Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Canberra Electric Vehicle Festival 2011

This year I attended my third Canberra Electric Vehicle Festival, and I must say I am impressed not only with the evolution of commercial electric vehicles, but also the professionalism of the festival. I could only spend an hour at this years show, as I wanted to attend the Queanbeyan American Car Show, held the same day. So this photo essay is shorter than previous years reports (see 2009 here and 2010 here). 

It was great to see that the number of commercially available electric and hybrid vehicles is increasing each year. There are still many homebuilt electric cars, built by incredibly talented and inventive individuals, but it is clear that hybrid and electric vehicles are going mainstream. Electric assisted bicycles are also quite popular, and there were many different models of these on show this year. 

Lets begin our wander around the 2011 Canberra International Electric Vehicle Festival, beginning with a small display of homebuilt electric cars and light trucks.
 Ford light truck, with the battery array cleverly hidden under the tray - no effect on load carrying capacity.
 Volkswagen with owner added electric engine
 Toyota light truck. Not as clever as the Ford, but still lots of usable space. many tradies have boxes this size on their trays. 
 I think this is a Daewoo. Battery array under back seat and using up space behind front seat. 
 A Volkswagen and an unidentified service vehicle. I'd love to go for a spin down the Tuggeranong Parkway in this thing. Im not sure how stable it would be at 100kmh. 

Electric vehicles need to get the power from somewhere. There were several battery vendors and battery technology displays. This technology is getting better and better every year, driven primarily by the mobile phone industry. As batteries become smaller and more powerful, they are also lighter and cheaper. this is good news for the electric vehicle industry. 

There is also a strong focus on the recyclable nature of the batteries. It seems that those committed to the EV technology are also as committed to recycling and proper disposal of some nasty chemicals associated with the batteries. 
 Toyota Camry Hybrid
 Toyota Echo (I think)
 Toyota dealers were there - its good to see this sort of support. This vehicle is manufactured in Australia. 
 Chargepoint were demonstrating their 'charging solution' which i think means 'plug'. Seriously, this is the big challenge with EV's. The industry needs a common standard for charging points, and it needs to be adopted by all EV manufacturers. It's one of the reason petrol cars took off 100 years ago - it is a common fuel, readily available. 
Of course, there is a competitor. Curve or is it Curve Tomorrow ? Lots of motherhood green terminology in the EV field. 
 I did like this approach - using ones own solar array to power ones EV. 
 The Nissan Leaf. I like its plug position. 
 The inevitable plug for the Nissan Leaf
Last year there was a Tesla that was privately owned on show. This year Tesla the company had a stand, there were also several teslas on hand for people to test ride (not test drive). Interest was high and Tesla brochures and stickers were hoovered up by 40 year old EV enthusiasts. Although Tesla are working on a four door sedan, they only had their sports car available at this years EV festival. 

Also note that the Tesla is registered - last year they did not satisfy ADR's and were unable to be registered. Regulations have been altered in the intervening period.  
 Mitsubishi MIEV
Surprisingly roomy for such a small car. I do note that japanese Kei cars are often taller than other small cars. Im 6ft 4' and built like a brick outhouse, so headroom and shoulder room is important to me.   
 Yet another plug. I sure hope they reach a standard plug type soon. 
Better Place were at the EV Festival again. They are flogging a proprietary technology with removable battery packs as the main feature. Im not sure if this MIEV has that technology, or if its just a regular MIEV. 

Better Place have received some media coverage in Canberra with an agreement between the ACT Government, ACTEWAGL and the ACT Government on providing electric recharging stations around Canberra. Im not sure if this means they have moved their business model away from the proprietary quick removable battery packs, to regular electric vehicle recharge stations. Time will tell. 
 Better Places version of an EV plug
 ActewAGL are a Canberra based power company. Naturally an electricity company is keen to see more people adopt electric powered vehicles. 
 The good old Toyota Prius
At last - a hot rodded Toyota prius! This company remove the combustion engine and enhance the electrics. They modify the engine and add more batteries! More power! This would be an ideal conversion for a Canberra based Prius owner. 
 A boat is a vehicle...
 These cars were all available for people to have a ride in, on a small controlled track. The Teslas were very popular. 
The electric motorcycles were intriguing. According to one owner, they are better than combustion powered motorcycles, especially on the dirt. They stop as soon as they fall over, they dont leak fuel or flood when at weird angles. Drop it and you can just pick it up and go, no kick start. Less moving parts than a combustion powered bike is also less to go wrong. 
 Electric powered recumbent bicycle. Just wrong. 
Electric bicycles and scooters are also increasing in availability from commercial vendors. Far fewer home built electric bicycles than previous years. If they are available off the shelf its easier than building one. 

See also:


  1. I am led to believe that charging wont be an issue, with Ford having recently released a car with an induction charging system.

    This system i think will become mainstream, doing away with the need to plug in cars, whilst allowing them to be charged at home, in carparks and even at traffic lights if the infrastructure is installed. Solar arrays on building roofs could make carpark charging cost nuetral and substantially increase the use of EVs.

    The other advantage is that at places along highways, high speed induction charging could be done whilst drivers take a break from their trip, hence dramatically increasing the range of EVs.

    At the end of the day, the technology is there and only getting better, its just a matter of money.

  2. I work for an electricity distributor and I can tell you there is real concern there about the distribution network with any prospect of a widespread take-up of electic vehicles. The network is not capable of handling it and the cost of upgrade is high. The public would freak at the electricity cost increases to upgrade for EVs. I totally disagree that batteries are improving greatly or quickly - the technology has been lagging just about every other and isn't showing any signs of the sort of quantum leap that would be needed to make EVs a real proposition, even if the distribution network could cope.

    The other huge problem with battery technology is that it is chemical - charging is a chemical reaction and is therefore slow. Ultracapacitors are capable of charging to the same extent as a battery array but in minutes, not 6-8 hours. There is solid R&D happening in ultracapacitor design but it's not commercial yet. I suggest that if the distribution networks were to be upgraded to take large numbers of EVs, then it will be ultracapacitors which power those vehicles - same range as with conventional cars and only minutes to charge up.

    However, if electricity distributors and the general public baulk at the high cost of upgrading networks to cater for EVs, then watch for fuel-cell vehicles to come through. There is possibly more R&D going on in this area than the others and unless battery manufacturers are holding back big tech advances because they're enjoying huge profits from the old technology, then I'd expect to see battery technology get left far behind.

  3. so with all these wonderful electric cars that ,if I'm correct judging by the signage ,won't even get me to brissie

    from toowoomba in one go ....how do I get home on the same day?????

    let alone tow a trailer?????.....

    is all this electrical power still coming from coal fired power stations ????

    Which emit more gas than my car does running on petrol?????

  4. I agree with your comments on the grid situation Lisha, and I have heard a similar thing concerning the proliferation of solar arrays on peoples roofs.

    Better Place had a battery swap idea, but Im not sure how that has progressed. It would require a standard battery among the different car manufacturers, and would freeze the technology, instead of allowing it to progress.

    I think this is why Hybrids will be with us rather longer than people anticipate. They utilise the advantages of both technology types.

    John - you raise a good point. I dont think these cars suit everyone. but they do suit some. In canberra, the range issues wouldnt matter for urban use, and i suspect if you look at the amount of short trips people take then most people could make use of an electric car without the range issue affecting them.

    The electricity can come from any number of sources. You can tick a box on your power bill so that your power only comes from solar or renewable.

  5. thanks for sharing the list. it’s really helpful.