by Jessica Dickers, Editor, Infrastructure magazine

The Western Australian Government has released the state’s first ever Electric Vehicle Strategy, which aims to increase the uptake of low and zero emission vehicles. The strategy is accompanied by a $21 million Electric Vehicle Fund – the largest single investment in EV charging infrastructure in Australia by a state or territory government. Infrastructure spoke with WA Minister for Climate Action, Amber-Jade Sanderson, on the Strategy and EV adoption in the state.

Can you tell us a bit more about what the electric vehicle strategy involves?

The McGowan Government’s State Electric Vehicle Strategy outlines a suite of actions, supported by a $21 million investment, to assist the uptake of electric vehicles. It includes measures to install charging infrastructure; develop and update standards, guidelines, and planning approvals; and highlight the development of industry opportunities.

The aim of our State Electric Vehicle Strategy is to provide a pathway to decarbonising road transport in Western Australia.

What are the benefits of more EV adoption in the state?

Increasing the numbers of electric vehicles in Western Australia will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality in our cities and major regional centres. Electric vehicles will also reduce our reliance on imported oil, replacing it with domestically-produced electricity.

Electric vehicles present an opportunity to assist in decarbonising the electricity grid. In the future they will be able to provide vehicle-to-home and vehicle-to-grid services that can soak up cheap excess solar energy during the middle of the day and potentially reduce the need for network investment.

What are some of the challenges to EV adoption in western Australia?

A key challenge in Western Australia is the vast size of our state and the need for further charging infrastructure. Measures that can be supported at the Commonwealth level, such as introducing vehicle carbon dioxide emission standards, will assist to improve electric vehicle model availability in Australia and Western Australia.

What infrastructure will be needed for the strategy?

As part of the strategy, the McGowan Government will create Australia’s longest electric vehicle fast charging network. This will allow travel north from Perth to Kununurra, south to Esperance and east to Kalgoorlie. The charging stations will be spaced approximately every 200km or less to ensure that public fast charging stations (50kW or more) are available along the designated routes.

What are the priority areas of action outlined in the strategy?

Key actions include:

  • Up to $20 million for the installation of a public electric vehicle fast charging network
  • A minimum 25 per cent electric vehicle acquisition target for the State Fleet by 2025-26, which will result in the acquisition of at least 255 electric vehicles over five years
  • $800,000 for the installation of charging stations in government buildings to support the State Fleet electric vehicle target
  • Developing and updating standards, guidelines andplanning approval requirements to facilitate safe and efficient electric vehicle use and charging
  • Undertaking a trial of battery electric buses on the Joondalup Central Area Transit Service
  • Providing reliable and accessible public information on electric vehicles – their features, performance, operation and benefits
  • Delivery of industry development actions under the Future Battery Industry Strategy Western Australia and Western Australian Renewable Hydrogen Strategy

What kind of job-creating opportunities could the strategy, and by extension more EV adoption, create for western australia?

The installation of the electric vehicle fast charging network will create jobs in Western Australia, particularly in regional areas. Global and domestic uptake of electric vehicles presents significant opportunities for industry and job creation in this state.

We have some of the world’s largest reserves of the minerals used to create batteries and we have the skills, infrastructure and standards to become a major player in the global battery value chain.

To complement opportunities in the battery industry, the McGowan Government is supporting industry efforts to grow the renewable hydrogen industry, with future potential for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles particularly in the long haul, heavy vehicle sector.

How does Western Australia compare to other states and territories in terms of EV adoption and what advice would you give them?

The McGowan Government’s commitment to building Australia’s longest fast charging network is one way we are leading the nation in creating the kind of infrastructure needed for Australian conditions, particularly here in WA.

This is a critical step and provides key connection points within every 200km, from Kununurra in the north to Esperance in the south and Kalgoorlie in the east. It will go some way to addressing anxiety about the current distance range of electric vehicles.

However, Australia’s access to the global electric vehicle market is constrained by a range of factors, including less stringent fuel emissions standards and lack of fuel efficiency or carbon emission standards.

The McGowan Government intends to work constructively with the Commonwealth, other state and territory governments, and industry to advocate for policy reforms aimed at ensuring Australian consumers can access a greater variety of electric vehicle models at lower prices.

Which other stakeholders will be involved in the implementation?

The Western Australian Electric Vehicles Working Group, chaired by the Western Australian Department of Water and Environmental Regulation, will assist in coordinating the implementation of the Strategy.

The WA Electric Vehicles Working Group includes membership of several State Government agencies; the energy utilities – Synergy, Horizon Power and Western Power; as well as the Western Australian Local Government Association and the Royal Automobile Club Western Australia.

In addition, the WA Electric Vehicles Working Group will continue to work closely with other stakeholders, including the Australian Electric Vehicles Association, industry, academia, training providers, non-government associations and organisations.

What are the next steps?

The charging infrastructure network will be installed and operational within three years. The McGowan Government aims to reach a minimum 25 per cent electric vehicle acquisition target, within eligible fleet segments, for the State Fleet within five years.

We will continue to monitor trends in electric vehicle technology and markets, and will review the strategy in the next three years. This will ensure Western Australia keeps pace with and continues to benefit from the opportunities presented by electric vehicles.

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