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Why electrics will continue to be much cheaper to run than gas guzzlers

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SA Petrol Price per litre

So we all know that the petrol price has increased significantly over the last few years.  The graph on the right shows the trend since 1997.  Why is it increasing?  Basically exchange rates, inflation, increasing demand and diminishing supply.  We like to blame the fuel companies, but what you may not know is that the government takes around 25%-29% of our fuel money in tax.

Apart from a couple of blips and trend is clear and that is unlikely to change.  For a long time there has been no viable alternative to burning fuel to get around, we have been slaves to the prices at the pump.  However, that is no longer true.  Now we have viable electric transport coming into our country.  Whether this is electric cars, bicycles or scooters they are coming and some are here now.


SA Electricity price per unit

But what is happing to electricity.  Yes, it’s going up too.  Eskoms original plans were to increase energy 415% from 2006 to 2015.  The justification is to be able to afford the infrastructural investment we need.  Namely Grid upgrades, Nuclear Power and Coal power stations.

But, there is some good news with this.  Because a recent report from UCT’s energy research centre say’s we should delay the nuclear decision until 2029.  Mainly because we don’t need it for a while and it is horrifically expensive.  For example the BBC reported that to decommission Sellafield in the uk would cost £56Bn, yes nearly 1 Trillion Rand to take it down and make it safe.  Then when you compare that with the decreasing cost of Solar power and how solar is reported as on parity with coal and nuclear and will decrease more.  It makes much more sense to wait.

Global Solar Power Price

Global Solar Power Price

Actually with Solar we are facing cheaper and cheaper energy combined with the fact that we could create it ourselves and bypass Eskom.  Just take a look at what is happening in Germany.  Some folks in SA are already creating their own energy.  Here is what Martin Pollack is doing.  Oil however is running out and the supply is diminishing.   We can’t create it ourselves and thus the price can only increase.

If we look at the price per Kilo Watt Hour (Kwh)  There is about 10 kwh in one litre of Petrol at R12 and Eskom are charging around R1.2 for 1 Kwh of electricity.  So the energy prices are pretty much the same per Kwh.

Much more efficient

But, the reason electrics are such a good bet is that they are much more efficient than gas vehicles for the majority of our usage, around 10 times more efficient on average.  Why?  Because they are not wasting large amounts of energy in heat and noise.  Gearboxes & engines have losses and generate a lot of heat.  Radiators are specifically trying to get rid of heat.   This heat is all energy you have paid for in the fuel but is being wasted.  Electric’s also have the opportunity for energy saving and recapture technologies, i.e. regenerative braking (regen) systems

For example let’s look at a comparison in energy usage between a Petrol and Electric scooter.  Let’s imaging two scooters doing a trip of 90 km, work, a little tripping around and then home.

  • A petrol scooter with an average fuel economy of 30 km per litre will use about 3 litres of fuel or 30 Kwh of power.
  • An electric scooter will use around 4 Kwh of electricity for the same journey
Edison on Solar Energy

Edison on Solar Energy

So 30 Kwh vs 4 Kwh that is 7.5 times more efficient and 14% of the fuel and thus cost.  Electrics are much more efficient at lower speed especially in town driving, whereas gas vehicles only become efficient at a higher speed e.g. 60-80 km/h.  This is because they still waste a lot of energy at low speed and when sitting in traffic, electrics don’t.  As an example, an electric scooter such as the Thunder driven at 30km/h has achieved 150 km on one charge.  At that speed the electric would use 7% of the fuel, of the petrol, and be 14 times more efficient.

Because of their relatively short range currently electrics scooters are best suited to local journeys.  However, this is the vast majority of all our journeys.

But what if it is windy and rainy?  Well I take the car, because most of the time it’s costing me nothing to do my commute on the electric.

So there you have it, electrics are just more efficient, they cost virtually nothing to run and you can generate your own fuel.  Gas is just going to get more and more expensive, whereas electric mobility and solar offers us a transportation and energy future where the prices are going down not up!