December 30, 2016

Electric vehicles: will Australia miss its ride?

The future is looking bright for electric vehicles (EV) – and their investors.

Last week, California-based EV infrastructure company Better Place Australia (BPA) signed a landmark deal with multi-utility company ActewAGL to the amount of $60 million dollars over ten years. The agreement will hook BPA’s EV recharge stations up to renewable energy sources.

The news is an important step in the right direction for Australia’s transport future, yet it does not come without its drawbacks. It’s becoming a familiar story: while others grasp the enormous potential inherent Australia’s green future – and at a rate that should make us sit up and take note – we continue to miss out on opportunities right under our noses. The legacy of our oblivious attitude to global market trends and our own exceptional renewable resources will be a disadvantaged and vulnerable economy – and our inaction will only guarantee it.

BPA installed its first EV recharge station in Canberra in October last year. Plans for a national network of such recharge spots are expected to be fulfilled by 2013. Hot on their heels is another Californian company – Chargepoint Australia. Chargepoint Australia has at least 30 plug-in points already installed in major cities across the country. Both Better Place and Chargepoint clearly comprehend the long-term goldmine that is the Australian EV industry, one that their initial forays will inevitably strike. Why don’t we?

Late last month, US car making giant General Motors broke ground on their electric motor factory. The factory, situated near Baltimore, will dedicate itself to producing parts entirely for EVs such as GM’s plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt. “We believe the future of sustainable transportation is electrically driven vehicles,” a GM representative stated, “and this facility will help us maintain a leadership position within this category.”

Meanwhile, last year in Berlin the German-developed “mobile lekker” broke the world record for driving without recharging, covering a distance of approximately 600km. Incidentally, such an achievement provides the solution to what Better Place perceives to be one of the main obstacles preventing customer uptake of EVs: “range anxiety”, or the fear that batteries will run out ahead of drivers reaching their destinations.

BZE Executive Director Matt Wright sees a focus on turning the Australian auto-industry into an EV production line as a way to establish a firm foothold in burgeoning EV market:

If we want to avoid being left with an increasingly weak car industry, we have to move ahead with manufacturing pure electric and plug-in hybrid electric cars in Australia. The time has come for the Labor government to strengthen the car industry and turn threats into opportunities, providing matched funding to retool Australian car plants for electric-vehicle production… Failure to do so will squander that industry’s opportunity of a lifetime.

Climate considerations, peak oil and increased demand means that electric vehicles will inevitably appear in force on the transport sector of the near future. To ensure Australians receive the utmost benefit from the developments happening on their own soil, investment in Australian EV manufacturing and infrastructure must occur sooner rather than later.

By Alice Body, freelance writer and BZE Media Volunteer

This article was first published on Beyond Zero Emissions

Beyond Zero Emissions Inc. is a not-for-profit, volunteer run organisation. Our core goal is to develop blueprints for the implementation of climate change solutions that will rapidly reduce emissions and give our society and global ecosystems a chance of surviving into the future. We also run broad-based education campaigns based on this research.

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