It’s been a significant week for electric vehicles in Australia.
First, there was the Labor policy to introduce a target for half of all new vehicle sales to be electric by 2030, and the suggestion from the NRMA that the target should be twice as high and twice as quick, and effectively ban sales of new petrol and diesel cars by 2025.
The response from the conservatives has been equally stunning, starting with the uninformed drivel from Sky News commentators last Monday, before misinformation and outright lies were embraced as official party policy from the Coalition by week’s end.
Prime minister Scott Morrison has even suggested that Labor’s policy will bring an end to the “Australian weekend” – apparently because EVs can’t tow boats or caravans (some of them can), and you can’t take them camping (actually, they are an asset).
And here’s the irony. The Coalition’s own emissions reduction policy, as revealed by Environment Department officials in Senate Estimates last week, factors in 25-50 per cent share of electric vehicles in new vehicle sales by 2030.
“Electric vehicles could make up between 25 and 50 per cent of new car sales in 2030 if supported by coordination and facilitation of local, state and Commonwealth actions, coordinated through a national strategy, which is the measure that is announced in the Climate Solutions Package,” said Kristin Tilley.
The argument for transitioning to electric cars is simple: as a contributor of 19% of our greenhouse gas emissions, transport needs to move to cleaner options, by setting targets and introducing stricter fuel emissions standards.
It’s being done already overseas throughout a number of progressive nations. If implemented, a 50% EV target by 2030 would bring Australia – which has been branded a laggard in EV adoption compared to the rest of the developed world – more in line with progressive nations around the world.
In Norway for example, a target of 100% electric cars by 2025 (a more ambitious target than put forward by the Australian Greens which is calling for 100% EVs by 2030) has been instrumental in transitioning the auto market there so effectively that half of all cars on the road are now electric.
Little wonder that the Coalition does not want to reveal its EV policy until the middle of next year. This level of deceit is hard to maintain, but the Coalition – along with One Nation – is giving it a fair crack.
So here goes – the ammo from the Coalition and One Nation is so ludicrous it would actually be difficult not to let a giggle go if it weren’t so horrifyingly stupid.
Lie #1: That Bill Shorten is wrong about fast-charging electric cars
Bill Shorten can’t accurately answer simple questions about his new electric car policy.
Yet he’s pushing a plan that would drive up the cost of some cars by thousands of dollars. pic.twitter.com/waPwitugq3
— Liberal Party (@LiberalAus) April 5, 2019
The Liberal party has it so wrong about the charging of electric vehicles that even Chris Kenny swallowed it, along with many other commentators.
The Coalition focused on Bill Shorten’s claim that – in some circumstances and with some electric cars – batteries can be charged in eight to 10 minutes.
“Wrong,” says the Liberal Party.
Actually, he’s quite right. ABB has released a fast-charger than can recharge to full in eight minutes, and this was echoed by Tim Washington, the head of Australia’s JetCharge.
It all depends on the capacity of the charging equipment and the car battery. There is talk that some EV makers, like Porsche, are looking at super-fast charging of 500kW.
“Electric cars will take eight to nine hours overnight,” the Liberals say.
Mostly, yes, about 90 per cent of all charging will take place at home – during the day, or night. And the issue is?
At home, a “trickle” cable that you simply plug in to your powerpoint charges at a rate of 2-3kW and up to 7kW if you install a specially designed “wall charger”.
But there are also other types of chargers – including destination chargers which can boost a charge in 30-60 minutes (such as made by Tritium and Schneider Electric) and ultra-fast chargers which can charge in 8-10 minutes (such as made by ABB and Tritium) .
Destination chargers charge at a rate of 22kW on AC power or 50kW on DC power, and are most commonly placed at locations where a driver would be likely to spend a few hours and leave the car to “top up”, such as at shopping centres – or in the case of EV advocate and Twitterer SydEV, just 20 minutes for a decent top up.
— SydEV (@sydney_ev) April 7, 2019
DC “fast chargers” can range from 120kW in the case of a Tesla Superchargers, or 350kW-475kW in the case of an ultra-fast charger – these are the chargers that, depending on the size of an EV’s battery, can recharge in as little as 8-10 minutes.
Hi Minister here is a charging station your government funded that can charge a car up in 15 minutes. And 200km in 8 minutes. I know because I’m one of the co-founders you funded. pic.twitter.com/AiLQQmhIue
— Tim Washington (@EVTimOZ) April 5, 2019
Lie #2: EVs cannot drive far enough to be useful
This choice tweet, in which energy minister Angus Taylor referenced Top Gear’s famously debunked negative review on EV range has since been deleted – but thanks to Ketan Joshi, it is here for all to see:
Holy crap. Aus energy minister @AngusTaylorMP posted a @TopGear_BBCA vid as proof EVs are bad – except, Top Gear got caught out faking the entire thing, driving the car in loops to run down the battery.https://t.co/0tL4RmgrsYhttps://t.co/B1KtdGTRmw
— Ketan Joshi (@KetanJ0) April 6, 2019
The average range of electric vehicles currently coming onto the market is around 280km-400km – more than enough for a week of daily commuting (which in Australia is an average of 40km a day), with range to spare for trips to the shops and so on.
Older cars such as the 2012 Nissan Leaf have around 120km range, and more expensive models such as a Tesla Model X have up to 470km range. The new electric Kona, at around $60,000 – has a 450km range.
Battery running low? Top it up every night – 90 per cent of all charging will be done at home – or drop into a destination charger for a boost if you are on the road.
Going on a long distance trip?
Coastal trips are easier for the time being, to be sure, if you’re the kind of driver who wants to drive Sydney to Melbourne in a day – a fast-charging network is already being built that will in Adelaide with Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane that will then connect to Queensland’s Electric Superhighway that has been running now for over a year.
Travelling inland? Look to the examples of Sylvia Wilson, who travelled around Australia in her Tesla (which granted for now have a more extensive network) for about $150, or Wiebe Wakker who just yesterday finished a 3-year journey from the Netherlands to Sydney across Europe, the Middle East, South-East Asia and Australia without using a drop of fuel.
These people are pioneers, the Kingsford-Smiths of Amelia Earharts of their day – and look where the aviation industry is now.
Lie #3 – Electric cars are too expensive
— Angus Taylor MP (@AngusTaylorMP) April 7, 2019
What does this even mean?
Electric cars are a (relatively) new technology. Like any new technology, early versions are more expensive, and as market penetration occurs, fuelling more investment in technology development and spreading of high R&D costs across a larger market, prices lower.
This is simple economics. The good news is that the cost of EVs is expected to reach parity with petrol and diesel equivalents in about five years. By then, the reduced running costs of the car, plus its superior performance, quietness and lack of pollution, will make it a no-brainer.
Understanding this is happening, other countries (such as Norway, the United States, and China – the world’s largest EV market) have accelerated adoption of EVs by introducing financial and fiscal incentives to ensure the market takes hold.
EVs now account for more than 50 per cent of new car sales in Norway.
Australia is lagging because it has no policy, little interest from manufacturers, and little choice for consumers to date.
So far, there is just one new electric vehicle on the Australia today priced under $A50,000 (the 280km range Hyundai Ioniq), Nissan’s latest Leaf is soon to join it. And by having government car fleets adopting EVs, that will create a significant second hand market.
Lie #4 – Labor wants a “crazy car cull”
“Bill Shorten has announced he wants to get rid of half the cars in Australia and repalce [sic] them with ones powered by batteries,” writes One Nation on Facebook.
This ill-informed catch-cry by One Nation ignores the fact that the policies proposed by both Labor and the Greens are targets for new vehicle sales.
Australians would still be able to buy secondhand petrol and diesel vehicles, and even new ones – although with the right policies implemented to reach those targets, it will increasingly make more financial sense to buy an electric car thanks to reduced fuel and maintenance costs.
Electric cars are already predicted to cost less than petrol or diesel equivalents by as soon as 2030 for EVs with smaller batteries – and like it or not, as EVs do become more affordable, their petrol and diesel equivalents will become next-to-worthless.
Lie #5 – Electric cars won’t tow caravans
Looks like somebody missed this Tesla towing an airplane – yes, it’s a premium EV. Who tows caravans with hatchbacks anyway?
Lie #6 – The electricity grid cannot support electric cars
Wrong. Not only can electric cars be used to smooth peak demand on the grid by using software to determine the optimal time to charge (at times of low demand and hence also low electricity prices), they can also be used to augment the grid.
The Australian Energy Market Operator has suggested having a 50 per cent EV fleet will add maybe 15 per cent to demand in the grid, but if done smartly, this won’t increase the peaks.
In fact, it could reduce them. And the storage in the vehicles could be a valuable resource. See Giles Parkinon’s interview with Tritium co-founder James Kennedy on how with electric cars, the electricity will never be the same again (in a good way).
Lie #7 – Electric cars don’t pay anything towards roads through fuel excise
This is true. But it is also true of fuel efficient vehicles – driven mostly by the rich who can afford them. Shame that because of Australia’s lack of emissions and fuel standards, there are few of them about, and Australian cars tend to burn more fuel and probably slug drivers an extra $500 in fuel costs each year.
Options for replacing fuel excise with other systems such as a user-pays system where registration costs include an amount for numbers of kilometres driven, have already been put forward by some, including Infrastructure Partnerships boss Adrian Dwyer and independent Senator Tim Storer from his EV inquiry.
Any publicity is good publicity
Ironically, the furore that has erupted over the past week or so in relation to the state of electric vehicles in Australia has likely set in place a juggernaut that can no longer be ignored.
Australians are talking about electric cars, they have entered our social and political atmosphere and it is only now a matter of time before they become as inexorably ever-present as smartphones and solar panels.
As the treasurer Josh Frydenberg himself wrote in an illuminating opinion piece on electric vehicles in the SMH last year, “A global revolution in electric vehicles is under way and with the right preparation, planning and policies, Australian consumers are set to be the big beneficiaries.”
He stopped talking about that when the Murdoch media launched a “carbon tax on wheels” scare campaign. Now they are at it again – no fewer than five different editorials and commentaries railing against electric vehicles in The Australian and the Daily Telegraph on Monday.
So, while the Coalition resorts to a fear campaign, if you really want to dig deep on the staggering hypocrisy of the Coalition’s stance, wade through this thread from Labor candidate Sam Crosby:
Scott Morrison, Angus Taylor and the Liberals are starting to roll out a truly desperate campaign against electric cars using the dankest memes imaginable.
Anyway, here’s a thread of all the times Liberals & Nats used electric cars for a photo op. 👇👇👇
— Sam Crosby (@SamPCrosby) April 7, 2019
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles for two years. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.