Tom’s brother Gavin is visiting on his way back to the North Island.
“So, Tom, now that you have an electric car, you are a certified, card-carrying tree-hugger!” Gavin says with a laugh.
“Who’d of thought that the kid doing burnouts in front of the church at two in the morning would become a greenie?”
“Shush, Gavin! Jimmy just got his license and doesn’t know about that. And, I’d appreciate it if he didn’t find out. Bad example, you know.”
“OK, Tom, the secrets of your wild and crazy youth are safe with me.”
So, how’s the electric car working out?” Gavin asks, nursing his cup of tea.
Tom: “Great so far. I don’t have to visit petrol stations anymore and the extra on the electricity bill isn’t that much. And the car is so quiet. I especially like ‘one-pedal’ driving. I hardly touch the brakes anymore.”
Gavin: “One pedal? How does that work?”
Tom: “It’s called regenerative braking. Instead of braking to a stop, you simply back off on the accelerator pedal. The car uses the electric motor to slow the car down and put electricity back into the battery. I only need to use the brakes in an emergency.”
Gavin: “Well, that is clever. I’ve always thought it was a shame to waste all that energy when you hit the brakes. Speaking of batteries, though, isn’t there a problem with recycling these electric car batteries? Seems like we’re headed to a future full of electronic waste”
Tom: “I don’t know, Gavin. They haven’t been around all that long. I suppose someone is looking into it. Let’s ask Google Assistant.”
“Hey Google, can car batteries be recycled?”
Google: “Lead-acid car batteries can be easily recycled but currently there is no recycling facility in New Zealand…”
Gavin: “Wait a minute Google. You’re talking about EV batteries, like lithium ion batteries.”
Google: “You need to be more specific with your questions! My servers don’t have all day, you know! You’ve just wasted 2,359 milliseconds that I’ll never get back!”
“Sorry Google!” shouts Tom. He leans over and whispers to Gavin, “He can be a bit testy when there is lots of internet traffic, you know.”
Google: “The recycling of lithium ion batteries is complicated and limited to only a few companies so far. For example, Tesla, the electric vehicle manufacturer, recycles its EV batteries. There are many different types of batteries and they are changing as new types are developed, meaning that recycling techniques need to change along with it. Some places, like the European Union and the UK, are requiring increasing amounts of battery collection and recycling to prevent pollution from batteries disposed to landfills.”
Gavin: “Thanks Google. Well, if we end up with as many EVs as they say we are, we’ll need to be recycling the batteries. So, what about the stress on our electricity system? Won’t all these EVs eat up all our power?”
Google: “EVs will likely require more generating capacity for the electricity system. But with new technology, their large battery capacities will help even out peak load in the electricity grid and even store power from wind and solar. This is expected to reduce the need for new power lines and new generation to handle loads when electricity demand is high. In essence, EV batteries plugged into people’s homes will store energy for when the electrical grid needs it. These ‘car to home’ systems are available now in Japan and will be coming to NZ in the next few years.”
Gavin: “So, with more generation capacity, you’ll be able to buy a more powerful EV, Tom”
Google: “And, you’ll be able to keep doing donuts in front of the church for years to come.”
Tom: “Google, you’re not supposed to know about that!”
Google: “Your secret is safe with me, Tom, though I note that you haven’t rated my service in more than a year now. More than just two sentences this time, and little Jimmy never has to know.
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These are a collection of opinion articles principally written by CKM member Tom Powell for the Marlborough Express. Tom is a retired geologist who came to New Zealand in 2004 to work in the geothermal industry on the North Island, is a New Zealand citizen and now lives in Blenheim. Some articles have been written by other CKM members, and their names appear with those articles.