Increasing charge for electric vehicles

An electric vehicle charges at one of Moreland Council’s charging stations on Glenlyon Rd in Brunswick. Picture: Sybilla Gross

By SYBILLA GROSS

Monash University is planning to install electric vehicle (EV) charging stations across its campuses in response to requests from EV users.

Monash sustainable development planner Kendra Wasiluk said the charging stations and broader discussions on transitioning to electric fleets were part of university’s commitment to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

“In the next 12 months there will be some electric vehicle recharging stations available on campus,” Dr Wasiluk said. Charging stations  now on campus are outdated and inoperative.

Deakin University is also looking to install stations but with no finalised deadline, while RMIT has no plans to because of their city location, according to their environmental departments. The University of Melbourne and La Trobe University were also contacted but did not provide a response.

Monash University’s decision comes as the Queensland Government announced it will build one of the world’s largest EV highways with 18 free charging stations. It also coincides with the UK’s and France’s decisions to ban all new petrol vehicles from 2040.

Melbourne councils also stepping up

Moreland City Council’s climate change technical officer Stuart Nesbitt said public acceptance of EVs was being damaged by misconceptions and government disregard.

“One of the [major] reasons electric cars aren’t popular in this country is because we’re the only country in the OECD that does not offer incentives for transitioning to electric vehicles,’’ Mr Nesbitt said.

“Wherever these vehicles are successful, it’s because there are incentives. By not offering incentives, in effect we are disincentivising the idea of moving to electric.”

The Tesla Model X in the Myer Showroom in Melbourne CBD. Picture: Jackson Peck

Moreland City Council has been an EV trailblazer since joining the Victorian Government’s trial program in 2010. It has the highest number of council-owned, publicly provided charging stations in Australia.

Neighbouring municipality Darebin is also taking steps to implement a full EV program, with charging stations to be installed in the area for the first time.

Darebin’s energy and adaptation co-ordinator Gavin Mountjoy said the plan extended to the addition of hybrid cars to the council’s car fleet, with the hope it will be solely electric-based in the future.

Mr Mountjoy said he agreed with Mr Nesbitt on the Australian Government’s attitude towards EVs.

“It really needs some top-down incentives, or a coordinated national strategy about how we’re going to transition to EVs, and then local government can play its role,” he said.

But Mr Mountjoy said there hadn’t been enough EV users in Darebin to warrant a council-owned charging station because of the cost.

But Mr Nesbitt said he believed the costs are exaggerated.

“Nobody [is] prepared to pay the extra $13,000 for the plug-in hybrid. But if you sat down and did a business case … and [considering] you need a car for at least the next five to seven years … it wouldn’t matter that it cost $13,000 more – you would recover that in the life cycle of the vehicle. But people don’t look at that, they look at the upfront cost,” he said.

Electric vehicles are more popular where there are government incentives.

EVs still have their limitations

Cost, the limited range of EVs and a lack of charging stations are often the reasons cited for Australia’s slow uptake of electric vehicles.

While improvement of technology has led to the introduction of new vehicles, including the new Tesla which has a range of around 350km, the current models, including the Nissan Leaf, just don’t cut it in the market, Mr Nesbitt said.

There are EVs with better range capabilities, but they are scarce in Australia.

Mr Nesbitt said major EV manufacturers such as Renault and Mitsubishi had decided not to bring their models to Australia, feating they would be faced with poor sales, partly due to the absence of government incentives.

Darebin Council is encouraging local car-share companies to use more EVs in their fleet but have encountered some pushback.

“One of the issues from the car-share point of view is that they only want to provide cars that are going to be used by the community,” Mr Mountjoy said.

Despite the misconceptions surrounding EVs and the lack of incentives, Mr Nesbitt said there had been an increasing number of Victorians who wanted to see more of them on the road.

“Lots of [individual] citizens have written to me to try and put pressure on their own respective councils. We can only lead by example,” he said.

He said he had also been approached by a growing number of other councils – including many regional ones – for advice on electric vehicle programs.