By Clair Morton and Samuel Smith
Published: Tuesday, May 14, 2019
The take-up of electric vehicles in South Australia and across the country has been relatively slow, but is expected to ramp up in coming years. Now it’s a hot topic in politics too.
Recently the technology was thrown into the spotlight on the federal election campaign trail, with Labor announcing a target for electric vehicles (EVs) to form 50% of new vehicle sales by 2030.
While electric vehicles are technically classed as zero-emission, it’s not as black and white as that.
In fact, it’s more eco-friendly to own an EV in Tasmania than any other state or territory in Australia. Here’s why.
What makes an EV a zero-emission vehicle?
According to the Government’s Green Vehicle Guide, an EV is rated as having zero emissions due to the absence of CO2 emissions coming from the tailpipe, or exhaust.
However, this doesn’t mean they’re environmentally-friendly.
While there is a capacity for EVs to be entirely emission-free, it’s dependent on the source of the electricity used to charge the vehicles.
The cleaner and more renewable the energy, the more benefit these vehicles hold for the environment.
State by state breakdown
As each state and territory in Australia relies on different major power sources, the benefits of EVs currently differ greatly from state to state.
A report on Australian National Greenhouse Accounts, released by the Department of Environment and Energy earlier this year, showed an EV in South Australia would produce about half of the emissions of a normal fuel car.
This makes it the second best state to own an EV, based on environmental benefit alone.
Tasmania, whose main source of electricity is hydro-power, is by far the most eco-friendly EV state in the country, with EVs there emitting roughly 80% less emissions than a normal vehicle.
The state that least benefits from the take-up of EVs is Victoria, a state which is heavily powered on coal. There, the indirect emissions of an EV are actually higher than that of a fuel/powered vehicle.
What can be done?
According to RAA Future Mobility Expert Mark Borlace, any government incentives encouraging the take-up of EVs have to be balanced with a solid energy policy to be effective.
He adds that these incentives should not come at the expense of other road users either.
“RAA supports incentives that increase the uptake of electric vehicles where their use has a proven environmental benefit, and as long as they are not at the expense of other road users,” he says.
The approximate number of public EV charging stations in SA
RAA also supports the further development of public EV charging infrastructure – something that is still a barrier for potential EV owners in regional areas.
“If we’re talking intra-city travel, range is probably not a huge issue,” Mr Borlace says.
“There was a report in Norway – which has the highest number of electric vehicles now – saying that around 90% of people charge their EVs at home.”
On average, base-level EVs can travel around 150km on one charge, with some new models reaching up to 400km. This is more than adequate for city driving.
The issue, however, comes with regional driving. Some SA towns are hundreds of kilometres apart, and currently the state has approximately 80 public charging stations.
Australian start-up Chargefox is trying to change that though, as it looks to build Australia’s largest public network of EV rapid-charging stations.
RAA, along with other Australian mobility clubs, is helping fund the new project, which will see stations installed every 200km from Adelaide around the edge of the country to Melbourne, Sydney and up to Brisbane.