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Posts from the ‘Locale is Aus’ Category

The big questions about electric cars

News.com.au 9 April 2019

Fears have been raised Australians will lose their beloved SUVs, utes and vans and be forced to drive electric cars. So are they that bad?

Will Australians lose the SUVs, utes and vans they love — to accommodate the rise of the electric car?

Fears have been raised that people’s cars will be taken away from them after Labor unveiled an ambitious policy to support the take-up of electric vehicles.

It wants 50 per cent of all new cars sold in Australia to be electric by 2030 and also plans to introduce a carbon emissions target for new cars.

The plans have raised a number of concerns about electric cars and whether people will still be able to buy the vehicles they love.

So what’s the deal with electric cars and Labor’s new emissions targets?

HOW LONG DO THEY TAKE TO CHARGE?

A lot of figures have been thrown up about how long it takes to charge an electric car, and it all comes down to how big the car is and what type of charger you use.

When Labor leader Bill Shorten was asked how long it would take to “charge it up” on the Kyle and Jackie O radio show last week, he said eight to 10 minutes.

“It depends on what your original charge is, but it can take … eight to 10 minutes depend on your charge, it can take longer,” he said.

Crucially, he added: “It depends how flat your battery is”.

If you are only topping up your car’s battery at a superfast charging station, it may only take eight to 10 minutes if all you’re wanting to do is drive the 15 minutes home.

But charging an empty battery to full power takes longer.

It depends on how big your battery is and what type of charger you are using.

According to UK electric vehicle charging provider Pod Point, a small car such as the Nissan LEAF, which has a 40kWh battery, can be fully charged in one hour using a fast charger. This will allow it to travel up to 230km.

But if you are charging at home, it takes up to six hours using a special converter or about 11 hours using just your normal household power point.

The Tesla Model S Long Range, which can travel up to 480km, is able to use a special supercharger to power up its much bigger 100kWh battery, also in one hour.

But it can take between six to 27 hours to charge at home, depending on whether you have a normal power point or are using a special adaptor.

On Sunday, Wiebe Wakker arrived in Sydney in an electric car he drove from his home in the Netherlands.

Mr Wakker’s car had a small 37kWh battery that only allowed him to drive a maximum of 200km. But he made it across Europe and through Turkey, Iran, India, Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia and across the Nullarbor to Sydney.

His car, an older model produced in 2009, had a slow charging rate, and so it took him up to 15 hours to recharge using normal domestic power points in Australia.

But at commercial charging stations, he was able to fill up in about 20 minutes.

Mr Wakker said he only ran out of charge four times on his world trip and these all occurred in Australia.

“To make it more convenient for long-distance travelling, infrastructure needs to step up,” he said news.com.au.

However, he noted that most electric cars sold in Australia could now travel distances of up to 450km, and this was enough to get by.

“I estimated that if you have a battery with a minimum range of about 300km, Australia is really easy to travel through. You can even turn on the airconditioning and not worry about the energy used.”

Mr Wakker was able to find places to charge his car on plugshare.com but says this often involved using normal power points, which take longer.

“At some point, to really be convenient, you need to put into place fast chargers,” he said.

HOW EXPENSIVE IS IT?

The cost of charging an electric vehicle varies depending on where you live and how expensive your power is — but it’s a lot cheaper than filling your tank with petrol.

According to the blog My Electric Car, the average price for electricity in Australia is $. 025 per kilowatt hour, and it takes about 18kWh to travel 100km. So it costs about $4.50 in electricity to travel 100km.

In comparison, it costs about $16.65 to travel 100km if petrol is $1.50 a litre. This is based on the average petrol car using 11.1 litres of fuel to travel 100km.

At the moment, electric cars are more expensive to buy. There are only four models available in Australia priced at less than $60,000.

However, it’s expected that EVs will become cheaper and will be the same price as petrol cars by about 2025 — that’s just six years away.

ARE THEY WORSE FOR THE ENVIRONMENT?

Critics of electric cars point out that their carbon emissions can be worse than some petrol cars.

This is because 63 per cent of the electricity in Australia in 2016-17 is still being sourced from coal-fired power stations.

However, once more renewable energy is added, emissions will improve.

In his review of the national electricity market, Australia’s chief scientist Alan Finkel noted the uptake of electric vehicles — combined with a decarbonised electricity grid — could help to achieve significant emissions reductions in the transport sector, which accounted for about 18 per cent of Australia’s emissions in 2015.

The CSIRO Energy Roadmap has estimated electric vehicles could reduce carbon emissions by about 15-25 million tonnes by 2030.

Despite its criticism of Labor’s electric car policy, the Coalition’s own climate change policy was projecting electric cars would make up between 25 per cent and 50 per cent of new car sales by 2030.

Environment Department officials on Thursday confirmed to Labor senator Kristina Keneally the Government had been eyeballing a similar electric vehicle target to Labor’s.

CAN THE POWER GRID HANDLE IT?

Electric vehicles will place more demand on the power grid, but experts have suggested this can be managed.

Labor has set a target that 50 per cent of new cars be electric by 2030 and it seems this ambitious goal will require careful management of the grid.

A report done by Evenergi and Australian Renewable Energy Agency, looked specifically at South Australia, but was also intended to inform policy around Australia.

It noted that it was difficult to predict the impact of electric cars but did not predict any significant problem for the grid up to 2025.

However, even without Labor’s target, the report pointed out the EV market would grow rapidly from 2025 and the network needed to be ready for it.

“This will require appropriate management of load and therefore a consciously crafted network architecture — with the ability for demand side control,” the report said.

It said the greatest risk to grid stability was “hotspots” of public charging stations in carparks, highways or in places were lots of vehicles gathered, such as bus fleet carparks. In residential areas a higher than expected number of fast home chargers located close together could also create issues.

The report said “demand management” could address hotspot issues. This could involve incentives being offered for people to charge their cars at certain times when excess power is being produced.

It was also crucial that networks were informed of plans for new chargers and these should also be registered once active.

Grattan energy program director Tony Wood said the biggest problem was if everyone installed a fast charger at home and plugged their cars in at the same time when they got home from work.

“It would be the equivalent of several airconditioning units all being turned on at once,” he told news.com.au.

Mr Wood said there needed to be integrated planning to prevent problems like the blackouts that had occurred in South Australia for example, with the rise of renewables.

“There are issues that need to be addressed, but there’s no reason why they can’t be managed,” he said.

Meanwhile, a potential benefit for the grid, which has not yet been commercially proven, is for electric cars to provide energy back to the grid during peak times. In this way the car could function as a large battery.

WILL WE LOSE OUR BELOVED CARS?

The Coalition is going hard on Labor’s policy, with the Prime Minister Scott Morrison saying the party had declared “war on the weekend” and were stopping Aussies from buying vehicles “with a bit of grunt”.

Energy Minister Angus Taylor also tweeted a photo of an electric car plugged into a generator to mock Labor’s policy.

Despite the fearmongering, Labor’s target for 50 per cent of new cars to be electric doesn’t mean people will be forced into buying electric cars.

However, the types of petrol cars that are available in Australia could change because of Labor’s plan to introduce a vehicle emissions standard.

Emissions of new cars would be restricted to less than 105g of carbon per kilometre. This is the same as the US standard but higher than the European standard.

Mr Taylor told Chris Kenny on Sky News most vehicles in Australia didn’t reach those standards.

And it’s true Australians love heavier vehicles such as SUVs, utes and vans.

Unfortunately, these vehicles use more fuel and are more carbon intensive because they have larger engines.

According to an information paper released by the National Transport Commission last year, the average emissions from new passenger and light commercial vehicles in Australia was 181.7g/km in 2017.

And the top three highest-selling car models in Australia were the Toyota HiLux ute, the Ford Ranger ute and the Toyota Corolla.

Ninety-two per cent of all new cars sold in 2017 were one of 15 makes, and none of these had emissions low enough to be considered a “green” model (with emissions lower than 120g/km).

This is partly because Australia is one of the only developed nations in the world without a carbon emissions standard for cars.

But it can’t hold progress back forever.

Interestingly, carmaker Toyota is one of a number of manufacturers already developing electric and lower emission vehicles. It has a zero emissions target by 2050 for its sites and vehicles.

A Toyota spokeswoman told news.com.au it welcomed Labor’s announcement on the emissions target and supported, in principle, initiatives that helped to reduce the environmental impact of transportation.

Last year Toyota vice-president of national operations Sean Hanley even went as far as calling for politicians to introduce emissions targets but said this should be done at the same time as introducing tougher fuel quality requirements.

“Australia must harmonise its emissions standards with leading overseas markets,” Mr Hanley reportedly said during the launch of Toyota’s new Corolla.

But the car industry has warned it would be unable to meet Labor’s new emissions target using the petrol currently available in Australia. They are pushing for new sulphur standards but Australia’s fuel refineries say this would force them out of business, according to The Australian.

Environment Minister Melissa Price recently postponed fuel standard improvements until July 1, 2027.

Mr Hanley also dismissed reports emissions targets would kill off the rugged diesel vehicles that Toyota was known for but said targets should distinguish between passenger cars and work-orientated commercials and certain 4x4s.

He said Toyota had a responsibility to “take a stand” and was not waiting for emissions laws to be enacted in Australia.

“We can assure you, Toyota is not waiting for emissions laws to be enacted,” Mr Hanley said.

“We recognise all car makers must reduce the environmental impact of their vehicles. The impact of mass-market hybrids is vital, and no-one knows hybrid better than Toyota.”

According to caradvice.com.au, about 40 per cent of Camrys sold in Australia have been hybrid drivetrains, and a new RAV4 SUV will also be available as a hybrid for the first time.

The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, which has been calling for an achievable emissions target for some time, also welcomed Labor’s policy announcement.

“The key is to implement achievable emissions targets, designed in consultation with industry, as part of the transport sector’s contribution to lower overall emissions.,” FCAI chief executive Tony Weber said in a statement.

“It’s well known that Australians love their sports utility vehicles (SUVs) and light commercial vehicles (LCVs). Our market is made up of approximately two thirds SUVs and LCVs and one third passenger vehicles (PVs).

“We need to have a realistic and stepped approach to the implementation of emissions targets.”

https://www.news.com.au/national/federal-election/the-big-questions-about-electric-cars/news-story/ce8761992652d6e454a51f7395c45d84

Labor Government could buy petrol, diesel, jet fuel and crude oil to prevent Australia running out

ABC, 28 February, 2019

A national stockpile of crude oil and fuel would be created if Federal Labor won the next election, Bill Shorten has said.

Key points:
Australia only has 18 days’ worth of car petrol and 22 days’ worth of diesel in reserve
Under an international agreement, importers of fuel should have 90 days’ worth stockpiled
Stocks have fallen over recent years, coinciding with oil refinery closures
Australia imports most of its crude oil and refined petrol, and only has a few weeks’ worth of fuel in reserve.

Stocks have been below mandated levels since 2012, raising fears of severe shortages in the event of conflict.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said creating a government-owned reserve was “an important national security measure”.

“It’s simple — to increase our national fuel security, we need to increase our national fuel stocks,” he said.

“As we’ve become more reliant on the global fuel market, we’ve also become more vulnerable to international risks and uncertainty.”

Major oil companies in Australia currently hold stocks, as do some large consumers, but there are no laws forcing them to do this.

At the end of December, Australia had 18 days’ worth of car petrol, 24 days’ worth of crude oil, 22 days’ worth of diesel and 107 days’ worth of aviation gas.

It is unclear which refined fuels would be held in reserve.

Mr Shorten said a consultation process would be established before the measure was introduced.

“We will consult with industry, oil and gas importers, refineries and with national security experts on the implementation of the government national fuel reserve.”

A number of domestic fuel refineries have closed over recent years.

Peter Jennings from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute previously said a lack of refineries and fuel farms meant Australia currently did not have the capacity to store large quantities of fuel.

“We would not be able to actually keep much in-country stock, because our fuel farms are now so decrepit and falling out of service that we wouldn’t have the capacity to store it all,” he said.

Energy Minister Angus Taylor said the policy could cost “tens of billions of dollars” and Labor needed to explain how it would be funded.

“Will it be a tax on all of us through the tax system, or will they slug us at the fuel bowser?” he said.

“We are not going to increase the price of fuel at the bowser when it seems clear Labor wants to do that one way or another.”

Liberal Senator Jim Molan has previously raised concerns about the situation, and the Coalition last year announced an inquiry into fuel reserves.

Earlier this week, Labor announced it would create a strategic fleet of merchant ships to help secure crucial supplies if a crisis emerged.

The vessels would be commercially operated but could be repurposed by the government in an emergency.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-02-28/labor-announces-national-fuel-reserve-policy/10857562

Australia’s plunging wind, solar, storage costs stun fossil fuel industry

Renew Economy, 29 March 2019

This week the federal Coalition government decided to dump 90 per cent of the coal projects that had been submitted to its big underwriting program, and chose instead a shortlist dominated by renewables backed by battery storage and pumped hydro, and some gas and just one coal upgrade.

The choice may have been driven more by politics than economics, given the project developers were asked for only a broad outline of their proposal and there is an election just a few weeks away.

But when the final detailed tenders come in later this year – assuming the program survives the upcoming election campaign – the economic case for favouring renewables and storage projects should be crystal clear, if the latest numbers from global analysts BloombergNEF are anything to go by.

The stunning fall in the costs of wind, solar and storage – estimated on a global scale – has already put the fossil fuel industry on notice, as we reported earlier this week.

Now, we can publish the BloombergNEF cost estimates for Australia, and they reveal an even more devastating outcome for the fossil fuel industry and their cheer leaders in politics and the media.

The headline number is the cost of “bulk energy”, where unsubsidised solar and wind easily beat coal and gas. Even the highest priced wind and solar is cheaper than the lowest cost estimate for coal, so the Coalition might as well save $10 million to taxpayers funds and stop the feasibility study for the new Queensland coal generator now. We already know it makes no sense.

But the BNEF numbers tell us a lot more, and reinforce the cost estimates produced by the CSIRO and the Australian Energy Market Operator last year, that found that wind and solar, even backed by hours of storage and fully dispatchable, still beat the fossil fuel generators.

The graph above shows the cost of “bulk energy” on the left, and in the middle is what BloomberNEF describes as “dispatchable” generation, which includes what is usually described as the “base-load” coal and gas generators, and onshore wind and solar PV “firmed up” by storage to make them dispatchable.

To the right is what BloombergNEF refers to as “peaking plants”, and it is where it groups technologies like pumped hydro, open cycle gas, fast-start gas reciprocating engines and stand-alone batteries.

These two columns under dispatchability and flexibility deserve further explanation, because when the cost wind and solar plunged so dramatically in the last decade, and turned the tables on coal and gas on the cost of bulk energy, the fossil fuel spruikers have been hanging on to this idea of “baseload” and “back-up” to argue that the “intermittents” are still more expensive.

This week the federal Coalition government decided to dump 90 per cent of the coal projects that had been submitted to its big underwriting program, and chose instead a shortlist dominated by renewables backed by battery storage and pumped hydro, and some gas and just one coal upgrade.

The choice may have been driven more by politics than economics, given the project developers were asked for only a broad outline of their proposal and there is an election just a few weeks away.

But when the final detailed tenders come in later this year – assuming the program survives the upcoming election campaign – the economic case for favouring renewables and storage projects should be crystal clear, if the latest numbers from global analysts BloombergNEF are anything to go by.

The stunning fall in the costs of wind, solar and storage – estimated on a global scale – has already put the fossil fuel industry on notice, as we reported earlier this week.

Now, we can publish the BloombergNEF cost estimates for Australia, and they reveal an even more devastating outcome for the fossil fuel industry and their cheer leaders in politics and the media.

This graph above prepared by BloomberNEF shows how.

The headline number is the cost of “bulk energy”, where unsubsidised solar and wind easily beat coal and gas. Even the highest priced wind and solar is cheaper than the lowest cost estimate for coal, so the Coalition might as well save $10 million to taxpayers funds and stop the feasibility study for the new Queensland coal generator now. We already know it makes no sense.

But the BNEF numbers tell us a lot more, and reinforce the cost estimates produced by the CSIRO and the Australian Energy Market Operator last year, that found that wind and solar, even backed by hours of storage and fully dispatchable, still beat the fossil fuel generators.

The graph above shows the cost of “bulk energy” on the left, and in the middle is what BloomberNEF describes as “dispatchable” generation, which includes what is usually described as the “base-load” coal and gas generators, and onshore wind and solar PV “firmed up” by storage to make them dispatchable.

To the right is what BloombergNEF refers to as “peaking plants”, and it is where it groups technologies like pumped hydro, open cycle gas, fast-start gas reciprocating engines and stand-alone batteries.

These two columns under dispatchability and flexibility deserve further explanation, because when the cost wind and solar plunged so dramatically in the last decade, and turned the tables on coal and gas on the cost of bulk energy, the fossil fuel spruikers have been hanging on to this idea of “baseload” and “back-up” to argue that the “intermittents” are still more expensive.

Not so, says the BloomberNEF data, along with that of the CSIRO and AEMO. As BloombergNEF’s head of energy economics Elena Giannakopoulou observes, batteries in Australia are already cheaper than gas plants in providing peaking services.

In the right hand column, the comparison Bloomberg makes (on a $/MWh basis) is between stand-alone batteries and technologies that have been offering peaking services, namely open-cycle gas turbines (OCGTs) and gas reciprocating engines.

“And we see that there are markets today like Australia, U.K. and Japan where batteries are already cheaper than gas plants in providing peaking services,” she tells RenewEconomy by email.

The middle column is also interesting.

These costs reflect the combined system, wind or solar plus the battery, and include capex, and operating and maintenance costs for the power generating asset (ie solar or wind) and the battery.

The range in estimated costs for wind and solar plus storage reflects the number of hours of storage.

The cheapest is one hour, and the more expensive four hours. The reason why the batteries appear cheaper when paired with wind and solar, rather than stand-alone, is because they source the electricity for charging for free, as part of a combined asset.

“There is no charging cost here as batteries are charging from the renewable energy asset,” Giannakopoulou says. “The storage capacity here (ie output in MW and duration in hrs) is determined by the amount of electricity generated by solar/wind you want to “firm” ie ensure that is available when it’s not sunny or windy.

“These systems can now offer what we call “dispatchability” ie give solar and wind plants access to high value hours when they might otherwise be offline. As a result they compete with thermal plants that provide bulk electricity ie combined -cycle gas plants and coal plants.

“Already, in a number of major markets like Germany, the U.K. and the U.S., new solar and wind-plus-battery systems with, say, four hours of storage sized at 50 per cent of the generating plant capacity, can compete with new coal and gas plants on an unsubsidized cost-of-energy basis.

“In Australia, a wind-plus-battery system with 100 per cent dispatchability is already beating new coal and CCGT plants. And even in China, new solar- and wind-plus-battery systems with a low degree of dispatchability have reached cost parity with low-cost coal plants.”

Of course, not every wind and solar farm will need to have its own batteries or pumped hydro and match each MW of output with an equivalent in storage. Like the gas plants that have long provided back up for the fleet of coal generators, this is best provided on a system-wide basis.

And that is what is going to make the results of the government underwriting tender very interesting. On these estimates, it will be hard to see how the five fossil fuel plants beat the renewables plus storage proposals on costs.

Some of these proposals may depend on a “system” case, and the three pumped hydro projects in South Australia, for instance, are competing for what is for now a narrow window. (i.e. there is probably not room for all three.

But so far the government hasn’t bothered to seek advice of the Australian Energy Market Operator, which has put together its Integrated System Plan.

Even so, with costs of renewables and storage continuing to fall, as BloombergNEF reported earlier this week, they have fallen by between 10 per cent and 35 per cent just this past year – the argument for a new coal generator becomes even more a fantasy than it was at the start.

Finally, it should be noted that the headline on this story says that these cost falls will stun the fossil fuel industry. Actually, they won’t. They know full well that their technology is no longer competitive, as the heads of all the major utilities, and even their peak body, has admitted.

The only people that don’t know, or won’t accept, are the ideologues and ill-informed who insist on taking the Catweazle approach to modern technologies. One day, they may wake up, and they will be stunned by what they see.

Australia’s plunging wind, solar, storage costs stun fossil fuel industry

Rethinking traffic congestion to make our cities more like the places we want them to be

The Conversation, February 25, 2019

Soon after becoming prime minister last year, Scott Morrison appointed a minister for “congestion busting”, signalling the importance he attaches to this issue. The large number of Google search results on “traffic congestion in Australian cities 2019” (9.5 million) and “traffic congestion in Australian cities costing the economy 2019” (8.3 million) seems to support his opinion.

But what if this concern for traffic congestion is based more on “groupthink” than a careful look at the relevant data? What if congestion is not such a big social or economic problem? What if congestion costs are overemphasised?

In thinking about these questions, it should be recognised that there is always an underlying demand for driving, which exceeds the road space available, so building more roads induces more traffic. Congestion soon returns but with more vehicles affected than before. In addition, congestion is likely to increase with rising population and living standards.

Is traffic congestion a problem for the economy?
The Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE) estimated the “avoidable social costs” of traffic congestion for Australia’s eight capital cities at A$16.5 billion in 2015. While the estimate is carefully calculated, there is scope to consider other relevant factors such as:

traffic congestion is usually a problem only for commuters in or near metropolitan CBD areas – for other road users, their average time delay is a relatively minor problem

the BITRE estimate is a small proportion (about 1%) of Australia’s 2015 GDP

more than one-third of the A$16.5 billion estimate is for private time costs that aren’t factored into GDP calculations

except perhaps for congestion charging, avoiding the BITRE cost estimate would require capital expenditure, reducing the net benefit that action to reduce congestion costs could capture

the BITRE estimate gives insufficient attention to changes in travel behaviour and location decisions in response to congestion.

There is evidence that road users, both private and business, adapt to congestion by changing travel route and time of travel, as well as changing location. In addition, the effects of the so-called Marchetti travel time budget (time saved on one route tends to be used for more travel elsewhere rather than for non-travel purposes) does not seem to have been considered in the BITRE calculations.

Using congestion to guide development

While the avoidable social costs of road congestion are arguably not a big deal, it’s pretty clear congestion plays a significant role in structuring urban areas.

Urban planners in Vancouver recognised this some 40 years ago. Rather than trying to reduce traffic congestion, they consciously used that congestion to limit commuter car access to the city centre. They went so far as to say “congestion is our friend”.

A “carrot and stick” approach was adopted in Vancouver. Traffic congestion was used to discourage commuting by car from the suburbs to the CBD. At the same time, complementary urban planning and design policies were enacted to make the inner city a more attractive place to live for all family types including those with young children. High-quality public transport (particularly the SkyTrain metro system) to the CBD was expanded to cover more of the metropolitan area, providing an attractive alternative to commuting by car.

Of course, congestion management can be used to support other land use planning strategies, such as metropolitan decentralisation. Again this would require a “carrot and stick” approach.

Congestion narrative fuels ‘the infrastructure turn’
Urban researchers have identified what has been called “the infrastructure turn”. This is an excessive focus on building infrastructure, particularly large transport infrastructure, rather than on integrated strategic land use and transport planning.

The infrastructure focus is a simplistic response to growing city populations. Importantly, it fails to manage travel demand towards a more sustainable long-term result, such as metropolitan decentralisation like Sydney’s “three cities” approach.

Emphasising congestion and its estimated costs reinforces a sense that urgent action is needed, and supports the “infrastructure turn”.

Planning for the city we desire

A best practice approach to metropolitan planning requires that transport planning and land use planning work together to achieve a desired future for the city. And community deliberation determines this desired future. The performance of the transport system should be measured mainly by how well this desired future is being achieved, rather than by the level of traffic congestion.

While traffic congestion is real and annoying to many (and also a worry for politicians like the prime minister), it’s not a big social or economic problem. Instead, the congestion could be managed – rather than just catering to projected demand – so our cities become more like the places we want them to be.

https://theconversation.com/rethinking-traffic-congestion-to-make-our-cities-more-like-the-places-we-want-them-to-be-111614?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=twitterbutton

a 22-fold increase from the current levels of one in 50 children cycling to school. Current (left) and potential (right) for cycling to school. Propensity to Cycle Tool, Author provided Even today’s best performing areas would see growth. For example, in Cambridge (with the highest levels of cycling across the country), the amount of children cycling to school would rise from 30% to 53%. All areas see substantial increase, even rural and hillier places; and no English local authority would have fewer than 16% of trips to school cycled. At present, child cyclists are almost absent from most of our streets, and this amount of child cycling is hard to imagine. To help planners visualise and plan for growth, the PCT maps cycling to school, along routes, in neighbourhoods, and for individual schools. Some roads might have as many as 500, 1,000 or more children pedalling along them, if we were able to create conditions that prioritise children over cars. “School streets” are one such policy, restricting car access at school times, leaving streets clear for children to walk, cycle, play, and socialise without fear of traffic injury. A school street in Southwark, London. © Will Norman, CC BY-NC Other options are to create more widespread interventions. For instance, London’s mini-Holland programme (in Enfield, Kingston, and Waltham Forest) involved closing some neighbourhoods to through motor traffic. Replacing rat runs with planters, play areas, and bike parking, the scheme is already resulting in an increase in walking and cycling. Health and climate benefits What might the benefits be of getting more children to ride to school? Many benefits can’t easily be quantified, such as the impacts of redressing long-term decline in children’s independent mobility. For children, available space has too often shrunk from whole neighbourhoods, to streets, to front or back yards – with the greatest impacts on children without access to private outdoor space. But some impacts can be quantified. The PCT shows that if England achieved its school cycling potential, the benefits could be huge. The calculations suggest that achieving the scenario outlined above would increase physical activity from school travel among pupils by 57% and reduce transport-related carbon emissions by 81 kilotonnes per year. These benefits vary by primary versus secondary school. Primary school children would see a 9% increase in physical activity from school travel (largely because many walk at present, with distances short). Secondary school children would see a 97% increase. Using World Health Organisation physical activity targets, the proportion of secondary school children getting at least half their recommended physical activity from active school travel would increase threefold, from 13.6% to 40.4%. We’ve got a long way to go before cycling to school is normalised. If we get there, the benefits are great: improved health and well-being, cars off the road, greater child (and parental) mobility and independence. This will involve a shift in mindset, prioritising children’s health over adults’ car-driving convenience. The new PCT layer contributes to an emerging evidence base to help local policymakers plan for, and prioritise, child cycling.

Government News, 25 March 2019

A league of experts is calling for targeted investment in walking infrastructure as Melbourne tests the 20-minute neighbourhood.

The 20-minute neighbourhood is based on the concept of ‘living locally’ by giving residents the opportunity to access all the services they need with a 20 minute walk, cycle or public transport trip.

The term, first coined by the state government in its five-year Plan Melbourne bid for a more liveable city, was explored at the MAV Smart Urban Futures event on Friday, where Duane Burtt from Victoria Walks joined a panel to discuss the program’s pilot project.

The program has the potential to transform resident behaviour while also improving perceptions of the local area, he says.

“I think it’s a new way of thinking about planning and economic development, for the state government in particular but also to an extent local government, and it does offer the potential to see stronger local communities from a number of dimensions –economically but also socially and in terms of health,” he told Government News.

The project is part of a broader bid to create a sustainable, less congested city as Melbourne’s population grows by 125,000 year-on-year.

On the back of the movement is a growing push for walking-friendly infrastructure to support healthier, less congested spaces.

Investment in walking infrastructure has the potential to generate substantial returns, Dr Francesca McClean, a consultant for city economics and planning at independent engineering firm Arup told the conference, with a benefit cost ratio of $13 for every $1 invested.

But she says the economic value of walking has been overlooked in some of Melbourne’s biggest transport plans despite inactivity costing the economy in excess of $13.8 billion each year.

“We’ve seen some major public transport business cases not take into account walking benefit streams,” she said.

Walking is aptly known as the “invisible mode” she says, and is often overlooked by urban-planners as a recognised transport mode when key infrastructure decisions are made.

Walking stimulates local economies

Infrastructure that encourages walking can boost local economies, Dr McClean argued, potentially reeling in thousands to local areas, as well as creating cities that are healthier and less congested and polluted.

Promoting just 30 minutes of walking a day can also help alleviate the costs associated with physical inactivity.

“Improved walkability can improve retail spend and the economic development of areas – some walking interventions can increase the number of people entering shops by 40 per cent and significantly increase the economic value of the grid,” she said.

Property prices spike in walkable areas

Cities with more walking infrastructure also have substantially higher property values, the conference was told.

Jodie Walker, a researcher at the Secret Agent, a property management company, told the event that walkable neighbourhoods are in high demand.

Ms Walker, who has been conducting research on the Melbourne property market for more than five years, said research from the Secret Agent found walkability accounted for as much as 60 per cent of price difference.

Walkability has a “protective effect” on property prices, she said, with the price of property increasing substantially in line with the walkability score of suburbs.

The same correlation applies for suburbs with a significant amount of greenery, Ms Walker told the event.

“Walkable regions will continue to grow individual economies and that will continue to push up property prices in these areas and also rents in these areas,” she said.

An innovative program in Melbourne is exploring the use of ‘nudges’ to encourage walking by train commuters and local school students.

The program, which was presented at the event by director of independent consulting practice Active City, Alice Woodruff, initiated a huge shift in locals’ perceptions of the desirability of walking, and in some areas, the uptake of walking.

The first project, which involved the erection of campaign signs at the train station to prompt people to walk, saw a five per cent lift in the number of people walking at a local station, Ringwood, and a five per cent increase in the rate at which regular walkers were walking to the station.

There was also a dramatic shift in perceptions, with 31 per cent of locals who usually drive considering walking as a result of the campaign.

Another program at a local primary school sought to encourage students to walk to school by incentivising walking through a series of rewards including giving students stickers or a badge at the end of the day and erecting a school wall chart.

The project saw more students walking to school, with 84 per cent of students who were previously walking, walking more and 45 per cent of students who usually drove walking to school.

20-minute suburbs: Australia’s walking-friendly cities

Albanese labels Budget ‘con job’

Railway Express, 4 April 2019

Shadow infrastructure minister Anthony Albanese has slammed the Coalition’s Budget released on Tuesday night, saying most of the Government’s big infrastructure promises aren’t accounted for over the four-year forward estimates.

Albanese on Thursday warned voters not to fall for a “pre-election con job,” noting they would actually have to re-elect the Coalition at least twice before the bulk of the promised spending on big infrastructure projects would actually happen.

Despite making $6.1 billion in new infrastructure promises in New South Wales, Albanese says the Coalition’s Budget only includes $241 million of that over the next four years – or just four per cent.

He said $2.6 billion of promised extra funding in Queensland translated to nothing in the next financial year, and just $313 million, or 12 per cent, over the four-year forward estimates.

And in Victoria, just two per cent of a $2 billion promise to connect fast rail to Geelong is included in the next four years of planned spending.

Albanese accused Prime Minister Scott Morrison of “reluctantly” acknowledging the need to invest in infrastructure, but “deferring any action to reverse his previous cuts and neglect”.

“Overwhelmingly the Budget announcements won’t commence in the next term or maybe even the term after that,” Albanese said. “These are grand promises on the Never Never.”

On Wednesday, the former deputy PM also accused the Coalition of copying Labor in its infrastructure promises, suggesting Labor was “leading from Opposition” on infrastructure.

“Projects including Adelaide’s South Road, the Perth Metronet, the Rockhampton and Mackay Ring Roads, Melbourne’s South-East Suburban Road Package and the Western Sydney Rail are all existing Labor commitments,” Albanese said.

“Projects like Tasmania’s Freight Rail Revitalisation Program and the Gladstone Port Access Road were funded by the former Labor Government, cut by the Coalition and have now been reinstated on the pretence that they are new.”

Albanese labels Budget ‘con job’

Newcastle light-rail service in Australia begins operations

Railway technology, 20 February 20, 2019

The Newcastle light-rail service in the Australian state of New South Wales has started commercial operations.
The service is being operated by Keolis’ Australian subsidiary Keolis Downer on behalf of Transport for New South Wales.

Comprising six stations, the 2.7km-long tram network runs between Wickham and Pacific Park.
The service, which commenced a month ahead of schedule, will offer connectivity with the existing bus and ferry services.

Additionally, the line is catenary-free, involving no overhead wire installations across the route.

Before launching the light-rail service, Keolis Downer trained 14 drivers over four months in the testing phase to ensure smooth operations.

Six CAF-built trams exhibiting a fully accessible low floor design will run on the light-rail network. Each vehicle is designed to accommodate up to 270 passengers.

In December 2016, Keolis Downer received a multimodal transport contract in Newcastle. The scope of the contract included operations and maintenance of the entire transport network comprising light-rail, buses and ferries for ten years. Keolis Downer started operating the bus and ferry services from July 2017.

Keolis Group International CEO Bernard Tabary said: “We redesigned the bus and ferry network with efficient interchange hubs for light rail to encourage more people to use public transport.
“Thanks to light-rail, Newcastle’s transport network is truly multimodal and will make residents’ and visitors’ lives easier and the city even more enjoyable.”

Located north of Sydney, Newcastle has more than 360,000 residents.

Keolis is responsible for 25 tram networks across the world, including three networks that are to be launched soon.

Newcastle light-rail service in Australia begins operations

‘What about the plug?’ Australia’s electric car infrastructure stalled by policy paralysis

The Guardian, 4 February 2019

Why has it taken so long just to move past the bare minimum needed to support what is now an expanding sector?

Most electric car owners will charge at home or at work but one in three will still be reliant on public charging stations. Last September, Sylvia Wilson became the second person in the country to drive around Australia in an electric car. The entire 20,396 kilometre trip took the 70-year-old 110 days in her Tesla S75 and cost just $150.90.

Her success served as an answer to critics who have long argued “range anxiety” – the worry about whether an electric car’s battery will die out of reach of a charging station – is a factor stopping more people buying electric cars. “The reality is that if you can see the lights on or that the kettle works, then you can charge. Even in the remotest places, you can still charge the car. In a way there are more places to charge an EV [electric vehicle] than there are a fossil-fuel car,” Wilson told Guardian Australia at the time.

While Wilson showed what’s possible with existing infrastructure, industry insiders and engineers have been left wondering why it’s taken so long for Australia just to move past the bare minimum needed to support an expanding electric car sector.

Behyad Jafari, chief executive of the Electric Vehicle Council, says the failure to so far provide this infrastructure – from charging stations and uniform standards for components, to the tools needed to maintain each vehicle – is a symptom of political paralysis that has taken hold in Canberra. “Let’s be clear here, these aren’t electric vehicle problems, they’re Australian policy problems,” says Jafari. “In the absence of that, companies are left wondering, well what the hell do we do?”

According to modelling commissioned by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, most electric car owners will charge at home or at their place of work but roughly one in three will still be reliant on public charging stations. With just 783 charging stations around the country in 2018, compared with 6,400 petrol stations, building the infrastructure to support the widespread take-up of electric vehicles will cost $1.7bn.

Tim Washington is a director of Jetcharge and a cofounder of Chargefox, one of the biggest companies in Australia which supplies and installs charging stations across the country.

Washington says most of the infrastructure needed to support the mass uptake of electric cars is already in place, because most people living in a city only drive up to 30 kilometres a day. “Public charging stations are a visual signal to the public that you are now able to charge the car. People are very used to seeing petrol stations and they have confidence in buying a petrol car because they have a petrol station,” says Washington. “People immediately think service station-style charging stations. That’s just not the case. A lot of the charging infrastructure is invisible infrastructure. It’s not apparent to the public eye to where the vast majority of charging stations are. “They’re in homes, in basements, in commercial building car parks, in public car parks – in all the places where you don’t see a traditional fuel source – and that’s all that required for a healthy uptake of electric vehicles.”

The problem for companies like his, Washington says, is that the infant nature of the industry and the way people will use the technology makes it a risky investment. “One of the troubles for public infrastructure providers is that you invest all this money to encourage people to come to electric, but once you invest this money, people will charge at home,” Washington says. “It’s classic market failure.”

To get around this, state and local governments have so far been eager to support the building of new charging stations, but often the support they can provide is limited by their resources and their authority.
Instead, help must come from Canberra which for the last few years has been slow to respond to the growth of the new industry – despite some recognition of its potential. Indeed, one of the recommendations in the select committee report on electric vehicles released this week is that the federal government work with “operators in the charging infrastructure industry to develop a comprehensive plan for the rollout of a national public charging network”.

Last October the federal energy minister, Angus Taylor, announced $6m to support Chargefox in building a network of ultra-fast charging stations along the highways that link Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne and Adelaide, and four around Perth. These stations have the ability to take recharge times from eight hours down to 15 minutes in some cases.

While it was a welcome announcement, the government has so far failed to address other infrastructure issues that aren’t the most obvious – or headline grabbing. An early example involved the humble plug. With no clear standard in Australia, global manufacturers had no guide for how to build their cars for the local market. In some ways it risked repeating what happened at federation when each state mandated its own rail gauges, making it impossible to take a train across state lines in one continuous trip.

“It had been an understood issue for quite a number of years before but then there hadn’t been any action,” says Jafari. Instead, industry players themselves had to organise to decide on a voluntary standard that was later communicated in a technical document released by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries. While it was a good news story for the industry, it should never have been left to get that far.

Now researchers such as Professor Iftekhar Ahmad from Edith Cowan University are looking ahead to stop future problems before they happen. “Electric cars will increase what’s called high peak-to-average demand. When the owners go home and plug in, we’ll see high peak demand during those hours,” says Ahmad. “The current distribution network is not designed for high peak. When you think about putting so much load on the network, the infrastructure lifetime can be shortened and also it can put too much stress on transformers.”

While several fixes have been proposed, Ahmad says the problem can be overcome with proper planning.
“It has to be well planned,” he says. “It’s not currently happening in a coordinated fashion and the perspective from the government [and] the utilities is that there’s not enough cars in the market to think about it.
“It will happen, there is no stopping it. If you go to Beijing or Europe, you will see them everywhere and if enough planning can be done, electric cars have a huge potential to complement our renewable energy system.”

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/feb/04/what-about-the-plug-australias-electric-car-infrastructure-stalled-by-policy-paralysis

IA adds six rail initiatives to priority list

Rail Express, 15 February 2019

Infrastructure Australia’s newest Infrastructure Priority List has been welcomed by the Australasian Railway Association (ARA), with six new or updated rail initiatives included.

Capacity on Victoria’s Cranbourne and Hurstbridge lines, port access at Melbourne, and connectivity on the Gold Coast and in Perth are all new aspects of the latest List, released on February 14. The List is compiled by Infrastructure Australia, arranging proposals into early-stage ‘Initiatives’, and ‘Projects’, whose business cases have been approved by Infrastructure Australia, thus recommending them for federal funding.

In all, the ARA counts 54 rail-related projects and initiatives among the 124 on the new list. “As Australia’s population grows, rail infrastructure will increasingly become the backbone to meet Australia’s growing passenger and freight needs,” ARA chief executive Danny Broad said. “To manage the challenges posed in our cities and regions in the long-term, Australia will need to ensure that it continuously invests in rail infrastructure.”

The list is developed using data from the Australian Infrastructure Audit, and submissions from state and territory governments, industry and the community, including more than 100 submissions in the last year. Not much has changed at the top end of the list produced on February 14. Three ‘High Priority Projects’ have graduated from the list entirely: New South Wales’ WestConnex road project and Victoria’s Monash Freeway Upgrade Stage 2 and North East Link projects. No ‘High Priority Projects’ have been added, and no rail-related ‘Priority Projects’ have been added or removed from the list.

Six new rail-related Initiatives are included on the new list, however.

1. A new Priority Initiative concerns the duplication of eight kilometres of the Cranbourne Line between Dandenong and Cranbourne southeast of Melbourne, which the Andrews Government has already committed $750 million to deliver by 2023.

2. Another new Priority Initiative is for capacity on the state’s Hurstbridge Line. Before last year’s election the Andrews Government targeted marginal seats with a $530 million proposal to build a new train station at Greensborough, and duplicate sections of track along the line.

3. An initiative concerning container terminal capacity at Melbourne was updated to include the near-time landside transport initiatives needed to support capacity growth, “including road and rail access from metropolitan, regional and national networks”.

4. Stage 3A of the Gold Coast’s G:link light rail line was essentially added, listed as ‘Public transport connectivity between Broadbeach and Burleigh Heads’. The Federal Government in November 2018 committed $112 million to the project, and the Queensland Government is progressing with the plan.

5. Transport connectivity between Morley and Ellenbrook is a new Priority Initiative, the third of Perth’s Metronet urban rail projects added. WA’s Government submitted the Morley-Ellenbrook Line for the list in September, and it joins the Yanchep Rail Extension, a High Priority Project, and the Thornlie-Cockburn Link, a Priority Project. Metronet’s Forrestfield-Airport Link was also once on the list, but has graduated.

6. Also in Perth, a new Priority Initiative is to improve the Canning Bridge public transport interchange, to improve public transport patronage and reduce impact on the adjacent road network. Canning Bridge station is on the Mandurah Line.

Infrastructure Australia chair Julieanne Alroe described the 2019 list as the independent advisor’s “largest, most comprehensive and most diverse” yet. “With a record 121 nationally significant proposals and a $58 billion project pipeline, the Priority List will guide the next 15 years of Australian infrastructure investment,” she said.
“The 2019 Priority List provides a credible pipeline of nationally significant proposals for governments at all levels to choose from. As an evidence-based list of opportunities to improve both our living standards and productivity, the Priority List reflects the diversity of Australia’s future infrastructure needs across transport, energy, water, communications, housing and education.”

Alroe noted many of the new projects would respond to the challenge of population growth in Australia.
“Congestion in our cities and faster-growing regional centres not only has significant consequences for the Australian economy, but has direct impacts on communities, reducing people’s access to education, health services, employment and other opportunities,” Alroe said.

Citing the forthcoming NSW and federal elections, Alroe urged politicians to avoid making politically-motivated funding commitments, and to trust the independent advisor’s analysis when making budget decisions.
“Infrastructure Australia is urging decision makers to commit to solving any emerging or growing problem by embarking on a feasibility study to identify potential options, rather than a pre-defined project that may not be the most effective solution,” she said. “Decision makers at all levels will best serve all Australians by continuing to consult the Priority List as a source of informed analysis on the projects that represent the best use of our infrastructure funding.”

One of those decision makers, deputy prime minister and minister for infrastructure Michael McCormack, said the Government was now taking this approach. “Once upon a time there was a ‘build it and they will come’ sort of attitude,” McCormack said when the new list was released. “There were also the political ramifications and implications and benefits of spending money on infrastructure. But the fact remains that we need rigour and accountability around what we’re doing, how we’re doing it and where we’re delivering it.”

IA adds six rail initiatives to Priority List

How your personal information funds share bike schemes

Sydney Morning Herald, 14 November 2017
You’re 25, you ride your brightly-coloured share bike across the city to get dinner and drinks with friends at the same pub every Friday, you take the same route home, and leave the bike near your house each time. That kind of portrait is legally captured by the navigation systems and phone apps linked to the dockless share bike schemes quickly spreading across Australian cities, and is a valuable source of income, especially when they charge as little as $1 per half hour.
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