Australia needs to go electric for our own security

by Chris Becker

While the latest new car sales figure highlighted a systemic underyling economic weakness in Australia, there is a glimmer of hope: electric!

From the VFACTS data by Jason Murphy at The New Daily comes this interesting chart:

Electric-only car sales have nearly doubled from barely nothing to something to talk about, while hybrid care sales have achieved a similar lift but with more relative punch, as over 12,000 new hybrids hit the streets vs. 60000 less gas guzzlers. By the way, this figure only includes dealer sales and hence does not include Tesla deliveries, which bypass the traditional dealer floor. The Tesla Model 3 is just about to hit the Australian road in a few months in a big way, possibly doubling the total number of new electric cars sold each year.

All this while electric/hybrids get almost zero help from government or local subsidies, with the higher cost cars (due to the battery investment) inflicted by a ridiculous luxury tax and charging stations provided by Tesla and other manufacturers at their own cost, while gas guzzling SUVs still get tariff protection.

Contrast to the darling of the electric transition crowd: Norway, where nearly HALF of all new car sales are completely electric.

From IE:

Based on data released by the Norwegian Road Federation,  48.4% of the vehicles sold in the first half were powered by a completely electric engine. That’s an increase from 31.2% for all of 2018.

According to data from the International Energy Agency (IEA), Norway electric car market share stood at 39% in 2017, while Iceland was in second place with 12% share and Sweden rounded out the top three with 6% share.

There is an obvious reason why electric cars do so well and its a combination of policies that both promote a transition towards clean energy consumption but also securing the nation against external threats from the oil complex. This stems from a completely different mindset in how to lead and protect your country, because unlike Australia, the Norwegian government retains nearly all of the profits of its fossil fuel extraction industry and then re-invests for longer term national and strategic goals. Versus pissing it up against a wall on higher house prices and big bonuses for BHP businessmen.

By heavily subsidising electric vehicles, plus the construction of charging infrastructure and of course, producing local electricity using renewable energy, Norway will be insulated from any future climate change crisis or need to tap into petroleum reserves due to an external threat to oil supply.

Say, like if Iran blocked the Straits of Hormuz or China flexed its muscles around the Straits of Malacca.

Australia in contrast, has barely any strategic supply at hand.

From the ABC:

According to the Government’s Australian Petroleum Statistics, Australia has 26 days of petroleum supply, 28 days of jet fuel, and 21 days of diesel.

We are the only member country to fail to meet our International Energy Agency obligation of 90 days’ supply of oil stocks — and not just by a whisker.

While we can’t replicate the boom in oil production the US has managed, there are other things we could have done, and could still do, to reduce our vulnerability.

We could build up domestic stockholdings, protect some domestic refining capacity, and more proactively encourage research and uptake of alternative energy sources.

All of these things have benefits beyond a Middle East scenario, and yet previous governments have consistently refused to factor strategic considerations into the issue of fuel supply, instead preferring short-term economic rationalism.

Indeed. Instead of leading the nation into the 21st century, successive Australian governments have clung to the notion that “she’ll be right mate” while ignoring the tail risks inherent in being wed to a fossil fuel economy. Beyond the feel good nature of driving electric cars, Australian roads should be full of them so we are not beholden to fight wars alongside the US in securing the Persian Gulf or worrying about a potential Chinese blue water navy cutting off our lines of communications to the north.

Given there is no domestic car industry to protect any longer as the economy splutters along, real investment by the Federal Government in electric infrastructure – including power generation to replace coal power plants, electric car chargers up and down the East coast, and subsidies for electric vehicles – would be a long lasting investment in the country’s security and future.

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  1. F#$K Electric they need to keep developing full cell technology….. Electric will never be as good as this technology

    A 2017 survey of 1,000 global auto executives concluded hydrogen fuel cell technology will ultimately outperform battery-powered electric vehicles.

  2. :F#$K Electric they need to keep developing full cell technology….. Electric will never be as good as this technology”

    What? Why? Electric motors with a battery powered via home solar cells is an order of magnitude simpler than hydrogen. With battery costs coming down at about 20% in price a year the switch will be inevitable.

    • yep, tell’em

      at the pace the batteries and solar chargers evolve, in 50-60yrs from now the batteries will be the size of the box of matches. cost $100 and it will contain the energy required for a sports car for a full year… and that’s not all… it will be charged in just, wait for it, 15 minutes on a dark cloudy day but would be able to run your SUV at 110km/h battery neutral on moonlight alone.

    • darklydrawlMEMBER

      Many mining fleets (especially anything undergroud) is already going electric big time. There are a lot of advantages and each year the kit gets better and cheaper.

  3. The troglodites in parliament get too many donations from the FF industry to ever give incentives to electric cars. And on top of that, unless you get the base model Tesla, you pay luxury car tax on it as well, just for that last kick in the nuts.

  4. You can ride your bike to work. But you NEED Diesel for tractors and trucks. There simply is no viable replacement for Diesel for modern agriculture, mining and freight transport.

  5. Norway puts massive taxes on petrol.

    Petrol in Oslo is A$2.58 per Litre!

    How about having the same immigration rate as Norway to reduce pollution and increase wages?

    How about building a high speed railway along the world’s 2nd busiest air route to cut pollution and avoid the need for a 3rd Sydney airport?

    Order every “skilled” immigrant to donate a Nissan Leaf to the ATO.

  6. Make diesel from coal and buy efficient diesel vehicles which run at 4l per 100km…much cheaper than electric

  7. Personally I find Hybrids a much more interesting space than pure electric cars.
    For most hybrids a 1 to 2 liter displacement engine is more than enough especially if the electric system is somewhat over designed.
    IMHO To date most hybrids have under speced electric drive coupled to an overspeced ICE. With Miller cycle engines and some energy recovery mechanisms you can get around a 45% fuel to useful energy conversion ratio.. This is a long way short of the 60% that is possible with the best high temp ceramic Fuel cells but it is very close to the overall efficiency of the most popular Japanese fuel cells (around 50% efficiency)
    With this in mind I still believe that alternative ICE fuels like Ammonia and Methane coupled to high efficiency somewhat conventional engines (Miller cycle) along with an over speced Electric drive is the right answer for Australia. Full electric creates more problems than it solves.

      • I’m in Denver and just leased* the new RAV4… ~20% more powerful than the petrol version and averages 43mpg. The retail price difference (in the US) between the petrol and hybrid version is $800. Who in their right mind would buy the petrol version??

        I think the tipping point for hybrid vehicles will be when a hybrid F150 or similar is released that has greater torque and HP than the existing petrol models, while consuming far less fuel. The hybrid is a much easier sell to your gun-toten’ mates if it completely smokes the gas version.

        * convinced the residual value of any non-electric vehicle will be scrap in a decade

    • drsmithyMEMBER

      Personally I find Hybrids a much more interesting space than pure electric cars.

      Are you not put off by the additional complexity compared to electric ?

      Or is your view of a “hybrid” more along the lines of an ICE generating electricity to drive the vehicle ?

      • What complexity would one.want than couple of hours of compulsory break every 2-3hrs of drive?

        Look up series hybrid where IC engine generates power for electric motor and to charge the batt on longer trips. Youre smart an figure its potential easy

      • Yeah to some extent ICE motors are mechanically complex but they sure pack a punch for their small size especially if it is not the primary drive.
        If the motor is small enough than replacement is no issue. what makes modern ICE motors such a pain in the a55 is all the peripherals and emissions plumbing. IF the motor only ever runs at one speed /load than you can eliminate a lot of the extras and have a simple small 1 liter dropin motor that is capable of generating 100Kw.
        If all of the peripherals need to be electric anyway (power steering, AC, water pump, fans, brake boost……) than the motor becomes a real simple modular unit so servicing is not a major head ache and motor failure is not a disaster.
        Think along these lines and it opens up a lot of scope for hybrids especially wrt so called range anxiety.

      • drsmithyMEMBER

        Yeah to some extent ICE motors are mechanically complex but they sure pack a punch for their small size especially if it is not the primary drive.

        I meant the additional complexity of multiple interacting powertrains.

        But I see from what you’re saying my second guess was correct and you’re talking more about hybrid vehicles in the diesel-electric train sense rather than what (most) are today.

  8. Nuclear for security. It’s pretty simple.

    Plus we’re the one country that actually has the acreage to safely store spent fuel

    • I overheard some boffins from GA laughing about that once. Australia doesn’t have any fault lines but it isn’t geologically stable enough to just throw the spent fuel into the ground. There’s still a lot of investment required to prepare a possible site and seal up all of the toxic waste. Investing in solar still appears to be the best long term bet.

      Another thing I heard was that all of the money invested into cold fusion research is less than one-third of the money already spent on cleaning up the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. It just goes to show that we’d rather throw good money after bad instead of investing in possibilities.

      • darklydrawlMEMBER

        Fusion has always been hopelessly underfunded as it produces nothing that can be turned into a weapon. The main reason for fission reactors (for many countries at least) is to produce fuel for weapons. Electricty generation is nice side line.

        Fusion is awesome for power generation (if we can make it work commercially) but it is lousy for warfare. Guess which one got the money?

      • Solar with large scale from concentrated points is more suited to the way our grid is set up, as opposed to rooftop solar everywhere, but its gotta have big battery support. Even with that, I don’t see how do we meet baseload power requirements without coal. Yes nuclear exists, but there’s nowhere that would want it in their backyard. I would prefer to see sustained investment each year to develop new sources of power and engineers making sure everything works than believing social media talkers.

    • Where would you install the reactor?

      If NSW, you need to build a 3000 km long UHVDC transmission line so that Perth can get electricity.

      If WA, you need to build a 3000 km long UHVDC transmission line to NSW so that Sydney can get electricity.

      It is a good idea to build a 1100 kV transmission line from WA to NSW regardless of the power source (solar, wind, nuclear).

      • Maybe although energy loss over the Nullabor with nothing in the middle makes it a challenge.
        The reason we have Queensland grid connected all the way to SA and TAS is because you have population and generators through NSW & VIC & south east SA, so the only distance for inter-grid transmission is Bass Strait.
        But the Nullabor is a long way. Capital cost and transmission loss makes me doubt that it will happen in my lifetime.

      • we need to put a couple of cities in the middle of the Nullabor. Lets call them New Delhi and New Canton. Endless plains to share indeed 🙂

      • Port August it’s center has cooling capacity near fule sources and best place to store waste and nobody hardly lives there and ready infrastructure

    • It will happen, sooner or later. The question is when.

      Having said that, electric cars…… how can its battery carry enough capacity for air conditioning (or heating in Norwegian winter)?

  9. @Mr Wolf, Port Augusta, Nobody hardly lives there? What’s the source of the cooling capacity at Port Augusta? What’s the ready infrastructure? I am near there & can say Nuclear will never happen near Port Augusta!