These days you have to be careful when labelling a “revolution”. As we know, advertisers believe everything from mops to microwaves can earn the title. Sometimes, however, the real deal comes along – developments that change not only the physical product, they also shift how we think about the bigger context. Electric vehicles (EVs) are doing just that.
Beyond obvious benefits like not relying on fossil fuels, zero emissions, quieter and easier operation, EVs are making real the prospect of a new way of generating, storing and distributing energy. They’re changing how we think about both words in the term ‘electric transport’.
As the webinar series revealed, at one level the versatility and operation of EVs means we can plan and implement hyper-local delivery networks with shared assets, and develop vehicles for people and products ideally suited to space and location. EVs will enable the most efficient means of achieving the “last mile” component in the transport chain that directly links product to purchaser.
However, beyond that, we can imagine a whole new way of using vehicles as energy sources. Suddenly one of our most inefficient assets, typically not in use 90% of the time, can become our most efficient: when it’s a car, it’s a car, but when it’s not, it’s a battery. We’re way past the novelty of being able to plug in the kettle, an appliance or the laptop computer, this is about a massive, horizontal source of stored, renewable energy potentially re-imagining the grid.
Consequently, the Zero Emissions Byron webinar series – The EV Revolution – ranged widely and discussed deeply the various elements of the EV scene, with speakers at the forefront of the industry. Through the eight-part series the subject matter varied widely, and the prospects and challenges of the EV sector were canvassed. Information was shared about everything from the cost of EVs and the potential for a second-hand vehicle market to range anxiety and the availability of charging stations. Many key commercial issues were debated, among them the growth and operation of the charging infrastrastructure industry, the competitive criteria of startability and gradeability in lightweight fixed-body e-trucks and even what it will mean for the scooter set.
In fact, the extraordinary growth in micro-mobility vehicles, from eScooters to three-wheeled delivery vehicles will transform urban transport networks. Public transport options abound with EVs: using lightweight, electric vehicles to link individual travellers to network hubs, where access to ultra fast electric train services will upgrade distance travelling.
New commercial markets are increasingly available. As Wolfgang Roffman explained in webinar #6, lightweight electric vehicles (LEVs), using battery swap technology, have huge potential in both the share economy and for private usage. At one level it’s the range of PTWs – powered two- or three-wheelers – electric scooters and trikes making personal mobility fast, clean and easy. Also, the huge recreational vehicle market is enhanced by EVs, as detailed by guests Michelle Nazzari, from Fonzarelli e-bikes, and Luke Young from Sunshine Cycles in webinar #7. In episode #4, Russ Shepherd and Alex Bosin took us through the EV conversion process, starting with ICE and ending with electricity. Magic! The vehicles ranged from superbly restored vintage Kombis to classic muscle cars, legendary Land Rovers to compact coupes.
Commercial applications got a detailed discussion as well. Fully electric, four-and-a-half tonne e-trucks were subjected to comprehensive comparison with their diesel competitors. All the boxes were ticked as far as performance, cost, payload capacity and range were concerned. Looking at the different applications of EV technology was a key aspect of the series, but underlining the significance – indeed the imperative – of the move to EVs was also crucial.
When we think of “electric transport”, the ‘transport’ component seems pretty straightforward – moving things around. People and products. Point A to Point B and all that. However, it’s in the word “electric” where the big leap occurs. As Chair of the EV Council Tim Washington, founder of Jet Charge, explained in the final webinar, EVs should be thought of as a potential “second grid”, where the vehicle is both a car and a power source. Tim described the central idea of the “vehicle-to-load” ratio, and explained what it will mean when bi-directional charging capacity heralds a new era in EV usage.
The ongoing value of this webinar series is the range of discussions it prompted, and the breadth of expertise of guests so wholly engaged with electric vehicles. Contributors with very different connections who are all plugged into the growing awareness and support for EVs. The ZEB webinar series really is a one-stop shop for current news and genuine insights into an unfolding revolution.
Byron journalist Mick O’Regan hosted Zero Emissions Byron’s 8-part webinar series during 2020 – 2021