E-mobility plays key role in Australia’s push for sustainable transportation

By David Sullivan. Published at May 9, 2019, in The Green Keeper

With electric vehicles making headlines as part of Federal election commitments, perhaps the time has finally come for electric mobility to have its moment in Australia writes head of ABB David Sullivan.

In its third consecutive year of record-breaking emission levels, Australia, which otherwise championed the cause of sustainable energy, has been conspicuously slower than other developed nations in embracing e-mobility. With the country on track to miss its Paris Agreement climate target by 1 billion tons of carbon dioxide, according to a report by consultancy firm NDEVR Environmental, there is no better time than now for Australia to build a sustainable mobility platform.

The implications are far-reaching. At 1.7 percent growth rate, Australia’s population expands at double the rate of the United States and the United Kingdom. This means every year a staggering 407,000 people are added to the Australian transportation system, which currently relies on costly oil imports. If Australia extensively adapts to an electric-powered mobility system, it can eliminate 16 million barrels of imported oil every year by 2030, according to research led by the Electric Vehicle Council (EVC).

The average Australian also stands to immensely benefit from adapting to e-mobility. Apart from saving costs by reducing the dependency on an increasingly volatile oil market, the typically low maintenance electric vehicles (EVs) can help consumers save up to $2,300 every year, the EVC study showed. A lack of favorable policies, scant charging infrastructure and higher cost of acquisition may have kept EV penetration to just 0.2 percent of overall new car sales in Australia in 2018, but the truth of the matter is that every country that has embraced e-mobility has first had to break these barriers of entry.

Indeed, for Australia to move closer towards the goal of zero emission transport, they need to develop a well-established and integrated ecosystem, made up of four key components:

  1. The availability of high performance and competitively priced electric vehicles
  2. Accessibility of reliable and fast charging infrastructure
  3. Grid reinforcement
  4. The integration of renewable power generation

In Australia, there is roughly one charging station available for every six electric vehicles. This ratio needs to change as more electric vehicles hit the roads.

Fast chargers for EVs are popular among consumers due to their reliability for long distance journeys. While the distance or the range covered by an electric vehicle varies from one model to another and largely depends on the battery size and road conditions, some will deliver 200km of range in 8 minutes.

Even the world’s best hardware technology will only go a small distance if it is not reinforced with new-age technology such as cloud computing and Internet of Things that integrate the entire system and make it future proof. For instance, with cloud connected charging solutions, public transit operators can remotely service the vehicles, configure charging points and be able to predict maintenance schedules. Cloud-connected charging stations can also alert electric car drivers on the nearest available charging points.

ABB’s head of electrification David Sullivan at the opening of Chargefox’s first station in Euroa, Victoria on the Hume Highway which features two of ABB’s most technologically advanced high-speed chargers, the 350kW Terra HP.

Australia will also have to work towards making its power grids 100 percent renewable, for a greener, pollution and emission-free future. As a signatory to the Paris Agreement on climate change, Australia has set a target of reducing carbon emissions by 26 percent, by 2030. In just one year, the country’s renewable energy sector has doubled its output and is currently running projects worth over $20 billion.

Microgrid technology is already having a positive impact, enabling renewables integration and improving power supply security with more than 15 solutions across the energy and resources sectors. “Virtual generators” can form a grid sourcing up to 100 percent of its energy from renewable sources, enabling affordable and reliable power whenever and wherever it is needed.

In addition, grid reinforcement, with the use of digital technologies to efficiently manage power supply and power consumption will be essential. The latest developments in high-voltage transmission technology will see it become increasingly important with its capability to transmit more power across greater distances, with lower losses. This technology will help overcome the complexities of integrating remote renewable generation, like solar, wind and hydropower, with conventional thermal generation and bringing this sustainable power to the population centers where it is needed most.

Australia’s inherent advantage with solar and wind resources, and high internet connectivity coupled with the available technology create the potential for the country to be a genuine pioneer in the adoption of sustainable transportation technology. The benefits are clear for all to see, what is needed now is a change of mindset.

Author: David Sullivan, head of ABB Australia’s Electrification business. He leads a technology portfolio that covers the full electrical value chain from substation to the point of consumption, enabling safer and more reliable power. He also oversees ABB Australia’s Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure and Solar businesses.David has more than 20 years’ experience, both locally and internationally, in the electrical supply industry as it relates to Utilities, Process Industries and Minerals.

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