- Solar PV can provide the ‘horsepower’ and electric vehicles (EVs) the ‘carriage’ of persons, potentially at ZERO energy cost and ZERO emissions.
- Solar Installers are uniquely placed to provide customers with electrical energy advice, they understand electricity tariffs and are generally licensed electricians who can install EV charge points to make solar customers ‘EV ready’ with their PV install.
- Solar Customers are often ‘early adopters’ of technology, environmentally aware and understand how an ‘up-front’ investment can be recovered over time, and are often in a financial position to make such an investment.
- The recent announcement by the NSW Government to allow Solar Bonus Scheme (SBS) participants with GROSS metered PV systems, to add a second NET system, provides an immediate opportunity for solar installers to make these customers EV ready for when the GROSS scheme ends on 31 Dec 2016, and they move to a NET arrangement.
How Electric Vehicles are currently being promoted
Production Electric Vehicles in Australia are presently limited to the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, the Nissan Leaf, and the Holden Volt (increasing cost order), and are being promoted and sold thru traditional outlets and by traditional methods. The Holden Volt is a ‘pluggable hybrid’ with an internal combustion engine that charges the battery as a ‘range extender’. A small number of Tesla roadsters ( around 23) have been sold here, but availability of the new RHD model ‘S’ sedan has been delayed to Q1 2014.
With so many internal combustion motor vehicle choices available on the Australian market, and access to the internet and other traditional information sources (advertising on TV, radio and magazines) most buyers of a new vehicle have narrowed their choices down to a few, or a specific, model by the time they visit a motor dealership to negotiate ‘the best deal they can’. At this point in the buying cycle, they are unlikely to consider a ‘switch’ to an electric alternative, particularly given the significant ‘cost differential’ that has historically existed between an EV and an equivalent sized internal combustion vehicle.
How Electric vehicles could be promoted
A customer that is interested in purchasing a PV system is prepared to outlay an ‘up-front’ investment that will be repaid over time. They are generally environmentally conscious, and could already be purchasing ‘Greenpower’ at a cost premium. The discussion they will have with their installer will include:-
– How large a system do I need ?
– How much energy might I ‘export’ and at what return might I expect from my retailer of
– How do I ‘future-proof’ my system ? (eg install a larger inverter)
All the above questions are relevant to the addition of an electric vehicle, either now or in the future, and the installation of vehicle charge point (typically a 15amp socket) in conjunction with the PV install and wiring. Switchboards and inverters are often installed in or near the garage or carport. The EV socket could be placed on a dedicated circuit installed in parallel back to the main switchboard and metering panel or near a Solar sub-board. A dedicated circuit could be connected to a Controlled Load relay (Off-peak 1). There are advantages and disadvantages with the above alternatives, that can be discussed between the solar installer and the customer.
By discussing the EV options, the solar installer might ‘up-size’ the solar sale to his benefit, and ‘add value’ by installing the EV socket now, at minimal cost to the customer.
How much solar to charge an EV?
A 1.5kW solar system will provide enough energy to run an EV for 17,500kms per annum (based on 4kWh’s per day/kW installed and 8kms/kWh). A 3kW solar system, operating at 80% output (due to temperature, cloud, dust etc) will provide the demand of 10amps continuous current to charge a vehicle. If an EV battery is at ‘half charge’, then 4 hours sunshine should bring it to full charge. A vehicle ‘charged from the sun’ is effectively FREE to run with ZERO environmental impact (ignoring any FiT opportunity cost).
Commercial Customers and Public facilities – Charge Points
A lot of larger solar systems (30kW or more) are being installed on commercial premises such as licensed clubs, pubs , motels, supermarkets and retail outlets as well as Public facilities such a Libraries, theatres and convention centres. All of these are locations where an EV owner might park for a reasonable period (1 hour or more) and therefore be interested in ‘topping up’ their battery.
For a business that has solar on its roof, there is no energy cost. Even at typical commercial energy rates of 30c/kWh, a one hour charge would cost 75 cents, insignificant to what a ‘cashed up’ EV owner might spend in their store or around town. Travelling EV owners would be encouraged to stay a few days to ‘recharge their batteries’ both literally and metaphorically.
The Victorian Government EV trial has assisted (with other Stakeholders) development of Australian Standards relevant to EV’s. Some of these are not yet finalised.
But aren’t EVs range limited?
Yes they are. In his first film, “Who killed the Electric Car” (2006), Chris Paine interviews an EV1
owner, who states “…an EV won’t do 100% of your vehicle trips –only99%”.
In my own case I analysed the last 6 months of my logbook for my (fifth) Toyota Prius, remembering I live in Country NSW. Of 140 trips, only 9 exceeded 90kms, ie 94% of my trips were under 90kms. For an EV owner in Sydney or Melbourne I would suggest that figure is around 98%. The stated maximum range (Brochures) for the i-MiEV is 150kms and the Nissan Leaf 170kms. My discussions with an i-MiEV owner of 12 months indicate a regular ‘real world’ performance of 140km (dependant on road conditions, air conditioner use and driving style).
However, some EV’s are capable of travelling significant distances on a single charge. On 18 th May 2012 a Tesla roadster was driven from Sydney to Dubbo on a single charge for the NSW Premiere of the film “Revenge of the Electric Car”.
Statistics from 2011 indicate that 50% of Australian households have access to two or more motor vehicles, including my own. Hence, the ‘other’ car can be the vehicle of choice for longer trips. Short trips do not suit internal combustion engines in terms of fuel economy, as they take time to ‘warm-up’ and achieve full efficiency. This is not the case with EV’s.
What about servicing an EV?
The success of hybrid vehicles, and hence their servicing, has meant that even Country Dealerships have existing technicians familiar with battery powered vehicles.
EV’s often have longer periods between service than their more ‘complicated’ internal combustion engine equivalent. To paraphrase Alan Shepard (the astronaut)”…..I’m sitting in a machine with thousands of components, each supplied by the lowest price tenderer”. Electric motors (whatever type) have one moving part – a rotor inside a stator. The brakes on an EV last longer because regenerative braking reduces the wear on brake pads. No more oil changes and engine coolants, burst radiator hoses, spark plugs, etc etc
The ‘average’ annual kms for a motor vehicle in Australia is less than 15,000kms – the typical service period for an EV – meaning it will be serviced once a year.
The NSW Solar Bonus Scheme (SBS) – History
The NSW Government on 10 November 2009 announced a seven year scheme ending 31 December 2016 and commencing on 1 January 2010. Eligibility under the Scheme was for small customers (households and small businesses consuming less than 160 megawatt hours of electricity each year) who produce renewable energy through solar PV systems and wind turbines connected to the grid and up to 10 kilowatts in capacity.
The objectives of the Scheme are set out in section 15 of the Electricity Supply Act 1995 (the Act). They are as follows:
– to encourage and support persons who want to generate renewable energy as a response to climate change
– to develop jobs in the renewable energy sector by assisting renewable energy generation to compete with non-renewable energy generation
– to increase public exposure to renewable energy technology in order to encourage the whole community to respond to climate change.
The Scheme had the following key features:
1. The tariff rate of 60 cents per kilowatt hour is fixed for the life of the Scheme, meaning it will not vary with the time of the day or during the life of the Scheme.
2. Costs are recovered from all NSW electricity consumers.
3. Small electricity customers (households and small businesses with an annual electricity consumption of up to 160 megawatt hours) are eligible to participate in the Scheme.
4. Only customers with solar PV panels and wind turbines (up to 10 kilowatts in capacity) that connect to the electricity network through an inverter (up to 10 kilowatts in capacity) are eligible to participate in the Scheme.
5. Each eligible small electricity customer is entitled to receive the Solar Bonus Scheme credit for one eligible renewable energy generator (solar PV system or wind turbine) only.
6. It credits eligible customers with a gross meter with a ‘gross’ feed-in tariff rate of 60 cents per kilowatt hour for all the electricity that their eligible solar PV system or wind turbine generates.
7. Solar PV systems installed and connected after 1 January 2010 must be installed by a person, who at the time of the installation had a Grid-Connect Design & Install accreditation from the Clean Energy Council to be eligible for the Solar Bonus Scheme.
8. Certain customers who meet all requirements for eligibility under the NSW Solar Bonus Scheme (other than having gross meters installed) and who prefer to install or remain on net metering, may choose to receive net credits for their generation.
The SBS was the most generous Feed-In-Tariff (FiT) in Australia at the time, and applications followed an exponential growth line as installers ‘ramped up’ staff and prices for panels and inverters halved through a combination of volume, competition and the strong Australian dollar. In addition to the generous FiT, the first 1.5kW of REC’s was eligible for a 5 times multiplier. Hence, by June 2010, only 6 months into the scheme, applications had already passed the 50MW level (the trigger for the schemes review) and NUENERGY was offering customers in Zone 2 of NSW a free 1.5kW system if they placed a $100 refundable deposit.
By August 2010 alarm bells were ringing, and the Minister of the day ordered a review on the 24th August 2010 with submissions closing 30th September 2010. On 27th October 2010 the FiT was reduced to 20cents, with a ‘three week’ grace period till 17th November 2010 for those with a ‘legally binding contract’.
The rapidly escalating cost of the scheme became a political issue in the NSW State election of March 2011, and once elected, the new Lib/NP government moved quickly to ‘rein in’ the costs, initially suggesting a ‘retrospective’ reduction for ALL participants to 20cents which caused uproar from the industry and SBS recipients. After ‘backing down’ on this proposal, all applications were ‘frozen’ on midnight of 28th April 2011 and the SBS formally closed to new applicants on the 1st July 2011. Those customers with an ‘approval’ ultimately were given twelve months to ‘connect’ with the SBS finally ‘wound up’ by notice in the Government Gazette on 1st July 2012.
As at the 12 Feb 2012, 160,000 customers had applied for systems for a total of 358MW (IPART-Fair Price for Solar Final Report). As at 27th July 2012 there were 145,429 connections for a total of 338MW. The vast majority of these customers are GROSS metered.
The NSW Solar Bonus Scheme (SBS) – Recent Changes
In February 2013 the NSW Government announced that SBS customers with a GROSS metered system, could add a second (entirely separate) system that is NET metered without jeopardising their SBS payments. Up until this time, any additions were considered an ‘expansion’ and 60cent customers would drop back to 20cents, although 20cent customers could expand up to the 10kW limit (subject to network capacity approval).
This recent announcement, provides an immediate opportunity for solar installers to make these customers EV ready for when the GROSS scheme ends on 31 Dec 2016, and they move to a NET arrangement. This is particularly relevant for SBS customers with a larger system (3kW or more) where there is likely to be significant export, particularly on weekdays when customers are at work, school etc. The low feed in tariffs (FiT’s) currently being offered by retailers will mean these customers will be keen to store that energy for later use, and whilst ‘stationary’ batteries will be an alternative, a ‘battery on wheels’ is another obvious alternative.
Talking Turkey on Time-Of-Use Tariffs….
Electricity tariffs across Australia are many and varied, and further complicated by the various FiT’s with varying rates and applicability dates. Solar Installers are more likely to understand these, and be able to explain them to a customer, than a Motor Dealership salesperson, who at best will have a mechanical background.
Most customers with Solar will have received an electronic interval meter (smart meter) that may or may not have communications capability (the smart meters rolled out in Victoria do have comms.). Hence, most of these customers will be on a ‘Time of Use’ (TOU) tariff, either by default or by choice. Most residential customers with a Solar system, depending on their usage patterns, will be financially better off on a TOU tariff.
An EV owner, with or without a Solar system, will generally want some flexibility with EV charging, and have access to off-peak rates, and so will seek to be on a TOU tariff. It is also possible to wire a charge point to a ‘dedicated’ circuit that is on controlled load off-peak (typically OP1) that the Utility will switch ‘on’ and ‘off’ remotely at pre-determined times.
The following table summarise Residential TOU tariffs in NSW and the ACT.
So when do I charge my EV?
The following table reflects my own thoughts for the three NSW distributors only, and would vary in other States with different FiT arrangements. In all cases, I have assumed the customer is on a residential TOU tariff and house consumes around 1 kW continuously.
How many EV’s? How Quickly?
In November 2009, Warren Buffet told the Houston Chronicle “…in 20 years all the (new) cars on the
road will be electric”. In late 2008 a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway (Warren Buffet) acquired a
10% share of BYD (Build Your Dreams) a major Chinese EV Vehicle and battery manufacturer.
Following are some further forecasts of possible EV take-up…….