Solar PV

Is Australia & The Bellarine ready for the electric car ?

Charging station reflected in Holden Volt

MELBOURNE — Early this year, Victoria’s first solar-powered electric vehicle (EV) charging station was opened for public use at the CERES Community Centre.
By Lieu Thi Pham | June 27, 2012, 3:00 AM PDT
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Charging station reflected in Holden Vault
The solar charging station, located in Melbourne’s north, is currently generating clean and renewable electricity to power the city’s EVs.
The initiative is a result of a collaboration between the Australian and Victorian governments, solar companies Q-CELLS Australia, who donated 12 Q.PROsolar photovoltaic (PV) modules, and Delta Energy Systems, who donated the solar inverter.
Over the past few years, the Australia Federal and Victorian governments have, to a degree, supported the renewable energy sector, particularly solar PV, through feed-in-tariffs and other rebates.
Given the importance of energy security, the launch of the solar charging station is a modest but significant milestone for Australia’s energy future.
“Australia is following a trend that has started in Europe”, Pfeiffer said. “The community is much more aware of the need to be more environmentally friendly. The Victorian Government is actively supporting this trend through its EV Trial of which the station at CERES forms part of.”
To date, EVs (and their hybrid cousins) have been met with some skepticism in Australia (despite the country’s abundance of solar energy). The nation’s slow adoption of EVs is centred on four sticking points; how efficient, expensive, capable (i.e. their range) and environmentally sustainable they are, in comparison to their petroleum-fuelled counterparts.
“Of course the idea of EVs is to curb our carbon footprint and to make our lives more sustainable,” Pfeiffer said. “Provided they run on electricity generated from renewables, electric cars do go some way toward addressing the issues of oil dependency and greenhouse gas emissions, as well as air and noise pollution from cars idling around densely populated cities.”
“But if they run on energy generated from coal-fired power, then they merely transfer pollution from Australia’s cities to rural locations and do nothing to reduce emissions. This is where solar PVs can greatly contribute,” Pfeiffer said.
Judy Glick, a CERES spokesperson, indicated that the CERES charging station is emission-free. “Our charge station is fitted with a 2.8KW PV system which is the size of a system needed to charge a standard vehicle. It is therefore possible to have no carbon emissions resulting from the use of an electric vehicle charged in this manner.

Solar modules donated by solar provider Q-Cells Australia capture energy from the sun to power greener electric vehicles.

Solar modules donated by solar provider Q-Cells Australia capture energy from the sun to power greener electric vehicles.

The CERES charge station is fitted with aChargePoint, which is the interface between the electricity source and the car charging apparatus.
The ChargePoint is compatible with all major electric vehicles on the market or about to come on the market.
According to research, electric cars have an average efficiency of 80%, which is much higher when compared to conventional gasoline engines that can effectively use only 15% of the fuel energy content, or diesel engines which can only achieve efficiencies of around 20% [Source: Shah, Saurin D. (2009). “2”. Plug-In Electric Vehicles: What Role for Washington? (1st ed.). The Brookings Institution. pp. 29, 37 and 43].
According to CERES, current electric vehicles will take around 5 hours to fully charge from a flat battery and costs about $3 compared to around $15-17 for petrol to get the equivalent distance of 100km. The ChargePoint is designed to deal with advances in vehicle and battery technology to enable faster charging in the future.
“To date, prices of EVs are still higher compared to conventional vehicles. However taking running and maintenance costs into consideration, EVs will become a viable option within the next few years,” Pfeiffer said.
“Sustainability and renewable energy in particular are still quite new concepts in Australia and have not yet received the same traction as in Europe and especially Germany. Public education about the benefits of sustainable transport options and its relative ease of implementation are issues that need to be tackled,” Pfeiffer said.
ChargePoint Chief Executive officer James Brown claimed that Australia’s late entry into the market has been an advantage. “Other countries have been ‘debugging’ the technology on our behalf and developing the appropriate charging solutions…” he said.
The high capital investment required to get EVs to market in an economically viable form has, to an extent, depended on the initial take up in larger markets such as the U.S., Europe and Japan.
In 2009 the global EV market was worth more than $26 billion. This market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18.5% between 2010 and 2015, this will result in a $78 billion global market in 2015 [Source: the BCC].

The CERES charging station is part of the Victorian Electric Vehicle Trial, a government initiative that will help to roll out much more efficient transport options, to improve air quality in our cities and above all, to create new job opportunities for Australians.
Victoria is one of only 15 places worldwide where a car can be taken from design through to the showroom floor [Source: Victorian EV Trial website].
This Victorian EV Trial will run until mid-2014 with vehicle participants such as Holden, Toyota, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Blade Electric Vehicles, and EDay, all on aboard. The general public can take part in the trial by registering their interest to drive an electric powered vehicle for three months.
In 2011, the top-selling EV (the Mitsubishi i-MiEV) in Australia sold only 30 vehicles [Source: Drive]. Despite this low figure, Brown remained positive about Australia’s uptake of the EV in the coming years. ”Ten years down the track the expectation is that up to 20% of all new vehicles sold in Australia will be EVs,” he said.
Of course, the big oil companies claim that electric cars will never outnumber gasoline and diesel models. [Source: Reuters].
However, the Australian Government is confident that EVs will make up 20% of new car sales in Australia by the end of the decade and 45% by 2030.
The public release of the Nissan Leaf and the Mitsubishi i-MiEV (soon to be followed by the Holden Volt and the Renault Fluence) in Australia, seems to suggest that the country is ready for the electric car — but it still remains unclear just how quickly and successful this uptake will be.
Photo: © GM, courtesy of Holden Australia (main), CERES (insert).

Renewable energy scorecard: How the G20 nations stack up

Renewable energy — once a mere blip on the world’s radar screen

— has finally gained a foothold, notably in the countries that compromise the Group of Twenty Finance Ministers and Central Governors known as the G20.

By Kirsten Korosec | June 12, 2012, 4:15 AM PDT

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Since 2002, the G20 countries have more than tripled the amount of their electricity produced from wind, solar, geothermal, tidal and wave power, according to a Natural Resources Defense Council report released Monday. Global investment in renewable energy also has boomed, growing 17 percent to hit a record $257 billion in 2011, according to a separate report released Monday by the UNEP Collaborating Centre for Climate & Sustainability Energy Finance.
Despite these advances, the share of electricity from renewable energy sources is still a small portion — just 2.6 percent for the G20 as a whole — of their overall electricity mix.

The NRDC’s Delivering on Renewable Energy Around the World: How Do Key Countries Stack Up? report ranks the G20 nations based on the share of electricity that comes from renewable energy. The report also aims to petition world leaders ahead of this month’s Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro to commit to increasing the amount of renewable energy to 15 percent of total electricity by 2020 — more than double what is predicted under current trends.
The United States increased its share of electricity produced by renewable sources by 341 percent over the past decade. And it ranked second in total energy produced from wind, solar, geothermal and tidal with 111.93 billion kilowatt hours in 2011. Still, only 2.7 percent of its total electricity production came from renewable energy, putting it in seventh place behind France, the UK and several other European countries.
Within the G20, Germany had the largest amount of its electricity produced from renewable energy in 2011. The European Union as a bloc was ranked second. Italy, Indonesia and the UK rounded out the top five. (Check out the graphic below for the complete scorecard.)
All of these countries trail Spain, Portugal, Iceland and New Zealand, which produce 15 percent of their electricity from solar, wind, geothermal, tidal and wave power, the NRDC said. For example, only 10.7 percent of Germany’s electricity comes from renewable energy sources.
South Korea experienced the largest growth since 2002, followed by China and then Brazil.

Clean energy investments also increased in the past decade, according to the NRDC and separate UNEP reports. since 2004, new clean energy investment in the G20 nations grew almost 600 percent, far outpacing the growth in the overall economy in those countries.
This year could produce more disappointing results. Global investment in clean energydropped to $27 billion in the first quarter of the year, the weakest posting since the depths of the financial crisis in early 2009, according to an April analysis by research firm Bloomberg New Energy Finance.