As an example of what Australia needs to smooth the introduction of low emissions vehicles – particularly battery electric (BEV) and plug-in hybrid (PHEV) ones – it would be hard to go past what two billion US dollars (2.73 billion Australian dollars) can do.
That’s the sum that VW is spending in the USA over the next ten years through a funding body called ‘Electrify America’ as part of its settlement with US government regulators for deliberately selling diesel vehicles that failed to meet US emissions requirements.
As part of the settlement with US authorities, Electrify America is designed to be at arm’s length from VW and is not allowed to promote VW products or have VW branding on anything it funds.
The mission of Electrify America is quite simple: ‘to be a catalyst for promoting zero emission vehicle adoption’, and it is doing it through two basic (and rather well-funded) programs:
- Supporting EV charging by establishing ‘a comprehensive, technologically advanced, and customer-friendly charging network — to drive EV adoption by reducing charging anxiety’.
- Raising public awareness about the advantages of low emissions transport choices by developing and deploying ‘a national awareness and education campaign directed at car buyers not yet in EVs’.
Thus far, Electrify America has been busily rolling out a national network of fast and ultra-fast DC charging stations, as well as providing support for installing AC chargers at workplaces and multiunit dwellings.
However, the second (and arguably equally important) part of this funding is the public education campaign to raise the level of public knowledge about EVs.
This component has just begun with a $US45 million ($A62 million TV, radio and website advertising campaign. The first of these can be seen here:
Interestingly, the advertising spot features electric vehicles from six different car manufacturers to showcase the wide variety of EVs available now, of which NONE are VW.
(This is both because (a) they are not allowed to, and (b) there are virtually no electric VWs available anywhere in any numbers)!
To go with this advertising campaign, a slick information website has also been set-up to answer public questions about EVs. See: https://www.plugintothepresent.com/#home
Here in Australia, we can only sigh over such a planned and focussed approach to moving to low emissions transport.
Sadly, even though it is always argued by all those involved with EVs at state and federal inquiries into them that consistent, positive government direction is needed to support an orderly transition, we still see little from state governments, and none from the federal one.
However things are not totally bleak either.
For Australian contextualised information about EVs – impartial advice and public seminars are offered by community groups such as the Australian Electric Vehicle Association (AEVA) and the Alternate Technology Association (ATA), plus there is a large national EV Expo and Conference happening in Brisbane this November (info here: https://evfest.aeva.asn.au/ ).
There is also an industry body, (the ‘Electric Vehicle Council’), who run an informative website covering currently available models, industry and policy updates – see http://electricvehiclecouncil.com.au/
And there is this website, The Driven!
Charging infrastructure installation is also beginning to be supported by some Australian governments – in particular the ACT, Queensland, WA, SA and NSW governments have been somewhat active in the area.
Hopefully others will join the coordination efforts soon.
Over the next few years, it will be interesting to compare vehicle sales figures for the US versus Australia. That should show the effect of a coordinated and planned move to low emissions transport in the US as compared to an almost totally a market driven one here. The question is: will one be smoother and/or quicker than the other?