The sun has just set on Solar Citzens’ Electric Ute Roadshow around Australia. Having driven Australia’s first EV ute, the LDV eT60, more than 10,000km through regional Australia, visiting
more than twenty communities, they spoke directly to hundreds of regional Australians and
reaching millions more through social media, print, radio and TV.
In a new 24-page report, Solar Citizen reveals 5 recommendations for accelerating clean transport in Regional Australia.
We’ll get to the recommendations in a minute, but before we do, it’s worth exploring some survey data shown in the report.
Solar Citizens surveyed attendees after every event, reached people from 13 regional communities. responses revealed in the survey outcomes were the barriers that are preventing some form of buying electric vehicles.
The highest, by far at 39.4% of respondents say that Purchase price remains the biggest barrier to adoption. Given this, it’s worth reflecting on Victoria’s recent decision to end their EV rebate of A$3,000, while also taxing those EV owners 2.5c with the Zero Low-Emission Vehicles tax. Other more progressive states like Queensland actually offer the best rebate of as much as A$6,000 to help more Australian families choose EVs.
Second to the up-front price tag, were concerns about range which accounted for 16.5%, followed by 13.8% who were concerned about access to chargers. The lack of second-hand EVs accounted for 12.8% which also points to the high up-front costs.
It was interesting to see that just 1.8% pointed to no off-street parking as the reason. This is regularly raised as an issue for EV adoption, as homes in metro areas don’t always come with parking, something that would prevent overnight charging from being an option.
So having taken Australia’s EV Ute, the LDV eT60 around the country, the general feedback on it was fairly predictable.
Common feedback from regional Australians was that the 330km range was too short, the 1,000kg towing capacity too little, the 2WD and ground clearance not suitable for offroading, and the roughly $93,000 price tag too expensive.
At least 3.5 tonnes towing capacity is desirable – enough to tow a horse float, caravan or boat. If we look internationally, the Ford F150 Lightning, Rivian R1T and Tesla Cybertruck tick these boxes and would be very welcome in Australia.
Now for the 5 findings from the report, the full version which you can read here. These recommendations are being provided to the Federal Government.
1. Implement a strong Fuel Efficiency Standard
We recommend that Australia implements a strong mandatory Fuel Efficiency Standard that catches up to our peer nations as soon as possible.
Our research and the conversations we’ve had make it clear that regional communities stand to benefit the most from strong mandatory Fuel Efficiency Standards; regional Australians pay more at the petrol pump and drive further distances, so the savings they’ll make from going electric (and from more efficient petrol and diesel vehicles) will be more significant than for city drivers.
Fuel Efficiency Standards will also be crucial to incentivising manufacturers to bring in a wider variety of electric vehicle models, including the utes and four-wheel drives that many regional Australians love to drive, as well as cheaper passenger vehicles.
Our conversations indicate regional Australians will be very receptive to a strong, mandatory Fuel Efficiency Standard.
2. Build resilient charging infrastructure
We recommend that all new charging infrastructure with government involvement require charging stations to have at least two bays per location, capable of being used simultaneously.
We are aware of direct government investment in charging infrastructure through the Federal government’s Driving The Nation fund, the Queensland government’s Electric Super Highway, or financial arrangements through bodies like ARENA.
The issues identified with chargers being out of order, being blocked by inconsiderate drivers, or just busy, arise primarily at locations where there is just a single charging station (sometimes with one Type 2 cable and one CHAdeMO cable, but only one of which can be used at a time). In regional areas, the next available charger might not be right next to it, or one suburb over, but 100km+
With demand for EV charging increasing exponentially as EV sales increase, building more redundancy into our charging network is the best way to build resiliency. If something goes wrong, whether a charger fault or an inconsiderate driver, you can simply use the charger next to it. But even if all is going well, you get the benefit of additional capacity for more vehicles to charge at the same time.
With reports of long queues for chargers at long weekends and holidays causing frustration, it is essential to ensure there is sufficient charging capacity at each location.
We also strongly suggest investigating a “duty of service” for charging companies, requiring them to fix faults within a certain time window or maintain a high percentage of up-time annually. And we also suggest investigating a “right to repair” for chargers, such that charger owners like local councils could hire any qualified electrician to make repairs, rather than forcing them to use overstretched
technicians from a specific company
3. Prioritise regional towns for charging 3 infrastructure
We recommend that governments, through whichever programs they control or support, prioritise placing new charging stations in regional towns, rather than on remote highway bypasses.
There is undoubtedly an important role for fast charging infrastructure at petrol stations on major highways. Some people will want to top up their battery and get back on the road as quickly as possible, without deviating from the fast highway, following the long-standing model of truck stops.
However, electric vehicle charging is generally much slower than filling a car with petrol, meaning that drivers will have some time to spend while waiting for their battery to charge – time that may be spent relaxing or enjoying a meal.
Unfortunately, the amenities and food at highway truck stops are very limited. If a charger is located in a small town just off the highway, EV drivers can spend their money eating a more satisfying meal at a local cafe or restaurant, boosting the local economy in the process.
Outside of mealtimes, they can explore the town on foot, browse other retail stores, or visit the local park – a much more pleasant place to wait than a noisy truck stop with traffic roaring by. This also helps locals who cannot charge at home (eg those without off-street parking) to charge while running errands, instead of having to drive out to the freeway bypass.
BP and Ampol have already begun installing chargers at their petrol stations, and it is likely the other large petrol station chains will follow – so it is appropriate for the private sector to focus on these highway locations, while the government focuses its investment on charging infrastructure that also benefits small-town and regional economic development
4. Combine charging infrastructure with 4 solar rooftops
We recommend that, wherever practical, new charging stations be built with
roofs covered in (or constructed of) solar panels.
These will provide more amenity to EV drivers – protecting them from the hot sun or the pouring rain whilst they charge. This is especially important for hot Australian summers when children wait in high temperatures for a car to charge.
Including solar panel generation on these charger, shades will also generate renewable energy, helping transition Australia to a cleaner electricity network, as well as a cleaner transport system.
5. Remove barriers to Vehicle-to-Everything 5 (V2X) technology
We recommend the government move quickly to enable Vehicle-to-Home (V2H) and Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G), and Vehicle-to-Load (V2L) technology.
Several people mentioned the issues they have with grid reliability on remote properties, with blackouts occurring regularly and sometimes lasting a long time. The ability to power their home with their car and keep the food in the fridge from spoiling was very attractive to them. This will also create greater resilience after climate emergencies.
Many homeowners were also excited by the idea of charging their cars with cheap rooftop solar, then selling that energy back to the grid when the sun went down. Our conversations indicate that V2H and V2G technology would be warmly welcomed by regional Australians.