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Graham Franklin-Brown: Electrifying conversion

“electric vehicle charge points happening around the country”

Over the past few months, I have had a revelation of sorts and got religion. Oh yes, brothers and sisters, hallelujah, I have bought an electric vehicle. I am an EV-angelist, on a mission – a tree hugging, pain-in-the-butt, promoter of electric vehicle technology.

With a 60 km return commute, and a reduced need for interstate trips, my partner Fin and I recently looked at our real transport needs, and decided to replace our diesel commuter with a Nissan Leaf.

Weirdly, with the purchase of this vehicle, came the obligation to be an ambassador for sustainable motoring. Friends, family, and innocent strangers, are regularly thrust, wide-eyed with fear, into the new car to savour the EV experience. Trapped behind the wheel, they are forced to listen to my sermons.

So what’s it really like, living with an electric vehicle, I hear you not ask?  Well in a word, it is FUN.

Heaps of self-satisfaction and it runs well too!

The car has heaps of commuting range, instant acceleration, and will easily run for 140km at legal speeds, on about four dollars of grid-fed electricity. Perfect for our commute.

It is spookily quiet, and there are the usual tricksy screens and widgets to keep driver and passengers amused, including a disembodied female voice that tells you how much carbon you have removed from the atmosphere compared to say, an ageing hippie in Elk Snout, Carolina, or perhaps a Buddhist monk in the mountains of Japan.

Also, when the car is charged directly off our domestic solar panels, I put on my smug EV grin and drive to work for free. It’s an irritating type of grin – the same sort of thing that causes motorists to have murderous thoughts towards cyclists and other energy freeloaders like myself.

None of this impresses my partner. Fin just drives the thing. To her, it is just a car, a commuter, and it does its job very well.

Charge station networks

Around the country, the roll out of EV infrastructure is slowly gaining momentum as communities of EV drivers and infrastructure providers work with councils and state governments to set up networks of public charging stations.

In West Australia for example, the RAC has partnered with local business, infrastructure providers, and councils, to build Australia’s first ‘electric highway’ with fast public charging stations between Perth and Dunsborough.

There are also large EV projects just starting in Queensland to install networks of charging stations between Townsville and Brisbane, and Brisbane and Byron Bay.

Closer to home, the Goulburn City Council has completed negotiations with Tesla to provide fast chargers for Tesla EVs travelling on the Hume highway. Hopefully the council will consider the needs of non-Tesla EV owners as well.

Over the border, the ACT government has purchased a dozen Nissan Leafs (Leaves?) for its fleet, and with their commitment to total energy sustainability, it is likely that they will soon be looking for ways to roll out more charging infrastructure.

What’s that? I can hear mutterings. Yes, our filthy coal power companies are still pumping juice into the grid, and will continue to do so for several years. But guess what?  The renewable sector is also powering up the grid, and in rapidly increasing volumes.

While we may not be able to control where our grid power comes from, we can choose who we pay for it. If enough of us pay clean energy companies for the power we take out of the system, the sustainable energy sector will ultimately thrive, in spite of hostile federal governments.

It is happening already, with surprising outcomes. A number of times this year, as the renewables sector poured increasing amounts of power into the grid, and consumers generally became smarter about conserving energy, the price of wholesale electricity in Australia actually dropped to negative values.

This is an energy demand phenomenon that is already becoming familiar in European countries such as Germany, and of course it terrifies our fossil fuel industry.

Think about that, the next time somebody tells you that we have to subsidise the coal industry to keep the price of power down.

Meanwhile, the Leaf has become our first car, and our old gasser waits in a corner of the garage, still ready for that odd emergency.


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