Australia’s chief scientist Alan Finkel has had a close connection to electric vehicles for more than a decade.

He was the chief technology officer for Better Place, the ambitious company that imagined swapping battery packs in standard models, but whose ambition was run over by the fall in battery costs.

Finkel now has two electric vehicles – a Nissan Leaf and a Tesla – and loves them. “It’s so much more exciting” driving an EV, he says. “You feel more connected than in a petrol powered vehicle.”

He has some interesting insights on his own battery charging patterns. “It’s so much more simple than people believe,” he says.

But he also has some insights on why that might make it difficult for those imagining a grid where much of the storage comes from a huge fleet of EVs. He plugs in his Leaf every second day, and his Tesla every second week. How, for instance, do you ensure they are connected when needed?

Finkel notes that Australia is a laggard in the uptake of EVs, partially at least because Australians like to think they are able to drive long distances, even if they don’t actually do it very often. But the new models of EVs have higher range, and he thinks that will transform the views on EV.

He does, however, see enormous complexity in the advent of autonomous driving, and suggests it may not occur as quickly as some, such as our guest in the first The Driven podcast, Tony Seba, might suggest.

Finkel has also just completed a major study looking at the options for Australia in establishing a renewables-based hydrogen economy, and how this might translate into different options for our transport. And he recently drove a hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle, a Nexo, and liked the experience. After, all, they are electric!

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