TECH TORQUE

IíVE SEEN THE FUTURE Ö OR AT LEAST THE FUTURE FOR SOME OF US.

FRASER STRONACH

FUTURE SHOCK

Car parks could soon double as PHEV charging stations.

4X4 AUSTRALIA colleague Justin Walker and I recently lunched with Land Roverís James Scrimshaw at Jaguar Land Rover Australiaís brand-spanking new office in Mascot, Sydney. From the outside the building looks like a typical modern multi-storied office block, but itís what goes on inside thatís of interest.

Land Roverís building is not just an office; itís an electric-vehicle charging station. All up it has 14 electric-vehicle chargers located in the basement car park and in the tech training facility in the same building. In the car park are nine chargers that range from 7kW to 25kW alternating current (AC) units to a fast 50kW direct-current charger. Thereís a further five 7kW and 25kW AC chargers in the training area. Upon its recent completion this was the largest such electric-vehicle charging installation in a commercial building in Australia, and more chargers can be readily added if needs be.

Land Rover doesnít have full-electric vehicles in its line-up at this stage, but Jaguar does, and Land Rover has an expanding range of Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs). PHEVs of all makes are bound to become more common in the short term, even if the uptake of full-electric vehicles is more long-term. PHEVs offer a Ďbet each wayí as they can operate as full electric vehicles for urban commuting Ė with all of the associated benefits Ė yet still have the go-anywhere functionality of an internal combustion engine.

Land Roverís new building is significant as it highlights the Ďfuture thinkingí thatís needed to expedite the transition to electric vehicles, namely the infrastructure to address the problem that battery-powered electric vehicles canít be recharged nearly as quickly as you can refill a petrol or diesel car.

The fact service-station pumps can deliver a litre or more of petrol or diesel a second means that refilling a typical Ďfossil-fuelí car can be accomplished in a minute or so. In contrast, even the fastest so-called Ďsuperchargersí take around an hour to fully recharge an electric car, and other more common chargers are much slower again.

Thatís not a problem, though, if you rethink the whole process of just how and when you recharge your car. With fossil-fuel cars we refill on the run, as itís so quick. With electric vehicles the logical thing to do is recharge when the car is sitting still, as it does in an office-building carpark during the day (as per Land Roverís facility) or at home overnight. Likewise car parks at shopping centres, train stations, beaches, and recreational and sporting centres.

If Australian governments at all levels (local, state and federal) were genuinely interested in facilitating the adoption of electric vehicles, as they claim to be, legislation should be put in place where any new car park, be that in an office building, home unit, shopping centre or wherever, should have a certain number of electric-vehicle charging stations or, at the very least, be pre-wired for the same. Legislation to standardise charging couplings wouldnít hurt either, as would legislation to stop brand-specific charging stations as per the current ridiculous Tesla arrangement.

On-the-run roadside charging stations will still be part of the mix, but unless there is some tectonic shift in battery technology, charging will be best done in a car park like that at Land Roverís new HQ. In the meantime, Iíll keep driving my petrol V8.