Tag Archives: Electric vehicles

Oslo traffic

Climate Goals: Is Oslo Leading the Way?

Norway is deadly serious in its bid to become the most climate-friendly country in Europe and has aggressively set about managing its emissions levels.

In January 2017 Oslo issued a temporary ban on all diesel cars entering the capital from 6am to 10pm, a move indicative of the increasing worldwide hostile attitudes towards diesel cars. While some applauded the ban others were highly critical, especially as only 10 years ago Norwegians were being actively encouraged and even incentivised to buy “environmentally friendly” diesel cars.

A permanent ban?

There is already a congestion charge for entering Oslo city during the daytime. But in 2015 the city council announced its intention to make Oslo city centre a completely car-free zone by 2019 – that’s only two years away and six years in advance of a country-wide ban. If it does happen it will be the first permanent car-free zone in Europe and the largest of its kind.

The ‘carrot’ in this scenario is the planned boost to public transport and addition of 40 miles of bicycle lanes. The ‘stick’ however is the idea of new tax levies on heavy vehicles registered before 2014 and increased tax on passenger cars, though at the moment there is no indication of whether electric or hybrid cars would be exempt. The city is nonetheless putting its money where its mouth is: it has reportedly begun to remove parking spaces in preparation and is divesting fossil fuels from its pension funds.

Tackling pollution from cars head-on

Looking at the wider picture, the Norwegian government plans to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2030, and eventually only allow zero emission new cars to be registered. It already offers aggressive incentives for drivers to buy plug-in electric cars. In 2016 29% of new car sales in Norway were plug-in electric, and in January 2017 that number was 37.5%. Over the last few years Norway has been the only country in the world where all-electric vehicles have regularly topped the monthly rankings for new car sales.

The rest of Europe is watching

It’s easy to see the attractions of a car free zone. Apart from obvious improvements in air quality, newly emptied roads can be rededicated as sidewalks, cafes and public parks. After all a car is the most inefficient way to get around a city. Traffic in London today moves slower than the average cyclist and commuters in Los Angeles spend 90 hours per year in traffic.

Of course, the total car ban in Oslo has its critics. The council point out the proposed car-free zone is home to only about 1,000 residents but 90,000 workers. Commercial organizations, however, complain that area includes 11 of the city’s 57 shopping centres, so trade would be drastically affected. Not just from a possible drop in shopper numbers, but difficulties in getting deliveries if lorries have to meet stricter emissions levels.

Other European capitals are watching Oslo closely. If successful, then the car-free zone could provide the blueprint for others to follow suit, making city centres a better place for everyone.

For more information, please see: fortune.com/2016/06/04/norway-banning-gas-cars-2025/

hybrid car charge

The benefits of hybrid cars

hybrid vehicle combines energy from a gasoline engine and an electric motor to increase efficiency. Hybrid automobiles increase MPG compared to standard vehicles (50+ for the vehicles addressed in this article), while lowering CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions. The benefits of hybrid cars include financial savings even above and beyond the $5000-$6000 in savings on gas (over 5 years) that the cars in this article average. For example, hybrids help to avoid road tolls such as London’s congestion charge. Hybrids typically offer features with advantages over standard cars, such as regenerative braking, electric motor drive/ assist and automatic start/ shutoff.

Regenerative braking refers to energy produced from braking and coasting that’s normally wasted, which is stored in a battery until needed by the motor. During electric motor drive/ assist, the electric motor kicks into gear, providing additional torque for such things as hill climbing, passing or quickly accelerating.  For automatic start/ stop, energy is conserved while idling, as the engine is shut off when the vehicle comes to a stop, and is re-started when the accelerator is pressed.

Whereas a normal hybrid car simply combines an electric motor and a gas engine, a plug-in hybrid can run only on electric power, when charged, and can be recharged without using the gas engine. Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV’s) have high capacity batteries, and charge by plugging into the grid, storing enough electricity to significantly reduce gas use.

There are two basic types of plug-in hybrids: extended range electric vehicles and blended plug-in hybrids. Extended range electric vehicles work by having only the electric motor turn the wheels, and can run only on electricity until the gasoline engine is needed to generate electricity to recharge the battery that powers the electric motor (or the gas engine can be eliminated entirely, on short rides). Blended plug-in hybrids work by still having both the gas engine and the electric motor connected to the wheels, both propelling the vehicle most of the time.

Electric vehicles (EV’s) drop the gas engine entirely, becoming much more environmentally friendly. The MPG goes way up, but the cost tends to go up as well, and the driving range goes down. These factors; the MPG, cost and range are tied to how efficient, how much capacity, the battery has. The higher the capacity of the battery, the higher the cost, MPG and range. Although EV’s emit no tailpipe pollutants, it remains important that the source for the energy from the grid that charges the vehicle’s battery remains green (i.e. renewable energy) as well.

Hybrid cars take numerous different forms, including the types mentioned above, and then compete against standard gas cars, flex-fuel vehicles, diesel vehicles, etc… European sales of standard hybrid vehicles have increased, but with roughly half the cars in the EU being more fuel efficient diesel engines, EV’s and plug-ins are the more popular choice. These cars can better compete in the global market, in terms of fuel efficiency.

The global hybrid market is still dominated by Toyota, in particular their Prius line, including the Prius Plug-in. The Prius remains California’s most popular car, as a testament to its global popularity. The Prius gets around 50 MPG, costs $25-30K and has a driving range of 540 miles on a full tank of gas. The plug-in model costs $30-35K and gets 95 MPG running on electricity only or 50 MPG running on both electricity and gas, with a driving range of about 600 miles.

The Tesla Model S and the Nissan Leaf are examples of successful electric vehicles. The Tesla Model S with a 60 kW-hr battery pack gets up to 102 MPG’s, costs around $70K and has a driving range of 208 miles on a fully charged battery. The Nissan Leaf costs $30-35K, can get 80 miles on a full charge and hits 128 MPG’s.

(*All figures are as of 2015.)