AN ELECTRIC highway connecting Perth to Bunbury and the South West could be the ideal trial to encourage the uptake of cleaner transport across Australia, according to local environmentalists.
The City of Fremantle is leading the charge to turn the South West into an electric vehicle-friendly region, with a concept to place charging stations at every town between Perth and Augusta.
Currently there are a handful of charging stations in Perth where owners of electric vehicles can charge up, but if they were to venture any further south they would likely run out before they reach Bunbury.
The Capel shire has already worked the concept into its strategic plan and president Murray Scott believes it could present a tourism opportunity for the region.
“Anyone who stops to charge their car is going to spend time in our town and will probably go for a walk down the street to have a look,” Mr Scott said.
“If other shires installed the stations it could create a network and a tourism boost for the whole region.”
Chris Jones, an owner of an electric scooter and chair of the Perth branch of the Australian Electric Vehicle Association, said a network of charging stations in the South West region, including Bunbury, would open up the area for increased tourism potential.
At present most electric car owners charge their cars overnight at home with their own on-board chargers which take about five or six hours to recharge once connected to power but if they wanted to head further afield, without long stops, there would need to be high power chargers available to them.
"You would get 100 kilometres down the road and you would need to plug in to recharge," Mr Jones said.
A network of high power chargers would allow quick recharging, so people could travel, stop for half an hour to recharge their car and continue on their way.
South West Environment Centre spokesperson John Sherwood said electric vehicles could be increasingly powered by renewable or green energy, reducing the use of “dirty sources” like coal.
“Using electric vehicles could reduce our personal transport emissions by over 70 per cent,” Mr Sherwood said.
“People living in or visiting our region are generally committed to environmental improvement, and would give the concept of an eco-highway support and therefore a better chance success.”
But long-time Bunbury car dealer, Barry Rewell Senior from Spencer Motors Mazda, warned that the installation of charge points could be a waste of time and money.
“I don’t think this electric cars concept will ever take off – I think the interest in them has waned,” Mr Rewell said.
“The new cars coming out today are getting more and more fuel-efficient and the prices are extremely competitive – electric cars are too costly and present too many problems.”
City of Fremantle sustainability officer Melanie Bainbridge said although charging stations have been taken up with gusto in the United States and Europe, there was very little infrastructure for Australian EV owners who often suffered “range anxiety” if they attempted to drive too far from home.
Ms Bainbridge said discussions were currently being held with all the relevant South West local governments.
She said the necessary infrastructure to connect the towns on the electric vehicle highway would cost between $2 and $3 million.
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