Pedestrians, passengers and transport: Together in electric dreams

Both ABB and the EV Council are advocating for overarching Federal policies that incentivise Australians to make their next car purchase electric

Australian states are ramping up their development of renewable energy generation to cleanly supply consumer and commercial electricity needs, and the Federal Government is seeding the success of our potential for green hydrogen production to fuel the country’s industrial and mining sectors and create a clean export industry for the 21st century. Meanwhile, we’re missing a clear and present opportunity to clean up transport.

The existential danger is that we’ll fail to contain global warming within the bearable limits identified by exhaustive scientific research and prediction. The immediate proposition is for cities in which pedestrians breathe more easily, without heat- and fume-belching cars and buses; and that we will delight in quieter cleaner places to live, where the roar of traffic is dimmed by decibels, midnight rev-heads can knock themselves out and garbage trucks just glide by.

As we celebrate the inaugural World EV Day on September 9, we have an opportunity to seriously pause and consider the adoption of sustainable transport solutions, especially at a time when Australia’s CO2 emissions are projected to fall to a two-decade low given the current “environment”.

When there was little alternative to diesel and petrol-driven vehicles, we tended to overlook the toxic load that they impose on each of us. The Victorian State Government calculates that 75% of air pollution in Melbourne is caused by vehicle emissions — carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide, ozone and particulates — which contribute to human suffering from conditions such as heart disease and asthma, and to Australia’s overall death toll of 5,000 people a year due to various sources of air pollution.

The transport sector — including passenger, mass transit and freight vehicles — currently accounts for 18.9% of Australia’s emissions making it the country’s second highest emitting sector after electricity generation.

Now that the electric-vehicle (EV) alternative is a reality, we seem to be hesitating at the edge of modernisation. Global vehicle-manufacturers and supply chains are well on the road to transition. With Volvo committed to producing exclusively electric vehicles by 2030, and Ford transforming 16 of its factories to build 100% electric, less and less R&D is being devoted to cars propelled by internal combustion engines. Oil companies such as Shell are heavily investing in charging infrastructure, readying for a post-petrol world. Aside from the climate and health threats, Australia risks being left with the automotive dregs if it doesn’t manage the switch from bowsers to chargers.

How to electrify and grow new local industries

It won’t take much of the Federal economic stimulus on offer for Australia’s EV revolution to take hold — if the Government waived the luxury-vehicle tax on EVs, for example, it would put many currently available models within reach of the 50% of Australians who told the Climate Council of Australia in a survey last year[3] that they would consider an EV as their next car purchase. In fact, 62% of those surveyed would support a national target for EV uptake.

Adopting this cleaner more advanced technology would also generate many job opportunities vital to lifting our citizens out of unemployment, our economy out of recession. A recent study by EY[4] in association with the World Wildlife Fund, found that investing $240 million to advance Australia’s electric bus-manufacturing industry would double the current bus producing workforce from 10,000 to 20,000 and create the opportunity to export vehicles around the globe.

State-run public transport and vehicle fleets can kickstart Australia’s EV awareness and readiness to embrace this advanced technology, and state governments around the country are leading the way with EV ambitions. In July this year, Western Australia’s government announced the start of Australia’s first electric public transport bus route. ABB’s EV chargers will be installed at Perth’s Joondalup Bus Depot to power electric buses along the popular, free five-kilometre Joondalup CAT (central area transit) route.

In June this year, for example, the New South Wales Government tripled its procurement targets for electric and hybrid vehicles to 30% of its fleet, and committed to tackle regulatory barriers to the rollout of charging infrastructure. In addition, Transport New South Wales put out a tender for expressions of interest to participate in trials that will lead to transition of the state’s fleet of 8,000 buses to electric operation. These trials are intended to provide greater understanding of the infrastructure and energy needs — currently estimated at 5% to 10% increase in electricity for the state — required by such a large electric bus fleet.

As head of ABB Australia’s Electrification business, with oversight of our Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure and Power Distribution businesses, and as a member of the Electric Vehicle Council (EVC) of Australia, I’m acutely aware of both the challenges and opportunities in EV rollout.

Laying the groundwork for EV-charging infrastructure

ABB provides best-in-class EV-charging technology, with 350kW Terra HP charging stations, capable of adding 400 kilometers of range in 15 minutes, installed in Victoria as part of the growing Chargefox network.

These are facilities we need on roads to Gundagai, Kalgoorlie, the Atherton Tablelands, Penguin in Tassie and … you get my drift — to encourage EV uptake and soothe the often-referred-to range anxiety of would-be EV purchasers. Although Australia’s charging infrastructure is still in its infancy, urban areas are becoming better served, with corporates, fast-food chains, hardware stores and shopping centres providing plug-in parking.

Besides, we know that 90-95% of day-to-day charging by EV owners is done at home, and even without solar on your residential roof, charging an EV from the grid is significantly cheaper than driving around powered by petrol! Depending on the price of fuel and power where you live in Australia, the National Roads and Motorists Association (NRMA) calculates that driving a combustion-engine vehicle for 100 kilometres costs around $16.50, whereas driving an EV for the same distance comes in at around $4.50[5]. Even allowing for margins of error, that’s a massive saving.

We’re proud of the future-focused capabilities of ABB’s Terra AC Wallbox, ideal for home charging needs, which was released this year. It makes topping up your “tank” both easy and intuitive. Its intelligent operation integrates seamlessly into the daily electricity-using life of EV drivers, taking advantage of the most cost-effective times to charge, and providing real-time charge status via a user-friendly app.

But EV drivers also need to see the fast-charging opportunities in regional areas in order to buy into the EV dream. If I want to drive out to Central New South Wales to visit my family, where can I charge my car? That’s the question we need to be able to answer for people if we want this transition to work.

Between cities and towns, electricity networks are often very “thin”, and can’t cope with the power required for fast charging. ABB has the energy expertise to orchestrate localised renewable-energy supply, battery storage and grid integration to ensure reliability of electricity and stability of the grid.

There are employment opportunities for engineering and electrical tradespeople to implement and maintain this charging infrastructure throughout regional Australia. Federal stimulus investment can get those wheels turning.

State-sponsored projects to support EV purchase and flick the switch on public transport can achieve near-term improved air-quality, long-term emission reductions and technology-based jobs. Both ABB and the EV Council are advocating for overarching Federal policies that incentivise Australians to make their next car purchase electric; and to support a national rollout of fast-charging infrastructure.

Find out more about how ABB is building the foundations for a future of smarter, more reliable, and emission-free mobility.

[1] https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/air-pollution 

[2] University of Wollongong: Transport is letting Australia down in the race to cut emissions

[3] Climate Council: Australians say electric cars are the future – new poll

[4] World Wildlife Foundation: Australian renewable export COVID-19 recovery package

[5] NRMA: Your questions answered: Electric Cars

Categories and Tags
About the author

David Sullivan

David Sullivan is the Head of Electrification business for ABB in Australia. He leads a technology portfolio that covers the full electrical value chain from substation to the point of consumption, enabling safer and more reliable power. He also oversees ABB Australia’s Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure and is a Board Member of the Electrical Vehicle Council of Australia. David was appointed Head of Electrification in 2016 after leading the Medium Voltage business for three years and, prior to this, managing national sales and account management for the Power divisions. David has more than 20 years’ experience, both locally and internationally, in the electrical supply industry as it relates to Utilities, Process Industries and Minerals. He holds an Electrical Engineering Degree from University of NSW and a Masters of Business Administration from Open University UK.
Comment on this article