Around the world, there is an understanding that society must improve its practices to combat climate change.
Sustainability is core to our mission here at SEA Electric – we aim to eliminate 2.5 billion pounds (1.1 billion kilograms) of CO2 emissions from the transport task over the next five years, through the widespread uptake of purely electric-powered commercial vehicles.
With zero-local tailpipe emissions, transitioning to EVs ticks many boxes – with commercial road transport accounting for a disproportionate share of vehicle emissions and dangerous airborne particulates.
For instance, in Australia, heavy transport constitutes approximately four per cent of road vehicles, but they perform eight per cent of the total kilometres travelled, while burning through 23 per cent of all road transport fuel used.
While converting to EVs eliminates this diesel fuel burn portion, sceptics point out that coal or gas-fired electricity generation forms the backbone of current energy networks, especially within the domestic Australian market.
Essentially, critics point to a shifting of emissions from the roads to power stations.
However, like road transport, energy generation is a field experiencing a tremendous transformation to a sustainable future.
Free Fuel from your Rooftop
Rooftop solar is an energy source that has had a significant impact in many areas around the world.
For the sake of this case study, we are going to focus on SEA Electric’s Australian manufacturing facility, and its local area, the state of Victoria, a corner of the world synonymous with sunshine.
Recently the plant doubled in size to 7,000m2 of assembly, research and development plus storage space, with the original half of the complex having had a 100kW solar power system installed last year, consisting of 250 x 400W solar panels.
In its first 12 months of operation, the array produced 129MWh, while the site consumed a total of 79MWh, with the system exporting 86MWh of energy to the power grid.
Overall, the site is 60 per cent carbon positive – it produces 60 per cent more energy than it consumes.
Although the facility does not currently operate around the clock, the installation of 200kWh of battery storage would cover 99 per cent of energy requirement scenarios the business could encounter.
For SEA Electric, it is important that the SEA-Drive® power-systems on the trucks receive their first charge directly from the sun, free from emissions and ultimately without an ongoing out-of-pocket expense.
To generate energy, there are two different basic requirements – either light from the sun, or movement, as produced by the turbines spun in coal, gas/petroleum, nuclear, geothermal, wind or hydropower plants.
Other emerging sources include tidal power, biomass steam, and concentrating solar-thermal power, amongst others, which all provide movement for power generation.
Meanwhile, large-scale battery deployments provide grid stability and security with storage ultimately utilised at peak times.
An election pledge in the state of Victoria recently called for an ambitious renewable energy production target of 95 per cent by 2035, which on the surface, appears to be quite ambitious.
However, digging deeper, the area is well on its way.
Renewable energy website Renew Economy reported this week on the state of play of the current local energy market, which noted that over a three-day period to the end of Monday, a mix of renewable energy sources including solar, rooftop solar, hydro and wind energy contributed 49 per cent of the state’s demand.
Included in this period was the first time that wind power alone was able to generate over 75 per cent of total demand on Monday morning.
This is a significant figure, especially against the fact that only two years ago, wind power’s highest-ever share was 48 per cent, while in early 2018 the number stood at only 26 per cent.
Obviously, there is still work to be done to sure up supply at times of peak demand, but the groundwork is already in place to grow the renewable supply to cover all demand.
Victoria’s capital Melbourne, a city of five million inhabitants, has multiple free energy sources already being utilised.
For instance, Melbourne Water has in place a network of 14 hydroelectric power stations, generating approximately 69,500MWh a year.
While generation at reservoirs is a long-standing practice, over recent years, a series of 14 mini power stations have been built across the water supply network, including in suburban areas.
Yes, other jurisdictions around the world are ahead of Victoria, with others lagging behind in the transition to renewables, but there is no doubt that there is a clear path forward.
The New Energy Ecosystem
A part of the mass uptake of electric commercial vehicles is the dawn of the new energy ecosystem.
Consider the vehicles to be battery storage on wheels, with the rooftop solar panels on depots stand-alone power stations, with excess energy captured by on-site batteries.
Additionally, the EV fleet of the future will be able to support the power grid with Vehicle-to-Grid, or V2G technology, which can feed power back into the grid at times of high demand.
The future is coming, and it may be closer than you expect.