An interesting article in the herald this morning about Gerry Brownlee who to took a trip to the California to have a look at “alternative transport” options but only appears to have looked at cars

Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee says his scepticism about electric cars has all but disappeared after he took a spin along the Los Angeles coastal freeway in an electric sports car.

Mr Brownlee investigated alternative transport options while on a trip to the United States and also took Google’s driverless car for a 16km trip around San Francisco’s freeways.

In LA he test-drove the Tesla SP85, which is considered one of the world’s most advanced electric cars with a range of nearly 500km and a top speed of more than 210km/h.

The minister, who owns a diesel-powered Hyundai Sante Fe, raved about his zero-emission joyride. “I’ve been somewhat of a sceptic around electric vehicles. I don’t want to say I’m a total convert but I’ve been incredibly impressed by the technology that I’ve seen.

Personally I’m fairly optimistic about the impact electric cars will have, especially in New Zealand where a lot of power is already generated through renewable sources. While we at the blog obviously want to see a lot better public transport options provided to help give people choice – and we expect a lot of people would use PT when that happens – plenty of people will still choose to drive. Removing, or at least significantly reducing emissions will have a positive impact on air quality and the liveability of urban areas. But while electric cars might not produce emissions, they won’t do anything to reduce or ease congestion.

With the vast majority people in urban areas probably travelling less than 50km a day, the battery range is simply not an issue (assuming you remember to charge it). In fact with the range these things have, trips from Auckland trips to typical summer holiday destinations like the Bay of Islands or Coromandel Peninsula would not be a problem so it is only really long distance road trips that would be impacted and those are things most people don’t tend to do all that regularly.

Here is a promo video for the electric car Gerry had a go on.

As for the impact that driver-less cars would have, they could certainly be a way to save a little bit of money on having to hire ministerial limo drivers but I’m not sure about just how much congestion relief they will offer, as we have explained before here and here.

“When you’ve got a car that can perform to the sort of specifications that I saw at the Tesla factory you could just see that we’re not too many years off there being quite a significant percentage of electric vehicles in our fleet.”

He said battery technology and infrastructure was progressing much faster that he would have expected.

He pointed to Tesla’s plan to have battery change stations across the US by 2016.

Mr Brownlee said he did not expect the number of electric cars to rapidly increase on New Zealand roads, but said it was important to make sure regulations encouraged low-emissions vehicles. There are believed to be fewer than 100 here now.

The main policy designed to encourage growth in electric car use was the exemption from road user charges, which was introduced in 2009 and last year extended until 2020. Mr Brownlee said driverless cars were also likely to one day play a role in reducing congestion on motorways.

I think the discussion of electric cars and road taxes really highlights why we need to be starting to discuss if funding transport via fuel taxes are necessarily the best option. This is especially the case as we move towards much more fuel efficient petrol powered cars as well as hybrids while at the same time the government is spending like a drunken sailor on massive motorways. The article finishes with:

The minister road-tested Google’s prototype, which uses a combination of sensors and GPS to get commuters to their destination as efficiently as possible. He described it as “a very advanced form of cruise control”.

Even a small increase in the proportion of driverless cars was expected to cut congestion because all aspects of human error were eliminated. The cars were allowed on some US roads, but had not been developed for commercial production.

Mr Brownlee said he had asked the ministry to have a closer look at how it could best encourage the use of alternative transport as the technology developed.

While I think the move towards more fuel efficient and potentially even driverless cars are a good move, I would hardly call them alternative transport. Instead more of a evolution of what we have today. If he was really interested in alternatives he could have looked at what even “car mad” LA is doing with its transport spending, particularly with Measure R where people voted to increase taxes to pay for primarily a large range of public transport improvements.

On a slightly separate note, one my scariest driving experiences ever occurred in San Francisco a few years ago. I was on a road trip with my wife and some family members and we were driving down the 101 freeway at night somewhere around the airport area (I was driving). The freeway was something like 5 or 6 lanes wide in each direction was relatively empty with only a few cars in the far distance. We were in the middle lane and had cars flanking either side of us and when we came around a corner were faced with an oven sitting in the middle of our lane just a few hundred metres ahead of us. The cars beside us prevented a lane change so was a case of having to apply some rapid deceleration to be able to change lanes behind some other cars. An oven is certainly the last thing you expected to see on a road and would have been an interesting conversation trying to explain an accident with one to a rental/insurance company.

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    1. Well apart from the building, consenting and property buying costs being super optimistic, I noticed:

      1. Total throughput was just 2000 ppl per hour. Which is less than a single highway lane. The California HS train is projected at up to 37,000 per hour.

      2. The number of stops on the way is pretty low and there doesn’t seem to be much explanation on how points will work.

      1. Yeah I thought they were joking when they listed construction cost at $6bn, as surely it would cost more like 10x more and not 10x less than the existing HSR project, as the grade and curve requirement would surely be even more difficult?

      2. But if you spend a couple of bazillion on it, you could shoot those 2000 people right across the US in just a few femtoseconds! Or something. It’s magic. It will save all the problems some billionaires think we have.

        Shame that in New Zealand, we don’t even have distances long enough to be worth it. Otherwise, Gerry could be fascinated by this too, and study it a bit more, before going on to de-funding some rail project as he is wont to.

        1. I’m sure there is some way we can combine the undoubted natural synergy between this preposterous proposal and the clearly much more sensible ones for monorails in various parts of New Zealand for mutual budgetary drainage …

    2. Really? All hype and loop to nowhere?

      First, about the construction costs- probably optimistic at best but the whole point of this release was a technological exploration(thus the “alpha” designation) not a legitimate policy analysis.They want to talk technology – for example, the ridership projections are taken from the High Speed Rail studies (and are likely huge underestimates based on speed differential).

      Secondly, yes, it carries less than a single highway lane. But it carries them at 1100kph. I think the difference should be obvious. It is meant to be competitive with aircraft(it is), not highway.

      Convincing yourself you know more about transport than the man who shot the first private rocket into space for half what it would cost NASA, or the man who singlehandedly made the electric car a viable option on the private market…. that is generally not a wise stance.

  1. I have a wishlist for Auckland road congestion-electric car taxi sharing.Oneday (3 years feom now) to bring Taxi industry an alternate mode to PT. At an appropriate time, local community will prefer Taxi sharing affordable, comfortable, convenient and social compared to having private cars.And Govt will look at subsidising such elecsharingcab rides.

  2. My view on driver less cars is simple – firstly people generally enjoy driving and would resent giving up that pleasure to a computer. Secondly I don’t think they would really fancy staring out of the front windscreen at the back of another vehicle whilst doing 100km/h and being feeling completely powerless and at the mercy of the machines. Thirdly driver less cars would require a very expensive high level of maintainance to ensure no software of sensor failures occur on the road. Such costs might be fine for millionaires, but not for struggling families who can barely afford a warrant. Finally, there is nothing an expensive driver less vehicle can do that a human controlled one cannot, but there is plenty a human controlled vehicle can do that a driver less one cannot. Driver less cars are just a distraction put about by people ideologically opposed to public transport.

    the Tesla S though looks like one of those breakthroughs like the the iPad – no one new technology transforming the electric car, but rather a coming together of maturing technologies to create a synthesis that taken as a whole is a revolutionary design.

    1. > firstly people generally enjoy driving and would resent giving up that pleasure to a computer

      You enjoy driving in a traffic jam? Over reading a book, or surfing on your Ipad?

      > Secondly I don’t think they would really fancy staring out of the front windscreen at the back of another vehicle whilst doing 100km/h and being feeling completely powerless and at the mercy of the machines.

      Oh, you mean like in an elevator above a steep drop, or in a plane flown by a pilot (or autopilot) you never see? Sure, people will never cotton on to that. Especially if all the alternative to staring through the windscreen is that boring book or their old Ipod.

      > Finally, there is nothing an expensive driver less vehicle can do that a human controlled one cannot, but there is plenty a human controlled vehicle can do that a driver less one cannot. Driver less cars are just a distraction put about by people ideologically opposed to public transport.

      Actually, driverless cars have already shown strong hints that they are better and faster-reacting and less likely to be distracted (i.e. safer) drivers than humans.

      In summary, the only comments that I will agree in your post are the ones about the need for perfect maintenance (or a system that refuses to go on autopilot if it is anything but 100% reporting all systems okay). That may take a while to come about yet, true.

    2. “the Tesla S though looks like one of those breakthroughs like the the iPad – no one new technology transforming the electric car, but rather a coming together of maturing technologies to create a synthesis that taken as a whole is a revolutionary design.”
      Agreed, but the real use for this thing is not for commuting, but for those other trips that public transport in NZ can’t provide – to get out into the country. The whole movement for electric vehicle charging points in cities is all wrong – all electric cars have at least 100km range – more than enough for most people’s daily range. But what we will really need is “service stations” across the country with coffee break fast charging. Eion Musk is onto something in building fast charging stations across the US – Z energy are you listening?

  3. I can’t agree more with Matt’s point about Gerry not bothering to look at real alternatives.

    When this trip was announced a month or so ago, I looked in vain for any indication of PT research. Instead it’s a standard junket for a roads-obsessed pollie. IIRC he’s also looking at port trucking in LA, but not even bothering to look at how one of the most car-obsessed cities is trying to revitalise its PT (such as Measure R). To say this is a missed opportunity that graphically illustrates the man’s bias is an understatement.

    The people of LA put their money where their mouths are, and voted to pay more sales tax to fund PT. That this could happen in LA of all places tells you that quality PT matters to people.

    FWIW I have taken public transport in LA and found it (while not on the level of global leaders in integrated PT) very usable and better than what I expected. The light rail lines have reasonable spread and frequency, the subways are clean and efficient, and the buses are not bad. Easy to understand for the novice user too. Much still remains to be done, including more light rail lines and connections, and increased density around transport nodes, but LA is making definite improvements.

    Not bothering to look at this shows you how Gerry sees the world – through the windscreen of a car.

    1. Completely agree, this trip is a joke and just shows how out of touch National are with the realities of transport in this day and age. Shows a complete lack of intelligence and imagination that Auckland can do anything differently to what it’s done for the last 60 years.

      1. DisneyLand? – Why Brownlee lived there all his life – in “1950’s AmericanaLand” to be exact.

        And why would he need to visit LA Disney Land while he’s there for some tired old sit in rides – he’s already been to “Tomorrows Toy Land” and driven an Electric Car courtesy of Tesla…

        1. Brownlee needed to go to Disneyland to see the tidal flow direct grade separated connector from the I-5 freeway straight into the main car parking building! Or alternatively he could have investigated the extremely frequent prioritised and individually branded buses shuttling massive number of people to the open-air car parks. Hopefully he didn’t notice them building light rail to the new $1bn commuter and future HSR train station!

  4. Driverless cars would be a mild revolution if they took over from manually driven cars, because they wouldn’t need to park right near the user’s destination. If driverless cars are going to take off, you probably don’t want to be sinking your money into parking buildings in town centres, or off-street parking at your house.

    1. So we’d have congestion in all directions in the morning and afternoon with cars driving in dropping people off and driving back the way they came, twice as much congestion and twice as much pollution and waste. Plus you’d in effect only get to use your car for half the length of time you do now since it’ll be constantly doing double duty.

      1. Pretty much. I don’t know where you get this “your car” business, though – it would be far more cost-effective to use a driverless taxi rather than bothering to own your own individual car. Most cars sit idle for 22 hours or more every day, which is pretty wasteful. The primary reasons to own your own car at the moment are A. saving on the cost of paying a driver, by doing the driving yourself, and B. making sure you can leave instantly, without waiting for a cab to show up. The first disappears with driverless cars, and the second disappears once the cars have a fairly large mode share – there will usually be one close by. I don’t think it’s impossible that 50% of current car owners might get rid of their own cars.

        There’d be less total parking demand, because there would be fewer cars running for longer. But they’d be travelling longer distances, which as you say means more congestion and pollution. I don’t think it would be anywhere near twice the distance, though – most cars would either park as close as possible, or pick up another passenger. It would be rare to have to run all the way back to the pick-up point.

        Incidentally, all this added congestion is going to make PT more attractive if it has its own right-of-way, and way less attractive if it’s running in mixed traffic. It’s also going to make PT more cost-effective for many people, compared to self-driving, since buses too will benefit from being driverless.

        1. I think driverless systems will be used when owners get to somewhere with a parking building/secure parking area and drop their vehicle off. The building will have lots of navigational aids and it and the car will then interact for navigational purposes and the car will then park itself, in much narrow spaces, and with 100% security because there will be no need for human access to the storage levels. This sort of automated functionality in controlled spaces will have all sorts of uses.

          “…You enjoy driving in a traffic jam? Over reading a book, or surfing on your Ipad..?”

          You dislike driving a convertible along a country road on a sunny day? Dislike taking the SUV out for a nifty bit of manoeuvering up steep hills and over bumpy dunes? Even popping down to the dairy on a nice day can be a fun activity. See, unlike a lot of anti-car evangelists here I don’t hate cars, and I like driving. I have from the very first day I got my full licence at the ripe age of 15 and immediately took my girlfriend out for a spin to display my impressive new skill. “Me Tarzan, I drive!” It is a fun activity, especially in New Zealand were our highways are relatively uncrowded, but are well maintained and windy enough to be interesting. Most people would agree with me.

          “…Oh, you mean like in an elevator above a steep drop, or in a plane flown by a pilot (or autopilot) you never see..?”

          There is a pilot up front for a reason, one being no one would trust a fully automatic aircraft. Ditto with cars. A lift is a machine doing a set robotic task. A car is in a dynamic environment where people would prefer to be in charge of their own destiny. But you clearly dislike cars for ideological reasons, so I doubt you’ll admit to common sense.

          1. “Most people would agree with me.”, “So I doubt you’ll admit to common sense.”

            Excellent way to hammer home a point. Get ‘most people on your side’ and make sure that everything you say is ‘common sense’. No arguing with that.

            I presume you are answering starnius above. Can you highlight the bit(s) where they show that they “clearly dislike cars for ideological reasons”

          2. While the car is actually carrying someone who is able to drive, it seems entirely like a matter of personal preference whether they choose to drive or let the autopilot do it. Other than safety, it’s almost totally irrelevant to anyone outside the vehicle. I don’t think anyone who likes driving is going to shun driverless cars simply because they give them the option of autopilot.

            I don’t have statistics for New Zealand, but in this not-quite-representative survey of Britons, a bit less than half of people actually like driving:

          3. Personally, I like driving every now and then, but I wouldn’t want to do it for more than a couple of hours, or in congested traffic, or more than about once a week. Driving on city streets is incredibly boring, anyway – if you want fun, you want a windy rural two-lane highway, or a racetrack.

          4. I see it playing out quite differently (someone else on this blog pointed it out first, but subsequent reading has reinforced his/her view).
            i. Driverless cars become much safer than human operated cars. (Most likely already the case with Google’s car).
            ii. Newspapers run front page headlines the first time someone is killed by a driverless car.
            iii. Wiser heads wonder why no outrage at the 30K deaths per year by human operated cars (assuming USA is first here)
            iv. Insurance companies refuse to insure human operated vehicles. Game over. Whinging about how much you like driving will be seen as akin to NRA dudes wanting the right to randomly fire their guns in urban areas.

            Oh, and I lived in a country with a commercial plane crash on average more than once a year: There was only ever one cause: google “CFIT”

            As for checking that sensors are working- there’s most likely a way around that- equip the car with double the number needed.

          5. I dislike cars for the reasons most people dislike bicycles. Cars are dangerous (many more people are killed per driving hour in a car than a bicycle) and inconvenient when they are stuck in congestion all the time, let alone unhealthy in general.

            In a city, and especially combined with good public transport that carries bikes, a bicycle is a far superiod means of transport.

            There is nothing ideological about it. You may disagree but that is just your opinion. A lot of Dutch and Danes would agree with me.

          6. I like bikes too Goosoid. I just think cars are more convenient as its bloody hard to lug home the shopping on your mountain bike. Now I know you can always get it delivered etc but lets face it, most people expect to use their car. Even the Dutch and the Danes love cars.

            I think the Boris Bikes have worked really well in London and it would be great to have the same in Auckland. Unfortunately Auckland is not flat like London and whilst it might be easy to cycle from Piccadilly to the City, it would be a different story going from Britomart to Kyber pass. People are lazy, getting them onto bikes when they have a car is going to be near impossible, especially when there are hills to climb. Probably a reason why Skypath would only be used frequently by hard core cyclists.

          7. Shopping? Hills? Electric cargo bike:

            Yes people are lazy and soft. Despite what the ads at half time in the rugby tell me, we arent tough rural people, we are a bunch of soft city people who at the slightest hint of physical discomfort run for the hills. Our pioneering forebears must be rolling in their graves.

            But I dont see why we should be doing anything to encourage that, any more than we should be encouraging people to eat McDonalds or Burger King.

            I think you will be surprised by Sky Path. I think it will be a run away success.

  5. Gerry’s being educated. California’s not the best place for him to find out about transport alternatives though. Although he was there for other things wasn’t he? America’s Cup…


    Here in my car
    I feel safest of all
    I can lock all my doors
    It’s the only way to live
    In cars

    Here in my car
    I can only receive
    I can listen to you
    It keeps me stable for days
    In cars

    Here in my car
    Where the image breaks down
    Will you visit me please?
    If I open my door
    In cars

    Here in my car
    I know I’ve started to think
    About leaving tonight
    Although nothing seems right
    In cars

    or if you prefer it straight:

  7. Taking a step back, having the transport minister trialing quite a fine piece of environmental engineering for a small vehicle isn’t completely all bad. And he liked it. It is a step…maybe not a leap. But understand should have looked at the best in mass transport options too.Totally agree. That hyper tube might be a good futuristic mini underground option/network for freight/goods/mail but don’t know personally comfortable being in it.

  8. Is anyone surprised a politician had to schedule a trip to California at the same time as the AC? That aside, the message was pretty clear, the Govt believes in road cars for transport solutions.

    All this excitement about Tesla is good for encouraging debate on alternative energy but apart from rich people that have more taste than the Prius brigade this is not a here and now solution to transport issues. How zero carbon is a car that is powered on electricity made from burning fossil fuel? Also it may look good for Hollywood stars to drive low emission cars around LA but a picture of Brad Pitt taking his Prius to LAX to board his private jet doesn’t scream carbon natural too me 🙁

    The biggest problem for EV’s, apart from (outside of NZ) where the electricity is produced by burning oil is the re-charge. It may be good to charge your EV in your garage overnight but what happens to all the people that do not have a garage (like in London).

    But for a lesson in the failure of EV’s look no further than what happened in Israel

    1. “the message was pretty clear, the Govt believes in road cars for transport solutions.” We knew that already. The same solution thats been applied for 50yrs on its own and hasn’t worked.

      But, its a small matter. The people have spoken. Britomart reaching capacity 5yrs ahead of schedule, busway numbers off the charts, 50% of people at peak using PT into the CBD. Provide the facility and the people flock to it. Real choices. Len won the mayoralty in a landlside on a pro-PT ticket. Democracy in action.

      And if you want proof – National doing quite possibly the biggest u-turn in transport policy history – no doubt based on polling the wishes of Aucklanders. Going from laughing at the CRL 6mths ago, to now agreeing to pay half and even potentially bringing forward construction to 2015. Thanks to your tax dollars Phil – cheers!

      Heaven forbid, we’ll soon catch up to the rest of the world on effective transit solutions for the 21st century and beyond.

      1. Pfft…I love public transport….I fly business class all the time 😀

        You do realise that PT figures are down in Auckland right? The only good news on the usage of PT is the northern bus way and shock and horror, that travels along a road!

        1. “You do realise that PT figures are down in Auckland right?”

          You mean like miles made by private car across the entire country? Trending down for 5yrs -unlike the recent drop in PT due to an underinvested network reaching capacity.

          “80% prefer to drive”. Haha…..good one.

          1. Saying 80% of people refer to drive is like saying that 80% of people prefer to die of cancer and heart disease. Just because they do it doesn’t mean it is their preference!

    2. Why are you so scared of the future Phil?

      Electric cars even if powered from fossil fuel powered powerstations would be a good thing because localised pollution won’t be in the cities where everyone lives, but at a small number of powerstations where cost effective measures such as scrubbing can be used to minimise pollution.

      Of course in NZ they’d be largely renewables powered, and zero pollution full stop.

      Iif you think cars have to be what they used to be in the 1960s, or what they are now, then look no further than a pedal powered, solar recharging enclosed three wheeler here:

      Remember that the biggest danger to democracy are those that can’t imagine a better future.

      1. Matthew…. why are you accusing me of being afraid of the future when I have been the strongest supporter of investment in hydrogen powered vehicles? Are you not paying attention?

        The fuel burnt in power stations is a lot more harmful than the diesel and petrol burnt in cars and trucks. Did you think power stations burnt expensive quality fuel? Of course we could generate electricity from Nuclear but that’s another can or worms.

        Yes NZ can at the moment generate zero emission electricity but what happens when the population grows and places extra demand on the national grid? Its not like NZ has not had its screw ups on generating electricity is it.. have you forgotten the 3 weeks Auckland went without power? Can you imagine 3 weeks without transport…

        The future, like it or not, is going to be car based. The world wants to travel by car, there is very little NZ can do to change that. Because of this enormous global demand for cars we are going to see a future of more and more fuel efficient vehicles. This may eventually be EV but for the moment its hybrid simply because no one wants to deal with the re-charging issue (as per the epic failure in Israel).

        What is clear is that despite some narrow minded people wishing to turn NZ into some cycle powered hemp wearing vegan Greenpeace advert, we are going to continue to drive cars and travel by bus. For that we need continued investment in roads…the greater percentage of the public demand it!

        1. Geez Phil, or as I think you’ve deserved the name, Aunt Sally, great strawman arguments there.

          DIesel exhaust is hugely filthy. Most of the fossil fuel electricity generators in NZ are gas, colocated with milk processing plants to not waste the heat. That leaves Huntly, and coal isn’t that clean, but it is dealt with at one point. And the harm done to places away from Huntly is nil, unlike diesel and petrol which does harm the communities the roads go through.

          What happens when the population grows is we expand our renewable supply, and for outages we make the network more resilient. Can you imagine 3 weeks without fuel supplies? Notice what is going on in Australia – a million homes now have PV on their roofs.

          The future, like it or not, will of course have private vehicles, but it doesn’t mean it is at the same percentage as today, and if alternatives are invested in (PT, safe cycle routes), then the relatives numbers would fall.

          As for “narrow minded people wanting to NZ into some cycle powered hemp wearing vegan Greenpeace advert” –

          1. ‘Geez Matthew’, if only you knew what you were talking about.

            Most electricity (outside of NZ) is generated by burning cracked fuel oil. The sulphur content (the really nasty component) is 3.5% whereas most diesel (lets take Europe as an example) is 0.01% I am sure (even though I trade oil) you wont believe me so I have attached links for you.

            380cst fuel oil

            EN590 diesel

            So my friend, Id rather the fossil fuel we burn is diesel from the back of a car than fuel oil from an electricity furnace.

            Of course what I would really like is a trickle of water coming out of a hydrogen powered car, that really would be a future to look forward too.

          2. “Most electricity (outside of NZ) is generated by burning cracked fuel oil”

            …and your source for this piece of fantasy, Phil?
            If you only knew what you were talking about.

          3. No MFD, I’ve got the gist of Phil’s argument now. This is it:

            Because there are some very dirty power stations in other countries car exhausts are nothing to worry about so we should therefore indulge every motorists whim, despite the costs, and have more roads like Puhoi to Wellsford and not indulge any public transport fantasies, except for a diesel bus to Wellsford, or building any separated bike paths because that would impede cars, there aren’t that many cyclists, it would take out essential to God’s chosen motorists’ parking spots and most importantly, it is a vegan plot to take away his own personal automobile. Also the failure of one company in an emerging industry is a sure sign of the eventual failure of the whole industry, just take the example of Apricot Computers. And of course he’s right about every thing, because he’s a commodity trader who only trades in common sense.

            We’ve got it now Phil.

          4. @ MFD…what do you think gets burnt to make electricity? Petrol 😀 Fuel generated electricity is either Fuel oil or heavy gasoil, in both cases they have a much bigger sulphur content than the ULSD used in diesel cars. My source….pfft…FACTS!

            @ Matthew I am the one advocating zero emission Hydrogen powered cars while you are wanting EV’s..Grow up pal.

          5. The Ecotricity Electric Highway recharge network uses renewables for example. Households also have an option to use a renewable only source/provider in many countries, so to assume oil use will be the same as non-EV use seems slightly misleading.

          6. “what do you think gets burnt to make electricity?”

            It is largely coal and natural gas, Phil. Surely you have heard of these commodities? In the US in 2012, for example,:

            Coal 37%
            Natural Gas 30%
            Nuclear 19%
            Hydropower 7%
            Other Renewable 5%
            Biomass 1.42%
            Geothermal 0.41%
            Solar 0.11%
            Wind 3.46%
            Petroleum 1%
            Other Gases < 1%

            Source: US Energy Information Administration

            Note the proportion of the US electricity supply from oil, Phil. 1%. I could go on and get data for other countries but as it's your assertion that "Most electricity (outside of NZ) is generated by burning cracked fuel oil" I think we should ask you for the source of these "facts".

      1. 1300 charge points in London…4 in Canary Wharf. And the population of London is???

        Please don’t forget it is not like having 1300 petrol stations because the EV has to sit around for hours re-charging.

        Its a nice initiative, a bit like Boris Bikes, ticks a box and handy to bring out in election year.

        1. By no means a perfect scheme and energy in the UK is far from 100% renewable, but relative to the number of electric cars in London that is a pretty decent number of locations for charging. Yes – the usual “green-wash” may apply from town hall, but then again you have to start somewhere – a bit like most transport investment.

          The phase 3 charging improvements should change things re the sit around perception.

          1. To be honest, small EV’s are perfect for cities like London. They are easy to park, do short repeated journeys and are zero emission. Unfortunately this has not been a success for Boris

            They do use roads though and in a city with an extensive rail and metro system, the fact that the public still want to use EV’s is further proof that continued investment in roads is what the public wants.

            Im not sure Id like to take a G Wiz across the harbour bridge on a windy day

          2. Yet driving volumes are down in London and the number of trips made per day in cars in nominal terms is less than it was in 1993 Private vehicle trips only make up 38% of all trips across London and that has fallen every year. At the same time the population has gone from about 6.8m to about 8.2m people. In other words there are heaps more people yet less car trips.

          3. A bit tough for the cycling lobby 🙁 What the graph doesn’t tell is what type of PT trip. Are people moving to the tube or bus?
            Looks to me that the congestion charge and the recession is taking its toll on cars.

          4. Depends on how you look at the data and it doesn’t go back as far as total share above. In recent years at least, the tube has been more successful at increasing patronage.

          5. I tend to think of the later, that it will substitute existing trips rather than generate new ones. Driverless cars might generate some new trips but then that would undo some of the claimed benefits of them.

          6. I think the latter- the high initial cost should see them as taxis or in car sharing schemes, where they could be very disruptive.
            Removing the cost of a driver dramatically resets the cost/benefit in favour of using someone else’s vehicle- be it a bus or a taxi or a car rental scheme.
            What the coming automation revolution does for jobs across the economy is more scary- not for this thread!

          7. Cycling in London stats: more interesting the deeper you delve:

            Bikes make up around a quarter of rush-hour traffic in central London, new survey shows

            See more at:

            And of course the proportion of vehicle journeys increases the further out you measure from the centre; many will be low value school and latte runs.

            Gross measures are interesting but are not a good guide for telling us where the valuable next investments lie.

    3. Yeah. Those ‘A’ listers telling me to reduce my carbon footprint is a pet hate of mine. “Yes John Travolta, you stop flying your 707 with hardly anyone on board and I might start listening.”

  9. It may have been mentioned about but electric vehicles will also not reduce costs of storing vehicles (aka parking), costs which will only grow as cities grow and reform their parking policies to ensure that costs are targeted more directly to drivers, as they should be.

  10. I read about EVs and often think back to when I was in the UK in 1995 working for a company doing EVs and EV drive systems. It doesn’t seem we’ve come much further since then at all and people keep going around in circles. Batteries have improved somewhat and motors are probably much more efficient but they had perfectly usable, drive-able vehicles back then.The system utilised a converter to go between 3 phase (to connect to the grid and power the motor) to DC to the battery. Three phase meant rapid charging. They had slow charging as well but that was limited mainly by the UK household supply and their 13 amp plugs.

    The system could also run power into the grid from the battery which was to be used to smooth out local fluctuations in supply, something the power companies were very interested in. It could even be used to correct for power factor (when the voltage and current on the supply are out of phase which the power companies don’t like as it wastes power and costs them money) and I believe they were looking at putting the system into buildings with giant battery packs just to do that. This was all back in the day when LA was supposedly meant to have 10% of all vehicle sales being zero emission by 2003 I think it was.

    One of the companies they worked with was Pivco, a Norwegian crowd, who had a little city car. Aluminium chassis, plastic body panels. It wasn’t a too bad looking little car actually. They put one of their systems in that car and that worked perfectly well. I remember doing test drives around the village near Cambridge I was in. That company ended up being bought by Ford and the cars were known as Think cars. They had a somewhat rocky history but not really from lack of an actual, working car that did what it said it did:

    Anyway, this was all nearly 20 years ago and it doesn’t actually seem like much progress has been made since then although we do actually have hybrids on the roads now I guess. The problem isn’t technology, it’s politics.


  11. Stu I agree. Going into dense metropolitan centres this is not the solution at all more a problem. But geographically further out and even more types of vehicles going this way (phasing in) with smarter, cleaner more sustainable fuels, and still a choice on the other modes in the majority, I think has a place somewhere and seeing solid advancement in this technology be it in a small vehicle. Good to see USA making some positive steps. Driverless sounds scary but perhaps extra warning devices no problem. If living rural great. If living right in town with an option to own/rent with phasing to efficient charging/vertical stack?/base facilities on the outskirts to go from there and explore the countryside why not?

  12. Let’s be clear: Gerry was looking at alternative control and powertrain systems for cars, not alternative transport. Looking at one way to address the ongoing liquid fuels dependency for cars, but only by having other cars, and not to deal with all the other disbenefits of auto-dependency, nor even any non-car ways to address liquid fuel issues.

    Fine as far as it goes but not alternative transport.

    1. Ok agreed not alternative transport,fully get that and real bad form. I guess the point I was making was at least it was sort of environmental for a big change, seeing what others are doing and at least talking about regulations benefiting low emission vehicles. Maybe a 2/10 effort not a complete backwards step from the status quo. Could have been driving a fuel tanker with the outlet pipe open?.

      1. Steve, it’s fine, what more could we expect? Gerry has a very narrow provincial background so any exposure to the wider world has got to be for the better. That he is also clearly susceptible to that common big machine thrill when behind the wheel is no surprise but we all hope these urges are at least a little bit ameliorated by actual thought at policy time. You never know…..

          1. No, but if they can’t combine that provincial background with a wider view once they are LEADING THE COUNTRY, then they are definitely inferior to the type of person we want in the job. Its a fact that NZ isn’t made up of province – it is in fact one of the most urbanised western countries (despite the country-wide myth to the contrary).

            My partner’s family is much more rural / provincial in their background than 95% of all Kiwis, but they don’t close their eyes at anything that is different in the city just because its in the city.

  13. How does this blog which resented the current budget for roading & infrastructure endorse electric cars?
    You don’t think we need more roads or more traffic, but you agree electric cars are a viable future alternative.
    All I can say is, “get building them roads!” – and imagine when electric cars are under $5k.

    Might River was and still is a great buy long-term!

    Wakey wakey bloggers. You are always behind the times. Just like saying the Unitary plan would never lead to higher prices in housing. Subdivision rights = higher prices. DOH!

    1. No one on this blog has ever said we shouldn’t have cars, they should be there as a choice for people who want them (which will still be lots). Electricity is just another way of powering those cars. That doesn’t mean we need to be building more roads though, we already have a very mature roading network that we just need to get better efficiency out of and investment in PT can help to take a lot of the pressure off.

      Seems to me like you’re the one behind the times and unable to see past what has always been.

    2. Electric cars under $5K? Not going to happen. Ever. There will be no new electric cars available in NZ for under $20K in my opinion. In fact, $35K may even be stretching it.

    3. I’d prefer to buy Meridian personally, they’ve put a stake in the ground over renewables. Good marketing ploy. Anyway, JoshR, what’s with the bit about subdivision rights? Sure, if a section is suddenly able to be subdivided into two, it’ll go up in value. And then you subdivide it. And then each bit is cheaper than the original plot. Not really sure what you’re going on about.

  14. All im saying Matt is get with the times. Electric cars weren’t even a feature on this blog 6 months ago. And if think our current network will cope with electric cars under $5k you must be in fantasy land.

    Also Conan, there is a guy in Auckland right now leasing direct imported prius’s for $65 a week. Almost cheaper than catching the train or ferry or bus everyweek. wakey wakey lads.

    1. Dream on, Joshr, condescension doesn’t make you any righter. And electric cars were featured on this blog long before. This blog discussed them as an excuse not to invest in PT.

      Have fun being stuck in traffic with your anecdotal prius. You will notice that it doesn’t come with an electric anti-congestant.

    2. You know a Prius isn’t an electric car? Have a look under the bonnet sometime. You’ll find a petrol engine. As a result they have a very small battery set compared to that of an electric car.

      In any case $3380 a year to lease a no doubt clapped out old Prius is hardly a bargain. On top of that would be insurance, registration, maintenance and petrol. Unless of course it’s a full operating lease. You can share the link no doubt.

  15. What work has been done on the long term consequences of a global scale battery electric car fleet? I’m talking about resource costs – supply/demand – and environmental costs.

    What volume of raw materials is available to make the batteries? Where is that raw material? How long do the batteries last? How finite is that supply of raw materials? What is the cost of disposal? If disposal is not legislated and controlled, what are the environmental consequences of having thousands of cubic tonnes of lithium-ion, nickel-zinc and nickel metal hydride batteries in landfills?

    Before we leap into the realm of battery cars, I’d like to know a little more about these sorts of issues.

    You can be sure the big corporates will be looking at those questions from the point of view of their financial interests. A classic case study is Chevron buying out the patents for NIMH (Nickel metal hydride) batteries which helped to destroy GM’s pioneering electric car a decade ago. This should serve as a warning to ensure transport/environmental citizen representative watch-dog groups keep a very close eye on what is going on.

    1. This is a big issue. Disposal of vehicles individually is quite expensive and should be one of many components of any analysis of whether electric cars make sense. However – lithium resources are effectively unlimited due to the salt flats in Bolivia turning out massive amounts annually. If a car is to be built, that car should have an electric battery if at all possible. For commuting purposes(and intercity purposes if a supercharger network is built in NZ as they are building in the states) there is no more sustainable private vehicle.

      That said, there should be better public transport options in NZ to minimize car ownership and the need for private vehicles if sustainability and ease of accessibility is the goal.

  16. Apart from the fact that electric cars use power generated by fossil fuels, theIraq use does nothing to reduce congestion. After all a car takes up the same amount of road space regardless of whether it uses petrol, diesel or electricity.

    1. “the fact that electric cars use power generated by fossil fuels”

      Electric cars use power generated by whatever is generating the power at the time they are recharged. In the case of NZ if they are recharged at night that power is likely to be 100% renewable. Your “fact” is not a fact.

      No idea what you mean by the Iraquse but for some car users congestion is not a problem. Electric vehicles use indigenous energy sources and reduce emissions.

    1. Wait up Phil! Wasn’t it just yesterday that you were telling us the facts were “Most electricity (outside of NZ) is generated by burning cracked fuel oil”.
      You’re just making stuff up, aren’t you, Phil?

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