Monday, February 12, 2007

WA to trial fifty Zero Emission Vehicles

Friday, 9 February 2007 - Back in the 1950s, an electric car was among the fastest, most efficient cars ever built. It ran on electricity and produced no carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Almost 60 years on, as peak oil approaches and with CO2 vehicle emissions contributing to rapid global warming, electric cars are coming back. Despite strong community support, Australia has been slower on the uptake. But tow the Western australian government is calling for a trial of zero emission vehicles..
In an announcement today, the WA Government says it will allow a trial of 50 small zero emission vehicles (ZEV-lites), making it the first and only to do so - provided the Federal Government permits the cars to be imported into Australia.

Planning and Infrastructure Minister Alannah MacTiernan today said: "These types of electric vehicles are already a common sight on London’s streets where they also attract benefits such as free parking, on street recharging points, and exemption from the congestion charge".

With a maximum speed of around 70km/h and a range of 100km, the vehicles have very low running costs and when recharged using renewable energy such as GreenPower, produce no particulate or greenhouse gas emissions. Even with ordinary electrical energy it is still far more greenhouse friendly than any other low emission vehicle on the road. In the past, safety concerns had been raised as the reason for blocking the use of these vehicles in Australia.

However, French Government figures show that ZEV-lites had lower accident and fatality rates than cars, motorbikes and mopeds. The WA trial would enable a limited number of ZEV-lites to be closely monitored to assess the vehicle’s performance under Australian road conditions. The Federal Government had previously declined to issue import approvals for ZEV-lites claiming that no State had showed an interest in registering the vehicles.

"We urge the Federal Government to reconsider this decision given that WA has confirmed it is prepared to shoulder the burden of managing the trial of the vehicles," the Minister said. Ms MacTiernan said that a combination of climate change and peak oil would require significant changes in the transport sector and that ZEV-lites could offer a versatile and environmentally sound transport option.

The Australian Greens welcomed the WA government's decision to trial 50 Reva electric cars and called on the Howard government to issue an import permit. Greens transport spokesperson Senator Christine Milne said the electric car could play an important role in helping to reduce the growing greenhouse emissions from the transport sector but the "Howard government had so far thwarted a trial. The WA government is to be congratulated for taking on the Howard government over the use of the Reva electric car on Australia's roads," Senator Milne said.

She said the vehicles are approved for use on public roads in many countries but the Howard government has frustrated the efforts of people to import the Reva and has refused to create an appropriate vehicle licensing category for the electric car.

"Instead of promoting fuel guzzling V8 vehicles as Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane is, the federal government should help redirect Australia's automotive manufacturers towards producing vehicles with improved environmental performance, thereby ensuring a long-term future for the industry," said Senator Milne

In November 2006, the South Australian-based owners of an electric car that had been destined to be crushed were given a reprieve by the Western Australian Government. The Solar Shop imported the Reva Electric car a year ago, but has been unable to comply with Australian Design Rules and feared they would have to destroy it to avoid a fine.

The Western Australian Government wrote to the Federal Government to ask for an extension on their import approval certificate. Solar Shop manager Adrian Ferraretto says, while he is happy the car will not be crushed, they were hoping for a different outcome from the Federal Government.

"They've been asking us to treat it as a conventional car as opposed to the category to which it was designed to, which is a heavy quadricycle," he said last year. "The reason why we have issues with this is because pretty much every other country in the world has a light vehicle category and pretty much every electrical vehicle in the world falls within this category, so if we don't have a light vehicle category, we don't have electric vehicles in Australia."

The Federal Government says the calls for a new category are unrealistic.

In November 2006 Greens WA MLC Giz Watson said it was time the Federal Government recognised the need to establish a new category and suitable safety standards to facilitate the rollout of clean green cars in Australia.
CAR makers are dragging the chain on introducing alternative-fuel vehicles into Australia, despite high oil prices and growing consumer demand.

Despite countinuosly higher petrol prices, Australian car makers have no immediate plans to go greener. American parents of Ford and Holden offer several alternative-fuel options in the US, where hybrids made up 1.2 per cent of vehicle sales. Environment groups are calling for government intervention to ensure the introduction of cleaner, more economical vehicles.

"We would buy them if they were here," Jeff Angel of the Total Environment Centre said. "The more they produce, the cheaper these cars are going to become. Car manufacturers should start becoming part of the solution."

WA calls for trial of zero emission vehicles - Media Statement
Greens welcome Reva car decision - Media Release
Top car makers stall on hybrids in Australia - SMH
WA intervenes to save electric car - ABC News. November 6, 2006
Road, safety chiefs 'ganged up' to stall electric cars - Sydney Morning Herald, 4 October 2006
Who killed the electric car? - Giz Watson
REVA Australia website
Start your (electric) engines: the race to revive the electric car is on - WWF
Movie: Who Killed the Electric Car
Reva wins ‘Most Ethical car’ award in the UK - ENS News

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