Is Australia Plugged In?

Is Australia Plugged In?


Electric cars could help countries reduce their oil dependency but governments must provide incentives to make the shift, as automakers are planning to bring over 30 new electric vehicles – more than a million units – onto the global market within three years. Where is Australia placed to capitalise on this? Reports from Australia’s first Electric Vehicle Conference.


For more information on the EV Conference, including plans for future events and copies of papers, go to



Ken Hickson’s presentation to the Electric Vehicle Conference was on “What Policies were being developed around the world” for the introduction of electric vehicles. He posed and answered these questions: Where is the leadership coming from, as the world moves in the direction of low or zero emission transport. What’s happening in Europe? Is France taking the lead? What about Japan with its hybrid superiority? What about the US & China? And where is Australia in all this?


To read and see the complete presentation, go to:




Dr Andrew Simpson, Research Fellow at Curtin University’s Sustainable Policy Institute and an acknowledged expert on the development of electric vehicles was a key note speaker at the conference. He set the scene as to the global picture of electric vehicle developments and infrastructure. This paper by Andrew Simpson is an expansion of his presentation to the conference:


The electric revolution is on track


The race to bring electric vehicles (EVs) to market has begun and many believe the impact of this technology will be profound.


Automakers are planning to bring over 30 new EVs to the global market within three years and

cumulative production is planned to exceed 1 million units in that time. Recent market research

shows that over one third of Australian car buyers will consider an EV for their next purchase.

While they may have to wait a few years to access the new products, Australians should at least

expect to see plug-in cars from Mitsubishi, Toyota, Holden, Nissan, Smart and Tesla on our roads

by 2013.


Meanwhile, a local cottage industry is building to fill the looming supply gap and provide

consumers with early exposure to the technology through retrofitting.


The new breed of lithium-ion battery EVs promises full highway capability with the expected set of

features and accessories. Driving ranges from 100km up to 400km per charge are sufficient for a

large segment of the market considering that 90 per cent of Australians drive less than 100km

each day.


A typical 40km commute can be recharged in 3 hours from a standard power outlet, and

considerably faster using the higher-power chargers or battery-exchange offered by commercial

infrastructure providers such as Better Place and Charge Point.


Software vendors such as Google and GridPoint are also providing off-the-shelf intelligence to network the charging stations and manage the scheduling of charging loads.


International standards are being evaluated by Standards Australia to guarantee safety in the

batteries and high-voltage systems and ensure accessibility to charging infrastructure.


Battery lifetime expectations have improved to meet industry requirements although, given the

limited on-road experience, automakers might only provide limited warranties on their early

products. What is also clear is that Australia will need new workforce skills to support all this new



Motoring with electricity at $0.20 per kilowatt-hour achieves one-third the cost of petrol at $1.30

per litre, with the powerful incentive of it being home-grown power, not imported oil – plus there’s

the option of using renewable power.


The industry also expects EV maintenance to cost about half that of petrol vehicles, and the

combined low-cost of motoring can outweigh the amortised incremental cost of electric

powertrains and battery degradation. Nonetheless, consumers may not recognise the total cost

benefits if they get sticker-shock from predicted vehicle prices of $40,000 or more.


Therefore new business models such as battery leasing and fleet EV subscriptions will provide commercial opportunities to shield consumers from upfront costs and realise the overall savings.


Meanwhile, over $4 billion of global automotive stimulus funds will foster innovation and

economies of scale to drive costs down further but, unlike other markets, Australia still lacks

consumer incentives to promote demand.


Policymakers argue that consumer incentives cannot succeed without adequate EV supply, yet those same incentives provide the investment signal for automakers to confidently bring products to Australia.


To avoid being on the tail end of the EV revolution, those policy makers should also consider the

societal benefits of EVs, because they are compelling – far more than converting your car to

LPG, which does get a subsidy.


Each EV will avoid over 8 barrels of imported oil annually, saving $700 per vehicle in our trade

deficit at current prices (and let’s not forget military expenditures in the Middle East either).


The same EV will further avoid 150kg of toxic urban pollution each year, with a public health value

of $400 per vehicle according to the Australian Transport Council. Even with the coal-fired

Australian grid, our studies show an EV on average will reduce net transport greenhouse gas

emissions by 1 tonne each year, increasing to 4 tonnes with 100 per cent green power.


Though the CPRS permit price is $10 per tonne, the estimated societal cost of GHG emissions is

closer to $50 per tonne – leading to benefits from the EV of up to $200 per year. Over five years,

these externalities all add up to over $6,000 per vehicle.


For the grid, numerous studies have shown that there is excess off-peak capacity to recharge an

EV fleet. Smart charging functionality in EVs can build upon the national smart meter, smart grid

and broadband rollouts to shift the majority of charging loads to off-peak and mitigate coincidental

loads during the peak.


For electric utilities, that means more power sold at opportune times – increasing asset utilisation

without a need for network expansion – equalling more profit. Utilities in the US such as PG&E

and SCE already offer discounted EV tariffs to attract EV customers.


Turning cities into energy reservoirs


Additionally, a networked fleet of smart-charging batteries can potentially provide utilities with

low-cost grid ancillary support services and the holy grail of grid energy storage. Using vehicle

batteries to store and return power to the grid – known as ‘vehicle to grid’ or V2G technology –

would perform a traditionally costly function and would do much to support a high penetration of

intermittent renewable energy such as wind and solar in the grid.


To get to 20 per cent renewable by 2020, we’ll need much more of this grid support and it would

be quite a coup for EVs to enable green power in excess of their own requirements for



While there are presently significant regulatory barriers to such a scheme, our studies estimate

that a networked EV providing grid services could enable up to 43 megawatt-hours of renewable

energy each year, compared to the 3 megawatt-hours required to power the EV alone. This

would produce further savings of 37 tonnes of GHG emissions from the stationary energy sector

with a societal value of almost $2,000 per year per vehicle.


When you look at the total potential benefits, you can see why the US provides a consumer tax

credit of $US7,500 for every EV sold, drawing products into that market and away from ours.

EVs also fit well into the reshaping of cities for sustainability. Buses and light rail can also be EVs,

with the potential to be 100 per cent renewable.


Yet despite the need for more public transit, cycling and walking, private motor vehicles will still

be present. EVs make increasing sense in dense urban environments with reduced kilometres

travelled in smaller vehicles. They’re quieter and cleaner too, and the economics of EVs make

sense for community car-sharing.


For transit infrastructure planning, there are potential synergies in clusters of EV recharging

around electrified public transport nodes. Putting it all together may even lead green developers

to offer packaged communities that include eco-friendly house and land with clean energy and

plug-in car.


EVs could completely reshape the way we fuel our lifestyle and redefine the place of vehicles in

our society. Cars are evolving to become “smart electric mobility appliances” in tandem with the

greening of the grid and the concept is riding a wave of tens of billions of green industry and

government dollars invested in electric powertrains, smart grids and renewable energy. This

revolution will unfold rapidly – businesses that are not planning for these changes risk missing

major opportunities.


Andrew Simpson is a senior research fellow at Curtin University Sustainability Policy Institute.

He has over 10 years experience in the hybrid/electric vehicle, electric power and renewable

energy industries in Australia and North America, including two years most-recently at Tesla

Motors in California.






Sydney Morning Herald report (13 November 2009):


Electric cars could help China and other countries reduce their dependency on oil but the government must provide incentive to make the shift, Nissan and Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn said Thursday.


Car makers need backing as they respond to the growing consensus among consumers that zero-emission vehicles are necessary to cope with the environmental crisis, Ghosn told an auto forum in Shanghai.


“With electric power, countries would no longer have to rely on one single commodity — crude oil — to supply all their transportation needs,” he said.


“For many countries that are net importers of crude oil, such as China, that is a strategic consideration.”


Ghosn, who is also president of the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association, said all major makers were investing in hybrid, clean diesel, electric cars and not one felt “they could stay on the sidelines.”


Japan’s Nissan Motor and its partner Renault SA of France plan to release their Leaf electric car, which runs on a reusable lithium-ion battery, in the United States and Japan next year and globally in 2012, he said.


Ghosn added that the alliance was in talks with officials in the central Chinese city of Wuhan and the southern province of Guangdong for pilot projects involving the Leaf.


He pointed out that the US, French and Japanese governments were already offering about 7,500 US dollars to consumers who bought zero-emission cars.


“The Chinese government is conscious of the fact that in order to promote electric cars they have to give something to the consumer, because there’s no way electric cars are going to become mass marketed products unless you give something to the consumer,” Ghosn said.


Chen Qingtai, a researcher for China’s State Council Development Research Centre, said electric car development should be a priority for China, which was last year the world’s second largest importer of oil.


“The cheap oil era has come to an end,” Chen told auto industry executives, academics and reporters attending the forum at the China Europe International Business School.


He said China’s conventional car market was growing exponentially — outpacing the US, with a record 10 million units sold in the first 10 months of 2009.


“For the electric car industry it’s opposite, currently we don’t have economies of scale,” Chen said. “If we increase the size of production, then the cost per unit will drop tremendously.”


Chen said Beijing should present a comprehensive package of incentives to promote the electric car industry.


These could include measures such as rebates, requiring government agencies to buy more electric cars, tougher compulsory fuel efficiency standards and carbon dioxide consumption taxes.



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