Over an 18 month period between 2012 and 2013, Ergon Energy ran trials in Townsville to understand customer acceptance of electric vehicles (EVs) and the eco system that supports them, including chargers, electricity tariffs, and the EVs themselves.

Trial participants in inner and outer suburbs - Mt Low and Mysterton respectively - used Mitsubishi i-Miev EVs for personal use and in some cases replaced their six cylinder and four wheel drive vehicles.

Specialised charging equipment was installed and charging patterns and electricity usage monitored.

The verdict?

It was a unanimous thumbs-up with most trial participants reluctant to hand the EVs back and some even wanted to purchase one.

Ergon Energy is watching developments in the EV industry and market closely. We are also working towards being "EV ready" knowing there will be greater numbers on our roads within a few short years.

EVs and the electricity network

Network Strategy & Policy Engineer Don McPhail believes EVs will bring benefits and challenges for Ergon's network.

"The trial gave us valuable insights, particularly how our network and retail tariffs might be adapted to meet customer expectations," he said.

"We see great value in EV usage, particularly through charging them outside peak demand periods, or when solar PV systems are generating to take advantage of excess capacity in the grid.

"That's why we undertook our trial in Townsville - one of the first of its kind in Queensland - to test potential network impacts and customer acceptance," he said.

The trial found distance travelled and battery capacity would determine a customer's choice of electricity tariff for charging.

"If the right tariffs were available to meet customer charging needs, it could mean significantly less upgrades of Ergon's network and increased usage at the right time which would put downward pressure on electricity prices."

"And the further from the CBD, the greater the impact on our network as EV users drive further to access work and services and would charge more frequently," Don said.

Charging options and costs

The EVs were economical to drive with an average cost of $4.81/100km to run when charged on Tariff 11, compared to other popular hybrid cars which cost approximately $5.77/100km, small petrol car at approximately $11.54 and a small diesel car $7.69/100km.

When charged with the cheaper controlled tariff 33 (available 18 hours a day), running costs were just $3.25/100km.

And if charged from a 5 kilowatt solar PV system, average running costs could be as low as $1.08/100km.

Inner suburb Mysterton drivers, because of location and shorter driving distances, were more likely to charge the vehicles with controlled Tariff 33 while Mt Low drivers appeared less likely to accept this tariff because its availability and the need to charge more frequently.

"And a solar PV system in the trial produced more than double the energy required to run the EV. That could enable low carbon transport if the charging could be performed when the PV was producing energy," he said.

Townsville EV trial running costs 

The following table shows the running costs of the Mitsubishi i-Miev EVs used in our trial.

 

Mt Low

Mysterton

Weekly distance travelled

330km

138km

Cost to drive 100km – tariff 11

$4.81

$4.81

Cost to drive 100km – controlled tariff 33

$3.25

$3.25

New car dealers in some regional Queensland areas are already selling EVs and there's approximately 300 on Queensland roads now. Ergon believes it's only a matter of time before they become a standard vehicle on local roads.

More information on Ergon's EV trial and EV strategy can be found on our innovation webpage.