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SILICON SILIC CHIP www.siliconchip.com.au Publisher & Editor-in-Chief Leo Simpson, B.Bus., FAICD Editor Nicholas Vinen Technical Editor John Clarke, B.E.(Elec.) Technical Staff Ross Tester Jim Rowe, B.A., B.Sc Bao Smith, B.Sc Photography Ross Tester Reader Services Ann Morris Advertising Enquiries Glyn Smith Phone (02) 9939 3295 Mobile 0431 792 293 glyn<at>siliconchip.com.au Regular Contributors Dave Thompson David Maddison B.App.Sc. (Hons 1), PhD, Grad.Dip.Entr.Innov. Geoff Graham Associate Professor Graham Parslow Ian Batty Cartoonist Brendan Akhurst SILICON CHIP is published 12 times a year by Silicon Chip Publications Pty Ltd. ACN 003 205 490. ABN 49 003 205 490. All material is copyright ©. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written consent of the publisher. Subscription rates: $105.00 per year in Australia. For overseas rates, see our website or the subscriptions page in this issue. Editorial office: Unit 1 (up ramp), 234 Harbord Rd, Brookvale, NSW 2100. Postal address: PO Box 139, Collaroy Beach, NSW 2097. Phone (02) 9939 3295. E-mail: silicon<at>siliconchip.com.au Printing and Distribution: Derby Street, Silverwater, NSW 2148. ISSN 1030-2662 Recommended & maximum price only. 2 Silicon Chip Editorial Viewpoint A rapid shift to electric vehicles could be disastrous Norway and the Netherlands have announced that they plan to ban the sale of vehicles powered by Internal Combustion Engines by 2025, Germany by 2030 and the UK by 2040. China is forcing automobile manufacturers to sell a percentage of vehicles as electric only and India is talking about banning the operation of petrol and diesel vehicles altogether in the future. Leaving aside the question for now of whether it’s feasible to manufacture the batteries required for all these vehicles in the time frames given, there are still two significant hurdles which are likely to frustrate these plans. Firstly, electricity generation and distribution would likely need to increase by up to and 40% (depending on what assumptions you make) and most sources of renewable energy would not be suitable without backup, due primarily to mismatches between availability and demand. Natural gas is currently in short supply in Australia, nuclear fission is unpopular and coal is actively being discouraged. That doesn’t leave us a lot of options for providing the extra energy needed to run a large fleet of electric vehicles. But there’s potentially a more serious issue. Have any of the people behind these plans stopped to consider what would happen in the event of a natural disaster or a major disruption to the electricity grid? We all know from recent experiences that neither of these scenarios is unlikely. These days, blackouts of relatively short durations (ie, up to a few hours) are frustrating but life can generally go on until the power comes back on. That may not be so if transportation becomes utterly dependent on the electric grid. Worse, imagine what would happen if the power goes out for a week or more, due to a flood, cyclone, earthquake, major bushfire or similar event. At the time of the disaster, some vehicles will have a fully charged battery that may be good for several hundred kilometres of travel. Some will have a smaller battery or be partially charged while others will be close to depleted. How will people flee from the affected areas? How will food and medicine be delivered? How will debris be cleared and people rescued? Even if emergency vehicles were still liquid fuelled, they would have to bring their own re-fills. Many are now saying that ICE-powered vehicles are obsolete but they do have some distinct advantages. Even if you don’t keep your tank full, chances are you could drive a significant distance now if you absolutely had to. If you rely on an electric car, you’d better make sure to keep it charged in case you need it. We tend to take for granted the huge, distributed network of petrol stations that we have. This network stores a lot of energy, is widely distributed and always available. There are challenges pumping fuel in a blackout but it can be done, while electric charging stations are utterly useless when the grid is down. And petrol stations can be also replenished during a blackout, as long as road access is still available. We haven’t even mentioned (and don’t really want to think about) the potential effects of a coordinated terrorist attack on power supply infrastructure in a city with electricity-dependent transportation. Plug-in hybrids are a much better compromise than pure electric vehicles, with the possibility of dramatically reducing fuel consumption without being totally dependent on a functioning grid. They also make good financial sense. But banning petrol-powered vehicles would eliminate this option. Perhaps electric charging stations should have backup generators. Sure, they would not be able to charge many vehicles at a time but at least transportation would not grind to a complete halt if the grid goes down for some time. We wonder whether the central planners who are trying to ban ICE vehicles have thought of and solved all these problems, or if they’re just taking a “damn the torpedoes” attitude for which many innocent people may suffer when the inevitable “unexpected” disaster occurs. Nicholas Vinen siliconchip.com.au