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Plug-in Electric Vehicles

Plug-in electric vehicles represent a fundamentally new form of vehicle propulsion. They are exceptionally clean, quiet, smooth and efficient.

What is a Plug-in Electric Vehicle?

A plug-in electric vehicle is a vehicle propelled by electric power, in whole or in part, which permits recharging via a plug-in connection to an off-board electricity supply.

Plug-in Electric Vehicles include:

  • Pure electric vehicles (EVs) that use a large battery for energy storage and only an electric motor for propulsion
  • Range-extended electric vehicles (REEVs) which add an internal combustion engine to the EV configuration, to drive an electrical generator. The generator supplements the battery, extending the vehicle’s range
  • Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) are similar to stand-alone hybrid electric vehicles, using a both an electric motor and an internal combustion engine for propulsion. The difference is that the PHEV permits off-board battery recharging

Plug in electric vehicles provide significant cost savings and emissions reductions when running in electric-only mode. In electric-only mode, a plug-in electric vehicle is over twice as efficient as a conventional vehicle. Generally, plug-in electric vehicles use regenerative braking to capture and recycle energy that is otherwise lost when braking, further improving their real-world efficiency.

Are plug-in electric vehicles available now?

Yes, mass-produced electric vehicles have been sold in SA since 2010. Several light vehicle models, as well as motorcycles and scooters, are now available. More options are expected to enter the market over time, potentially including heavier vehicles.

How far will an electric vehicle go?

The electric-only range of any plug-in electric vehicle is limited by its battery storage capacity. For a pure EV, the electric-only range represents the total range. REEVs and PHEVs tend to have shorter electric-only ranges due to smaller battery capacities. Their total driving range, however, is extended by other fuels. PHEVs may not operate in electric-only mode at highway speeds, even if there is sufficient energy in the battery.

In the case of REEVs and PHEVSs, running costs and emissions will be comparable to a conventional vehicle when operating in petrol (or diesel) mode. When choosing a plug-in electric vehicle, you need to carefully consider your driving task to select the most suitable vehicle.

Electric vehicles are best suited where trips from base to base are up to 100 km; there is time for recharging between trips (at least 1½ minutes per km travelled, up to about 2½ hours); and vehicles are highly utilised.

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Recharging

An electric-only vehicle can take up to 8 hours to completely recharge using a 10 or 15 Amp powerpoint, and can most conveniently be done at home, overnight. Public recharge points are also available throughout the Adelaide metropolitan area (locate via the SABER map), including a 'level 2' fast charge station at Tonsley Park which can completely recharge compatible electric vehicles within 30 minutes.  

Range extended (REEV) and Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV) electric vehicles have an ICE component that will allow the car to operate on petrol as well when needed.

See Transport Fuels: Electricity

Why Consider a Plug-in Electric Vehicle?

  • South Australia’s relatively low emission electricity means electric vehicles are among those with the lowest full fuel cycle emissions.
  • Electric vehicles offer the possibility of zero-emissions driving, provided they are charged on renewable energy, such as GreenPower. They release no toxic emissions when in electric-only mode.
  • Electric vehicles are quiet and smooth. Electric motors, compared to ICE motors, are extremely efficient converters of energy to movement and offer exceptional torque (acceleration) and power characteristics.
  • Maintenance and servicing costs of pure electric vehicles are expected to be very low as there are very few moving parts or opportunity for wear. REEVs and PHEVs will still require the ICE engine component to be serviced as per conventional vehicles.

What issues are there?

  • Upfront costs and a relatively limited selection can present a barrier to purchase. Costs are expected to continue to fall over time, and available models are increasing.
  • The issues of range and recharging time can cause practical limitations.  REEVs and PHEVs address these issues and, in any case, over 90% of SA’s daily light vehicle commutes could be made in a pure EV.
  • Being a new technology, drivers may be apprehensive at first.
  • The near-silence of EVs at low speeds, such as in parking lots or driveways, requires drivers to be more alert to pedestrians. At higher speeds, road / tyre interaction dominates vehicle noise.