Australia Building Electric Highway Even Though Nobody There Owns An Electric Car

Kangaroo sign Australia, Image: bluedeviation/Flickr

Australia’s Queensland Cabinet announced it would be constructing one of the longest electric highways in the world this week. The expanse of roadway already exists on the country’s eastern seaboard, but the $3 million plan intends to add an 18-station network between Gold Coast and Cairns City. While EV owners might not want to hazard into the outback just yet, coastal drivers will have some peace of mind traveling between Australia’s major towns.

The fast-charging network plans to provide free power for at least a year in what the environment minister, Steven Miles, explained was a bid to increase the number of electric cars on Queensland roads. 

“This project is ambitious, but we want as many people as possible on board the electric vehicle revolution, as part of our transition to a low emissions future,” Miles said during the project’s announcement.

Australia intends to finish its “electric highway” within six months and compared it to the scale of California’a own “west coast green highway.” Although, there are some massive differences between the U.S. and the Land Down Under in terms of EV ownership. Australians have largely shunned electric vehicles. It’s estimated that total EV sales for the country, between 2010 and 2017 haven’t yet surpassed 5,000 units, despite the growing popularity of non-plug-in hybrids. Meanwhile, the State of California accounted for almost 250,000 plug-in deliveries between 2011 and the tail-end of 2016.

Granted, California does possess a higher overall population and an enviable charging network. But even less populous U.S. states, like Florida, surpass Australian EV sales by a margin of over 4-to-1. And there is worse news, Aussie plug-in sales have suffered a 90 percent drop after Nissan and Mitsubishi pulled the Outlander P-HEV and Nissan Leaf off of the market last year.

“The most recent Queensland Household Energy Survey showed that 50% of Queenslanders will consider an electric vehicle, plug-in hybrid or regenerative braking hybrid, when purchasing a new car in the next two years and that majority said improvements to public fast-charging infrastructure would further tempt them into purchasing an EV,” Miles stated. “The future truly is electric.”

It, assuredly, could be. But, with so few PEV options within the Australian marketplace, it’s difficult to imagine consumers actually succumbing to the implied temptation right away. With Japan’s heaviest hitters off the table, consumers are left with the Mercedes-Benz C350e and Tesla Model S as the country’s most popular options. But neither offer the affordability of Chevrolet’s Bolt, which isn’t expected to make it Australia anytime soon.

However, this hasn’t stopped the plan from receiving praise from the government or automakers hoping to sell EVs — like Audi, BMW, Hyundai, Jaguar Land Rover, Mercedes-Benz and Mitsubishi.

Behyad Jafari, chair of Australia’s Electric Vehicle Council said the Queensland Government was to be commended for its national leadership and supporting the electric vehicle industry. “I encourage all governments across Australia to follow suit, particularly as this support will help to provide motorists with increased choice of cars that are cheaper and healthier to operate.”

[Image: Bluedeviation/Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)]

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