By Luis Feliu
Tweed and Byron shires are set to pave the way for the future of electric vehicles in the region, looking into ways of facilitating them by setting up a regional network of fast-charge stations.
Tweed councillors last night accepted a staff report recommending partnering with Byron Shire Council in a strategy to explore opportunities to support low-emissions vehicle use in the region.
The ‘Power Up’ Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Strategy recommends establishing a network of publicly available fast-charge stations in the region to enable electric vehicle (EV) drivers’ full access throughout the region.
The plan is a guide to help attract more fast-charge stations in the northern rivers and guide future advocacy, policy and operational opportunities for the fast-growing electric-vehicle EV market.
Tweed council will also look the feasibility of adding electric vehicles to its fleet once ‘existing flood response demands’ have been met.
Staff say the strategy outlines options for government and business to encourage EV use as part of a sustainable transport future, and is not a detailed analysis of the business case for EVs or EV charge stations for council.
In their report staff gave an overview of the impact of carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel combustion vehicles, which make up more than half of all transport greenhouse gas emissions.
‘Opportunities to reduce the carbon-intensity of transport in our region will help tackle a significant source of emissions, reduce our contribution to climate change and protect our natural, human and business communities from the impacts of climate change,’ the report says.
‘Sustainability staff from both Tweed and Byron shire councils compiled the ‘Power Up’ strategy to help businesses, our communities and councils consider the emergence of EVs in Australia and implications for the region.
‘Renewable energy-powered EVs are considered the best low-impact form of motorised passenger vehicle available. Green power would cost approximately 4c/km travelled to charge a 24kW EV battery at today’s prices.’
But staff said the range that EVs can travel varies from 160 to 300km between charge points.
‘By comparison, average commuting distances for the Tweed -Gold Coast region are 15 to 20km, according to 2011 data from the Australian Government’s Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics.
‘In a trial of 20 EVs in Newcastle, the trip length between charges was 40km on average.
‘Participants tended to charge their vehicles at home or at work, where carports or garages provided access to power.
‘EVs are currently a very small part of the Australian car market, with at least 3,500 EVs currently registered in Australia. An estimated 40 per cent of those are based in NSW and Queensland.
‘Projections for the National Electricity Market in 2016 suggest 6.5 to 27 per cent of new light vehicle purchases will be EVs by 2025.
‘Three of the sixteen models of EVs available in Australia cost less than $60,000 . The high upfront cost of EVs is a barrier to greater EV use, however maintenance and fuel savings can deliver an 8 year payback for EVs with a $50,000 upfront cost.’
In the report, existing charging stations in the northern rivers are highlighted, including the lack of public ‘fast charge station’ points between Brisbane and Byron.