Electric Vehicles: Electrifying our Commutes and Adventures
Updated: Nov 16, 2021
In 2018, Sylvia Wilson drove 20,000 km around the Australian coast in her electric vehicle, debunking the myth that the driving range of electric vehicles is inadequate for an expansive and sparsely populated country like Australia. The increasing popularity of electric vehicles is coming from the need to find a solution for vehicle pollution to help tackle climate change, to provide better alternatives for transport and provide independence in powering one’s car. For those passionate about getting outdoors, electric vehicles can feasibly become the new way to travel throughout Australia, whilst protecting the environment.
Electric VS regular vehicles in Australia
An electric vehicle is any car that is powered by electricity. There are currently four types of electric vehicle: battery electric vehicle, plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, hybrid electric vehicle, and fuel cell electric vehicle. By contrast, regular vehicles have internal combustion engines and require fuel, such as petroleum or diesel, to run. Overall, electric vehicles have a reduced carbon footprint compared to regular vehicles, and have the ability to recycle their parts including batteries and other vehicle components. In fact, for 95% of the world, electric vehicles are better for the environment than regular vehicles.
Although reduction in total emissions is significant, it remains important to understand where in the product life cycle emissions are produced to pinpoint where changes can be made to further reduce emissions in electric vehicles. Throughout the manufacturing process, electric vehicles produce 13 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) compared to regular vehicles 10.5 tonnes of CO2. Yet, throughout the use phase of vehicles, electric vehicles produce 170 g of CO2 per kilometre and regular vehicles produce about 251 g of CO2 per kilometre. Lastly, throughout the recycling phase, electric vehicles produce more CO2 than regular vehicles but the batteries have the ability to have a second life and can be used to support the electric grid. In total, electric vehicles are better for the environment than regular vehicles by 18% in Australia. This difference will begin to increase as Australia moves towards using more renewable energy to produce electricity, making electric vehicles more popular than regular vehicles. As well with the electrification of transport for buses, trains or cars, this can further move along reducing emissions from transport.
Models of electric vehicles and how to charge them
The average Australian drives 38 km per day, meaning an electric vehicle owner can go at least 10 days without recharging, and may be able to do so from home. There are a few different ways to charge electric vehicles, including using an existing power-point at home, in conjunction with a specialised cable supplied with the vehicle. Existing power-point chargers will top daily-use but cannot fully recharge an electric vehicle overnight. Another source of power are alternating current electric vehicle (AC EV) chargers that deliver up to 7 kW and are most often installed into homes or shopping centres. AC EV chargers can deliver a full recharge overnight, or 40 km of range per hour, which is average daily vehicle use. Lastly are the direct current (DC) charging stations, delivering from 25 to 350 kW and typically placed in road-side locations and on commercial premises. These charging stations can fully recharge electric vehicles within 10 to 15 minutes using the ultra-rapid charge.
There are currently 15 fully electric vehicles available in Australia. One of the least expensive electric vehicles available is the Hyundai Ioniq Electric from $48,970, considered to be the least expensive family-friendly electric car and with a range of 311 km. When charging at home, a 7 kW wall-box charger takes 6.25 hours, or 17.5 hours with a standard power-point. Charging at any of the 200 DC charging stations throughout Australia takes 50 minutes. On the other end of the spectrum is the Tesla, with a Tesla Model 3 available from $62,900, boasting autopilot functions and 400 to 580 km of driving on a single charge. Using a wall-box takes 8 hours or a regular plug taking 24 hours. More electric vehicles are available on the website of the Royal Automobile Club of Western Australia (RAC), where you could possibly find the vehicle right for you.
Why is Australia lagging behind on electric vehicles?
In order for Australia to achieve net zero emissions by 2035, 75% of new car sales by 2030 need to be electric, yet in 2020 less than 1% of new car sales were electric vehicles. With the electrification of transport globally, why is Australia not moving towards electric vehicles? The New South Wales, South Australia, and Victoria state governments have all considered an electric vehicle tax, while the federal government decided against financial support for purchasing an electric vehicle in their 2021 plans for supporting electric vehicles. Richie Merzian, a climate and energy director at Australian Institute believes that, “Joe Biden has done more for electric vehicles in one week than the Morrison government has done in eight years.” An electric vehicle tax has since been finalised in Victoria, commencing on July 1st this year, and serving only to stifle the move towards electrification and innovation of the transport sector in Australia. The electric vehicle tax means electric vehicle and hydrogen fuel cell car owners will be charged 2.5 cents per kilometre driven, while hybrid car owners will pay 2 cents per kilometre. Lack of policy support and incentives from the federal government, limited availability of different models of electric vehicles, and higher upfront purchasing costs of electric vehicles are barriers to many Australians being able to afford an electric vehicle.
Fortunately, organisations like Solar Citizens, “Stop the EV Tax” and The Australia Institute are campaigning to stop electric vehicle taxes from being formalised in New South Wales and elsewhere in Australia. They are also helping to provide accurate information about electric vehicles, the global climate crisis, and how individuals can help.
Incentivisation of electric vehicles in other countries
Australia is lagging behind the global market in providing access to affordable electric cars, resulting in dawdling electric vehicle sales. Volkswagen sold more than 200,000 electric vehicles in 2020 globally, but none in Australia, as Volkswagen has chosen to skip Australia because our federal government policy for the environment blocks supply. Around the world, incentivisation of electric vehicles has helped to increase electric vehicle sales and decrease the number of regular vehicles on the road. In America, there is a federal incentive of USD $7,500 tax credit for the purchase of new electric vehicles. In Germany, residents receive an AUD $4,910 discount from manufacturers on vehicles costing less than AUD $65,000. Yet, Australia severely lags behind the rest of the world on electrifying the transport sector to improve sustainability and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Alternative transport options
For outdoor enthusiasts who would prefer to minimise use of cars, other forms of environmentally-friendly transport are becoming available. This year, the New South Wales government is rolling out the first fully Australian designed and built electric bus, the Element e-bus, with a plan to convert all 8,000 buses in the current fleet to electric by 2030. In Canberra, the fully renewably-powered Metro Light Rail is under construction. A similar project is underway in Brisbane to be completed by 2030, with the added benefit of having dedicated spaces for bicycles on board each light rail, which brings different forms of transport together. There are also options to decrease cars on the road by utilising a share-car company such as Car Next Door, in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Canberra, and Perth that can take up to 10 other cars off the road. There are options of sharing a fully electric car or hybrid.
Electric vehicles are the way of the future, and can decrease transport greenhouse gas emissions to aid the global climate crisis. It is possible to change the way we use transport, utilising other forms of transport that do not create emissions like walking or cycling, but that is not feasible for everyone. Outdoor enthusiasts want to explore nature and a car is at times necessary, especially in a country like Australia. It is time we start pushing towards electrifying our transport sector and moving towards making electric vehicles more affordable for the average Australian. You can help by campaigning to stop the electric vehicle tax or learning more about electric vehicles and whether an electric vehicle is the right option for you. Resources like Solar Citizens,The Australia Institute, or the Electric Vehicle Council can provide information, access to ongoing campaigns, and advice on how best to help the environment that we are desperately trying to save.