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Why the WA Government Should Consider an Electric Vehicle Subsidy

The WA government should look at bringing in an electric vehicle subsidy to encourage more people to adopt the technology and help save the electricity grid.

Electric vehicles are not only great for the environment, they also have the capacity to reduce stress on WA’s energy grid and a big uptake in the technology will reduce power prices for all Western Australians.

I’d like to see the government look at an electric vehicle subsidy to encourage adoption of the technology, much as they did for solar panels around a decade ago.While the solar subsidy was a short term expensive political initiative, it was not a long-term initiative. The big difference is that the subsidy was a short term political initiative,  while an electric vehicle subsidy will have short term and long-term gains.

One of the problems we’re seeing now from that program is that renewable energy is increasing the risk the grid will crash.

An increase in electric cars would actually ease the pressure on the grid in a number of ways.

The immediate simple benefit is rather than the energy from solar panels going back into the grid and flooding it, down the track consumers will be able to use the power generated from their panels to charge their car.

Secondly, right now there is technology being developed to use the EV battery to smooth the volatile generation from renewables. That exciting leading technology is being developed right here in WA. We in Western Australia could become a world leader in this technology, as it is needed here right now, and the rest of the world with larger grids will need it in the future.

The smoothing effect can also do a lot of other things, like help prevent or reduce the effect of the blackout WA had on Friday a few weeks ago (10th January).

That’s good for everyone, but we’re also going to need a stronger infrastructure to support the uptake of electric cars.

We’re still seeing a range of buildings being built without any possibility of charging stations being included at the outset or down the track.

If we’re serious about adopting electric cars in WA, both government and industry need to start making electric cars a factor in everything they build and a subsidy would help with that.

We have some EV (electric vehicle) charging stations in WA but if it’s going to become standard down the track, we need more of them to be fit for the future.

It’s especially important in Western Australia where distances travelled are very high, so charging stations need to be ubiquitous.

Currently, the cheaper EV models on the market start at around 45-50 thousand dollars.

While that’s more expensive than standard petrol vehicles, consumers will save on petrol as EVs are roughly 70% cheaper to operate per kilometre– and those savings will only increase as initial purchase prices come down

If that trend continues, by 2021 the total ownership cost of EVs will be the same as conventional vehicles, and by 2025 the upfront cost will be cheaper as well.

I think we all have the general concept that we could sell electricity from the battery to the grid, as we do with excess solar. But ‘smoothing’ technology might become the biggest money spinner of all, using only a small amount of the spare battery charge.

That’s why we’d like to see the government adopt a subsidy program to send a price signal to industry that will help build an electric car future for the State.

The solar subsidy was more of a government giveaway and right from the outset it was always going to be a big cost to WA. An EV subsidy, on the other hand, will in fact save the government money in the medium term while also earning money for the owners. This is a win-win situation.

Written by Martin Jurat