How natural gas can help us to move to electric vehicles - Energy Voices
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How natural gas can help us to move to electric vehicles

Kiwis love their cars.

So much so that the Government is very disappointed in us for buying new ones.

There were over 4 million vehicles on our roads last year. Almost entirely fuelled by petrol and diesel. This is vital to our transport system and our economy.

Transport accounts for around 20% of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions. It was the second largest consumer of energy in 2014 and more than 99 percent of transport energy is oil-based.

There is a desire to move on to electrically powered vehicles, which can be powered from our largely renewable electricity supply.

Our electricity system has very high levels of renewable energy generation which means that the emission reduction benefits of electric vehicles in New Zealand are greater than in most other countries.

The growth in electric vehicles is impressive – in November 2018, 11,376 had joined our fleet. This is up 5000 on the year before.

But that isn’t fast enough given the continuing growth in our fleet. And we keep buying more petrol and diesel fuelled vehicles.  “For every electric vehicle that we import, we import 24 Ford Rangers” according to Climate Change Minister James Shaw.

So it’s fair to say that the transition to an all-electric fleet will take some time. And the cost of transitioning a fleet of over 4 million will run into the billions.

Converting the vehicle fleet rapidly to electricity would place massive new demands on the nation’s system for producing and delivering electricity. New Zealanders consume something like 200 petajoules of fuel each year in their vehicles. That would require 55,555,555 MW hours of electricity. That’s equivalent to the annual production of 25 Clyde dams.

Converting our vehicle fleet away from oil-based fuel can be a great benefit to reducing greenhouse emissions. But we will need a reliable natural gas supply to make that a realistic goal. To make the leap to the lower carbon world of electric vehicles – a stable electricity system is vital.

But the ban on new exploration for natural gas means that our electricity system will be less reliable and under pressure. Put simply, at peak times, the electricity system relies on natural gas to meet demand. The alternative storage technologies are not yet advanced enough.

And those that were so disappointed in us for operating cars – should also remember what powers our trains, buses and trams. The power has to come from somewhere, and a stable renewable electricity system needs natural gas.