Australia is seeing an increase in options for electric transport (both public and private), but setbacks and hesitation mean that these growing technologies are not quite yet ready to replace traditional fossil-fuel transportation.
Canberra has deployed a handful of electric buses, and plans to replace 10% of its active fleet by 2020, and the first Australian-built electric public bus has been commissioned by South Australian company Precision Buses, but many other Australian cities have not yet caught on.
While maintenance and fuelling of electric vehicles does run cheaper than traditional transport, there are larger upfront costs to purchase an electric bus and develop the infrastructure to recharge and maintain them; significantly more than those of their gas and diesel counterparts.
Electric private vehicles have also seen delays in uptake, with the already-long-term plans for the Australian launch of more affordable EV's like the Tesla 3 and Nissan LEAF being delayed until 2019 at the earliest.
The right-hand-drive Tesla Model 3 had been expected to arrive in Australia sometime in 2019, but an analysis of how Tesla's manufacturing is tracking suggests late 2019 is now “best-case” and for many it could be 2020, thanks to a year of manufacturing setbacks that Musk said had put the Model 3 “deep in production hell.”
The Nissan LEAF was expected to arrive in late 2018, but has now been pushed back to mid-2019. This leaves the few electric vehicles available in Australia far more expensive than their fossil-fuel counterparts, often costing well over $100,000 AUD.
Around the world, electric vehicle uptake is moving faster.
In particular, the electric vehicle market leader in China, BYD, has already taken advantage of the government’s backing of the sector. Last year the company sold 128,000 electric and hybrid electric vehicles, an increase of almost 28,000 from their 2016 sales. BYD buses are currently ferrying commuters in 200 countries.
Other nations are set to follow China’s lead. In January, mayors in the US state of California urged the state’s environmental regulator to introduce incentives to increase its clean bus fleet.
European cities including Paris and Amsterdam are also working towards cutting their public bus emissions to zero.
With predictions saying that electric buses may pay for themselves anywhere between four to ten years after purchase, it remains to be seen whether market tests and predictions will instill enough confidence for Australia to invest in electric transportation en masse.