Thursday, March 03, 2022

Electric cars are less reliable than petrols, diesels and hybrids with nearly a third reporting faults that take longer to fix, says Which?

Manufacturers have been urged to boost the reliability of electric cars after Which? found they are less reliable and spend longer off the road than petrols, diesels and hybrids when needing repairs.

The consumer champion's annual car survey found that of cars up to four years old, nearly one in three (31 per cent) eleictric vehicle owners reported one fault or more, compared to less than one in five (19 per cent) petrol cars.

Owners of those faulty EVs then had to be without their cars on average for over five days while it was being fixed, which compared to just three days for petrol equivalents.

The most common faults raised by electric car drivers in the survey were software-related problems, though not issues with the electric motors or battery packs that power the vehicles.

The survey of more than 48,000 UK car owners found that the most reliable cars of any fuel type are conventional self-charging hybrids, with just one in six (17 per cent) owners reporting a fault with 'new' cars aged up to four years old in the prevailing 12 months.

Petrols were the next most dependable, with just 19 per cent of owners of newer models reporting issues, followed by plug-in hybrids (28 per cent).

Diesel cars were found to be marginally more reliable than EVs, with 29 per cent of drivers reporting issues with their oil burners.

Lisa Barber, home products and services editor at Which? said: 'We know that drivers are keen to make the move to more environmentally-friendly cars but it is vital that they are getting a quality product.'

She added: 'With EVs in particular, our research shows a premium price tag does not necessarily mean a reliable vehicle, so we would always encourage drivers to do their research ahead of such a significant purchase to see which cars and brands they can trust.'

While the report painted an unreliable picture for pure electric models, Which? concedes that most of these are software issues rather than serious faults with batteries or parts of the drivetrain that powers the vehicle.

This means most issues are likely with infotainment screens and other electrical features, such as reversing cameras.

The RAC warned that Which?'s findings 'should be taken with a pinch of salt' and that many of these software glitches raised could be simple to resolve.

James Gibson, the motoring organisation's head of technical, said: 'There is no question there are fewer moving parts with electric cars which makes them more reliable than a petrol or diesel car in the long run, but it's also the case that the software running them is more complex which has the potential to cause some issues.

'But it's very important to realise that most software problems can be solved easily, either by wireless updates or 'restarts' in the same way as a desktop computer simply by disconnecting the 12v auxiliary battery and 'rebooting' the system, something our expert patrols routinely do for our members in these situations.

'Many manufacturers are also able to help drivers sort issues out over the phone by getting them to carry out certain functions to reboot systems.

'While taking a new electric car back to the dealership is clearly frustrating it can be the case with any new car, regardless of how it's powered.'


War marks the end for renewables

Comment from Australia

Fresh gunpowder in everyone’s nostrils has brought a new political reality.

It was only this month that US Army Secretary, Christine Wormuth demonstrated where her focus lies by introducing emission reduction plans, which would de-fang her nation’s military with features like:

* Investing in an all-electric non-tactical vehicle fleet by 2035.

* Significantly reducing operational energy and water use.
Buying electricity from carbon-pollution-free generation sources.

* Reducing direct greenhouse gas emissions that result from Army training by 2028.

Overnight, urgent decarbonisation objectives and consultants’ guides to achieving them have become quirkily pass√© – as irrelevant within a day of its publication as The Australian’s Green Power Player’s List.

Modern military equipment depends on low cost, reliable energy as does its transport and its bullets, shells and missiles. The infrastructure behind this is equally reliant on energy as is the industrial strength without which military defence, as well as general prosperity, can exist only fleetingly.

The war in Ukraine is a wake-up call for matters much beyond ensuring defence capability.

Many are yet to fully understand this. The ABC loyally echoes Germany’s Economy and Climate Minister Robert Habeck, from the Greens Party, in suggesting that the Ukraine-Russia war will expedite the shift to renewable energy.

But elsewhere there is a recognition that the game has changed. Already in January, the EU had incurred the wrath of Greta by redefining gas as being a politically correct energy resource. The UK, having paused the authorisation of new oil and gas exploration leases in the North Sea, is now going full ahead with approvals. In France, without batting an eyelid, Premier Macron has reversed his opposition to nuclear and his support for renewables. And in Canada, a resurgent Opposition Conservative Party has dropped its support for the nation’s carbon tax.

Bloomberg remarks, with sadness, that in spite of ambitious Net Zero targets set at the Glasgow climate conference, ‘2022 already threatens to be the year of global backsliding. From the US to China, in Europe, India, and Japan, fossil fuels are staging a comeback, clean energy stocks are taking a hammering, and the prospects for speeding the transition to renewable sources of power are looking grim.’

A day before the gunfire started, writing in the Financial Review, the Turnbull appointed former head of Australia’s Energy Security Board, Kerry Schott, endorsed the Brookfield/Cannon-Brookes proposal to close down the NSW Eraring coal power station. She claimed that the regulatory distorted market should be left to run its course and that replacing coal be renewables would reduce costs.

The Australian Energy Market Operator has presented its own plan for an electricity market that is parametrised by state and federal green policies, but the Commonwealth is alarmed to see its discriminatory policies designed to push coal power stations out of the market actually work. The proposed closures of Origin Energy’s Eraring and AGL’s Bayswater coal generators will not be permitted to close unless something turns up to replace them. And wind and solar won’t do. Moreover, although Anthony Albanese has echoed Kerry Schott’s words claiming there is an energy transition being driven by the private sector, his views will doubtless mature during the course of the election campaign.

Yesterday’s dreams of unicorn policies where nature is treated as sacrosanct and is erroneously regarded as precarious will evaporate just as pacifism did in the 1930s with the rise of the dictatorships. Ukraine may be a long way from Australia but its fragilities are not dissimilar to those of Taiwan.

Australia has to change. Having vital business decisions taken by politicians and public servants responding to confected environmental concerns stoked by subsidy seekers has weakened the economy. Not only does this impact on living standards but it diminishes our ability to respond to foreign aggression, which recent events demonstrate remains endemic to human society.

Australia rejuvenated itself after 1982. The Hawke-Keating economic reforms were followed by incursions into government waste and a balanced the budget in the Howard-Costello decade to 2006. Since then, excluding the all too brief Abbott administration, government has regressed, bloating itself with bureaucrats and hampering enterprises with regulations.

Does Australia have a political leadership capable of resurrecting the reform process?


Should We Grow Up About Energy?

Let’s touch on a few energy-related subjects in the wake of Russia’s market-roiling actions in Ukraine. Exxon was already riding high on the recovery of oil prices. The world has shown it’s not remotely prepared to do without fossil fuels. And a beneficiary has been Engine No. 1, the hedge fund that fought a noisy battle last year for Exxon board seats, saying it wanted to lead the oil giant away from fossil fuels, a claim the media bought hook, line and sinker.

But wait. People invest in oil companies to make money from oil, not wind and solar. Veteran fund manager Chris James, the billionaire founder of Engine Co. 1, could not have been confused on this point. Blather aside, quite clearly he meant to place a bet on Biden priorities and other factors to drive up the price of oil.

This brings up a question. Why was Mr. James nevertheless able to calculate media reporters would gobble up his climate-change snake oil? Quote the snake oil salesman but maybe at least mention he’s selling snake oil. Why does our news media so often fail us in obvious ways?


You can tell many stories or one story about why Europe didn’t develop its fracking potential, which became richly apparent by the early 2010s. Had it done so, NATO countries would be in a stronger position now vis-√†-vis Vladimir Putin and soaring energy prices.

Every country is different goes the complicated story. Farmers and townspeople didn’t want the disruption and alleged risk of drilling; environmental crusaders insisted on investment in wind and solar instead; German utility managers claimed they had Russia over a barrel and Russia would always supply gas at a lower price than shale. Kremlin anti-shale propaganda played a role. Even Romania, with a long history of oil and gas development, faltered. France imposed a moratorium. So did the U.K. Poland has difficult geology but also a big national-security interest in proceeding, and yet stumbled over “civil society” resistance, according to a fascinating study by Andreea Maierean of Wilkes University.

That’s the complicated story. The much simpler story is the lack of any pocketbook incentive in the wider public to allow fracking. In the Eastern U.S., fracking took off because most land and the accompanying mineral rights are privately held. Homeowners and farmers directly profited from drilling. In Europe, mineral rights are controlled by the state, leaving local interests no incentive to go along or put up with costs and inconveniences.


A petition has been attracting signatures from scientists calling for a ban on most research on solar geoengineering to cool the planet. A Harvard experiment, in conjunction with Sweden, on injecting aerosol particles into the atmosphere was postponed due to activist protests.

Deciding not to learn about a technology, of course, is silly and unrealistic, and only surrenders the initiative to less responsible actors. The signers say the risks are unknown but so are the risks of the CO2 experiment already underway. They complain about the lack of a global regulating authority for geoengineering, but no such authority exists for emissions or humanity’s countless impromptu techno-industrial experiments.

Ironies abound. The computer models used to forecast future temperatures by necessity must take account of aerosol trends. So refusing to learn about particulate effects isn’t even feasible.

Unfortunately, some scientists, like many journalists, pretend to be inquirers into reality when they are really advertising their affiliation with their chosen virtue movements. The consistent failure of the climate movement has been its towering lack of realism. Developed and developing nations were never going to forgo energy use, but higher and lower carbon paths to the future were still possible. The U.S. and others might have enacted carbon taxes long ago to foster the necessary technologies. They still might, though not because of the climate lobby’s persuasiveness. It’s far more likely to happen now because politicians want revenues to finance pro-growth tax cuts.

Give the public a choice between believing climate change is the end of the world or a crock, they will choose crock. Even more so if choosing “end of the world” also means volunteering to surrender their standard of living.

Making climate change an anti-human, anti-progress, anti-prosperity creed was the biggest mistake of all if the goal was to advance climate policy, though more useful if the real purpose was assuring true believers they are special. This can be seen again in the parade of fops piously demanding humanity forgo the potential of solar geoengineerin


Global scramble for Australian coal to replace Russian exports

The dreaded "fossil fuel" is still essential

Australian trade officials are in discussions with local coal producers as the federal government co-ordinates efforts to find supply for Poland and Asian trading partners amid a global scramble to replace Russian resources.

Officials from Austrade and the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources have been in contact with coal miners this week, asking whether capacity was available to supply Polish utilities – and whether coal promised into existing contracts could be diverted to Europe temporarily due to the Ukraine crisis.

The calls were made after high-level approaches by the Polish government seeking alternative sources to Russian coal used for heating and power generation.

Resources Minister Keith Pitt confirmed the government was “facilitating access to Australian thermal coal producers to interested parties as they seek alternative supplies from Russia”.

“Australian producers have indicated they are willing to help our friends and allies if they can,” Mr Pitt told The Australian.

Russia supplies up to 90 per cent of Poland’s coal but the country’s government has led the European charge to impose sanctions on Russia in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine.

Last week Poland proposed coal be included in a European Union sanctions list despite its dependence on imports.

Industry sources say officials also sought information on whether coal supplies could be made available to customers in South Korea and Japan, following requests from their counterparts in those countries.

A number of major Australian coal producers confirmed they had been approached by Austrade and senior DISER officials, although each declined to comment on the discussions due to the sensitive nature of the requests.

Coal producers have promised to weigh the requests in consultation with their marketing and trading teams, but industry sources say additional supply is unlikely to become free for months, amid tight markets for coal and soaring global prices.

Australian coal miners have been running at full tilt for the last six months as the coal price has surged, and say there is little capacity in the system to lift export rates. There is an additional bottleneck at Australian ports, with the largest, the Port of Newcastle, at 93 per cent capacity. The Port of Brisbane is closed due to flooding.

Italy and Croatia may also follow Poland’s lead and ask Australian producers for additional tonnes to be sold to their economies, amid talk Italy is about to announce to return a mothballed coal plant in Trieste to service. Bulgaria is also said to be scouring global markets for new sources of coal supply.

While no sanctions have yet to be levied on Russian energy exports, sources say major buyers of Russian coal in Asia and Europe have already begun to cancel shipments and seek alternatives in anticipation the crisis in Europe will intensify, setting off a global scramble for supply.

Coal producers say they have also begun receiving requests for additional supplies of coking coal, though the urgency of the requests is said to be lower than that of those seeking thermal supplies.

Russia produces about 75 million tonnes of metallurgical coal a year, according to recent Macquarie figures, and about 360 million tonnes of thermal coal. About 40 per cent of its coking coal is sent into export markets, along with just under half of its thermal coal production.

The benchmark price for high quality Australian coal hit a record $US256 ($353) a tonne on Friday, and thermal coal prices delivered to Europe have jumped by $US80 in a week to $US285 a tonne on March 1. Forward curves for Australian energy coal have shot up beyond $US300 a tonne this week, industry sources say, with one shipment of high grade thermal coal from South Africa reported to have changed hands for as much as $US350 recently.

The shock return of war in Europe has forced a short-term reshaping of global energy trade routes outside of coal. Qatar is rerouting some LNG shipments bound for Asia to European customers, with Australian producers stepping into the gap to make up for the regional shortfall.

But the crisis brought on by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is also forcing a broader rethink of energy policy in the EU and beyond.

German Economic Affairs Minister Robert Habeck told the country’s parliament that it needed a new energy masterplan to end its reliance on Russian gas exports, flagging a potential reversal of policies to phase out nuclear and coal power stations.




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