It has long been noted that for an industry to be able to make waves in the energy industry, it cannot rely on policy alone. Successive Australian governments have been notorious for their inability to agree on proposals to create any launch pad for an energy revolution, and now it seems that the electric car sector has found itself pulled into the mire.
Despite various initiatives from car manufacturers to increase uptake, the lack of plugs on the grid is hampering efforts to bring in an emissions-free vehicle which could help Australia to meet some of their national carbon targets.
There were hopes that when an Australian drove an electric Tesla around the entire perimeter of the country in the second half of last year that it would encourage a sort of sea change, and hope to get around the idea that they were not practical as they could not be charged enough. It was said at the time that any house, grid or off-grid, that had the capability to boil a kettle could also charge a car.
This has led to the likes of the Electric Vehicle Council moving to slam federal policy on the issue, with their CEO Behyad Jafari saying “these aren’t electric vehicle problems, they’re Australian policy problems”. Jafari said this created a big issue for industry leaders, who are left scratching their heads figuring out how to navigate around it.
The Clean Energy Finance Corporation, the government-backed organization picked to help drive more renewable and clean energy assets, has said although plenty of users at present will charge them at home, at least a third of those they surveyed admitted they had a reliance on public charging spots. It is expected that the cost to implement the kind of infrastructure needed to enable a mass transition towards electric vehicles would come to $1.7bn, which could prove to be a big obstacle.
However, one of the leading players in supplying charge points said much of what was needed was already in place. Tim Washington, the co-founder of Chargefox and also a director of Jetcharge, spoke of how it was less of an issue than expected because so many people live in cities. On that basis they only really need to drive relatively small distances at any given time.
He said more of a visual aspect needed to be included for people to easily find charging points, as it would enable the similar kind of motive it gave for public “confidence in buying a petrol car because they have a petrol station”.
Washington said it could be “classic market failure” to spend huge amounts of money on getting widespread infrastructure out there, only for everyone to start charging at home and for the money to offer little investment on return as a result. The new nature of the technology meant it was still a big risk for investors, but one that could be mitigated somewhat if it was done in stages.
A select committee has recommended building a national network by connecting cities together with high-speed charging points that can bring the total time down from what could be eight hours on a slow charge, to just a quarter of an hour. If more of these become available, it could well be the tipping point to get more of an uptake.