Monday 20 November 2023

Going electric

We live remote, but we also live disconnected: don't go to Mass, don't go to the pub, so we get the gossip (and the funerals) a fortnight too late. A new chap has blown into the valley and it's been on my mind to call in with a slab of flapjacks to say hi-and-welcome. But it never happens. Turns out he's an engineer with a grá for solar energy, batteries and electric vehicles AND he's running a course on those matters sponsored by the ETB = Educ Training Bd. Because of isolationism, I missed the first [Solar] and second [Storage] sessions but made the third about electric vehicles.

The market is really moving [ho ho] and what I "knew" even 5 years ago is irrelevant today. In 2014, I ran a conference at The Institute, and one of the participants asked if there was an e-car charging point on campus. I didn't laugh in his face, but the question was so far ahead of the curve as to be science fiction in the Irish Midlands. And, no there were no charge points on campus: for an Institute of Technology, it was galling how the cheese-paring administration stifled any of the will to innovate or lead the technological way for the community. In my 2014,5,6,7 head, the price of a modest electric car was €40,000 compared to the €6,000 which I'd paid recently for my little red Yaris aka does-the-job commute car. Accordingly I continued to drive the Yaris.

Seems that, because the steep decline in e-costs, the tipping point [petrol v elect] price for wheels is going to happen in 2026. Silence SO4 costs €17K today! Thereafter e-cars are going to be cheaper to buy . . . as well as saving the poor weeping planet and its poor coughing asthmatics. And improved tech is going to accommodate a wider cruising range for each battery-fill. But the reality is that current tech serves the real world pretty well even now. My commute to work was 40km there and 40km back: well within the capacity for charging at residential prices at home.

The charging network infrastructure in Ireland [and Britain] is woeful! Not only is it a long way between points but also the charge point is likely to be banjaxed when you arrive. But with planning, you can drive across the country topping up as you go. When we lived in NL in the 80s, there was a public service announcement regularly on the wireless: "twee uur rijden; kwart uur rust": every 200km you should be stopping for tea and a pee and a stretch. Charging tech is trending towards customer convenience so much that it is now almost possible to plug into a 350kW charger and get enough juice to take your car to the next station 200km further down the turnpike. When you're gonna need another stop anyway to shed the last load of tea. One of the lads on the course answered my €€? question by sharing that the station at Arklow - halfway to Dublin - sells car-charge at 86c/kWh compared to 34c/kWh at home. That's a mark-up but still competitive with petrol prices.

As the talk went on I had a peculiar fantasy about The Pony Express where the cargo [letters and one rough rider] discarded one exhausted horse at the end of each section of the route and jumped on another nag for the next leg. IF, charging was going to delay progress beyond tea-break time THEN why not swap out the tired battery and plug another full-charged one in. Because <ahem!> LiO car batteries weigh in at 400kg! Better to keep transferring electrons, boys, much less likely to induce a hernia. But check out the SO4 video two paragraphs ago. That is powered by a pair of batteries [R] which come with wheels and a handle so it can be removed from the car and swapped taken into your 3rd floor flat for charging.

All kinds of nifty ideas are ready for implementation. Why not start charging cars-at-home at 0200hrs when the grid is cold - that will help even out the load:

The power-stations have to work 24 hours a day but it helps if anything that can draw load at off-peak times does so. BUT, human anxiety wants to be able to get to the hospital, the ice-cream parlor or the down-town riot at a moment's notice; therefore a) charge the car to 50% capacity as soon as you get home and b) fill it up later when electricity is half price. Obvs this, or any other preference, can be programmed into the system without requiring addition agency by the shagged out office-worker kicking back in front of the telly with a couple of beers and a pizza.

Next week: purchasing power of a community embracing solar all together!

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