Tuesday, November 28, 2023 | Jumada al-ula 13, 1445 H
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Electric vehicles could become a genuine alternative

Ray Petersen
Ray Petersen

There is a delicious irony, isn’t there, in the absolute fact that whether the global price of oil is going up or going down, the price of petrol continues its inexorable rise?

In response maybe, I see that electric cars are a genuine alternative for the Sultanate, with the Authority for Electrical Regulation’s (AER) Executive Officer, Qais al Zakwani, earlier this year identifying the barriers to implementation of an electric vehicle infrastructure. Certainly, from a global environmental perspective, the alternative energy source appears to be a clear winner, along with wind, solar and wave-power methods, but in practice specific challenges arise that could impact greatly upon the ‘electric car’ experience.

Electric cars are not new! Thomas Edison sold electric cars at the World’s Fair in Paris, in the year 1900. But not everybody takes electric vehicles seriously do they? Elon Musk never helped when he released the first three Tesla models as S; 3; X and Y, did he? But having, during the last 12 months, significant personal experience of electric vehicle use, I can perhaps add to the debate, my

ten cents worth.

First, to understand the significant benefit of the electric vehicle, lets call it an EV, it must be looked at as a commuter, or city vehicle at this time, due to its lack of range, not speed, handling or performance. They can start, accelerating, and driving quickly, steer, brake and handle as well as conventional vehicles, but the main issues I feel could be exacerbated in the climatic conditions of the Sultanate.

The vehicle I have been using in the UK is only one year old, by one of the world’s largest producers of EV’s and already has a high profile in Oman. It is a 1.6 litre hatchback type of vehicle, with all of the mod-cons to be expected in a modern vehicle, and apart from the uncanny lack of noise when you start driving, and the lack of an exhaust, looks just like any other car on the road.

So now to the main issue of range. The UK has a decent sized network of charging points, owners are encouraged to have their own charging points at home, and even many employers have charging points, and let’s call these CP’s for now, ay? However, the frequency and number of CP’s is critical in providing full network supports for the EV’s, as we have often found the CP’s in use when we need them. Complicating this, they aren’t like conventional vehicles that take only minutes to ‘fill up,’ and can take anything from 40-80 minutes to charge.

In practical terms, you can probably expect, currently, a range of 150 km on a mid-range vehicle, but unlike a conventional vehicle, you can’t simply pour in more petrol and away you go again, so trips of any duration require planning in terms of time and energy.

Linked to this is the current major issue of ‘hot’ batteries. Even if you could drive for 150 km, recharge, then drive another 150 km, and recharge to drive another 150 km, you cannot, because the battery gets hotter all the time and either the charging time increases, or the range decreases, and the EV’s efficiency suffers. That’s why I see them predominantly as commuter and city cars.

Now the reality is that technological advances will surely solve these issues soon, but it’s important that we are realistic and informed about the concept, and its practical aspects.

All the users I have met here are enthusiastic about their EV’s but are reserved about the ability to provide enough infrastructural support in the way of a coherent CP network. The AER’s research is mostly right on point, and I feel that if the ‘hot battery,’ issue can be technologically resolved, we may be onto a winner. Let’s hope so!

And Elon Musk may be irreverent, and have a sense of humor, but really?

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