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Electric vehicles (part 1)

Almost all of the cars New Zealanders drive today are “conventional” vehicles, which use internal combustion engines and run only on liquid or gaseous fuels – mainly petrol or diesel, although a tiny number use other fuels such as compressed natural gas or biofuels. In the future – and I’m talking fairly long-term, at least a couple of decades out – we’re likely to see “advanced” and electric vehicles playing a larger role. These vehicles are pretty expensive, and it’s still very early days for the technology, but they could potentially reduce dependence on oil, and – although this is trickier – reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In this post I’ll just give a quick overview of the technology – I’ll leave discussion of the pros and cons for another day.

 

Hybrids

Hybrid cars use two different methods of providing forward motion: an engine, and an electric motor. The engine generates energy, which charges the battery – same as a regular car up to this point – and the battery is then used to run the motor.

There are a number of “hybrid” cars on the road today, and they are some of the most efficient cars currently available. Generally, these hybrids run entirely on petrol or diesel. As such, they can be simply thought of as particularly efficient conventional vehicles, rather than advanced ones.

Hybrids can improve fuel efficiency by more than 40%, compared to similarly sized, non-hybridised cars. That’s a fairly substantial saving. However, hybrid cars cost more to build: the International Energy Agency estimates that, even without considering development costs, hybrids currently cost around USD $2,450 more to build than comparable petrol cars.

The Toyota Prius is the world’s top-selling hybrid, and probably the most famous. There are plenty of these in New Zealand, many of them being driven as taxis (they seem to be the main car in the Co-Op Taxis fleet, for example). The higher up-front cost and lower running costs make hybrids very suitable for taxis, which tend to do high mileage.

 

“Advanced” vehicles: PHEVs and BEVs

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, or PHEVs, take the hybrid idea a step further. They still have an internal combustion engine and can be refuelled at petrol stations – but they also have a battery which can be recharged from the grid. Just plug ‘em in.

2011 Chevrolet Volt

The Chevrolet Volt – one of the first PHEVs to make it to market. They call it an “extended range electric vehicle”, but let’s not worry about the terminology too much

Battery electric vehicles, or BEVs, ditch the engine altogether, and only run on electricity: no petrol or diesel involved.

New-Nissan-Leaf

The Nissan Leaf – one of the first BEVs to make it to market. “Zero Emission” from the car itself, although of course there will be greenhouse gas emissions if non-renewable electricity is used

From my thesis, available here:

In recent years, automakers have begun to focus more attention on PHEVs and BEVs… The distinctive feature of such vehicles is their ability to drive using electricity from the grid. Both PHEVs and BEVs incorporate a larger battery than those in traditional hybrids, and use this to power an electric motor. BEVs are entirely reliant on this motor, whereas PHEVs also include an internal combustion engine and can run on conventional fuels.

PHEVs and BEVs are significantly more efficient than conventional petrol or diesel vehicles, and have lower running costs as a result… PHEVs have smaller batteries than BEVs, and a limited electric-only range which may still be sufficient for the daily travel needs of many drivers. For longer trips, PHEVs will use their engine, giving them a comparable range to other cars.

By “range”, I mean the distance you can drive before you need to refuel or recharge the car. Essentially, the only real disadvantage of PHEVs (compared with conventional vehicles) is that they cost a lot to buy. For BEVs, there’s the high cost, plus the inability to take a long road trip without recharging or switching out the battery. Auckland to Hamilton might be possible, but much longer than that would be a stretch.

Plug-in hybrids have lower running costs than conventional cars – they use less petrol, and the electricity is pretty cheap too – and BEVs have even lower running costs.

Hydrogen cars are another type of advanced vehicle, discussed here, but I’ll be focussing on the PHEVs and BEVs from here on in.

150 comments to Electric vehicles (part 1)

  • Jacques

    An opinion from a friend who’s an advisor with a Boston based consultancy that specialises in battery technology (and electric cars) is that the price is never going to come down enough to allow a significant proportion of the population to get one. At most, it’ll be a matter of a few % of a population among the richest. But that’s a forward looking statement, and reality sometimes beats forecasts.

    • Jacques

      that was for full electric cars though, not the hybrid types.

      • Feijoa

        Do you know what they forecast for oil prices? Specifically, do they think oil for your future ICE/hybrid will remain affordable or that it too will be unaffordable for the majority and most will switch to other modes – electric bikes, PT, walking the kids to school, etc.?

    • John Polkinghorne

      Was it Boston Consulting Group? I read a report of theirs from a few years back on electric cars; thought they were a bit more optimistic than that. I’d be interested to hear more, Jacques, if you’d like to ask your friend!

  • Glen

    Wireless charging technology has the potential to further the case of purely electric vehicles. It would require critical mass of electric vehicles to make the infrastructure (wireless charging loops buried under major roads) economically viable, but when it does, it effectively solves the range issue without requiring a petrol or diesel engine. It also allows smaller and therefore lighter batteries as the wireless charging network expands, making individual vehicles more efficient.

    However, as cool as such a setup would be, in urban areas it is still no substitute for effective PT, beginning with electric trains.

    • See comment below; the best use for wireless charging are buses and trams as they have fixed routes and high fuel costs. The former means only putting a small number of charging points in and the later means it can be cost effective.

      Great for PT, and for cities and the planet [especially in NZ with our high renewable generation, and high imported liquid fuels dependency problem]

  • Roger W

    You also forgot: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flow_battery

    Which drops recharge time to similar to filling the tank.

    And also capacitor rather than battery based electric vehicles

    • MFD

      Flow batteries typically exhibit relatively low energy densities so not currently a great candidate for EVs but huge potential for making PV and wind despatchable sources of electricity.

  • Sanctuary

    Whatever happened to this sort of battery change technology for a BEV? http://www.teslamotors.com/batteryswap It seems to me that if you can swap a gas bottle at the petrol, then the principle is the same for an electric car battery.

    • Max

      Batteries are REALLY HEAVY. To change one, would be either a) very, very cumbersom and slow, or b) need a standardised, automatised system that does the switchover for you.

      A) is, well, too cumbersome – we don’t want to sweat and grunt and spend 10 minutes plus just to be able to continue on our way
      B) requires car makers to agree on a standard, and then put in place changing stations that would be very costly in infrastructure terms. Unlikely to happen while driving is still so competitive in direct costs to the end user.

  • JimboJones

    I want a car that can do say 50 km per charge, charges in a standard NZ power point over night, is small (maybe only 1 pax) and cheap to buy. That would get me to work and back, saving a lot of fuel, and we would use a second conventional car for long trips and my wife’s much shorter commute.

  • But still any modern small ICE powered car will give similar or better economy and performance than most hybrids, and in the case of the luxury SUV hybrids will totally kill them for fuel economy.

    Towing around heavy batteries and two kinds of engine and a full fuel tank is kind of the worst of both worlds. And shows just how effective the conventional motoring press’ moaning about range has twisted the market. Most urban car journeys are very short and range is nowhere new as big a problem for this technology for city driving [except as a perception] than the heavy weight of the batteries.

    Hybrids are both an overkill and a poor halfway house, indeed, a hybrid technology.

    Certainly supply chain improvements will lower the price of this technology but at a faster rate than smart new ICE engines like VW’s nippy little 1.4l ?

    Electric drive now works extremely well in two situations: Very heavy tethered systems like trains, and very light battery vehicles like bikes and scooters.

    New remote charging for high mileage vehicles with fixed routes like buses looks really promising, especially where they operate in dense urban centres and there is great value in removing diesel emissions. And especially because of the high fuel use so the capital cost can be recouped through saving. That’s the most exciting next application IMO.

    Are AT looking a this? Or the private operators? I bet it falls into the gap between system and vehicle investment.

    Here’s a more conventional system trial in NYC: http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20140108006692/en/BYD-York%C2%A0Metropolitan-Transportation-Authority-MTA-Complete-Successful#.Utc0CCgig_X

    • You are certainly right in the long term – hybrids, PHEVs and BEVs will not solve our transport problems. Neither will driverless cars or those narrow cars that the guy is always trying to push on here. PT and cycling (including electric bicycles) will bear the main brunt of supplying effective transport solutions in the future.

      However, I really like my 2008 Prius. Especially when I fill it up every 6 weeks after I got 1000kms on 40 litres.

      • A 2012 paper by KPMG on self driving cars “Research indicates that platooning of vehicles could increase highway lane capacity by up to 500 percent”. Narrow electric microcars can double highway lane capacity.

        Large Bus and Train Public Transportation are sunset technologies. Autonomous Microbuses/microcars are the future with train lines being used for only hauling freight.

        • Microcars can only double highway lane capacity if you ban regular sized cars, trucks, vans, buses from using the highway .

          • Thats true Nick.

            But each % increase in capacity/throughput has a much greater reduction on the travel times. So during mid year school holidays and even the Americas cup most car users noticed vastly improved travel times. I believe school holiday traffic reductions are 5-6% but this has a much greater effect on the travel times. To fully get traffic moving on the motorway at peak times we would need a 25% modal shift to microcars.

          • Temporary changes in traffic demand in line with holidays and work patterns aren’t comparable to permanent shifts. If you had a 25% shift to microcars you’d have the same situation. Congested (with regular and micro cars) most of the time but not so bad during school holidays.

          • The 25% modal shift is based upon a 2011 Belgium study, below is the research.

            “In addition to the scenario where 10% of cars are replaced by motorcycles, we also considered the modal shift that would be required to eliminate queues completely…..It turns out that a modal shift of 25% of cars would be required to elminate congestion completely”

            So just to reiterate the microcar is the same size/footprint as a motorcycle and can be legally driven in staggered formation like a motorcycle.

          • Toa Greening – I am surprised you have time to post on here with the stampede of cities clamouring to implement that technology and completely redesign their roading network. Oh that isnt happening? They are investing in PT and cycling? How strange.

          • Good things take time.

            As mentioned it can be legally be driven in staggered formation like a motorcycle so no changes are required to our roads. The vehicle is legal in the US and UK with no changes to their roads.

            The main proposal is a new form of public transport which efficiently moves large numbers of people at peak time. Instead of buying space on a bus or train you buy space on these vehicles to take you to your destination. It enhances existing public transport options and provides an estimated 30 year delay to building more motorways (at which time we will have automous vehicles).

          • Toa, if you are going to eliminate traffic congestion could you please answer me one question: why will people stop driving on roads if the road network is uncongested? You are suggesting two implausible things: that microcars will decongest the road network (but ok I’ll give you that for sake of argument), and that no one else will subsequently decide to take advantage of the decongested road network by driving on it. In other words the same question is why would people chose not to drive if we make driving incredibly easy and rewarding.

            I can only see two answers myself:
            1) Road use becomes prohibitively expensive for the masses to do (at peak congested times at least)
            2) Non-road transport becomes overwhelmingly superior that its still slower and more awkward to drive anyway.

            The latter seems infeasible, the former possible with road pricing but potentially very inequitable.

            …so I think there are really just two choices, we accept that road congestion will happen at peak times and focus on non-road transport that lets people avoid it entirely, or we decide we must smash congestion and price peak time road use out of reach of a significant proportion of the population.

            I don’t see how advocating for more road use fits in to any solution.

          • Great question Nick.

            Lets assume that we have implemented a Narrow Track electric microcars PT and that the 25% shift of normal sized vehicles to microcars (as per the Belgium studies) has got traffic flowing again.

            This requires more research but the data that I do have indicates that there is not enough peak Public Transport (bus/train) users to congest the motorway network (please continure reading :-).

            What we do know is that at peak time about 5-7% of travel in Auckland to/from work are made by PT users. Car/Van/Trucks are in the 70% region. The remainder of people do not work, work from home or use other means to get to work (walk/cycle/motorcycle).

            Even in the unlikely event that all 5-7% of PT users were to go back to cars the net effect would be minor on the motorway and it would certainly not congest it to the previous levels. However to speed the motorway up again you would only need to ensure that any new motorway users used microcar PT.

            Motorway congestion is all about throughput. Narrow Track electric microcars PT has the potential to double the throughput for the 70% of people who currently use the motorway.

            Ideally the Narrow Track electric Microcars PT creates conditions where we will not need to build a number of the planned motorways for the next 30 years. However in that time self-driving vehicles will become viable which gives us an estimated additional 100 years on not needing to build motorways.

            The really exciting news is that the Narrow Track electric microcar PT may also be cost neutral. The big financial transformation is the 130 years of not needing to build a number of the planned motorways. So all of a sudden there are now tens of Billions of dollars that can be invested else where in the city. For example while Trains and Buses are being used (as mentioned earlier they will be superceded by microcar/microbus/automated PT eventually) why can they not be made more affordable (or even free). Walkways/Cycleways many of the projects that are being advocated here could come to fruition. The liveable/affordable city we are all talking about would become a reality especially if Auckland is at the forefront of transportation transformation.

            The Project is trying to get a Pilot kicked off this year to get the conversation out there, demonstrate the vehicle (because it is simply phenomenal to drive), do the education work, market validation and business modelling.

            This is why I have requested to speak offline to Transportblog and present it fully as the Project is open to all input.

          • counterpoint

            Why do we need to have micro-sized self-driving cars to forgo 30 years of motorway building, as opposed to say, political will?

          • Nick R

            Toa, you assume that the existing peak travel is fixed, and seem to be talking in terms of a simple shift from one to the other.

            What if there was actually more demand to travel at peak time, but people are turned away by congestion and travel at other times and places instead?

            The fact roads are congested suggests this is the case, more people trying to drive than we have capacity for already suggests there are many more who would drive if it wasn’t congested.

            So again, if you get more people in the roads with little cars,, what is to stop other people from taking their place? Bear in mind there are 1.2 million vehicles in Auckland, for every one on the road at peak times there are five more waiting to take their place.

          • Hi Nick, it is all about analysing the current travel patterns at peak time as this is the data of the main means a travel for everyone in Auckland. I covered this above, but below are the exact numbers for main peak time travel to work in Auckland as of 2006.

            59% Private Car/Van/Trucks
            17% Company Car/Van/Trucks
            12% Worked from home or did not work
            5% Passenger in vehicle
            3% Walked, Cycle, Motorcycle
            2% Public Bus
            2% Train

            I am currently obtaining 2013 data (broken into locations in Auckland) but am assuming no significant shifts to the main means of peak travel which is 76% Private or Company Car/Van/Trucks.

            When I obatined this data I immediately could see that we were on the right track with making travel on the motorway more efficient by unlocking the capacity already there. Investment in the other areas is important but when put into context is unlikley to have any effect on motorway congestion. So in the unlikely event that all peak time Train users moved back into cars will only have a minor impact on the motorway network.

            Hi Counterpoint, political will generally reflects public will. So there would need to be a good alternative for politicians to support instead of building more motorways.

          • Nick R

            You are completely missing the point Toa. I’m not talking about train users or anyone else shifting to cars if there was more traffic capacity.

            You have figures on the mode proportion of the people who did travel to work on census day in 2006 (note that is not peak travel, it is any trip to work at any time that day). But that doesn’t tell you a single thing about who didn’t travel because of congestion.

            I’m talking about car drivers who don’t currently drive at peak times because of congestion. If you reduce congestion more of those will decide to drive.
            Traffic congestion is an equillibrium between peoples desire to travel at peak times and their desire to avoid traffic and delay.

            Put it another way. How many people do you know that get up extra early to beat the traffic, or do glide time, or work from home a couple days a week, or are out the door at the crack of 4.30pm so they can get on the motorway before the traffic gets bad. How many people wait until after peak hour to start their errands, or go to the gym. or whatever it is they do that day.

            If you magically got rid of peak congestion overnight those people wouldn’t have to do those things, they could drive at peak times as easily as if they hit the road at 6.30am… so within a month or two you would be back to normal, back to the equillibrium.

            Allowing more cars onto the motorway at peak times by making them smaller will not result in less cars on the motorway. For every one person in traffic at peak times there are another five who could take their place. All you will achieve is perhaps a bit better efficiency, in terms of a greater number of people on the road at the same time. However it will be exactly as congested. You will not create free flowing (i.e. partially empty) motorways with smaller cars.

          • Thats a great point which definitely needs data before any conclusions can be made and it would be an area to be investigated as part of a Pilot.

            I personally start/finish early because that is convenient for me (as well as many others for various reasons, going to gym, education, other pre/post work activities etc), people who work shifts do so for reasons other than congestion, many parents start/finish early to pickup kids, many people start early and finish late because of work commitments and yes there will be some who only travel outside of those times to avoid traffic congestion.

            As I said difficult to make a conclusion without more data (if you have some then please advise) but certainly an area for investigation.

            You would never get rid of congestion overnight. It would be more of an easing overtime as the critical mass of the microcar vehicles replace the full sized vehicles. What can be done is that as you mentioned there may be some equilibrium (need data to measure this though as it may be negligible) of those car users who avoided congestion but more microcar vehicles can be introduced to replace the full sized vehicles. I can think of a number of other scenarios to manage this as well.

          • Just thinking a bit further on the equilibrium issue and my gut feeling is that it is most likely negligible.

            I have done a lot of IT consulting in a large number of Auckland CBD businesses over the past
            18 years and in most positions I have started/finished early. I get to move thoughout the businesses on a range of IT projects and in most cases only a small minority of people are starting early or finishing late due to congestion. The vast majority of people have fixed times that are not negotiable with only seniors/management having negotiable times.

            This is just my personal experience and as I said difficult to make a conclusion without more data.

    • Mike

      Another conventional electric vehicle system is in Wellington, where trolleybuses continue to be the backbone of PT (except in the northern suburbs).

      • Dave B

        Except that operator-policy is currently not to run trolleybuses in the evenings or at weekends (to save having the overhead line maintenance crew on standby). Unfortunately this policy rather waters down the contribution of the trolleys and causes more diesel fuel to be burned than would otherwise be necessary. This is purely a management decision based on somebody’s assessment of what suits the company (NZ Bus). Whether this suits the public best, or the city, or macro-economy or planet (etc), doesn’t come into it.

    • TheBigWheel

      “Hybrids are a half-way house” agreed. Still, the latest plug-ins have done away with a traditional gearbox / transmission system, but use the engine as a generator to drive the motors directly.. not insignificant weight and component savings there. Of course, both ICE and hybrid / EV technology is advancing. Great: we have competition!

      All things equal, from a fuel substitution perspective PHEVs make most sense in bigger cars. If you consider the total amount of fuel (petrol, diesel) consumed by NZs fleet of cars, of course the big gas guzzlers such as [choose your favourite luxury car brand you love to hate.. or in Phil's case, just love?] are exactly the ones you want to change from ICE to hybrid. This is the low hanging fruit, the biggest opportunity to switch from imported fossil fuel to home grown NZ (mostly) clean green electricity. You could say the car manufacturers are doing the work for us, by making PHEVs appeal to buyers.

      Can I echo Patrick’s Q about electric buses.. anyone know if AT is working on this? Or was the old inner link trial the end of it? Technology has moved on a lot since then.

  • Ari

    Electric cars won’t solve any transport problems other than pollution, but that’s not the point. Most people will be driving cars for decades to come. Electric cars are about less emissions, and less oil use. For most of NZ cities, BEV is a strategically important option by virtue of our huge renewable energy supply. We are unlike most countries in the world which puts us in a great postion. The biggest downside to BEV’s are their batteries. They comprise a huge chunk of the cost of the vehicle ($10,000 upwards).

    A brilliant idea is where the NZ government pays for and owns the battery of every electric car and the owner pays a leasing fee. It would probably end up cost neutral when you take into account the huge import costs of oil. Instead of sending our money overseas to Saudi Arabia, the money could stay in NZ and be put to better use. The batteries of a huge fleet of vehicles would act as a massive national storage grid. During the night when power is cheap and not in demand by anyone, all these cars recharge their batteries. And if you have the facilities, you can sell back a small bit of your power during the day at peak times. This would dramatically reduce our need for peak demand power plants (usually gas fired). Of course we would need more power plants to meet demand, but demand growth will be gradual and our power demand currently is fairly stagnant.

    • Feijoa

      Rather than leased batteries, wouldn’t it be more efficient for the government to support EV car sharing schemes? That would give people access to small runabouts through to larger PHEVs for the odd errand or longer trip. It would also increase people’s choice and economic efficiency by not locking them into long term and expensive purchases and leases.

    • jonno1

      Here’s a plan: why don’t you guys (Ari & Feijoa) launch a start-up company to do one or both of those things? There will be plenty of venture capitalists keen to participate, I’m sure. That way you will reap all the rewards rather than the gummint and those pesky taxpayers.

      • Feijoa

        I think you’ve misinterpreted my comment jonno. I said supporting EV car share is a better idea than just the batteries, in a relative sense. That doesn’t mean I think either is good use of tax payer money. In fact I’m against the present subsidies for roads and driving and much prefer a fully priced transport model allowing individual free choice and accountability for costs like pollution and preventing others free access to public space.

        • jonno1

          Fair enough Feijoa, I guess I did interpret “government support” as “government subsidy”, sorry about that. I recall that someone did try renting cars around town by the hour; not sure if that succeeded.

          As for EVs ultimately replacing ICE vehicles, and ignoring for a moment the technology and environmental issues associated with batteries, that would require a massive investment in electricity infrastructure as well as in generation. Still, if gas exploration results in heaps of future gas production it might eventually become viable. Another option of course is nuclear power, but still with fairly high capital costs, not to mention political resistance from some quarters. OTOH, if oil were found in sufficient quantities then the importation argument would disappear and expenditure on duplicated infrastructure could be avoided altogether.

          Back to the recharging issue, Emeritus Professor John Boys and others have done a lot of work on wireless recharging, ie from a plate on your garage floor, so that technology could be developed now for commuter vehicles. I think some European cities already use it for short-distance city loop buses (recharge at the main bus-stop on each cycle).

          • That company is still going: http://www.cityhop.co.nz/

            You can see their cars parked in quite a few city parking buildings. I really think they are the way forward. We only have one car but it would be good to have access to a car without all the associated hassle and cost of maintaining and storing it for the 95% of the time the car is sitting idle. Of course they work better the higher the density.

          • jonno1

            Thanks goosoid, that’s the one I was thinking of. Not sure how it beats a taxi in the inner city (eg for a 2-hour meeting where parking costs would also add up), but good luck to them. The Zoomy taxi app also looks promising, although I haven’t used it yet so don’t know how well it works.

          • conan

            From personal experience of using CityHop I can say it beats taxis hands down for the sorts of meetings I go to in them too- out in the burbs. A taxi would be too expensive and getting one back could have been interesting. And businesses in the burbs generally have heaps of ‘free’ parking. CityHop has enabled our household to easily manage with one car (though you need to live close to one of the cars for this to work, which isn’t an option for huge tracts of Auckland).

      • Phil

        A system of battery pooling was tried in Israel. It went horribly wrong and a lot of money was lost. I’d avoid that investment.

  • Lloyd

    New Zealanders like to have a tow bar fitted to their cars. Maybe someone can find the portion of cars fitted with a tow bar?

    Why is this relevant? If you have a battery only car it has a maximum range, you will have to stop and recharge or replace a battery pack before you can go on.

    Most car use is short range and will be easily handled by a battery only car.

    Typically a car is bought for the maximum, stressful, occasional use, which is why so many SUV’s are bought for ten boat launches per year or for a once a year week at the ski-field. If the choice is between a practical short-range battery only commuter vehicle and a similar vehicle with range enough to drive the length of the North or South Island, most purchasers will buy the long range vehicle, presumably with a fossil fuel burning engine included, so energy costs of lugging the engine around all the time will be added to the vehicle’s energy use over its entire life.

    A battery only vehicle vehicle will have the benefit of a lower lifetime energy cost of not carting around that heavy engine, but can only overcome the range problem by towing a generator.

    Hey New Zealanders are used to towing things so why not tow your generator on those long trips? If the petrol runs out you could tow a generator powered by any practical fuel, including coal or wood chips. Small petrol-powered generators don’t take up too much space so the generator trailer could be used for more than just the generator. Most New Zealanders seem to ignore the 90km/hr trailer speed limit so these electric powered cars towing a generator would not be significant hold-up in traffic flows
    .
    I notice that some battery only car designers do not appear to have thought about this extension to their vehicles range as some battery only cars have their charging plug at the front, A car having its range extended by a towed generator would need a rear charging plug.

    • more weight and drag = even less range, and you are proposing using a FF generator in order to use your EV because you want to avoid buying FF…. oh wait

    • James

      “You can only overcome the range problem by towing a generator”

      Hmmm…

      People don’t tow generators at present so why would they need to tow them with an EV, assuming a similar range with a full battery to an ICE-based vehicle with a full tank of petrol?

    • Dave B

      If one must own a car at all, it is better to own one appropriate for the bulk of one’s usual needs. Given that most vehicles do not travel that far on a regular basis, BEV’s would suit. Then, for those 10 boat-launches per year, one simply hires the appropriate vehicle (acknowledging that many car rental companies do not provide towbars, but if this became a significant market then they would). But driving the SUV everywhere when 90% of the trips do not require it is just plain stupid.

    • Dave B

      A few years back the British government opposed many worthwhile railway-electrification schemes in the naive belief that hydrogen fuel cells for trains were “just around the corner”, and therefore it was not worth investing in conventional catenaries and electric locos. When year after year rolled by with no fuel-cell trains on the horizon, and large sums continuing to be spent on fuelling old diesel trains, the reality finally obtruded itself into the minds of these idealists. Now, belatedly, the British government is embarking on the much needed programme of conventional electrification. Maybe hydrogen fuel cells will eventually emerge as the way forward, but a lot of time and opportunity was wasted waiting for this to happen.

      • Dave B

        Hey – this reply should have gone a few postings further down. Posting here is like pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey. You never know where it is going to finish up!

  • Great article John, I have just downloaded your thesis and commend you on this very important work. In the US there are a number of incentives/subsidies to push Electric cars. For example the Nissan Leaf can be leased for $200/month.

  • Lloyd

    Patrick a fully electric car would only need to tow the generator and use non-electric fuels a few times a year. The car would usually be used as a battery-only vehicle. The generator trailers could be hired out by service stations when needed just like trailers are today. The annual fossil fuel use of a pure battery powered car which occasionally has its range extended by a generator trailer would have to be considerably less than the fossil fuel use of a hybrid car, and a country generally adopting this technology would also use considerably less fossil fuel. Using wood chips in a generator would not be using any fossil fuel.

    The battery-only car would have the lower weight benefit over its life-time. Sure, towing a trailer will increase weight and drag but if the trailer contains an engine similar to that inside a hybrid it will increase the range of the car/trailer combo. The alternative of course is to drive the electric only car to the limit of its range and then stop for the length of time required to charge the battery for the rest of the trip. This is the reason that battery only cars a not selected, but a Prius is. Providing a practical long-range POSSIBILITY a generator/trailer system means that the long-range issue can be discounted by the prospective car purchaser, which will mean that battery only cars will become much more popular.

    • As hydrogen fuel cell technology advances this will become the solution to extended range and immediate refueling. Most likely future EV will be powered be a hybrid cell with conventional Li-ion (or newer technolgy) for the majority local short distance travel and hydrogen fuel cell for unlimited range and immediate refueling.

      I noted today that Toyota is heralding the age of the hydrogen fuel cell vehicle.

      • Bryce P

        As was GM a decade ago. There have been fleet trials from various manf for years. We’ll see.

      • MFD

        No amount of hydrogen fuel cell development will address the challenges of developing the means to produce and distribute the requisite hydrogen. Since you are convinced that hydrogen is the solution perhaps you can give us some details and costs of the hydrogen infrastructure.

        • It will follow the similar path of LPG distribution and motorvehicle conversions to LPG.

          • MFD

            Really? Liquified hydrogen distribution? Have you any concept of what that entails and the expense?
            What will be the source of the hydrogen? Steam reformation of natural gas? Electrolysis? What wull be the overall energy efficiency?

          • It will be supply and demand as what occured with the supply of LPG infrastructure and LPG car conversions. The demand is EV need for unlimited range and refueling options, the supply/opportunity will come on board as Hydrogen fuel cell technology becomes more affordable.

          • MFD

            You really haven’t thought through the engineering issues at all, have you? No amount of basic economic theory is going to address the thermodynamic, safety and cost challenges of manufacturing and distributing a cryogenic liquid. The overall energy efficiency of a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle is woefully low. On that basis alone the whole idea should be rejected.

          • Yesterday Toyota announced plans for new FCV vehicles on the US market by 2015 and they are currently in talks with various US states on expanding the hydrogen infrastructure.

          • MFD

            Talk is cheap…but let’s continue playing your game: is Toyota proposing a liquified hydrogen network? How is the hydrogen going to be produced? You and others can continue to avoid the awkward questions but the fundamental shortcomings don’t go away by ignoring them.

          • Bits taken from the Toyota CES2014 press conference.

            “The issue of infrastructure is not so much about how many, but rather, location, location, location,” said Carter. “If every vehicle in California ran on hydrogen – we could meet refueling logistics with only 15 percent of the nearly 10,000 gasoline stations currently operating in the state.”

            Toyota and the University of California at Irvine collaborated on a study that found only 68 strategically-placed refueling stations between the San Francisco Bay area and San Diego could support a population of 10,000 fuel cell vehicles.

            He also noted that while there are only 10 active hydrogen stations in California, funding has been approved for 20 more by 2015 and 40 by 2016.

            “Stay tuned,” added Carter, “because this infrastructure thing is going to happen.”

          • MFD

            The existing infrastructure in CA is not based on liquid hydrogen so why are you assuming a distribution system similar to LPG will somehow happen?
            Still no information re efficiencies or the source of the hydrogen. Ignoring the problems don’t make them go away…or is the assumption that because Toyota have issued a press release it must be all sorted?

          • You introduced Liquid Hydrogen to the discussion not me. I merely said “It will follow the similar path of LPG distribution and motorvehicle conversions to LPG.” The announcement from Toyota backs this opinion with supply and demand.

          • MFD

            In NZ LPG is distributed as a liquid under pressure by road tankers. The L in LPG is a clue. The only practical way of distributing hydrogen in a “similar” way is as a liquid. The energy density of gaseous hydrogen is such that a significant portion of its energy content would be consumed by the vehicles delivering it. Liquid hydrogen transport by road is too expensive and dangerous so (apart from unproven technologies) that leaves distribution as a compressed gas in a pipeline i.e. a very different distribution method than that for LPG; one that involves considerable capital expenditure and work rather than the purchase of trucks (using existing roads) and pressure vessels.
            That’s the current state of the art so unless you have specific technical information on how a distribution system for hydrogen will follow a “similar path” to LPG distribution I will assume that you are indulging in wishful thinking…and that’s before we consider how and where the hydrogen is produced. I am assuming you know where LPG comes from. Is that a valid assumption?

          • Greg N

            See my comments below on Hydrogen for Fuel Cell Vehicles.

            Liquid Hydrogen is difficult to deal with – ask NASA, they have 50+ years experience with the stuff since way back before the Gemini/Apollo projects in the 60s.

            You can make the stuff in many ways, even by freezing it out of the air (liquefaction), which takes enormous amounts of (electrical) energy
            - but usually involved putting more energy, way more in fact, than you’d get back when your burned/reacted it.

            And if that energy used to make the stuff doesn’t come from renewable resources you are simply throwing good resources after bad by doing it.

            So you wouldn’t – unless of course you need to send rockets to outer space, where you have no alternatives.

            And I hardly think running a car on it counts as good “Rocket Science” right now.

          • I am still not too sure why you keep on talking about Liquid Hyrdogen or ways in which to distribute it as I did not introduce that topic to the discussion. LPG is not Liquid Hyrdogen

            There are mulitple ways in which to extract hydrogen, the most efficient way will be dictated by technology and market conditions.

            It is fine for you to believe that technology and market conditions will never reach a state in which this becomes viable.

          • MFD

            You continue to dance around the issues so let me be more blunt. The introduction of a hydrogen distribution in NZ, should it ever happen, will be totally different from the introduction of the LPG distribution system for reasons that I have outlined above. You, on the other hand, have stated that it will be similar for reasons that you have not chosen to to reveal except to claim that market forces will be involved. Market forces never trump physics or thermodynamics and the notion that market conditions will “dictate” efficiencies belongs in cloud cuckoo land.

          • I provided sufficient evidence in the form of statements from Toyota and their rationale for making HFV’s viable. I suggest you read it again in the above post.

            It is best to follow how Toyota and the State of California deals with the issues that you believe are cloud cuckoo land.

          • MFD

            In Toyota we trust. How quaint.

          • MFD

            Well it didn’t take long to find out that the new FCV refuelling stations in CA are being built with taxpayer handouts at a cost of >USD 1M per site. The vehicles are also eligible for federal and state rebates and tax incentives.
            Looks like market forces failed.

          • I guess we will see, it could also be smoke screen marketing/development but hopefully not.

            On a slightly different tact while in San Francisco I also investigated various charging stations. There are slow charging 110V, fast charging 210V and rapid charging stations. Tested out the slow charging 110V and fast charging 210V stations. However there are not many rapid charging stations and the vehicle needs to be adapted for rapid high voltage charging.

            Essentially the rapid stations could fully charge an EV in 20-30 minutes. So if you have an EV with long distance batteries (300km+) the rapid charge makes long distance travel possible as you are likely to stop at some stage for a meal/toilet/rest etc for more than 20 minutes.

          • MFD

            You could wait and see, I guess, but there is sound information out there that demonstrates how FCVs are an efficiency dog wrt BEVs and an expensive dog at that. The following link is to a paper on the California Fuel Cell Partnership website(!):

            http://cafcp.org/sites/files/20091026wells2wheels.pdf

            An extract from the conclusions of the paper:

            We find that government studies
            indicate that it would be far cheaper, in
            terms of production and refueling costs,
            to develop a BEV, even if we do not
            consider the substantial cost of building
            and maintaining the hydrogen
            infrastructure on which the FCV would
            depend. Specifically, the results show
            that in an economy based on renewable
            energy, the FCV requires production of
            between 2.4 and 2.6 times more energy
            than a comparable BEV. The FCV
            propulsion system weighs 43% more,
            consumes nearly three-times more space
            onboard the vehicle for the same power
            output, and costs approximately 46%
            more than the BEV system. Further, the
            refueling cost of a FCV is nearly three times
            greater. Finally, when we relax the
            renewable energy assumption, the BEV
            is still more efficient, cleaner, and vastly
            less expensive in terms of manufacturing,
            refueling, and infrastructure investment.

            So why is CA forging ahead with FCVs when the research shows such a poor energy efficiency and high cost? Follow the money, I guess.

          • It is all part of CA climate change strategy with Toyotal taking advantage of that strategy.

          • Greg N

            MFD: “So why is CA forging ahead with FCVs when the research shows such a poor energy efficiency and high cost?”

            Toa: “It is all part of CA climate change strategy with Toyotal taking advantage of that strategy.”

            Not quite the money, but close, its all to do with the US CAFE Standards (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) which governs the US new car fleet MPG targets for each year going forward.

            In effect, in the US, if you make a really “green” car emissions wise you get a sh*t load of (tradable) CAFE “brownie points” to use to offset the woeful gas-guzzling SUVs and Trucks you also make – as long as the fleet average of your vehicles meets the standard you’re ok. California has something similar which is specific to CA, which is along the same lines only more generous.

            So in the US Nissan sell the extra green credits they get from all those BEV Leafs they sell in the US, and they sell them to other car manufacturers who don’t meet the CAFE standards for their gas guzzlers.

            And Toyota can do the same with a small fleet of FCVs to offset all those Toyota Pradas and other “shitbox minivans” out there.

            Honda do the same too – they have a BEV version of the Honda Fit (Fit is called the Honda Jazz here), you can’t buy one, only lease them, only in California and they only made like 2-300 and they supposedly cost a lot of money to make each one.
            But Honda gets to offset their high-end gas guzzlers accordingly and its worthwhile doing so.

          • Lloyd

            Distributing wood chips would be much easier done than distributing liquefied hydrogen. A generator trailer could contain a Stirling engine heated by burning wood chips or a internal combustion engine supplied by a wood-chip fired gasifier in the style utilised by some motorists during WWII. No overall greenhouse gas emissions from plantation grown timber. All this technology is available today. A battery only car with the availability of a towed generator trailer gives similar mobility to a petrol or diesel powered car with considerably less overall CO2 emissions than from a hybrid or a low emission diesel.
            New Zealand drivers are probably amongst the most experienced trailer towers and therefore we have the potential to show the rest of the world how such a vehicle combination would work.

  • Hi John :D

    Even if the battery side of things takes a little longer, there are some neat tricks being applied to ICEs that could help improve the fuel efficiency of all vehicles, but would also make a major impact on PHEVs as well. There’s been research into pulse throttling – the ideal amount of acceleration a throttle map needs to maintain a speed and improve fuel efficiency. There’s also a move towards using more gears in automatic transmissions (some American sedans are getting seven to eight, whereas you’d only really see seven speed boxes in F1 cars) and Koenigsegg is developing a cam-less engine, giving far more control over the valves and the ignition cycle – although I doubt mere mortals will see that any time soon. It’s a real shame the opposed engines never really went anywhere, even Bill Gates’ pet investment seems to be sadly quiet these days. I’m more curious in seeing where Gordon Murray’s City Car goes. It’s been a long time coming but if anyone can crack the design challenges ahead, it’ll be him.

    That notwithstanding, bring on solid-state batteries :D

    • John Polkinghorne

      Sup Dan, there are indeed many things that can be done with ICEs – that’s “internal combustion engines”, folks – and, of course, cars can also become more efficient by becoming smaller again. I sorta looked at this topic in my first guest post at http://transportblog.co.nz/2012/12/11/trends-in-car-fuel-efficiency/, but also I’d recommend that anyone who’s interested have a look at the linked report by the US Environmental Protection Agency. It looks at a lot of the potential new technologies.
      In my thesis, I assumed that ICE cars could become 20% to 40% more efficient in the future – and that includes many of them adopting hybrid technology (but not becoming PHEVs).

  • Phil

    I took the opportunity to read your thesis John – well up to page 85 when I lost the will to live.
    Firstly I would congratulate you on undertaking such a study – it is important work and although there has been many papers written about the future of transport fuels – I doubt any have been focused on NZ.
    There are areas I agree with you: Firstly I agree that a game changer for NZ would be to convert PT to electric power. Having all trains powered from the national grid would be a good investment and the new trains in Auckland is a long overdue start. Buses could be converted to EV or Hydrogen pretty easy and as buses run to timetables, re charging shouldn’t be a problem as this can be scheduled into the 24 hour cycle of the bus workload. Taxis which are also seldom needed to travel long distances could also be EV with the taxi management company/coop overtaking ownership of the batteries.
    However in the big picture your thesis is missing is(unless it came after page 85). NZ’s biggest energy risk is our exposure to the US dollar. All oil is traded in USD and we have been enjoying a very favourable exchange rate for the last 5 years. I struggle to come up with any good reasons why the Kiwi is worth 83 US cents and can not believe this is sustainable when faced with a recovering US economy. The eventual decline in the NZ$ vrs the US$ will have a painful impact on our balance of payments and the average Kiwi will have to dig deeper in their pockets when filling up at the pumps.
    Fortunately the price of oil is dropping. Fracking is the silver bullet the US has been praying for and will become every tree huggers nightmare as every country in the world scramble to unlock the abundant supply of shale oil. In theory there should be more shale oil available than there was crude, so we could be watching the solution to our energy troubles fade away in this decade. There is a lot of talk about huge shale deposits off NZ’s East Coast and regardless of what Govt is elected this will be developed – no amount of protesting by Greenpeace is going to (or should) stop this. Any significant Shale boom could turn us all into South Pacific Saudis.
    So for as long as the real risk to our land transport fuels is actually currency one and global fossil fuel prices are likely to be falling (inflationary corrected) it is difficult to see the investment appetite being there for creating a fleet of EV’s for NZ.
    I see three scenarios:
    1. US Economy booms, Oil demand increases, NZ$ collapses = We are all in the shit and couldnt afford an EV. (the positives for ATB – the Govt can no longer afford the RONS and we are all walking and cycling)
    2. US Economy improves but Fracking suppresses oil prices to around $60-$80/bbl. NZ$ collapses = Weak dollar is offset by lower oil cost. Status quo and life carries on as it is now.
    3. US Economy improves. Oil demand increases. NZ find huge fracking reserves = We become rich overnight and wish oil was still $140/bbl so we could charge our Chinese buyers more. (Positives for ATB – The Rons get built but we can afford a cycling path everywhere including the new Skypath..the entire AHB converted to cycling and peds.

    • Sailor Boy

      Except that Shale,particularly underwater cost A LOT to extract, it only ever got explored because we hit $100/barrel. Not to mention the lack of price movement from frackng.

      • Phil

        What do you mean by lack of price movement from fracking? Have you not seen what it did to the WTI?

        Extracting Shale from NZ waters would be a NZ dollar cost – a huge difference from importing USD priced oil. We would be exporting excess Shale to China and being paid in US$’s.

        • Peter Olorenshaw

          Phil the relevant measure for global price is Brent Crude – Fracking in the US hasn’t moved it from US$110/barrel – see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business/market_data/commodities/28696/twelve_month.stm

        • Patrick R

          Who’s exporting Shale oil? Not the US, still a net importer…. Faith is a wonderful thing.

          • Phil

            @ Peter.. Brent is the European benchmark for the crude futures price traded on ICE. WTI is the American benchmark for crude traded on NYMEX. The WTI/Brent spread has really blown out due to Fracking in the States.
            @ Patrick… The US is not allowed to export crude or shale. It’s a federal law that is about protecting US reserves. There are moves afoot in congress right now to remove that law. Of course whilst the US is not allowed to export feedstocks, nothing at all stops them from exporting refined products. As the US now has the cheapest feedstocks (shale and crude) they can make petrol and diesel cheaper than anyone else. Currently the US refineries (those not under snow) are running flat out and exporting to South America, West Africa, and Europe. In fact the EU has just removed import duty on kerosine to allow for more cheap US fuel to be imported.
            Forget faith – go with facts :)

          • Patrick R

            Facts, yes those inconvenient things. The law is not the thing that makes the US still a net importer of liquid fuels. It is the fact that they, still, consume way more than they extract, from Shale, or GOM, or the thousands of stripper wells, ERO on exhausted conventional fields, turning corn and gas into ethanol, or the Rapidly declining North Slope, or whatever. And they will continue to do under every scenario except the most hyperbolic predictions run by industry boosters (that either ignore or fail to understand accelerated decline rates in fracked plays).

            I see you are less interested in facts than hype. But good luck to you, taking some bold forward positions based on the idea that all the world’s Shale deposits are geologically identical to the Bakken and Eagle Ford, and, any minute now we’ll be flooded with LTO from these because of coming technological breakthrough to make them economic to play at some new low oil price? All to make up for the relentless decline in cheap conventional fields globally? Yeeha; be bold!

          • Phil

            Patrick – In the nicest possible way – do I need to remind you what I do for a living?

            I wonder if you understand what shale is and how it is likely to hold more oil than the crude deposits. This is not a criticism – why should you know anything about the subject. However, take it from someone working in oil trading – Shale is a big game changer – the biggest game changer since OPEC. What you are going to see is that the US will move more towards Shale while the wests consumption declines due to improved economy in transport fuelled vehicles. Meanwhile our Arab friends will cosy up to Asia as a place to sell crude. Total global demand for fuels will continue to rise but offset by Shale.

            The panic of peak oil is well and truly over. We are not going back to $20 crude but we no longer have to panic in our lifetime about the lights going off. Of course the green lobby will deny this and still want us to revert back to an agricultural economy but the genie of industrialisation is so far out of the box we are never going back.

            Have a read of this http://www.hardassetsinvestor.com/weekly-commodity-reports/petroleum-report/5503-bearish-outlook-for-oil-in-2014-amid-massive-supply-potential.html

            And lastly – why be so pessimistic? if NZ could benefit from the shale boom, either from finding our own reserves or through cheaper imports – this is a good thing.

          • Patrick R

            You’ll have to get a better argument than merely pointing to one of the ways I make a living to answer my very specific concerns. It’s not credible. Whenever I point your out your little lies by omission or distractions you never answer them but draw attention to my other skills. Pointless.

            Oh and I’m not being pessimistic, I’m being realistic. You’ve been captured by, or are one of, the boosters. But hey that’s fine, I’m not saying I know the future, cos I don’t, but merely that your predictions as expressed above aren’t very persuasive. They really on claims that an interested amateur like me can see holes in very quickly.

            Frankly if you see ever more FF being burned more easily as a good thing then I reckon you’re better off hitching your wagon to the hope for stability in Iraq as that still looks like the home of last big conventional fields. Supplemented by love and peace breaking out between Iran and, well, everybody, as they clearly could be extracting more if the above ground circumstances were different.

            Or more creatively you might understand that really the more interesting and disruptive future model for unexpected turns in oil price really relate to the demand side. Changes in culture and especially the kind of urbanisation we advocate here is happening worldwide and secular drops in demand look likely to grow (and not just because of price) and this will have significant impacts on price. Which in turn could be very disruptive to financing expensive unconventional extraction, like shale, arctic, ultra deep water, Brazilian pre-salt etc.

            To my mind the technophiliac, big cap, endless supply growth model describes the previous and passing age…. But, hey, what would I know?

          • Phil

            Exactly Patrick – what would you know?

            I have been working in Oil trading for over 20 years. I look at supply and demand patterns every day in an attempt to make sense of an ever changing global energy market. Please excuse me if I am a little dismissive of the opinions of a photographer in NZ with blinkered green agendas. That is not meant as an insult – just showing the ridiculousness of your position.

            The nay sayers like you cling to an arbitrator value of crude, at below which, you claim it is not economically viable to use unconventional oils. You are missing the big picture. Industry makes technological advancements all the time. What once may have cost $50/bbl to extract may in the future only cost $10/bbl. As an example I will explain to you a little history of delivering oil to the market. Originally oil was transported by horse and cart from wells to consumers across difficult terrain. The first shipments were made in re-used 50 gallon whiskey barrels. As there was quite a bit of spillage as the barrels were open topped and the kart rocked around over rocky tracks the suppliers and customers decided to agree an average qty per barrel. That is why today a barrel of oil is 42 gallons. Now if you think that in the old days the supplier (mostly Standard Oil) was losing 8 gallons a bbl (16%) and today most US oil is transported in sealed pipelines with 0% loss – you can see that the relative costs of bringing oil to the market have fallen from the early pioneering days. Is it not logical that the same practise of improving well to customer process will not be applied to shale oil extraction?

            You are also ignoring inflation. What today may seem expensive fuel is actually the same cost as it was 100 years ago when it is inflation corrected http://inflationdata.com/Inflation/Inflation_Rate/Gasoline_Inflation.asp and driving a car is cheaper today than it was 20 years ago.

            Is burning more fossil fuel to be seen as a good thing? Well clearly not for the environment. Despite the rather amusing situation of global warming protesters being stuck in the ice recently – I share some of Al Gores concerns. Having said that I am also a realist and understand that there is no way the West can demand Asia stop growing oil demand in the same way we have no right to demand Brazil stop cutting down their rain forests. You may feel comfortable sitting in your air-conditioned office, wearing your synthetic suit, typing away on your plastic keyboard and telling Asians to stay in the dark ages but I find that a bit double standard. Faced with increased demand I am glad we have an abundance of shale oil and now the technology to exploit it. The alternative of going to war over oil fields and starving because we turned our agriculture from protein to feedstocks doesn’t appeal to me.

            You say “Changes in culture and especially the kind of urbanisation we advocate here is happening worldwide and secular drops in demand look likely to grow” and yet the global demand for oil is growing. I have told you above that demand decline through effriciency in the West will be offset by demand growth in Asia. Here is a link to show you global oil demand growth. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/c4983fb0-6248-11e3-bba5-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2qeIFq3cR Better to embrace and be thankful of the fossil fuels we have which will see our generation to the grave. Meanwhile we should be encouraging our leaders to invest in alternative energy research. The planet does have a great and renewable source of non fossil fuel energy, we see it above our heads for 12 hours every day. Harnessing the suns energy into Hydrogen fuel or another form of energy capture is the long term future – riding bikes and living like rats on top of each other in an urban nightmare is not.

          • TheBigWheel

            Phil, the shale so-called revolution will be no more than a blip. The wells are sucking up more capex than oil or gas. One last hurrah.

            The bigger picture is that in 16 years (according to carbontracker and others) we will have burned our FF budget.. we have something like 500-700 GtCO2 left. If we want to stay at or below +2C.. And it’s important (understatement) that we stay below 2C. At some point, sooner rather than later, FFs will hit the buFFers.

            Patrick has said before, the economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment.

          • Phil

            And yet – according to the EIA the USA has more than 4 times the PROVEN AND EXTRACTABLE Shale reserves than Saudi has crude. About 982 billion barrels of oil resources!
            Stop reading Green Terrorist agenda and accept the reality – that is of course unless you think the EIA (The US Govt) are lying in which case don your aluminium foil cap and wait for the aliens from area 51 to show us the clean renewable energy the Feds have been hiding from us :)
            It used to be that the public would accuse oil traders of creating panic about reserves drying up in order to boost oil prices. Are you now saying we are lying to you about being loads of oil? To what end?
            Patricks catch phrase is quite cute – but it doesnt mean that people in Asia are going to stop trading in bikes for cars. Do the Greens have a cute catch phrase for continuing to enslave the third world in poverty just so we dont grow emissions…Oh yes – they do – Biofuel :(

          • Patrick R

            Phil your insults and bragging about your authority just make your claims less credible. Absurd strawman arguments about what other commenters know or believe make your pronouncements even more risible.

            If you are as much as an expert as you claim then you know the it is RATE of production that matters with supply….. anyway if what you write here is any indication of the level of your insight and analysis then no wonder the industry is driving itself off a cliff at top speed fed on its own bullshit. More likely you are simply trying to play everyone here as fools. Doesn’t wash.

            Interestingly your view is actually an extreme one, wildly cornucopian, without nuance or subtlety, which is perhaps why you are so keen to paint more balanced views as radical. I’ll keep looking at the data and from a variety of sources and listen to all voices. Yours however is proving too silly to bother with.

            Anyway, we will see how things unfold, keep making your predictions; they’ll be fun to look back on for a giggle.

          • Phil

            Patrick – your petty insults say more about you than me amigo.

            As you might imagine – a career in trading that spans over 20 years does not come without some success (or luck) in predicting market movements.

            You say my views are extreem and yet I am the one backing up my claims with data from the EIA. Do you think the EIA are ‘absurd’ – ‘bullshit’ – ‘extreem’ ‘corncopian’ or ‘too silly to bother with’?

            Please do tell me what you mean about ‘rate of supply’ – Are you suggesting that ROS is a problem in oil production right now? If so – where do you see the problem? It sure is not extraction or refining. Riddle me this Mr photographer – If the price of oil is not going to fall then why is the market in backwardation?

          • Greg N

            Phil,
            This recent article (http://www.theguardian.com/environment/earth-insight/2014/jan/17/peak-oil-oilandgascompanies)
            Headline: “US Army colonel: world is sleepwalking to a global energy crisis” in The Guardian.

            Which has the Establishment of the officials in the US Army getting pretty nervous about the oil situation worldwide and in particular, the US.

            They are now openly questioning the predictions of Big Oil, the EIA, IEA and even some parts of the US government.

            This is serious stuff. One analyst prediction is a global energy crisis in 2015 – next year and it seems that Shale is not the nirvana or saviour of the US after all.

            Comment like these:
            “When you only look at certain things, like the very real resurgence of US oil and gas production, the picture looks fine. But when you dig deeper into the data, it becomes clear that this is only part of the picture. And the big picture proves that our current course cannot continue without significant risks.”

            “that should be ringing alarm bells. It indicates to me that something has fundamentally changed in the economics of the oil industry and that you’re having to invest more and more for diminishing incremental production.””

            and

            “the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) own “comprehensive” analysis in its World Energy Outlook of the 1,600 fields providing 70% of today’s global oil supply, show “an observed decline rate of 6.2%” – double the IEA’s stated estimate of future decline rate out to 2035 of about 3%.”

            and

            “Geoscientist David Hughes, formerly of the Geological Survey of Canada, who cited a wealth of official data demonstrating that shale oil production is likely to peak around 2016-17. Similarly, **US shale gas production has sustained a plateau for the last year that is unlikely to retain long-term sustainability** due to spectacularly high decline rates, and because the vast majority of production comes from just two or three plays.

            The upshot is that continued dependence on fossil fuels is becoming increasingly expensive, with oil prices continuing to rise for the foreseeable future, impinging evermore on global economic growth. At worst, declining global exports point to a risk of an oil crunch that could, in turn, trigger another financial crash.”

            And this last quote sums up:the increasing alarm that is out there now:

            “According to Lt. Col. Davis, scepticism of the oil industry’s bullishness about future production is growing amongst senior Pentagon officials:

            “A lot of high-ranking officials are starting to ask exactly these hard questions about the sustainability of the current energy system. You’ve got to remember that for the military, it doesn’t matter what you want to do. What matters is what you can do, and it’s our top priority to make sure we understand potential limits to our operational capability. Even the EIA is forecasting that we could see a peak of shale production by 2018 followed by a plateau and decline, and the Pentagon knows this. But our transport infrastructure is totally dependent on liquid fuels. How are we going to sustain that infrastructure with these decline rates? That’s why serious questions are being asked by high level US military officials as to what exactly the Army, as well as American society in general, is going to do to address this challenge.”

            Now you may dismiss both the Patricks (plural) and even my comments as being non-expert, but when the so-called experts are being openly called out as they are here, you have to say that something is happening here, akin to the lead up the GFC with the bankers.

            I’d sum it up this way:
            When the smell of rotten rats begins to permeate the air you know deep within, that a crisis is near.

          • Patrick R

            Phil: rate of extraction, or production rate. You know this; it doesn’t matter how much of anything is in a container if you can only get so much out at a time. The common ATM metaphor: If you have a billion dollars in an account but can only withdraw a dollar a day are you rich? So what is peak oil? Not oil running out, but the highest ever global flow rate. A point that will only even know in the rear view mirror, and for C&C only may have already passed in July 2008 at 73.26mb/d. (EIA data a point reached again about 2 years ago too) Only time will tell.

            So anyone desperate see ever more oil of course wants to focus on an ‘all liquids’ measure, and in particular the 3 or so mb/d that Shale is adding to this number currently.
            But even the EIA are predicting Shale to peak and start its decline as early as 2018, and other commentators have that peak as early as next year. Now as conventional oil (C&C) has been stuck on the bumpy plateau of around 73 mb/d since 2005, your extremely optimistic supply picture looks unsupportable. Why is it stuck? Because even as even new fields are brought on the rate of production of old ones are constantly declining. The industry is spending prodigiously just to stand still. Add unrest in the middle east, and more demand from asia and we can all see there are plenty of reasons to question anyone with a ‘don’t worry be happy’ story.

            As to your other points. Yes I, like you and everyone else rely on the EIA and BP, and the IEA, and JODI, even CERA, for pretty reliable information on what has happened, for data, but like you (I hope) and everyone else take their predictions with more than a grain of salt. These are all political or commercial entities that have vested interests and in fact all have very poor records with that difficult business of prediction.

            My argument with the views you present here in as much as they represent your full opinion is that they match perfectly with Alan Greenspan’s description of the financial market attitude earlier this century: ‘irrational exuberance’. So in fact your closeness to the industry rather than persuading me that you might be right more warns that you and rest of the boosters are either seeing only what you want to see or ‘talking up your book’ either consciously or unconsciously. Furthermore all your other urgings on this site show your desire for nothing to change and for the cheap oil life to go on you come across as an unreliable witness. Like a Lehman bros trader in say 2005.

            Anyway. Facts are more interesting than your not uncommon point of view. Here’s one:

            Since 2000, the IEA reports, “oil industry investment has trebled for only a 12% increasing in supply” http://www.theguardian.com/environment/earth-insight/2014/jan/17/peak-oil-oilandgascompanies

            All of this makes the fact that oil cos are spending huge and probably unrecoverable [debt] fortunes going after expensive Shale, Arctic, and ultra deep water plays looks more and more like the scraping of the bottom of the barrel rather than a new age of oil super-abundance.

          • Patrick R

            My point, by others, here: http://www.resilience.org/stories/2014-01-20/americas-feel-good-oil-bonanza

            “Although few would disagree that the EIA’s data collection and dissemination activities are world-class, its projections in AEO 2014 are, like most of its previous projections, overly optimistic and unlikely to be realized. The risks to long-term American energy security are obvious if the EIA’s projections of low-priced energy abundance don’t work out.
            Good news sells, and doesn’t rock any boats, but policy makers and politicians comforted by rosy forecasts are unable to understand the risks and properly prepare the country for long-term energy sustainability. It’s unfortunate—and yes, dangerous—that rosy forecasts are exactly what the government’s premiere energy fortuneteller continues to offer, despite its dismal track record.”

          • A point made here too, by Evans-Pritchard in the Telegraph, adding the very worrying prospect of Shale Oil not only sending false hope, but also, paradoxically, adding to deflationary pressures, especially in Europe, but then leading to dreaded ‘stagflation’ once scarcity returns to this dperess economic picture:

            http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/ambroseevans_pritchard/10575292/Coming-oil-glut-may-push-global-economy-into-deflation.html

            “To avoid confusion, let me be clear that the dangers of dwindling oil supplies in the long-run have not gone away. Easy reserves of crude are being depleted. New fields are more costly. Peak oil may have the last laugh. Yet this should not be confused with the short-term risks of deflationary shock.
            I recently attended a Transatlantic Dialogue on Energy Security with senior military officers in London and Washington. The message was that shale will come and go – with US tight gas peaking by 2017 – creating a false sense of security as the deeper strategic threat continues to build. That is broadly my view as well. Much drama can intrude along the way.”

    • I understand that fracking will increase supply but how does that change the price issue?

      From what I have read, the ROI energy wise on oil in the early days used to be that for each 1kJ of energy expended, the producer could expect to realise 100kJ. That ratio is now down to something like 1/10kJ and that below 1/5kJ it just isnt worth getting it out of the ground – regardless of supply and demand – because there isnt any demand for fuel at the follow on retail price.

      If we have heaps of oil but it can only be profitably sold at (say) $5/litre, that isnt going to make it a viable option for the average NZer – regardless of supply. Very few people can afford to buy fuel at that price. It will allow commerce to continue but with the higher fuel price built into the retail prices of services and products, so people will pay the higher price indirectly anyway.

      It may take widespread use of the private automobile back to the levels it was in the 1950s perhaps (not a bad thing as far as I am concerned). Of course, the average Joe will probably end up spending less on transport (a huge cost in Auckland) as they use PT or cycle.

      I guess the fuel tax could be slashed but that just increases the already high subsidies on road maintenance and construction.

      What am I missing?

      • Phil

        The price of oil is about the value of re-supply – not the cost of producing. The cost of extracting non conventional oil is coming down which is putting pressure on conventional producers to lower prices. Oil producing nations would still sell crude if it was $10/bbl. They just dont want too (and why should they). However if you take away the ability of OPEC and other oil cartels to squeeze the market by controlling supply then they are going to sell at what ever price they can get. Having all that non conventional oil come on to the market means if OPEC announces they are cutting production by a million barrels a day the West no longer panics into paying higher prices.
        I am sure someone is going to reply to this with some silly google link about crude costing $80 (or whatever) a barrel to extract but thats just BS. Trust me – the Saudi Royal family would still be pumping oil regardless of any price fall – they have to sell it to fund all their Lime Green Lambos, Gold Rolex and Prostitutes. In fact in a market where the price was tumbling due to over abundance of supply all those Opeckers would start cheating on quota again – a bit like back in 1990 when Kuwait was cross drilling under the border and stealing Iraqs oil.
        Of course we are unlikely to head to $10/bbl oil – too many vested interests – but $60 – $80/bbl is likely and at that price you still frack and you still drill because the oil companies are making so much money downstream on refinery margins and retail fuel prices.
        If I were the NZ Govt and fuel became significantly cheaper I would use it as an opportunity to increase fuel tax. We have learnt that the public can and will pay today’s prices. Why not exploit that while you can and spend that money on the RONS (You think a former Forex trader hasn’t spotted that?). If you want further info ask one of the admins to give you my email address (they have it).

    • I have seen that Formula E mentioned before and I think it is an interesting development along with electric motorcycle racing on the Isle of Man.

      However, as a motor sport fan (you not me!) do you think the lack of engine noise will put spectators off? Isnt part of the reason motorheads love the sport so much (and one of the many reasons I dont) is just the sheer noise and intensity of it.

      What do you think?

      • John Polkinghorne

        I’d be interested to hear what Dan Sloan thinks too; he’s also a motorsport buff. Personally, I think the sounds are a big part of the excitement. If I were driving an electric Formula E car, I would prefer to have speakers playing Manowar rather than a faux engine noise as some BEVs are adopting.

      • Phil

        If ou are the driver you can’t really here much noise anyway. The exhausts are quite a way behind you and with a nomes balaclava, radio plugs, and a lid it’s pretty quiet. It is much louder for the people outside the cars.
        Yes, the lack of noise will detract from what Formula E is but if it is organised well it could really capture an audience. There is talk of the UK race being on the streets of London which is something F1 won’t be allowed to do.
        Real petrol heads will moan this year that F1 has gone to V6 turbos but I think the new recovery technology is going to be very interesting and will help change road cars in the near future.

      • Electric motors make some pretty emotive noises going full chat too though. It’s all a bit star warsy.

      • Mike F

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U7A9Y5dwPHI

        Electric cars have the problem of being silent up to 30km/hr especially for pedestrians.Not sure this is the solution to the problem.

  • P2P

    Not only a replacement of “conventional” with “electric” cars, but also of usage and ownership. Paris started a 2 years ago a car sharing service called autolib (https:/www.autolib.eu/en/) similar to the popular velib bike sharing service.

  • Peter Olorenshaw

    I don’t think anyone here really has clicked onto what the Tesla S has done for the whole landscape of electric cars. The thing is that any sort of commuting by any sort of car is a disaster, just through the amount of area they take up – this is why we need densification of our urban areas and good public transport. For those who insist on car commuting , you have been able to do this since the 70′s with ordinary electric vehicles – we don’t need charging points in town for these cars as almost any electric car can easily have a 100km range – far more than almost any commuter uses in a day. Where we really do need personal vehicles is to get out into the countryside – public transport will always only poorly cover this use. Tesla and their S model ( You know the one – the very cool looking 5+2 seater that accelerates and handles better than a BMW M5 and has a range of 300 miles – yes miles) are rolling out Supercharging (fast charging) stations across the US so you can travel long distances, filling up every 4 or 500km while you have a break and a cup of coffee. And we should be taking a break every 4 or 500km shouldn’t we? So what we actually need is dispersed fast chargers across the countryside, not charging points in our towns.

  • Ari

    Fracking is pretty expensive and won’t necessarily reduce petrol prices because we also have a global refining bottleneck rather than just a production bottleneck. And fossil fuel consumption is not good, no matter what the source.

    As for hydrogen fuel cells, they remain a stupid idea (particularly for NZ) because of the distribution infrastructure costs alone. We already have a mature distribution grid for electricity and there is no need to incur further energy losses by turning electricity into hydrogen.

    • Phil

      Actually quite the opposite Ari. There is plenty of refinery capacity at the moment and more refineries are being built as we speak.
      Some people may not like fossil fuel burn but it is here to stay

  • Greg N

    One thing to be careful with all these technologies is to also factor in the embedded energy costs of the alternative fuel vehicle as well as the running costs.
    In economic terms, consider both the Capital cost (CAPEX) and operational cost (OPEX) together from both a $ and from a “life cylce” energy point of view.

    In many cases, studies have shown that the embedded energy (and thus ending up with a higher $ purchase cost) used to make a Hybrid car like a Prius (but not singling out Toyota one bit though), is so much higher than a regular conventional fuel car, in some cases, the higher enrgy cost with making it does not offset fully the life-time fuel savings the vehicle offers.

    Fuel Cell Vehicles (FCVs) suffer a similar (or worse) problem.

    FCV cars are expensive as Fuel Cell technology is still in its infancy (Toa Greening’s beliefs notwithstanding).

    The fuel of a FCV being Hydrogen also takes a lot of energy to make, its not a free/low-cost by-product of something else as some might like you to think.
    Hydrogen by its very nature is always bound up with other elements to make stable (e.g. water) compounds or not so stable compounds (e.g. petroleum/oil).
    Because of this fact you need a lot of energy to break the compounds apart to get the Hydrogen needed to run your FCV.

    And Hydrogen is a bugger of a element to store on its own, always keen to escape or react with something, so the “losses” once Hydrogen is made are quite high, even when its kept in liquid form – with all the attendant dangers that those losses represent (explosions/fires) etc.
    So the normal approach is to make the Hydrogen as close to the source of consumption as needed to minimise losses and risks.

    There are alternatives, to using raw Hydrogen – storing it in a liquid fuel (like Ethanol), then breaking it apart and reacting the Hydrogen directly in the vehicle as needed.
    The question is then, where does the Ethanol or fuel come from? And thats where the embedded enery equation comes into play as sources of Ethanol often take more Fossil Fuel to produce than they release when a true calculation is done.

    I’m not knocking FCVs they have a place, but they are not the panacea some think and the technology, like the sign offering free drinks at the local pub – its always promising (free drinks) “tomorrow” never “today”.

    • Greg N

      To clarify a point I do own/drive a Hybrid (a Honda Insight) – I got it second hand because my previous car got totalled earlier this year (2nd time in 2.5 years, both times through no fault of my own – wrong time/wrong place etc).

      So I decided I needed another replacement car – though I considered not buying a car, the practicalities of Aucklands current transport system right now and for the next 3 or so years, made it a non-starter (no pun intended) to not have one.

      I got the Honda as liked the car & its safety features, the fuel economy was a (close) secondary concern – I calculated the total higher CAPEX + lower OPEX of a Hybrid was probably better over the next 10 years or so than a regular petrol/diesel car. I considered a Prius, but Prius is more expensive to buy and the Honda doesn’t have all that extra engineering to marry the engine and the electric motor together like the Toyota needs. It has a smaller (lighter) Nickel-Metal-Hydride (NiMH) “EV” battery (as opposed to the regular 12 volt one every car has).

      The Honda has the Electric motor/Generator built right into the engine at one end – I explain it to people as my car has a (small) electric turbo attached to the engine. The car never moves on its own electric power, but the electric motor mainly assists the engine (thats why its called “IMA” – Integrated Motor Assist) and also captures engine braking energy, and so only works while the engine is running (like a turbo does), as a result the engine is small (1300cc) and it doesn’t need to be thrashed to make the car perform at Motorway/Open road speeds. The other advantage of a Hybrid like the Honda is that engine has Stop/Start technology which means at traffic lights, the car engine stops running, but all the electrics (including Air-Con), lights etc keep running.

      The resultant fuel economy is under 5l/100km in real-life Auckland commuter driving – and is well under half my previous car, but it is not as good as the Prius would be, but I don’t do enough mileage to justify the higher CAPEX cost of even the low-end Prius even when factoring over 5-10 years worth of fuel savings to offset that.
      And the higher end Prius like the Taxis all use is simply out of my league $ wise.

      For the Honda, I also like the Dash display and how it actually gives visual feedback as you drive which encourages better/more economic driving behaviour without admonisihing you when you don’t – it does this in part by “gamifying” the use of efficient driving techniques, so you learn almost by osmosis how to be a better more efficient driver without seemingly much effort on your part.

      And as some of you may recall, I have an e-bike as well, which is also a hybrid – a hybrid of human power and electric power (yep you still have to pedal but it makes the hills “go away”).

      Can’t say I’ve calculated the “mileage” MPG equivalent of the e-bike.
      But I calculated that if I biked to work each day instead of using the bus, I will pay for the bike purchase price in under 24 months in bus fare savings.

      Of course, I don’t ride everyday – job requirements and weather prevent that, but when I don’t bike I drive the Hybrid, and the fuel cost of my daily trip is usually well under the price of a litre of regular fuel e.g. $2.20 or so. I get free parking at work, so thats not an issue. If I did then the bus option would stack up $ but not convenience wise.

      Even so driving the Hybrid to work each day, is 1/3rd of the bus fare in fuel cost. but even so the Hybrid won’t pay for itself that way any time soon.

      Of course fuel is not the only (or even the highest) cost of running a car as we all know, but those costs are well known and documented so don’t need to be discussed here.

      Regardless of type (conventional, PHEV, BEV, FCV), all up the costs of owning/driving a car is way more expensive than not owning a car and using the alternatives (e-bike/PT) to get around.
      But the PT is not there yet in Auckland to let me use it for my work and leisure requirements.

      But I look forward to the day when I don’t **need** to own a car to get around Auckland.

  • Phil

    I think hybrid technology is great and I’m sure we will see more of this technology on road cars, regardless of what happens to the petrol and diesel price. The Telsar has made electric cars sexy and the new Formula E and recovery systems in this years F1 showcase the performance that you can get with modern technology.
    Last week I was talking to a company about supercharging my car. Apart from giving it 600 hp at the wheels it also raised the fuel economy from 17 to 29 mpg. That made me grin – almost like Al Gore was sitting on my shoulder whispering “buy the supercharger”. Of course the downside was it would cost $35’000 to have the mods done and I don’t really need 600hp in my road car – but it does go to show that for the price of a Prius even petrol heads can save the polar bears from drowning.
    On a side note – do you feel like a cheat with your e bike? Forget car drivers raging at cyclists – I’m quite sure if someone breezed past me on an e bike while I was sweating in granny gear I’d be likely to kick him off :)

    • MFD

      ” it also raised the fuel economy from 17 to 29 mpg” …and if you call in the next ten minutes we’ll include an additional 10 MPG.
      Incredible…literally.

      • Phil

        I saw the stats, initially I was a sceptic as you, but it does seem to be true for this particular car. The mpg improvement was mostly because of the torque curve performance gain. With the supercharger you were able to stay in a higher gear much longer. Of course my post was tongue in cheek and of course if you unleash the 600hp I’m sure the mpg craters… But still.. Supercharging and turbocharging is a good way to save fuel

    • Greg N

      No I don’t feel like a cheat on my e-bike as I pass some poor guy in Lycra on his skinny-tyred 28 inch, 27 speed carbon-fibre bike where he is sweating like a pig as he crawls up a hill.

      And to kick me off my bike they’d have to catch me first :-) and I’d see them coming in my rear view mirror.

      Rather I use it as an efficient means of transport while getting exercise while enjoying doing it -ou can’t say that about the gym.

      And not as a means of showing off or for training for the next Taupo or whatever Triathlon is on next week/month/year as it seems many cyclists I pass do – based on all the Lycra cladding and expensive bike gear I see they have.

      Also comes into its own when there is a 30k+ head wind blowing too – which these days it seems it always is when whenever I’m in a hurry.

      I also do enjoy passing those red light runner cyclists who come up to a red light, where I’m waiting for the green, they ignore it, ride across – I usually tend to pass them about 300m down the road. Proving you don’t have to break the law just to get ahead.

      I do however feel a infinitesimal bit of a cheat as I cycle past at 35kph+ the long line of single occupant cars stuck in a queue beside me as I speed past in the mostly empty T3 lane. But then I know if I chose to drive to work when they do (which sometimes I have to), I’d be in the same boat too so I can’t feel too superior.

      I can bike to work almost as fast as the car can off-peak, and faster than the car during peak thats for sure.

      But the key thing is that I don’t feel the need for a lie down or a shower once I get to work either.

      • Phil

        Nice one Greg, I had a good laugh reading that :D
        Your point about having a shower at work is valid…. I couldnt be bothered with changing out of my lycra into my suit every day (in fact I dont own any lycra). I actually use PT to get to work or in the past I ride a scooter.
        My cycling is for fitness. I ride a quite heavy mountain bike (18kgs) on offroad tyres. I use it for a mixture of road and offroad rides – I average about 150kms a week which as you say – is a lot more fun than the gym.
        Probably more people would cycle if they realised electric bikes make it a pleasure. The thought of having to wear lycra or climb steep hills/cycle into headwinds id possibly a bigger barrier to cycling than concerns about safety.

  • Hi Phil,

    I was recently in San Francisco testing the Tango T600 and saw quite a few Teslar EVs at the various charging stations we investigated. They are very polished and impressive looking vehicles.

    In terms of speed the T600 owns the road as the vehicle can accelerate to 100km/hr in 4 seconds. When accelerating hard the two electric engines shift from a series feed to parallel feed of current which gives you a phenomenal experience (drains the battery quickly though). We tested it out on several occasions on the SF freeway. Even on a 360 degree onramp to a lower motorway we were able to accelerate hard without any back swerve. The other phenomenal experience is that most cars start to become unstable at 100km/hr+ due to aerodynamics. We tested the T600 and it actually does the opposite at 100km/hr+ in that it becomes more stable. The vehicle is very dense (same area as a motorcycle/weighs more than a Subaru outback) so aerodynamics do not really come into play and we would have to be travelling an estimated 200-250km for any effects (I am not telling how fast we went). The technological advancements in this car is just outstanding.

    Where ever we went people swarmed around the vehicle. The main question was why build such a narrow vehicle. When we explained traffic congestion and throughput most people immediately understood.

  • Phil

    Thanks Toa, I’m very interested in next generation cars so I googled the T600… Talk about a car on a diet :)
    I can understand the physics, when I raced at Spa and Snetterton (both have very long straights) we would change the suspension to a narrow track to increase straight line speed. Some of my competitors would look at my wing angles which were higher than theirs and wonder how I had such a high top speed. They never worked out what we were doing – I guess they never looked at the width profile of my car.
    Good luck with the testing – must be a lot of fun.

  • There is a simple thought experiment to test that. Adding an extra lane to every motorway in Auckland would increase capacity by 25 to 50% depending on the number of existing lanes. So that would immediately reduce congestion by some 33% across the network.

    Do you think that doing that would end congestion? Would all the motorways stay free flowing and people wouldn’t be attracted to drive more on newly under-utilised roads?

    If that is the case, then why have we never been able to avoid congestion by increasing vehicle carrying capacity in the last sixty years? Why would your scheme be any different?

    • Sorry, reply to toa above.

    • Greg N

      Add another thought experiment,

      What if we allowed “2 lane wide” vehicles on the road, and ran them in mixed traffic
      - even one of those could waste quite a bit of two lanes of space – as they use up the lane you added, and then another lane to boot.

      This is what I see is the major issue with Toa’s narrow skinny cars – they’re fine when they are the only vehicle on the road – you get two lanes of capacity where 1 was before.

      As soon as even one normal size vehicle (car or truck) comes along that road, that benefit is lost completely and you’re back to how it was before, or possibly even worse.

      • The crux of the solution is 25% modal shift from full sized cars to narrow track electric microcars (same size as a motorcycle) to get traffic free flowing again.

        The 25% modal shift is based upon a 2011 Belgium study, below is a piece of the research.

        “In addition to the scenario where 10% of cars are replaced by motorcycles, we also considered the modal shift that would be required to eliminate queues completely…..It turns out that a modal shift of 25% of cars would be required to elminate congestion completely”

      • Lloyd

        There is no problem if you have Italian drivers. They all learnt to drive on a Vespa and whatever they drive they still consider it only needs the width of two arm-lengths to drive through. If there are three marked lanes they can drive five cars side-by-side.

        • nonsense

          hey hey hey easy with the stereotypes. I’m Italian I learnt to drive on a Vespa when I was 8 years old with my brother on the back seat with no helmet. Italy has lower deaths per capita than Nz even though roads are ancient, narrow, hilly, busy, full of holes and speed limits are higher. I feel way safer 5 abreast in an Italian motorway than on a motorbike in Tamaki drive. The difference is the attitude.

    • It is really the time and money to build that extra motorway lane throughout the entire network. There are both physical constraints, financial constraints and on occassion political constraints that make this a slow process. So over that 60 years Auckland population continues to grow (will have to check but maybe tripled?) and congestion is never really solved.

      When I was an elected member I spent four months in 2012 reading everything from Auckland Transport on traffic congestion as well as other transportation material in other cities. The conclusion I got to was that Auckland did not have enough time and money to solve traffic congestion the conventional way.

      • counterpoint

        I think though that the point you have missed in the discussion is why solve traffic congestion at all? The “saving” gained by avoiding the construction of additional motorways pre-supposes that traffic flow on the motorway network is the prim goal, but if congestion is really the expression of an equilibrium between travel desire and time constraint then reducing it is a false premise.

        If this is the case, then I ask you again – why do we need narrow cars to offset the construction of future motorways, instead of the political will to invest in alternative, and more importantly currently available solutions (ie: rapid transit, etc)?

      • Sorry you have lost me because if we are not trying to solve traffic congestion then what are we trying to do?

        • Nick R

          Well if you think the point of all this is to make driving easier then I can see the problem . Have you not read anything ever written on this blog?
          The point is to have some transport which isn’t affected by traffic congestion!

          I haven’t been in traffic in years, I can say that truthfully. Living overseas I used transport where traffic was simply irrelevant. More recently living in Auckland I get to work and more around at peak times independent of traffic (busway mostly, some trains and ferries, sometimes cycle, and a lot of foot naturally), and only end up in cars at other times. When I drive it is simply a dream, big empty motorways off peak. Traffic simply isn’t a concern or issue for me because I find it easier to simply avoid it. Do you think the people of London or Portland or Bilbao really care about the poor sods lining up at the motorway? They’re too busy getting on with their lives to worry about traffic.

          I would say we are trying to make it easier for everyone to do what I can do, which admittedly does require a bit of time and planning at the moment.

      • counterpoint

        Improve transport accessibility?

        • Toa doesn’t get it at all. More cars to solve the problem of too many cars….. as opposed to having to always rely on driving so much.

        • Transport accessibility is a different but important topic.

          One which I have had a lot of recent experience with. Such as trying to stop Te Mahia station (because of accessibility among other things) from being closed as it should be upgraded to increase patronage. Also working with residents on the Southern Bus time tables to make it more accessible with additional stop points in better areas.

          I was disappointed that there was little support from Transport Blog to keep Te Mahia open.

          • counterpoint

            Perhaps I’ve used my words too loosely, but presumably improving access to the road is part of problem that these micro cars are trying to solve? The contention (Nick R has beaten me to this, but I’ll say anyway) is that non-car transportation may be a better solution to the so-called ‘congestion problem’. Not only that, but this can be done right now without the need for any speculative technology at all.

            I place ‘congestion problem’ in quotes, because I don’t really regard it as a problem, at least not in as much as something for which there exists a solution. Perhaps I can turn the question on you – what does the world look like with the problem of traffic congestion solved?

  • Now thats a great question and actually I had not really considered your whole point of those who do not wish to drive a vehicle (for various valid reasons) but you will see below that this option is addressed.

    The project seeks to address traffic congestion for the next 130 years and realign the expenditure of motorway building into other areas.

    Years 1-5 Microcar Public Transport introduced and solves traffic congestion for the next 30 years. A realignment of the Motorway projects for the next 30 years and new transportation prioritisation of funds into other areas (accessibility, reduced PT fees, cycle networks, walking etc). Nz/Auckland pioneering the development of this new form of public transport and significant reductions of carbon emissions.

    Years 5-10 Autonomous cars commercialised with NZ leading testing/development. Microcar Public Transport expanded with population growth. Autonomous microcars enter the NZ road Nework. Autonomous microbus developed (various lengths from 4-8 people with versions for those with disabilities).

    Years 10-20 Autonomous microcars and microbus Public Transport and phase out of full sized pilot driven bus network. Conversion of microcar PT to Autonomous microcar PT.

    Years 20-30 Autonomous microcars and microbus Public Transport and phase out of train network (realigned for freight). A realignment of the Motorway projects for the next 100 years (due to efficiencies gained by fully Autonomous PT) and new transportation prioritisation of funds into other areas (accessibility, reduced PT fees, cycle networks, walking etc).

    Years 30+ The reduction of privately owned vehicles. Transportation will be delivered on a user pays/needs basis with the appropriate vehicle being ordered for the appropriate circumstance (peak travel to from/work, city travel, intercity travel, manual override vehicles for independent situations). The customer need only focus of where and when they wish to go and an appropriate vehicle will be available for the task (in fact an intelligent motorway network will record your movements and provide transportation based on that). There will always be reasons for privately owned vehicles but they will no longer dictate massive expenditure on congestion.

    While years 10+ may seem challenging, years 1-10 are now possible as there is a commercially available Narrow Track Electric Microcar (been available since 2006) as well as a very small number of Autonomous vehicles in the development pipeline.

    • Toa there is also the other obvious problem with your scheme: who on earth wants these things? They just aren’t cool, and cars, as you know, are sold on cool. You refer to motorbike uptake as a model, well motorbikes are cool, motor and electric scooters are cool, bicycles are cool. Enough people think Hummers are cool, lots of people love their SUVs and feel all all safe, powerful, and impressive in them, no-one, or at at as close to no-one as matters finds these things cool. Would your friend Phil drive from Northcote to the city in one of these instead of his over priced and over powered current car, and be pleased to be recognised in it?

      Ain’t gonna happen.

      • Greg N

        Patrick, it may appeal to a certain section of society who smoke.

        A big advantage I see of this vehicle is that there no way it can fall foul of any second hand smoke rules to protect passengers when you are smoking in it.
        It also doesn’t violate any enclosed space rules around the smoking regulations so thats two ticks for that certain section of society who smoke.

        I’d also add that if you’re a smoker driving one of these things, you’ve reduced your chances of dying from Lung Cancer or other smoking related causes about 1000 fold… :-)

    • Nick R

      Cities have already tried narrow vehicles and achieved over 90% modeshare, unfortunately it doesn’t appear to have eliminated congestion. In fact it seems worse that what we have: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lQxTpDRi4QE

    • That is not a Tango T600, but there is an interesting story behind the Brutsch Mopetta.

      Those who wish to learn more about the vehicle can search “tango t600 wiki” as there is now a great wiki on the vehicle. Just remember this is the high end sports model hence the cost. Mass productionisation will bring costs down for an affordable public transportation model vehicle.

      Will people want it? That goes into the science of demand generation, marketing and market validation.

      However I spent the past week test driving the Tango T600 in San Francisco, mainly to confirm to myself that it meets all the hype. It exceeded the hype with phenomenal performance, power and safety.

      Is it cool?

      Well wherever we went people generally smiled, waved and took photos. Some would just be from a ridicule factor, others out of genuine interest. Whenever we stopped we were swamped with people asking questions. The most common one was why create such a narrow car. When we explained two can fit in a standard lane (staggered formation no changes to the road rules) and with a certain critical mass we could get traffic moving again. The next question was safety, we showed the roll cage from the interior, demonstrated the weight/strength of the doors and overall weight/density of the vehicle. Most people understood, were very impressed and wanted to know when a more affordable model would be available.

      That is by no means a comprehensive market validation but it did prove to us the willingness for people to seriously consider very radicle alternative form of transport.

      Thats why we need to Pilot the concept to gather the data to make an informed decision.

  • Back on topic, this from Australia about about the cost of running EVs and big coal’s desperate hope that they will save their disrupted market [disrupted by declining demand and renewables]:

    http://peakenergy.blogspot.com.au/2014/01/utilities-hail-electric-cars-to-cut.html

    • Greg N

      I read that article,

      And a large reason why electricity use is flat/declining both here and in AUS is that energy efficient houses mandated by building laws, are in effect are transferring the previous OPEX of decades of electricity electricity bills into up-front CAPEX to pay for the energy efficient building products in the efficient house.

      In effect these days, you pay all the 20 years of electricity savings that your energy efficient house will give you, directly to pay for the increased costs of building the energy efficient house.

      This means a net wealth transfer from electricity utilities to building product companies. And is something that Demographia ignores with their housing affordability index.

      Either way EV’s won’t offset/save the electricity industry anytime soon from falling demand.

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