ReNew 131 Editorial – Electric avenues to more sustainable transport

ReNew Editor, Robyn Deed

Planning this issue started with many conversations about electric vehicles (EVs).  “I saw an ad for one the other day,” someone said, “but I can’t remember what it was called.” Someone else said, “Are there any available in Australia?” Several someones asked, “Do you mean the Prius?” Full marks to Toyota for good marketing of the Prius (even though it’s a hybrid rather than an EV), but Australia now has several electric or plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) to choose from.

It is early days, as the sales show (see our article on the EV market in Australia), but perhaps, just maybe, we are at a turning point. It’s happened in the USA, with sales of EVs and PHEVs accelerating since 2011. Our author suggests that perhaps 2015 will be the year things start to change here.

In the USA, and even on a small-scale here, the idea of smart charging (with the timing of EV charging controlled by the grid to avoid peak times) is moving from research to trials. Using your EV as storage is also getting attention, for providing emergency power or grid backup. Read about these in ‘Your EV’s Other Life’.

The latest in our ‘Know your renewables’ series focuses on EVs too, getting under the bonnet to explain how they work, behind the wheel to see how they drive, and discussing the nitty gritty of how to manage charging and maintenance (in answer to the latter—easily, with much less maintenance required than a standard ‘fossil’ car, and many EVs enabled for remote support via their internet connections).

We also talk to owners of electric cars, motorbikes and e-bikes to hear their stories of how they came to the world of EVs. Some have had the ‘EV grin’ forEVer, but others are new to the idea. For all of them, it’s part of a wish to reduce their transport-related emissions; for many, there’s also joy in the new technology (Tesla Model S owners put your hands up); for one, it’s been on his ‘bucket list’ for a while!
Of course, better public transport, better planning and bike-friendly roads can go a long way to reducing our emissions as well. We also look at electrifying some of these options, with electric buses, motorbikes and bikes. We even look at electrifying planes.

We don’t discuss in detail here the question of the difference in emissions between electric vehicles and petrol-powered cars, covered previously in ReNew 120. That equation rests on how dirty the electricity generation is, but the balance can be swung towards the green through solar PV and GreenPower, whereas petrol-power can never be made clean.

It’s not just about EVs this issue. We also cover a household living their off-grid dream with a bike shop, holiday rental and home in WA, examine solar financing, shine a light on the problems commonly found in energy assessments and cover three DIY projects, including the intriguing open-source Open Sprinkler water reticulation controller. Plus our buyers guide this issue is an update of our very popular guide on batteries for household renewable energy systems. Enjoy!

Robyn Deed
ReNew Editor

 

ATA CEO’s Report

One of the most rewarding aspects of working at the ATA is being able to make someone’s day. Like when we give advice to a person who’s doing something sustainable in their home.

Recently we received some lovely feedback from Lauren, an ATA member who was looking to install an off-grid solar system on her property in regional Victoria. She had spent months researching and getting quotes from installers but was unable to make a decision on the best option. After a one-hour consultation with one of our experts, she has gone ahead and bought a system. Lauren said: “You quite quickly helped me to crystallise my needs in just one hour, something I had been chipping away at for over four months. If I had my time again I would have signed up, become a member and made an appointment with you straight away.”

Empowering people with quality information so they can make informed choices is the ATA’s mission. We achieve it in a variety of ways including the ATA member and consultancy advice service, information in ReNew and Sanctuary magazines, e-books and other online resources such as the Tankulator (tankulator.ata.org.au) and Sunulator (www.ata.org.au/ata-research/sunulator). There are also the face-to-face services we provide at our Speed Date a Sustainable Expert events, and our presence at home shows and other community events.

As existing sustainable technologies and solutions evolve and new ones emerge, the ATA will continue to play a key role as an independent voice helping people make sustainable choices.

Donna Luckman

ATA CEO