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By Giorgina McKay | @ggmckay11
Electric cars have been a heated point of conversation in the lead up to the federal election after Labor announced its plans to have 50 per cent of new cars sold in Australia be electric within 11 years.
This coincides with the Coalition’s climate change policy, which assumes electric cars will make up between 25 and 50 per cent of new car sales by 2030.
The National Roads and Motorists’ Association (NRMA) is in agreement with the government, saying we risk Australia becoming a “first world country with a third world fleet” if we don’t make the move.
“The countries that build the cars we love are overwhelmingly telling us that they are going to stop building petrol cars, they are going to stop building diesel cars, and that the future is electric,” NRMA spokesperson, Peter Khoury, said.
However, public response towards the proposal of electric cars has been skeptical, with concerns raised over the future of traditional cars and their owners.
So exactly how efficient are electric cars, and are consumers right to be worried?
The time it takes to charge an electric car has governed varied responses from the government and manufacturing companies.
Labor leader, Bill Shorten, told the Kyle and Jackie O radio show it could take eight to ten minutes depending on the charge and the battery percentage.
This estimation is appropriate if you are only topping up the car’s battery at a superfast charging station, and are wanting to drive a short distance.
But if you are charging at home, and/or planning for longer distances, it’s a different story.
According to UK electric vehicle charging provider Pod Point, a small car can be fully charged in an hour using a fast charger, allowing it to travel up to 230km.
However, if you’re charging at home, it takes up to six hours using a special convertor or around 11 hours using a normal household power point.
For people living in remote communities and in the outer suburbs, as well as people with strict schedules, this could prove to be inconvenient or inefficient, thereby excluding a part of the population from having access to these vehicles.
Another issue with electric cars is that their carbon emissions can be worse than some petrol cars.
Of course, once more renewable energy is added, emissions will improve, but that doesn’t solve the problem of supply and demand the power companies will face until then.
Electric vehicles will place more demand on the power grid, with the greatest risk posed by ‘hotspots’ of public charging stations in carparks, highways or in places were lots of vehicles are gathered.
A higher than expected number of fast home chargers located close together in residential areas could also create issues.
A report led by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and Evenergi warned that preparations such as swift power grid upgrades need to be made in advance in order to avoid grid instability and energy shortages associated with mass charging.
“The transition to powered electric vehicles has the potential to have a material impact on the electricity distribution network because charges are significant electrical loads,” the report said.
“This will require appropriate management of load and therefore a consciously crafted network architecture – with the ability for demand side control.”
Taking all this information into account, the final question we must ask ourselves is do the rewards outweigh the risks electric cars pose not only to the economy, but to the environment?
The short answer is no.
Australia is one Chinese financial market crash away from entering a long and protracted recession.
Funding trivial amenities such as electric cars is unessential and could place further strain on our country’s economy.
In addition, scientists have warned us for so long now that we have only 12 years to reverse the impacts of climate change.
The pressure electric cars will place on the nation’s power grid—which, as stated, is primarily founded by coal-powered stations—will provide further setbacks to that goal.
Instead of looking towards cars of the future, the government should be looking towards cars of the now.
Toyota and Holden manufacturing plants in South Australia and Victoria were forced to shut down in 2017, leaving its employees facing insecure employment elsewhere, or unemployment in general.
The Federal Government needs to invest their money into local, Australian car manufacturers, rather than international, money-hungry dealerships looking to make a quick bang for a quick buck.
With this added investment, hard-working Australians can continue to keep their jobs and Australian manufacturers can work towards making the cars of the future, just in a more efficient, more environmentally-friendly, and more Australian way.