The Victorian Greens are proud to submit this motion today. Electric propulsion is arguably the greatest innovation in automobiles since the mass manufacture of the Model T Ford, and now is the time to explore how the State Government should be shepherding a transition of Victoria’s vehicle fleet from fossil fuels to electric.
There have been major issues with the dependence on internal combustion engines for powering vehicles. The damage done to human health, the environment, and the amenity of our cities by internal combustion engines in automobiles has been huge.
- Internal combustion engines are noisy. Our streets and highways create noise corridors that bisect communities. This noise can continue 24 hours a day due to freight movements.
- They cause air pollution.
- Particulates cause respiratory problems, and even lung cancer. Indeed, diesel was reclassified in 2012 as a cancerous agent by the World Health Organisation.
- Oxides of nitrogen create photochemical haze.
- Sulphur dioxide can cause acid rain.
- Carbon monoxide is toxic, and above certain dosages can be lethal.
- They belch out carbon dioxide.
- Transport is the second largest source greenhouse gas emissions in Victoria, after electricity production.
- 64% of transport emissions in this state are from cars, 30% are from trucks, and 2% are from buses.
Furthermore, petrol and diesel-fuelled cars maintain our dependence on imported refined fuels, which in a brave new world of uneasy trade relationships, is a threat to the security of our economy.
Thanks to decades of research and engineering, there is now viable alternative to the Internal Combustion Engine. Electric propulsion has advanced in leaps and bounds over the past few years, such that the best performing passenger car in the world for performance, safety and comfort is electric – the Telsa Model S manufactured in California.
If the were to be a major shift of the vehicle fleet in Victoria from Internal Combustion Engines to electric, the environmental and health benefits would be huge:
- Streets and freeways would be quieter, providing more amenity for our communities, making houses proximate to freeways more liveable.
- Air quality in Melbourne and regional centres in Victoria would greatly improve, with less photochemical smog and particulates.
- Cyclists would benefit from not sucking in fumes when they ride on the cycle path next to traffic.
- Victoria would be doing its part to mitigate climate change.
If Victoria is to get serious about reducing air pollution and mitigating climate change, we need to move away from internal combustion engines.
The second part of this motion explores a number of options for supporting the adoption of Electric Vehicles by households and businesses throughout Victoria.
One such mechanism are financial incentives for owners of Electric Vehicles. This State already provides an incentive for hybrid vehicles, with a $100 discount on registration. We need to look at whether there are overall economic, health and environmental benefits of providing such incentives for electric vehicles.
In Northern Europe, such incentives have included:
- Discounted or free registration.
- Access to Transit lanes, reserved car-parking, free tolls and ferries.
- Import tax discounts.
This Inquiry presents an opportunity to assess different incentives and recommend which best fit this State.
The Inquiry will also assess infrastructure shortfalls for Electric Vehicles, and what role the State Government should play in meeting the needs of EVs. This could include:
- Charging stations owned and operated by the State Government, particularly on key routes, such as interstate highways, freight routes and tourist routes.
- Grants to local councils to support the construction of charging infrastructure within their municipality.
- Policies and incentives for the clean-up and conversion of petrol stations to EV charging stations.
The third point of this motion looks at how EVs can be used by the State Government. I had the pleasure, with my fellow Greens MPs, of being delivered to the steps of parliaments on an electric coach this morning. The electric coach, was built and provided by a company called AVASS, which has its assembly plant in Avalon. On behalf of my colleagues, I’d like to thank AVASS for providing the electric coach, and to the driver Andrew for giving us a short demonstration of what is like ride on an electric coach.
I have to say, it was an amazing ride: it was smooth, with a whisper quiet motor such that all you could hear was the sound of rubber on asphalt. The bus has high grade trimmings, plush seats and large flat screen TVs. It certainly beat riding on the clunky 905 service from Doncaster Park & Ride, with belching diesel and clunky suspension.
And this coach is a serious machine. It may surprise members of this house that its battery capacity is so extensive it is capable of driving from Melbourne to Sydney, or Portland to Wodonga, on a single charge. It is easy to imagine it plying the V/Line coach routes and providing an unprecedented level of service in regional Victoria.
For electric buses and coaches to become a part of Victoria’s public transport network, leadership will be required from the State Government. AVASS has indeed received interest from government. The only problem is, this interest hasn’t come from Victorian Government. The interest has mainly been from other States and Territories.
Last month AVASS supplied three electric buses for a 12-month trial on the Action public transport network in the Australian Capital Territory. The results of that trial, which is being implemented by a Labor-Greens alliance government, may lead to gradual replacement of the ACT’s public bus fleet with electric buses as the diesel and natural gas buses are retired.
In Adelaide, the free shuttle bus route in the Central Business District is serviced by an electric bus recharged with solar panels on the Central Bus Station’s roof.
In contrast, there has been no trial of electric buses in Melbourne or on the V/Line coach network. Victoria should be leading the way on public transport innovation in Australia; instead it is lagging yet again.
This Inquiry will provide an opportunity to look out how the public transport bus and coach network can switch to electric.
Beyond public transport, the Government sector in Victoria is one of the largest purchasers of fleet vehicles for its departments, schools, hospitals and emergency services. By instituting a policy of transitioning to EVs for government fleets, this will provide a shot-in the arm for the nascent EV retail industry in Victoria, and business and family purchases more confidence in the stability of the market, particularly for maintenance and warranty issues.
The fourth point of this motion calls for the Inquiry to address the manufacturing of EVs in Victoria. Every member in this chamber would be aware of the demise of car manufacturing that we are watching in real time and the toll that has taken on this State. Thousands of jobs have been lost in areas where there are already above-average levels of unemployment. Families that once depended on a breadwinner with a steady, well-paying job are now facing uncertainty.
Electric vehicles present the opportunity to turn a new chapter in automobile manufacturing in Victoria. We already have an example of the AVASS bus and coach assembly plant. This assembly plant, if at full capacity, has the potential to create a lot of demand for chassis manufacture, motor design, windscreen and window glass, wheel hubs and parts. This presents an amazing opportunity to keep related industries thriving in Victoria, and maybe even lead to an advanced manufacturing sector in places like Geelong, Avalon, Ballarat and Dandenong.
The last point of this motion addresses the potential of EVs in car sharing. Car sharing is rapidly growing in Melbourne, with its highest density in the inner city suburbs, but with car share pods gradually moving further out. Many people are giving up their cars, as they can get the convenience of car ownership, without having all the hassles and expense, through car sharing. Car sharing has proven to reduce dependence on automobiles, thereby creating more space on our roads, and freeing up carparks.
Electric Vehicles and car sharing are a great combination. Charging stations can be built adjacent to car share pods, such that the car is plugged in anytime it is not been used. There is never a need to take it to a petrol station; the car’s charge can be remotely monitored such that it is only available for use if it has sufficient charge. Electrifying car sharing is the logical next step to further improve the holistic environmental benefits of car sharing.
I implore this House to support this motion and instigate this Inquiry. We build Electric Buses here, so why don’t we use them here.