Electric vehicles (EV’s) offer a range of social, economic and environmental benefits but one of the key barriers to electric vehicle (EV) uptake has been a lack of public charging infrastructure which has lead the Queensland government to recently announce charger stations at Townsville and Carmila.

The first phase of the chargers has been chosen to allow Queenslanders and tourists to travel in EV’s to the majority of the states’ larger towns and cities and were selected using a comprehensive set of guidelines, which included consideration of:

  • the driving range of EV’s,
  • access to amenities such as food, drinks and restrooms, and
  • the electricity grid’s capacity at each location.

Fast charging stations have been installed in Bowen, Cairns, Carmila, Childers, Gatton, Hamilton, Gold Coast Airport (Coolangatta), Mackay, Marlborough, Maryborough, Miriam Vale, Rockhampton, Springfield, Sunshine Coast (Cooroy), Townsville, Towoomba and Tully.

Minister for Transport and Main Roads Mark Bailey said the QLD government had a vision to encourage the uptake of EVs in QLD by getting as many people as possible on board the EV revolution as part of the government’s commitment towards a 50% renewable energy target by 2030.

Bailey said it was the QLD government’s plan to expand the QESH and continue rolling out charging stations across the state’s vast road network as part of The Future is Electric: Queensland’s Electric Vehicle Strategy.

“The QESH is a series of fast-charging electric vehicle stations that make it possible to drive an EV from the state’s southern border to the far north.”

“We knew our vision was ambitious, but this shift is happening around the world and unfortunately Australia is lagging behind,” said Bailey.

Climate Works Australia project officer Sarah Fumei says the announcement by the QLD government regarding the EV supercharge highway is a great first step by a state government towards encouraging the uptake of EV’s.

“The Queensland Super Highway will allow Queenslanders to drive longer distances in their EV’s, provide a visible signal that the electric vehicle market in Australia is expanding and will also help raise public awareness of electric vehicles,” said Fumei.

“In our research into consumer attitudes, 53% of survey respondents identified the provision of public charging infrastructure as a policy that would encourage them to purchase an electric vehicle.”

“The QLD government following advice from Climate Works and The Climate Institute has set a target to reach zero net emissions by 2050 and an interim target for at least a 30% reduction in emissions on 2005 levels by 2030,” said Fumei.

“They acknowledge that decarbonising the transport sector will be essential to meeting these targets, and EV’s provide a great opportunity to decarbonise passenger transport.”

“They also highlighted a range of other potential benefits of a switch to electric vehicles. This includes the potential contribution of EV charging to grid stability, the potential for the generation of new jobs in the industry and reductions in the health impacts of pollution from internal combustion engine vehicles.”

Bailey says EV ownership rates around the world were increasing with global sales passing two million last year which he says is due in part to significant advances in battery technology and continued cost reductions of EV’s.

“The global market continues to head full-speed towards a future where EV’s dominate the transport space, with major manufacturers unveiling their newest models in recent expos in the United States and making major commitments to increasing the range available to consumers.”

The international comparison

Fumei says while there are no direct government restrictions on EV purchases, there are some existing policies that may have the unintended consequences of limiting EV uptake.

“Restrictions on the importation of second hand vehicles can limit the availability of low cost EV’s. This can be seen in comparing EV uptake in Australia to New Zealand where there are fewer restrictions on the importation of second hand vehicles. In New Zealand, 3679 EV’s were purchased last year and 2570 of these vehicles were second hand. Taking into account New Zealand’s small population this represents a much higher rate of uptake for EV’s,” said Fumei.

“Internationally, there’s been great work by governments to encourage EV uptake. For example, Norway has provided rebates on EV’s, deployed public charging infrastructure and implemented community awareness initiatives to achieve much greater levels of EV uptake than we see here.”

“Governments in Australia are beginning to follow the international lead and are considering a variety of policy proposals to promote electric vehicle uptake. Some state governments have already implemented a number of EV policies; this is shown by the QESH. Australia’s Electric Vehicle Council is also working with government to help design policies to address barriers for EV uptake,” said Fumei.

In 2017, the Electric Vehicle Council and Climate Works Australia released a report titled The State of Electric Vehicles in Australia. According to the report, EV sales fell from 2015-2016, with Australians purchasing only 701 plug-in hybrid EV’s, and 668 fully EV in 2016, making up 0.1% of the total Australian market.

Fumei believes Australians are ready to embrace EV’s and says we would see a much greater uptake if there were cheaper models.

“In our report last year, half of our survey respondents would consider buying an EV if in the market for a car. However, price is clearly an important issue for consumers. While 35% of respondents would be willing to pay more for an EV than petrol or diesel vehicle, most would only do so if there were more support, incentives and infrastructure in place. An additional 34% would buy an EV if it were at price parity with similar petrol or diesel options.”

“The Australian EV sector faces three challenges; cost and model availability, recharging concerns and consumer awareness. The biggest challenge is currently cost and model availability. There are very few affordable EV’s in Australia. Our State of Electric Vehicles report found that in 2016 there were only two EV’s available for sale at less than $60,000 and these were both unavailable part way through the year,” said Fumei adding that governments can play an important role in addressing cost barrier.

“The ACT provides stamp duty and registration discounts for the purchase of new EV’s and other states are considering similar incentives. This could also encourage manufacturers to bring more models to the Australian market. Governments can also use policy to address the barriers of recharging concerns and consumer awareness.”

“The Queensland initiative will help address the barrier of recharging concerns through reassuring consumers that they’ll be able to take their EV’s on longer journeys if needed,” said Fumei.

Bailey suggests that the driving range of EV’s and local network capacity were taken into account in mapping the network, so the charging stations could be connected without significant additional infrastructure costs.

“The sites were chosen so that while people recharge their EV they can also enjoy a break to stop, revive, survive. We now have the world’s longest EV supercharge highway in a single state stretching all the way up our beautiful eastern coastline. We want Queensland to be at the forefront of these changes,” said Bailey.

“The QESH is just one of the actions being undertaken to encourage a shift to EV’s.”

Extracted from Eco Generation.