Disrupting Australia’s transport industry for a greener future

David Sullivan

David Sullivan

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The recent Zero Emissions Day marked a time for us to reflect on what we can better do to reduce harmful carbon emissions and find more sustainable solutions in our ways of life. 

Looking back, Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions fell by 5.3 per cent in 2020, following the reduction in transportation exhaust as the nation went into lockdown mode. However, we are still far from making significant progress to cut its emissions by 26 per cent at a minimum by 2030 – as signed under the Paris Climate Agreement. 

Australia’s transport industry accounts for 18.9 per cent of Australia’s emissions – the fastest-growing contributor to emissions in the country. There is an urgent need for us to relook at finding new ways to integrate more climate-friendly choices in our lives, be it using the country’s public transport system more on a daily basis, or even switching to electric vehicles. 

More needs to be done, fast. 

The current status of e-mobility in Australia

Private vehicles:  The electric vehicle market is making strides towards becoming a mainstream choice in the automotive industry across the world today. However in Australia, electric cars currently only make up 0.6 per cent of the vehicle fleet, far from the 76 per cent needed by 2030 to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees celsius.

Despite some chargers already made available, the lack of charging points is clearly still the pain point hindering the adoption of more electric vehicles. The majority of charging occurs at home, and charging a vehicle can sometimes be inconvenient or impossible for Australians without off-street parking.

More public charging infrastructure has to be made available to the general consumer with more placements needed along major highways, urban centres and at popular destinations to facilitate greater adoption of private electric vehicles. 

Public transport: Different cities are implementing electric bus fleets initiatives at different paces. These inconsistencies with varied transport systems and rollouts on electric bus fleets are also making it challenging for the Australian government to keep track of the nation’s race to its carbon emission goals by 2030.

For example, while the New South Wales (NSW) Government is planning to convert 8000 of its buses to electric, starting with 50 in Sydney in 2021, the Government of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) has already made its move towards converting 90 electric buses on Canberra roads.

How can Australia tidy this up, and what should be done to ensure our cities abide by the climate goals set in place?

With public transport being a key mode to move around the city, it remains crucial for Australia to consider electric vehicle policies for public transport, as well as other shared mobility options. Similarly here, the lack of charging points is holding up the transition to electric vehicles, such as buses and trucks. 

Driving real change for Australia’s e-mobility scene

The path forward to reformingAustralia’s transport industry is to focus on not only building the base for an electric transport system but also ensuring the electric fleet is effective and efficient for the country in its goals. 

Australia needs federal leadership and direction – a national vision for electric vehicles. With a clear vision and policy direction, supported by real targets and investments in infrastructure, more clarity will be given to each city, where clear outlines of incentives, rebates and subsidies will be put in place charting a concrete future of an electric fleet. 

In Singapore for example, the Electric Vehicle Common Charger Grant (ECCG) has been rolled out to encourage the installation of shared Electric Vehicle (EV) chargers in non-landed private residences (NLPRs), where it will co-fund installation costs of 2000 EV chargers. 

A nationwide electric vehicle (EV) charging standard TR25:2016 has also been established for the EV charging system in Singapore, which helps standardise the types of electric chargers, in turn affecting the types of electric vehicles allowed in the country. 

Standardisations in policies will help foster greater investment in charging infrastructure. Having a national approach to standardisation and interoperability will be crucial for Australia to ramp up its efforts for an electric fleet, where the government works with key industry players to identify and solve issues on charging standards. 

ABB in this regard has been driving the development of common charging standards for the last decade and will continue to work with industry and government stakeholders to support and inform smart decisions for a sustainable future. ABB has unveiled an all-in-one fast EV charger, able to fully charge an electric vehicle in 15 minutes or less.

Transdev’s solar-powered buses – Australia’s first 100-per-cent sustainably powered full-size electric bus – are charged via ABB’s Terra DC fast EV chargers. These buses have already taken to the roads in South East Queensland. 

Perth’s Joondalup Bus Depot is also planning to power electric buses along the popular, free five-kilometre Joondalup Central Area Transit (CAT) route by 2022, in collaboration with ABB. To ensure the success of electrification infrastructure, chargers must be rolled out at warp speed to ensure no disturbance to the public transport sector. 

The road ahead for an efficient e-fleet

While the road ahead for Australia to transition to a fully electric fleet may be long, there are countless benefits such as a reduction in noise and air pollution and less dependence on fuel. 

A critical part of this groundwork is the implementation of charging infrastructure according to schedules and routes of buses – anchoring the bus charging strategy for efficient recharging while reducing electric bus operating costs. Beyond keeping public charging infrastructure effective and efficient for Australia’s public transport system, the nation must also not forget about users of private electric cars and ensure charging infrastructure is available conveniently for their usage. 

There is much to be excited about – for example, Asia Pacific can expect upgrades in EV chargers with the launch of ABB’s new Terra 360 in 2022; which can simultaneously charge up to four vehicles with dynamic power distribution and will provide the fastest charging experience in the market – capable of fully charging any electric car in 15 minutes or less.

As we commemorate Zero Emissions Day, we should not save thinking about climate change action on only special days such as this one, but throughout the year. 

The onus to chart the future of e-mobility inAustralia’s transport industry is in our hands, only by working together, across all parties in the larger ecosystem will we be able to reimagine a greener, electrified path forward.

About the author: David Sullivan is Head of Electrification at ABB Australia. His column onAustralia’s transport industry was republished with the permission of ABB.

Main image: dualpixel.photography, www.dualpixel.at.

David Sullivan

David Sullivan

David Sullivan is the Head of Electrification business for ABB in Australia. 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 is a former Board Member of the Electrical Vehicle Council of Australia. David was appointed Head of Electrification in 2016 after leading the Medium Voltage business for three years and, prior to this, managing national sales and account management for the Power divisions. 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. He holds an Electrical Engineering Degree from University of NSW and a Masters of Business Administration from Open University UK.

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