regeneration in Pembrokeshire|
|13th November 2009||Community Initiatives: Sustainable Wales leads by example|
|16th October 2009||Climate Change Challenge for Candidates & Micro-generation with wind turbines|
|2nd October 2009||A Visit to Castle Pill Wind Farm: Quiet blows the wind|
|11th September 2009||Renewable Sustainable Energy: An Energy Survey for South East Pembrokeshire|
|10th July 2009||A talk by Lorraine Dallmeier of Infinergy: Wind Power - Pembrokeshire's Potential|
|12th June 2009||St. Oswald's, Jeffreyston - Pembrokeshire's Beacon of Sustainability|
|24th April 2009||Solar Panels: Three Cheers for Sunny Pembrokeshire|
|13th March 2009||Ashton Hayes Community Energy Reduction & Hot Water From the Sun|
|13th February 2009||Could Pembrokeshire go carbon neutral?|
|14th November 2008||Environment Wales to provide 'Start-Up' Funding for PSEEG|
|17th October 2008||PSEEG to become a Registered Charity|