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Sydney cars charge to a greener future

30 June 2010 5 Comments
Sydney’s streets are about to get greener as government and corporations dive head first into electric vehicle technology. James Rowe reports.

Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid car. Image: Courtesy of Toyota Australia

Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid car. Image: Courtesy of Toyota Australia

City of Sydney council has opened the country’s first electric car charging station in the Inner-west suburb of Glebe.

The push for a renewable energy revolution in motorised transport is part of the Lord Mayor, Clover Moore’s environmental plans for the city, made into reality in conjunction with key business stakeholders.

“When I was in Copenhagen in December for a Climate Change Summit, I committed to working with the NSW Government, car share companies and others to scale up the purchase of electric vehicles. Today is a first step in supporting a cleaner mode of transport,” Moore said at the launch.

The Lord Mayor describes the current situation on Sydney’s roads as unsustainable and says part of the solution to climate change is electric vehicles and other sustainable initiatives like car sharing.

“Each day more than 700,000 cars travel throughout the Sydney Local Government Area, significantly contributing to smog, greenhouse gas pollution, congestion and noise.”

Also involved in the venture are car sharing company, GoGet along with ChargePoint and Visionstream.

The vehicle part of the charging scheme is the Toyota Prius, which will have an electric motor range of 30km, which is 2km longer than the regular GoGet conventional petrol internal combustion engine.

And range is not the benefit of the scheme, with supporters claiming that one GoGet car replaces up to ten privately-owned cars on our roads.

GoGet co-founder, Bruce Jeffreys, said members will be able to drive the plug-in electric hybrid at the same price as the rest of the GoGet conventional petrol-powered fleet.

“Its great to see a plug-in electric hybrid vehicle in a safe and convenient location with a world-class charging station ready to go,” said Jeffreys.

“We’re looking forward to the introduction of additional electric vehicles into the GoGet fleet as demand grows.”

Car sharing schemes are active in Sydney and allow members to book a car for an hour to many days, and the good news for future car charging customers is that current costs for recharging a shared car will be the same as costs associated with petrol-powered cars.

In the city area of Sydney alone, there are over 3,000 new members of car share companies.

There are also encouraging developments from the peak body representing the automotive industry.

Chief executive of the Federal Chamber of the automotive industry, Andrew McKellar said: “Australian vehicle manufacturers are exploring a range of opportunities to achieve enhanced fuel efficiency and reduced carbon emissions.

“The production of more fuel efficient, low-emission vehicles is a key step to maintaining a successful and sustainable manufacturing industry here in Australia.”

Vehicles on our roads are also improving as a result of public and private efforts, with technology being a key factor, with the automotive industry also pointing to the future.

“Over the coming years we will see vehicle manufacturers bringing more new technologies to the market as they strive for even greater reductions in emissions. Hybrid vehicles, electric vehicles and alternative fuels all have a role to play,” McKellar said.

But change isn’t just happening at the local government level and within the car manufacturing industry. The Federal government, by its own policy has supported efforts in the green car sector, ordering that new vehicles meet minimum levels according to their own Green Vehicle Guide.

And according to the Federal government’s Green Vehicle Guide, Toyota’s golden car, the Prius, is rated highest of any car currently on the road. And internationally, the Prius was rated in the Kelley Blue Book in the United States as the top green car for 2010, achieving the award for its fuel efficiency and additional high-tech options.

Another Japanese car manufacturer, Honda, is hoping to replicate the success of the Toyota Prius, by unveiling its second-generation hybrid INSIGHT car in Australia later in the year.

And while it seems Toyota is leading the green car push, the efforts of Honda are starting to pay off.

In the United States, Honda recently introduced a hydrogen refuelling station at its Research and Development showroom last month. They announced that the unit capable of refuelling their fleet of vehicles could potentially power not only a transport future, but could also power back to the grid enabling other electrical goods that we use everyday to reap the benefits of renewable energy.

However, despite governments and manufacturers working together, experts agree that the future of green cars on our roads rests solely on take up rates from buyers.

High-tech author Ron Pernick points to past developments around green car take up rates as a good indication of what the future holds.

“Since 2003, hybrid cars have gone from a tiny speck on the automotive landscape to one of the US vehicle market’s fastest growing segments. By the end of 2006 there were some 15 hybrid models on showroom floors.”

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