How Electric Cars Could Help Solve Australia’s Emissions Problem

How Electric Cars Could Help Solve Australia’s Emissions Problem

How Electric Cars Could Help Solve Australia’s Emissions Problem

This great infographic, released today, in true data visualisation style provokes more questions than it answers. In this article, let’s take a look at some of those questions - and see if they can shed any light, systematically, on Australia’s mounting environmental concerns.
Firstly, there’s a vivid visualisation of the rise in emissions across the last 20 years - around 50%. This is a serious issue - the Garnaut Report, commissioned by the Australian Government over the past five years, suggests that the emissions need to fall to around 5% of their current amount by 2050. That line - the ‘Garnaut Line’ - is well adrift of the current state of affairs.
So where can we target our environmental intervention? The data presented in the infographic suggests a good place to look is transport. Across the sovereign state of Australia, transport accounts for 14% of all CO2 emissions. Total emissions are much higher in states than in territories (perhaps unsurprisingly), but transport accounts for a greater proportion of total emissions in those territories. Again, perhaps this is unsurprising - journey lengths are likely to be increased in the more sparsely-populated regions of Australia.
What is more, fossil fuel efficiency savings just aren’t going to cut the mustard, emissions-wise - despite the FCAI demands on emissions targets, the theoretical minimum emissions rate exceeds the average output of an electric vehicle by nearly 120%. So, it’s clear that deploying electric vehicles might provide a route to getting total emissions down towards the Garnaut line.
So why don’t people adopt these wonder machines in their droves and when considering buying a new car? Apparently, the most important consideration for many consumers is the so-called ‘Range Anxiety’. That is, given the limitations of current battery technology, consumers are afraid that vehicles will run out of juice before they have a chance to be recharged. The data suggests that this may be more a cultural influence than a scientific one - even if battery costs are reduced, Range Anxiety may endure.
Within the city of Adelaide, however, it seems that Range Anxiety is unwarranted. According to survey and data, 97% of journeys around Adelaide fall within the range of a modern electric vehicle. The vast majority of those journeys don’t even touch the maximum range capability of an EV.
In addition to this, a double cure may be available: family EVs provide both the low-emission savings of traditional electric vehicles as well as a reduction in vehicle numbers on-the-road. This effect - the ‘sharing halo’ - is in full force in many developing countries, where the price of fuel and length of journeys frequently forces individuals to car-share.
Is it going to solve everything in one go? Definitely not! But, in combination with concerted efforts in renewable energy infrastructure investment, the move EVs when buying a new family car might well help to drive Australia’s emissions down.

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Posted Aug 8, 2012
 
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