Enough of political idiocy, let’s “do something” on EVs

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Redflow technology chief and Tesla owner says governments need to move beyond fossil fuel “idiocy” and get smart about EVs and storage.

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Simon Hackett in front of the redesigned LSB (Large Scale Battery) at Base64 in Adelaide
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Simon Hackett in front of the redesigned LSB (Large Scale Battery) at Base64 in Adelaide

Simon Hackett, the internet entrepreneur and now battery storage investor and multiple electric vehicle owner, says Australia needs to act soon to ensure the country does not get further left behind in the uptake of electric vehicles.

Hackett, the largest shareholder in Australian battery storage manufacturer Redflow, says Australia is already trailing the rest of the world, and will continue to do so if the government does not act.

“Australia is the only first world country that I can find that has almost no incentives for EV take-up, so surprise, surprise, we are lagging in it,” Hackett tells Reneweconomy in an interview on its Energy Insiders Podcast, on the sidelines of last week’s Energy Storage Conference.

“We will absolutely catch up …. but we will be years later than other markets because our governments have not had enough vision to see the merits of promoting their take-up.”

Hackett’s frustration with policy extends to storage in households, as well as vehicles. And for that he blames a political obsession with fossil fuels.

“We are still depressingly near the era when politicans walked into parliament brandishing lumps of coal, as if it were a good thing,” he says.

And while some have now moved beyond that, we “need to go past the idiocy, through doing nothing, to doing something. We are two thirds of out way down that path. Let’s do something!”

So, what should be done?

“Do the boring thing,” Hackett says. “Look at what works in other countries, copy it, and then pretend you thought of it.”

For Australia, that could include borrowing from California and providing tax incentives for EVs. Most experts insist that once interest is created in the market, then prices will fall quickly, just as they did with rooftop solar, and will do with household storage.

But this leads us to Hackett’s other major gripe – the continued existence of premium feed in tariff for hundreds and thousands of households in states such as Queensland, South Australia and Victoria, some of which will continue for another decade.

Hackett repeats his call that the “value” of these premium FiTs should be traded in. Instead of having a $50,000 liability on their books, governments could offer half that now, and buy the household a battery.

Without that, excessively generous solar FiTs act as a distortion, and actively discourage such households from investing in household storage, because they have no incentive to do so. Quite the opposite, in fact.

“It’s nutty,” he says. “I know it is politically difficult –but I am still surprise it is not happening, he says.

Hackett says it should be clear to everyone (sadly, it’s not clear to all) but new coal fired power stations will not be built, so storage should be encouraged – at small scale and large scale.

“Like EVs, it is going to happen away – it’s the pace that it going to depend on the propensity of governments to accept that there is merit in accelerating that transition.”

In the meantime, on EVs, Australian consumers have little choice, and about the only option is a Tesla. Hackett has a handful, including an original Tesla Roadster, a Model S and Model X.

“Here in Australia  it is to Tesla’s enormous credit that they bothered and they are out here at all. I am a huge and happy customer of Tesla EVs,” he says.

And even though Redflow’s zinc bromide “flow” batteries are in direct competition with Tesla Powerwalls, Hackett says he believes Tesla EVs “are an awesome and appropriate use of lithium.”

Hear the interview with Hackett, including his discussion of Redflow’s opportunities in the battery storage sector, in this week’s episode of our Energy Insiders podcast, which also features an interview with new South Australia energy minister Dan van Holst Pellekaan.

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39 Comments
  1. Phil 1 year ago

    No such issues here.
    I’m DIY off grid 100% for 5 years now
    I guess if you wait for Government to do everything it often never happens.

    It’s also very satisfying to be able to DIY a better spec than any corporation or solar subsidy can do = 99.9999% uptime @ 230v + 1 /-2% for $2.20 per day @10kwh per day average funded in perpetuity for ALL replacement/repairs .

    It used and required no government subsidy in any way. So it’s a “lifter” system rather than a “leaner” one if you use “scomo’s” words.

    There is technology that has been used in farms off grid for decades
    It’s just cheaper and better now.

    • Rod 1 year ago

      I think Mr Hackett’s cashout of PFiTs might lead to many following your example.
      If they give me a decent amount, that’s what I would do. However, as i haven’t had a bill for 10 years and get cash credits it will have to be a very decent amount.

      • Ian 1 year ago

        Why do people still attack these PFiT’s, this agreement is or at least was set in stone. Some one like Hackett, who has nothing to do with the integrity of the government in up holding agreements., should just keep his nose out of other people’s business.

        . He is right of course about the lack of government support for EV ‘s in general being a crying shame. The cost to the government would not be very high at all to get this market moving.

        • Rod 1 year ago

          The advantage of cashing them out is it frees up the owner to add panels or storage or move home. All of which would cancel the PFiT.
          So Governments are sitting on the fence as the costs should be reducing naturally as these occur.
          It is a good idea but I fear the cashout offer might not be enough of an enticement for many.

        • Tom 1 year ago

          I may have misinterpreted this, but I don’t think Hackett is advocating forcing people to sever their FIT agreements.

          I think he advocating giving people an option: “Would you let us install for you a 15kWh battery worth $15,000 fully installed for free, plus give you $10,000 cash, in exchange for yourselves exiting the premium FIT scheme in 2020 instead of 2028? Or would you like to keep doing what you’re doing?

      • Les Dombi 1 year ago

        The problem with Simon Hackett’s suggestion of trading in FiT’s for battery storage is the restriction SAPN has now applied to solar and battery grid connection. I have a 10kw solar pv system on a single phase supply on the old FiT the problem is not that i would loose my FiT but SAPN will not allow me to install 1w of battery storage because it would put me over the max grid export allowance. In-fact as of December 1 2017 there are further restrictions with a maximum 5kw per single phase 5kw solar pv not big enough to offset self consumption and charge batteries.

        • Rod 1 year ago

          10kW on the premium FiT? I’d stick with that.
          You can get batteries that limit the export to 5kW

  2. ben 1 year ago

    Cue Tony Abbott defending internal combustion engines

    • Mark Fowler 1 year ago

      Tony has already inadvertently done his bit for EVs by destroying the manufacture of ICEs in Australia. I expect he may be a bit quieter on this issue compared to power generation given this sensitivity – leave the defense of ICE to Craig and mates.

      • ben 1 year ago

        As usual Australia will miss out on the economic benefits of manufacturing EVs and instead we’ll import them.

        • Ian 1 year ago

          You are right, that bird has already flown. However, check out what is happening in Hungary of all places, three battery manufacturers are setting up factories there. No reason not to attract battery or other component manufacturing and a certain amount of assembly here. Most futurists seem to say robotic manufacturing and AI are the way to go . This sort of factory does not need to be near a reservoir of cheap labour. As a country of consumers we should not be so quick to give up our buying power and wealth to other countries for ready made goods When we need the exercise of our own hands. So many people battle to find jobs locally to support themselves and their families simply because we make very little of the goods we buy.

  3. Nick Kemp 1 year ago

    “And while some have now moved beyond that, we “need to go past the idiocy, through doing nothing, to doing something. We are two thirds of out way down that path. Let’s do something!””

    I’m not sure how we are further down the path except that is is closer to the next election

  4. Daroid Ungais 87 1 year ago

    > “For Australia, that could include borrowing from California and providing tax incentives for EVs.”

    Tax breaks just to the rich people who can afford Teslas … when there are many smaller cars that emit less GHGs over the full life cycle? All while the smaller less polluting cars are generally owned by people who really could do with the tax break …

    • MacNordic 1 year ago

      Simple question of design – plenty of shapes possible:
      – cap the tax incentive at, say 40-50,000$ max list price
      – offer the incentive for used cars as well (careful design of scheme required!)
      – make incentive related to household income
      – set up a lease programme, which is paid for via the savings on fuel
      – waive import tax for (new and/ or used) EV
      – waive tax on EVs manufactured in Australia
      – give manufacturer supply opportunities to bid for state& federal car requirements to build a reputation and market, enabling them to introduce more models and a footprint sufficient to establish a support network
      – …

    • Ren Stimpy 1 year ago

      > “Tax breaks just to the rich people who can afford Teslas”

      Incentives to switch to EVs on a nationwide or statewide level is a long term strategy, to lower both costs and emissions. Atm sure there might be some ICE vehicles that emit less GHGs over the full life cycle, but those will gradually disappear as the grid becomes cleaner – the grid which powers both the EVs (with no tailpipe, hence no operational emissions) and the factories in which the EVs are manufactured.

  5. Ian 1 year ago

    I heard something the other day about large solar pv up take being a problem in the middle of the day…..
    Ahhhhmmmm, hello…. EVs could easily soak up any midday ‘excess’ generation
    Just need some vision in gov policy

    • Ian 1 year ago

      Ian, you’re a genius, a match made in heaven. Most cars do the commute thing then sit around all day. The energy consumption of EV is less than half that of ICE vehicles because of better efficiencies from plug or fuel cap to wheel. You can even use coal power to run your EV which should be the biggest clue to those Coalition Palooka’s that they should be going all out to support EV uptake.

      Nothing like eliminating Arab oil to reduce your carbon emissions.

      • Ren Stimpy 1 year ago

        Did I ever tell you that Mrs McKeon had 23 sons and she named them all Ian?

        • Tom 1 year ago

          She identified them by their surnames.

          • Ren Stimpy 1 year ago

            What? Hot-Shot or Soggy Muff,
            Ziggy or Biffalo Buff?

        • Ian 1 year ago

          You’re a funny person, don’t give up your day job if you have one.

          • Ren Stimpy 1 year ago

            Sound advice indeed.

        • Greg Hudson 1 year ago

          We are not in the land of Ian’s…
          Remember Bruce ? Meet Bruce. Bruce, meet Bruce… and on it went…

          • Ren Stimpy 1 year ago

            Her Majesty’s a good sheila Bruce and not at all stuck up.

  6. Dennis Kavanagh 1 year ago

    The problem with the uptake of EVs in Australia is that there are no EVs available now that are reasonably priced and have good range. Once the Tesla Model 3 and the new Nisssn Leaf arrive, I’m sure sales will skyrocket even without incentives.

    • Ren Stimpy 1 year ago

      It’s not just the Tesla’s and the Nissans. Ford, GM, VW, Volvo, etc. etc. etc. are going electric.

      Our Australian Federal government (Liberal National) either can’t see this happening, or they can but their arses are firmly perched on the fence. They are costing the country many opportunities because they refuse to swim ‘with’ the economic current.

      • Dennis Kavanagh 1 year ago

        We need to stop relying on governments. We need to stand on our own two feet and buy good EVs when they do finally arrive here. As of today there is nothing remotely affordable, has long range and looks at least reasonable.

        • Ren Stimpy 1 year ago

          Our future transport will be mainly EVs whether we are late to the party or early to the party. Being early has advantages in terms of cost, competition and many other apsects.

          You’re right – we do need to stop relying on governments which have Abbott, Joyce and Kelly sitting among them.

        • MaxG 1 year ago

          Yes! Why I have set-up my own system (12kW in panels and 20kWh in battery), buy an EV when the time comes, and extend my PVBEMS to increae capacity and be independent of energy and political bulldust policies!

          • Ren Stimpy 1 year ago

            Huge admiration for anybody who becomes independent of energy and political bulldust policies, but the reality is that the other 99% of us can’t do that.

            99% will continue to rely on the grid and the political policies because we have no choice.

          • MaxG 1 year ago

            It looks like our thinking is fundamentally different, and there is nothing wrong with that: in my world I always had and have a choice, and in my world are at least and always a minimum of two choices: do or don’t; yes or no, etc.

          • Ren Stimpy 1 year ago

            For millions it is: would but can’t.

            Inner city and/or small roof and/or apartment dwellers and/or tenants, etc. Millions of people would but can’t. Or they do to a limit, but can’t beyond that limit. That’s why the grid and the right government policies are so important.

          • MaxG 1 year ago

            I was in favour of the grid while it was a public good; once it was corporatised I do not — as yet — have not support it… meaning the grid is now exposed to the market forces the neolibs like so much.
            As for choices: I stick with what I said — I have a choice, and I chose to migrate from Germany to Australia; and I chose to leave the suburbs and go country, and I will choose to grow my own food, and I have chosen to reduce my bills to five per year (groceries I count as one), and I chose to live very happily on 20 grand a year. What I did, anyone else can do, if they choose to do so… whether they want to is a different story altogether. 🙂

          • Ren Stimpy 1 year ago

            But if all the millions who live in the cities moved to the country like you, the country would be the new city.

            We really don’t need to change our lifestyles in terms of effort or habit or location in order to eliminate most of our greenhouse gas emissions. We just need good public policy to become more energy efficient faster, and we need a policy push for faster deployment of renewables, batteries and electric vehicles. Because all of these have a well-established declining cost of manufacture. We just need to push forward the declining cost of their deployment in our country and it will give us lower emissions and lower costs, and a competitive advantage over other countries

            We are being betrayed by weak people who know the evidence but don’t act on it – they can’t stand up to a few old dinosaurs in their own political party.

          • MaxG 1 year ago

            🙂 I wasn’t advocating people move to the country, I was making a point that people have choices (in contrast to your post); nobody is forced to live anywhere; be it in the city or the country.

    • The_Lorax 1 year ago

      What do you call reasonably priced? The Model 3 will be $60k+ and the Leaf $50k+. I think a Corolla-sized sub $35k EV with a 400km range is the tipping point for mass adoption. Anything more expensive than that, smaller than that or a shorter range than that will struggle. In California you can buy an Ioniq EV for less than $20k USD after incentives. Now that’s a car that’s going to make sense for a lot of people.

  7. ben 1 year ago

    An interesting link for today –

    Fully Charged Show discussing new EVs https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eW5Pw9s-8q8

  8. ben 1 year ago

    Some pollution stats on car based emissions. EVs will reduce CO2 emissions quite strongly

    https://www.climatecouncil.org.au/transport-emissions-and-climate-solutions

  9. MaxG 1 year ago

    What I love about this story: someone just tells and names it how it is: idiocy!

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