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Delivering on electric dreams

Like it or not, electric vehicles are here to stay and new figures suggest they will be worth £7.2bn to the British motor industry by 2014.

This figure has been reached by industry analyst GfK Automotive, which published research today that predicts 300,000 electric cars on UK roads by 2014.

The study suggests that another 500,000 EVs could be buzzing around Britain’s streets if manufacturers can overcome issues such as the well-documented ‘range anxiety’, upfront costs, charging times and the availability of charging posts.

The last point has a particular resonance in London, where EV owners are required to jump through bureaucratic hoops to enjoy their all-electric mobility.

First of all, registration is required in order to charge using a public charge point. Seems fair but different boroughs operate different schemes with different rules and registration is required in the boroughs an EV motorist wants to charge in.

To complicate matters further, there’s often an annual fee and some providers require the use of their connecting cable.

Luckily, this is set to change with the launch in Spring of Source London, the capital’s city wide electric vehicle charging network.

Simplifying EV mobility, the scheme requires an annual payment that gives drivers an access key to the Source London charge point network, which is set to benefit from an extra 1,300 public charging posts from 2011.

There are those who believe that their EV will be charged by electricity generated from renewable sources but wind farms alone are only likely to provide intermittent power that requires reliable back-up capacity. (Take a look at The Engineer’s Friday editorial for a discussion about this.)

This, and other energy issues are on the agenda tomorrow at EA Technology in Capenhurst where Schneider Electric’s David Lewis will be discussing ‘The Virtual Power Station and the Smart Grid’.

The event’s publicity material states that demand for electricity is increasing faster than power production can be built and placed into operation. Similarly, meeting certification requirements for new power stations can be lengthy and time consuming process.

With these issues in mind, the event will focus on possible solutions that include demand response and Smart Grid Technology.

Tomorrow sees the publication of what is claimed to be the UK’s most comprehensive study into employment figures and future trends for the wind energy industry.

The study, commissioned by RenewableUK, is expected to include details of a significant jump in full-time employment in the wind energy sector from 2008/9 – 2009/10, against the trend towards increasing unemployment in the UK as a whole.

Still with employment and news that Liverpool University is hosting ‘Life Skills - Take control of your career’ tomorrow.

People looking for a new position or wanting to make an impact with their current employers are encouraged to attend. The IET event is free but registration is essential.

Briefing feels compelled at this point to highlight The Engineer Jobs, where there are currently 878 positions waiting to be filled by readers such as yourselves.

Readers' comments (16)

  • has been offering people access to the North East England Electric Vehicle Charging infrastructure since 4 October 2010 via phone ( credit card payment) or low cost monthly / yearly subscription using a secure access card. The same card can also be used on other infrastrutures by prior arrangement

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  • I think the initial focus should be on second cars for school runs and shopping trips in suburbia and towns. For example, our second car has never been more than 20 miles from home. I would love a Fiesta sized electric car with a range of 30 miles. Perhaps add a 500cc petrol engine for range extension and extra power "sports mode").

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  • There are two notes of caution with EVs. One is obviously the sheer price at present; they are an alternative local run-about car and need to be priced accordingly, say £6000 - 7000. The second is the risk that owners could start their charging at the end of the working day right in the middle of the evening peak loads.
    Obviously the huge current subsidies will have to be limited to a tiny proportion of the 300,000 cars envisaged,

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  • Not the least of the advantages of going electric is - it gets us out of oil - with its exhausts, costs, and putting money into the pockets of regimes some of whom do not love us. Second, there is potential for new jobs in this new industry.

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  • The EV may make a lot of sense in big urban areas, such as London. Lot less so up here in Dumfries & Galloway and other large dispersed areas in Scotland. Range of 200 miles + needed.

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  • Many people seem keen on promoting electric cars of the future to everyone, this is not the case as they have a limited market. I can fill my company vehicle and travel in excess of 800 miles, fill it up (5mins max) and away again, so practical.
    If we also consider the fact they three quarters of cars used during the working week are company vehicles, or vehicles used on company business, it puts a different slant on things.

    Electric cars do have a market, albeit a very limited one, and both their financial and environmental costs are much higher than an average internal combustioned engined vehicle. 80% of the environmental cost is in the manufacturing and disposal, while the remaining 20% is in its in service life. This conveniently seems to be ignored, and slight of hand is used by many electric car manufacturers.

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  • Mike,
    Are you commuting 200 miles a day ?
    I would question whether this is sustainable/affordable by ICE in the future - let alone by EV

    Simon M.
    good point about costs - it suggests that Evs need a much longer design life than IC .
    Also need to move to standardised EV powertrain components so good items can be re used as spares as vehicle bodies are damaged / scrapped.
    Manufacturers and suppliers will really have to think about design for re-use and compatibility. My experience with the auto industry suggests this would be a big change for them.

    We are also talking a whole new ballgame here in terms of the skill sets required in Vehicle servicing in the future. Mechatronics technicians will be in great demand.

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  • Why do we have to use charge points. Why not drop the used battery out and raise an already charged one into its place. The EV manufacturers should be designing their cars to facilitate drive-in/drive-out instant battery replacement at garages. Most of the change-out process could be automated for the various car models and their battery configurations (manufacturers will need to standardize as applicable) so as to keep the c/o time to a minimum. Anti theft systems can be incorporated and records computerized, etc etc

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  • Simon. 200 miles per day commute -of course not. I personally ride a bike (mostly), but if (for example) I wish to go to a concert in Edinburgh its about 80 miles each way and, I'm sorry, public transport either isn't there at all, or is ill timed. The UK isn't London, and we up here in the wilds get a little tense about attitudes that assume things are 10 miles away. Not up here they're not!!

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  • Sorry Mike (Lewis, above),
    The last thing I would be prepared to do with my EV would be to drop off a brand new battery (albeit discharged) and exchange it for a (possibly) worn out but (supposedly charged) version. Have you never user battery powered tools/phones? The battery never lasts forever, and over time the charge retention falls and the internal resistance increases. Until someone can resolve this and make a 'last indefinitely' battery, you really wouldn't want to go battery swapping (unless you are the one with the worn out battery!)

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