The regional shire at the centre of WA’s transition away from coal power has rejected a proposal to install electric vehicle (EV) charging stations, citing not enough consumer uptake in the area.

The Shire of Collie, two hours south of Perth, said the offer from EV charging company Sonic Charge to install 11 charging stations in the town could have left the shire with costly future liabilities.

Collie Shire president Sarah Stanley said the current demand for EV chargers was not enough to justify support for the proposal.

“We are a progressive community and we already have one EV charging station in town, which is perfectly adequate for serving the number of EV vehicles that we have right now,” she said.

“The demand wasn’t demonstrated and the impost on future community was just not seen as attractive.”

Shire officers said the existing station currently operated at a loss due to “extremely low” usage by the community.

That was despite various incentive programs on offer from the state and federal governments to boost the uptake of electric vehicles.

A picture of the Collie electric vehicle charging station in Western Australia

Shire officers say the current charger operates at a loss for the shire due to low usage. (ABC South West: Kate Stephens)

Rejection a ‘disappointing outcome’

Collie Shire officers said they thought the proposal meant council would be expected to take full responsibility for maintenance, operation and billing after a three-year term.

Ms Stanley stressed that it would not be feasible for the small shire to take on those costs.

“We are also very concerned about taking on more liabilities that future residents need to fund,” Ms Stanley said.

A picture of the Collie electric vehicle charging station in Western Australia

The Shire was worried about future costs of installing eleven chargers trought out the town. (ABC South West: Kate Stephens)

“We are a council that has to manage its dollars and cents very closely.

“So we are cognisant that every new opportunity that comes along, we need to carefully consider what the impact of ongoing maintenance and renewal and the impost staff to manage each of these projects is.”

However, a Sonic Charge spokesperson said the financial burden the shire was worried about “wasn’t true”.

“It’s a disappointing outcome,” the spokesperson said.

“Sonic Charge provided multiple options to the Shire of Collie that if everything was going well they could have proceeded with a rolling agreement or could have removed the chargers at our own expense as well as a few other options that would allow Sonic Charge to reduce the financial burden to the Shire of Collie.”

The company also pointed to poor online reviews that criticised the quality of the current EV charger, and said that could explain the low usage rates.

“I don’t think that the statement for the charger being under-utilised is because of lack of intent,” they said.

Chargers first, then cars will come

Ross De Rango from Electric Vehicle Council — the body representing the EV industry in Australia — said regional parts of the country needed to act fast and build charging infrastructure.

“Local government involvement is critical because it is the local government that own and manage a lot of car parking environments, and that own many of the approval processes for infrastructure in the public domain,” he said.

“What we’re looking to make sure of is that the charging infrastructure in the regions continues to lead the uptake of the cars.

“We don’t want to see absence of chargers in regional locations slowing down the transition to EVs.”

A spokesperson for Sonic Charge said Collie could be missing out on visitors until suitable units are installed.

“People with EVs have to plan their journey to destinations such as Collie, and knowing there are reliable EV chargers at the destination is pretty critical,” they said.

“Until we have an established EV network of chargers that are reliable and plentiful, visiting regional areas in an EV requires a bit of planning.”

extracted in full from: Shire of Collie rejects proposal to install EV charging stations in town, citing ‘extremely low’ usage – ABC News