The unspoken concerns about electric vehicles

Once upon a time, Prime Minister Scott Morrison told the electorate that electric vehicles were coming to “end the weekend”. While that was obviously hyperbole, not many foresaw the PM’s about-face to declare them a key “net zero enabling technology”.

In its Low Emissions Technology Statement 2021, launched last week at the COP26 Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, the federal government has placed electric vehicles (EVs) front and centre of its pledge to use “technology not taxes” to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

Although still opposed to consumer subsidies for private buyers, the Morrison government says it will help expand the use of EVs in Australia through building a network of charging stations across the country.

EVs are often touted as being something of a saviour when it comes to reducing our carbon emissions. While it’s true that replacing the high-polluting petrol-driven cars we currently drive is important, EVs bring with them their own environmental headaches that will need to be tackled. Even if nobody is talking about it.

Read: How electrifying your life could save you thousands

Data from the Electric Vehicle Council’s annual report shows 8688 battery and plug-in EVs were sold in Australia in the first half of 2021, which is more than in any other calendar year.

By 2030, the federal government is estimating 50 per cent of all new cars sold in Australia will be electric and will account for around 25 per cent of all cars on the road.

Several leading global car manufacturers have also pledged that their product lines will become entirely electric in the next few years including Jaguar Land Rover (2025), Volvo (2030), Mazda (2030), Nissan (early 2030s), General Motors (2035), Daimler (2039), and Honda (2040).

The ultimate aim is the complete removal of petrol-driven vehicles from our roads. This is a necessary action if we are to achieve the goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Read: Carmakers want to replace excises with a tax on how far you drive

While EVs are certainly better for the environment than fossil fuel guzzlers, they do present an entirely new set of environmental challenges – ones that will need to be met if we are to protect the environment for future generations.

One of the biggest problems faced by EVs is their need for electricity, how much they will need and how we can produce that electricity in a green manner.

A new report from the Reliable Affordable Clean Energy for 2030 Cooperative Research Centre (RACE for 2030) has revealed that EVs could potentially put an additional load of 20 gigawatts per day on the grid by the end of the decade, if they were charged at the same time every night.

This would amount to double the current load on the national system. But the same report also found that spreading the charging out across the day would only result in an increase on the grid of between 3 and 4 per cent.

The federal government’s plans to build EV charging infrastructure were backed up in the report.

Read: Is your retirement nest egg at risk from climate change?

“More chargers are needed to fill “charging black spots” across metropolitan, regional and rural Australia,” the report says.

“As demand for vehicle charging increases, we will need to consider possible impacts on electricity grid security and reliability.”

The report recommends developing “time of use” or dynamic pricing structures to encourage drivers to recharge EVs during the day when availability of renewable energy is at its highest.

Electric vehicles are going to be the dominant form of transport in the future, at least for everyday commuting. The sooner we have the policies and infrastructure in place to accommodate them, the better the eventual outcome will be.

Would you consider driving an electric vehicle? If not, what would it take to get you into one? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Written by Brad Lockyer



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