Electric perceptions

By David Thomson on Sat, 7 Jul 2018

Significant gaps between perception and reality are a recurring theme that I have been pondering in the context of electric vehicles of late.

It's timely to ruminate on them in this issue of Drivesouth, since we are featuring what could be one of the circuit breakers around a commonly held perception, and definite misconception, that electric vehicles do not have what it takes to appeal to the driving enthusiast.

So far, Tesla has been the standard-bearer for the all-electric performance car with its flagship Model S. I'm hoping to get behind the wheel of one before too long but, having been a passenger in a locally owned example with its appropriately named ludicrous mode engaged, I can already vouch that it possesses staggering accelerative vim.

There are quite a few high-performance plug-in hybrids available now, too, of which BMW's super-sleek i8 springs to mind, in part because I admired one parked on a Wellington street a few days ago.

Confirmation that Porsche's first all-electric performance car is on the way (see today's lead story) is significant, as it will provide further compelling evidence that electric vehicles and electrifying performance go hand-in-hand quite naturally. Just how long it will take perception to catch up with reality I don't know, but I am pretty confident that within five years no-one will be doubting that electric cars can be every bit as rewarding for the enthusiast as the petrol-powered ones they currently favour.

On a less positive note, I have to mention Meridian Energy's current ``Norway We're Coming'' campaign, which lays down a challenge to New Zealand to take on the Scandinavian country that is touted as the world's leader in electric vehicles.

Here are few facts one might ponder in the context of emulating Norway's EV journey.

Electric vehicle ownership in Norway is massively subsidised by their government. Nothing wrong with that perhaps, but I wonder how many Kiwi fans of the Norwegian approach are aware that one of the main reasons that country is able to afford this largesse is the billions of dollars it has already made, and is set to continue making, from the international sale of fossil fuels.

Thanks to massive North Sea oil and gas reserves, Norway has been one of the world's major oil and gas exporters for years. By some counts, oil and gas exports account for 40% of the country's exports by value. Now that North Sea production has peaked, exploitation in the Arctic Circle looks like the next focus.

So if New Zealand were to follow Norway's lead, what we should presumably be doing right now is funding massive expansion in oil and gas exploration in the Great South Basin, and hoping for big finds that could then be extracted for sale elsewhere. The profits from selling fossil fuels elsewhere would then allow us to operate a subsidised scheme to encourage the local take-up of electric vehicles.

That doesn't seem to line up terribly neatly with the environmental policies of the current New Zealand government or, I suspect, with what Meridian Energy has in mind with a campaign that is certainly clever, but hardly presents the full picture.

Calling all classic car owners
Dunedin Autospectacular organiser Kevin Casey is on the hunt for vehicles to go on display at this year's show, which will be held at the Edgar Centre on Saturday, September 8.

Special features for 2018 are Holden, Buick, Jaguar, hot rods and rat rods. Kevin is also on the lookout for interesting motorcycles, hot Japanese cars, race cars, barn finds and what he describes as ``anything a bit different''. Trade sites and swap meet sites are also available.

He'd be pleased to hear from anyone with vehicles that fit the above descriptions, and can be contacted on (03)453-0818 or at caseyleadlights@xtra.co.nz.
David Thomson