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Six reasons why Australia should accelerate uptake of electric vehicles

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A tipping point is about to be reached in the shift to electric vehicles from the internal combustion engine. Tesla has secured unprecedented orders for its Model 3, India wants petrol cars off the road by 2030, Norway wants them gone by 2025 and the Dutch want only EVs for sale by 2025; others say that will be the only choice by then, in any case.

In Australia, however, the EV market is so small it is barely visible, apart from the growing number of $124,000-plus Tesla Model S vehicles sported by the wealthy.

Not only does Australia have few EVs, it has no emissions standards for vehicles, and few if any incentives to encourage people to drive cars that cause less pollution.

So, a consortium of utilities, electric vehicle suppliers, city councils and research groups want the Australian government to get serious about the issue. They say there are six reasons why this is a good idea.

EVs will increase fuel security:

Australia imports increasing amount of fuels for its transport needs. Imports now account for 90 per cent of our fuel needs, leaving barely three weeks of supply in case of a crisis. That is despite Australia being a signatory to the International Energy Program (IEP) Treaty, which has a requirement to hold the equivalent of 90 days of the previous year’s net imports.

EV fuel security

Not only that, imports are expensive, as Professor Ray Wills pointed out the other day, they account for more than $2 billion a month.

wills fuel imports

EVs will reduce emissions:

There is much debate about whether EVs do in fact reduce emissions in a country so heavily reliant on coal for its electricity.

ClimateWorks says that, on average, using the National Electricity Market to charge electric cars does reduce emissions. (The exception is Victoria with its brown coal dependency, but Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia deliver significant savings).

Its study says that if the renewable energy target is met, then by 2020, those savings will be greater, and even more so if Australia pursues the “deep carbonisation” that it has signed up for at the Paris climate talks.

V emissions

EVs will deliver health benefits:

A 2011 study suggested significant uptake of EVs in Victoria would reduce emissions by nearly 1.5 MtCO2e in 2030 as part of $5.5 billion in wider economic benefits for the Victorian economy.

That study also highlights the air quality benefits arising from electric vehicle adoption, delivering air pollutant reductions of almost 10,000 tonnes of NOx and 2,000 tonnes of PM10. According to EPA Victoria, these figures represent around 10 per cent of the 2006 inventories for these pollutants in the Port Phillip region.

CSIRO modelling from 2012 found that electric vehicle adoption would be concentrated in metropolitan areas of Victoria, where population densities were at their highest. When it is considered that the impact of air pollution on human health depends on where the pollution is, in relation to where people are located, electric vehicle uptake has the potential to deliver meaningful benefits to community health.

EVs will provide more job opportunities: 

Increased uptake of EVs within Australia also presents a potential opportunity to increase local employment opportunities. Employment will be created potentially through sales, charging infrastructure deployment, and potential opportunities to create new manufacturing jobs specialising in batteries, EV components or charging infrastructure technologies. There will also be potential increased employment and economic benefits from the increased demand for locally produced electricity, replacing the predominantly imported petroleum-based fuels.

EVs will improve consumer choice:

In Australia there is currently a limited number of models available, and the highest selling electric vehicles from international markets, including the Nissan LEAF Gen 2, Chevrolet Volt and Bolt (not being built in right hand drive), and Renault ZOE are not available in Australia. Nissan Australia CEO Richard Emery has previously stated that manufacturers need “government help, the same kind of assistance that governments in Europe, the USA and Japan provide” to overcome barriers to EV uptake in Australia and increase model availability.

That means that in an intensely competitive market containing over 400 passenger and light commercial vehicle options, there are a mere 14 plug-in makes/models. This means that for the overwhelming majority of Australian buyers, plug-in vehicles are not even available. Without choice and competition, prices won’t come down. European countries have addressed this by requiring EVs to make up a significant portion of fleet numbers.

And EVs will be cheaper

The ClimateWorks study noted that economic viability remains the most serious barrier and source of uncertainty in projections about the EV market.

“The difficulty for forecasting uptake lies in the chicken and egg paradox; electric vehicles will be cost competitive when scale in manufacturing is reached, however large-scale consumer uptake will only occur when electric vehicles are cost competitive.”

It says incentives have been used to overcome this conundrum in other countries, and has worked to achieve an increase in global electric vehicle production by 50 per cent to 300,000 per annum in 2014.

If Australia were able to achieve a 50 per cent improvement on fuel economy for new light vehicles over 10 years, equating to 130 gCO2/km in 2020, and 95 gCO2/km in 2025, there would be financial benefit to consumers through reduced fuel bills.

ClimateWorks’ analysis shows that net annual savings of approximately $350 for average drivers of conventional internal combustion engine vehicles over a five-year ownership period could be achieved, and economy-wide these fuels savings would total almost $8 billion per year by 2025. For electric vehicles however, higher cost savings can be achieved over the life of the vehicle due to increased fuel savings.

It says without action, on either EV uptake or CO2 emission standards, Australia runs the risk of becoming the dumping ground for low-specification models and falling further behind international peers, resulting in relatively higher fuel costs for motorists and businesses.

  

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  • Ian

    Re “EVS Will reduce emissions”… so many EV drivers will also have solar PV, which is often overlooked in this aspect of EV benefits

    • Doug

      We have an Imiev, which has now travelled 45K kms. Limited, but cheap, even as a country user.
      I would love a Tesla 3. Hope they are reasonably priced ($45K would be nice).
      Current car charged off-peak, as it is used to commute 75K/day round trip.
      We need charging stations for EVs to become popular. The Govt should incentivise the charge network, because that will be needed.
      As an aside, think if farms used EV traction & had solar power/storage. Excess power would mesh well with the country EV charging network in a symbiotic relationship. (Turnkey solar power stations are already available, so all that is needed is the cost to reduce, & the new machinery developed)
      Vive la Revolution! Hope I see all the Canberra Fossils replaced soon, so we can have some action!

    • I drive a Nissan Leaf, and pay a little extra for certified GreenPower – I’m still spending a lot less on electricity than I used to spend on petrol. Any Australian EV driver can choose to do this if they don’t have solar or enough solar to run their car.

  • Cooma Doug

    The first time I used the internet was 20 years ago. I thought aww yeah it might be handy. Today I write this comment on my phone which has more computing grunt then the entire Australian public service of 1996. I paid less for it then my dad paid for his first black and white TV in 1964. (350 pounds.)
    What am I saying here?
    It is difficult to predict the future. Such experience has taught me, unexpected things happen, technology advances quickly, the world does change quickly.

    The recent articles on the EV issue seem optimistic but based on past experiance perhaps these articles have under stated the impact and speed of change.

    • john

      Doug my first computer with upgraded ram of a huge 8 Kilobytes black and white display no software you wrote your own with a 8 pin dot matrices cost $3,150 Dollars, in 1981.
      How things have changed indeed.

  • Cooma Doug

    Giles
    The world is getting interesting to watch each day and you are my favourite most respected window.

  • Mark Roest

    I strongly suggest considering the Edison2 Very Light Car, in its battery version. Better batteries will be available soon, for low cost.

  • john

    I am of the opinion that once Tesla has bedded down the Model 3 they will then announce a smaller vehicle aimed at the single and first car buyer this will be around the $20 k mark or even cheaper.
    If the Graphene technology comes to market at its promised performance and price then there is going to be no holding back the rapid conversion to EV ownership.

    http://www.graphene-info.com/graphene-batteries

    http://futurism.com/scientists-develop-better-battery-thanks-graphene/

    • I just can’t see Tesla producing a car that cheap as they have marketed themselves as a premium brand. I may be wrong but don’t think so.

      Instead Tesla (read Elon Musk) is trying to encourage other manufacturers to step up to the plate. Making their patents open source is one step on this.

      It’ll be up to companies such as Chevrolet (with the Bolt), Hyundai with the Ioniq, BYD with the E6 and others that need to take up the budget to mid range of EV’s

      • john

        Well absolutely correct that Elon Musk is trying to launch EV’s as vehicle of choice especially by making his IP available.
        With volume of manufacture the whole picture changes and each segment of the market will be filled.
        Those who ignore the changing picture will suffer a Kodak moment.

      • neroden

        If nobody else does so first, Tesla will introduce a $20K car *eventually*.

        But frankly they can’t do so for a long time. The demand for Model 3 is swamping Tesla. After introducing Model 3 in 2018 they’ll be spending five years just increasing production. Around 2023, they might be trying to introduce another model — and I’ll bet they introduce a pickup truck, because it’s important to electrify that market segment and nobody else is doing so. Five years after *that* they might be looking at cheaper cars, so maybe 2028.

        By then I figure other companies will have built cheaper cars. If they haven’t, Tesla will, but that’s 12 years down the road…

  • neroden

    Best thing you can do is to talk Tesla into building an Australian factory, to get rid of those import duties. They won’t want to but if they can get a good enough deal…

    • Carl Raymond S

      Chinese company Brighsun are talking about producing electric buses here. That might be our best hope. In a choice between Oz and China, I feel Tesla would choose China to be close to such a huge market.
      Brighsun choose us because the ‘made in Australia’ tag adds value. Tesla have no such problem – the brand is already gold.

  • Phil

    Our commercial vehicle fleet should be a good start to be built here due the higher cost as added value and reduced need for public recharge stations.

    And i find the national security issues perplexing in that we (Australia) can tax and then spend those Billions on defense.Yet we are detuning the very industries we would need in a serious war which are energy , materials such as metals and manufacturing.