Busting the myths surrounding electric vehicles

NEW petrol and diesel cars will no longer be sold in the UK from 2035. Whether the Government of Jersey follows suit and sets a cut-off date has yet to be determined.

While electric vehicles in the Island are becoming increasingly popular, interestingly, some myths and misconceptions exist. Let's explore them and see what the truth is.

1. Can Jersey’s electricity grid cope with a big increase in the number of electric vehicles being plugged in for charging?

Jersey Electricity often receives questions about whether the grid has the capacity to manage lots of EVs being charged at once. Capacity is two-fold based firstly on whether we have enough energy to meet demand at any given time and secondly, whether we have cables of sufficient capacity to take the power to where it is needed.

The answer to both questions is yes. First, let’s look at the amount of energy required. Jersey’s three subsea supply cables to France give the Island access to 202MW of low-carbon electricity on demand. This is well in excess of Jersey’s usual winter peak of around 140-150MWs.

For resilience and enhanced supply security, we operate the cables ‘in parallel’. This means that in the unlikely event that one was to fail, another could seamlessly take on the load. Over a year, the three cables provide Jersey with around 620GWhs of low-carbon power, over a third of which is from hydro-renewable sources.

EV charging, however, is unlikely to increase peak load by very much as most owners will charge at later off-peak times when electricity prices are cheaper and there is significant spare capacity. In the UK, where peak demand has already fallen by 16% since 2002, the National Grid estimates that even if everyone switched to EVs, peak demand would be likely to rise by just 10%.

The UK Government’s EV Energy Taskforce is also calling for all future chargers to be ‘smart’ so that no matter what time an owner comes home and puts their EV on charge, it will pause and stop charging during the early evening peak when electricity is most expensive and demand on the grid is highest.

Here in Jersey, we are already trialling the latest smart, vehicle-to-grid chargers that not only enable the owner to prevent the car charging at peak times, but could also allow them to sell some power stored in the battery back to the grid at a premium price.

When it comes to the capacity of the cables required to deliver power to EV charging points, Jersey has a well-invested and robust distribution network which we continue to evolve. We are already targeting investment at increasing the public EV charging network to 75 (see side panel) by the end of 2020 and will continue to adapt to meet future demand. In a small island, most EV owners are likely to charge at home during the cheaper off-peak times but we want to ensure there are sufficient charging places available for those unable to charge at home.

2. Aren’t you just moving harmful emissions from car tailpipes to power stations?

No. In Jersey we maintain La Collette Power Station purely for emergency back-up generation in the unlikely event of an interruption to imported power. That power is from low-carbon hydro and nuclear sources of less than 5g CO2 e /kWh.

When combined with supplies from the States’ Energy from Waste Plant, from which we are contracted to buy, the distributed power in Jersey in 2018/19 was just 26g CO2 e/ kWh. This is ten times cleaner than the UK’s supply. There, they are decarbonising power by closing coal-fired power stations in favour of offshore wind and solar generation. Though the UK is unlikely to match Jersey until the 2040s, EVs are cleaner to run than traditional combustion-engine vehicles.

3. EVs are much more expensive than petrol and diesel equivalents

True. For now, but… The price gap between EVs and petrol/diesels equivalents is closing fast. Deloitte predicts that car prices will be on a par by 2024. New technology is always more expensive when it first comes to market but prices typically come down as demand increases.

Deloitte’s research shows that global EV adoption rates are increasing, from two million units in 2018, to four million in 2020 and 12 million in 2025, before rising to 21 million in 2030.

Also, it is important to look at ‘whole life cost’ – ie how well a vehicle retains its value and its running costs. Future bans on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars (and their ultimate demise) is likely to affect depreciation, making EVs a safer option going forward. And, even though EVs currently have higher purchase prices, they are cheaper to run. Charged at home on Jersey Electricity’s cheapest off-peak overnight tariff Economy 7, a typical EV costs as little as 2p a mile to run. Fewer moving parts mean EVs have lower maintenance costs.

4. My mobile phone battery is ruined after two years, so aren’t we going to end up with car batteries littering the landscape?

The lithium ion technology in our mobile phones is not dissimilar to those in an EV but what is different is that these cars have effective power management systems that guard the long-term health of their batteries. Most manufacturers are offering battery warranties of seven or eight years, or around 100,000 miles, but there is a reasonable expectation that they will actually last longer and indeed outlive the car itself.

Even if a battery became no longer fit for use in the car it would not end up in that landfill site, as it could either be recycled, or given a second life as an energy-storage unit for homes or businesses.

5. Electric vehicles don’t go far enough on one charge

As battery technology has improved, so has the range of EVs. Most of the latest models average between 200 and 300 miles on a single charge. This is more than ample for journeys in Jersey and is probably about the distance you would wish to drive on mainland roads before needing a break for 15 or 20 minutes at a service station. That would be as long as it would take to power an EV using the new ultra-rapid chargers.

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