Charging in a new direction

Crs Tom Widenbar and Phoebe Corke with Spearwood’s freebie EV car charger.

IT will take 932 years for Cockburn council to pay for the installation of two electric vehicle chargers at Spearwood library at the current rate.

The chargers, installed in 2019, cost the city $8000 and over the past year have accumulated a total of just $8.59 in revenue, which equates to about 51 minutes of total charging time. 

As a result of the poor uptake, the council has decided to make the chargers free to the public for the next 12 months. 

The Spearwood charging stations run off an alternating current and have an output of just 7kw per hour. That would get a typical EV car just 16 kilometres after an hour of charging. 

While these chargers haven’t sent users into overdrive, a high-speed 50kw per hour direct current version at Cockburn Central is one of the 10 most used EV chargers in Australia’s largest network.

Paid for by a local who doesn’t have their own garage, it’s close to the freeway so drivers can nip off and power up a good 60km worth of driving in just 15 minutes.

Cockburn councillor Tom Widenbar says Spearwood’s chargers are a little expensive, slow and in a poor location.

“When we were charging 45 cents per kilowatt hour for our slow AC chargers, it didn’t make sense for someone to go out of their way to Spearwood and charge there when they could charge at home for almost half the price,” Cr Widenbar said.

But the success of the EV chargers should be based on how often they are used rather than revenue, he said. 

“I think if we make the AC chargers free, we will see more people use them.” 

According to the Electrical Vehicle Council, just 0.07 per cent of WA’s light vehicle fleet is electric, compared to Norway where nearly 75 per cent of all vehicle sales in 2020 were EVs. 

But with a $21m dollar commitment by the McGowan government last year to construct a state-wide EV charging network that number is set to increase.

In an interview with the ABC, innovation minister Dave Kelly said electric vehicle costs would equal that of petrol vehicles within a decade. 

“But you’ve got to make sure the infrastructure is ready,” he said. 

Curtin University sustainability professor Peter Newman says there is no doubt electric vehicles will be the next big wave. 

“The next 50 years will be ‘electric everything’ with solar providing the power as it’s the cheapest source of energy in history,” Prof Newman said.

“Oil will be removed from all economies very quickly now due to electromobility – not just EV cars but electric bikes, electric scooters, electric trucks, electric buses and electric trackless trams.”

But Prof Newman says anyone investing in new technologies should be prepared that they may become obsolete. 

“Options still being developed are likely to go the way of Betamax camera,” he said. 

Prof Newman said state and local governments should fund infrastructure for electric vehicles but most people would choose to charge at home.  

“It’s a major reason for having an EV as you can fill up at home for a dollar a day – try that with a petrol car,” he said. 

Cr Widenbar says usage of the library chargers will be monitored to determine whether more should be installed.

by CAIN ANDREWS

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