The term refers to any environment-friendly mode of transport, particularly electric vehicles (including electric scooters), public transit, cycling, walking, and bio-fuels, another renewable energy source.
Studies have confirmed that green transport can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution, noise, congestion, as well as fuel costs. It can also help improve one’s health, well-being, including social equity.
Green transport is considered vital for meeting global climate targets, as the transport sector is currently responsible for 20-30 percent of global carbon emissions.
Australia has a large land area, a dispersed population, a high dependence on cars and trucks, and a low uptake of public transit and active mobility. At a quick glance, Australia is a country that faces many challenges and opportunities in the transition to green transport.
Nevertheless, Australia also has abundant renewable energy resources, a strong research and innovation capacity, and a growing public awareness and demand for sustainable mobility solutions.
Stakeholders are looking at the trends and initiatives that are shaping the future of green transport in Australia -- and other cities as well. And these three key aspects come into the picture: electrification, innovation, and policy.
Without much ado, let us dive in.
Electrification connotes the use of electricity as the main source of power for vehicles, instead of fossil fuels. Electrification can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution, as well as improve efficiency and performance. However, electrification is not only limited to cars only, it also refers to buses, trains, motorcycles, bikes, scooters, and even planes.
While Australia has a great potential for electrifying its transport sector, as it has abundant solar and wind energy resources that can be used to charge electric vehicles (EVs), Australia is faced with some barriers to electrification, such as the high cost of EVs, the lack of charging infrastructure, the very low consumer awareness and acceptance, and the regulatory uncertainty.
The Australian government realizes this, and to overcome those barriers, Australia will have to invest in developing and deploying EVs and charging infrastructure, as well as providing incentives and education to consumers and businesses.
As a matter of update, here are some initiatives that are either underway or planned in Australia:
a. The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has funded several projects to support EVs and charging infrastructure, such as the Electric Vehicle Grid Integration Trial in Canberra, the Queensland Electric Super Highway Project, and the Chargefox Ultra-Rapid Charging Network.
b. The New South Wales Government has announced a $490 million package to support EVs, which includes stamp duty exemptions for EVs under $78,000, rebates of $3,000 for 25,000 EVs under $68,750, access to transit lanes for EVs until 2027, $171 million for charging infrastructure across the state, $33 million for fleet transition for government agencies.
c. The Victorian Government has announced a $100 million package to support EVs, which includes subsidies of $3,000 for 20,000 EVs under $69,000.
d. The South Australian Government has announced a $13.4 million package to support EVs, which includes subsidies of up to $3,000 for 6,000 EVs under $60,000.
e. The Australian Capital Territory Government has announced a range of measures to support EVs, such as zero-interest loans of up to $15,000 for EVs under $68,750.
These are the initiatives that are expected to advance the uptake of EVs in Australia and contribute to reducing emissions from the transport sector.
Is it enough? More action is needed apparently and it’s at the federal level, to be able to coordinate and harmonize policies across states and territories, and provide long-term assurance and definite direction for the industry and the consumers.
Meanwhile, other cities around the world are also moving forward in electrification. Case in point is Oslo in Norway which has the highest share of EVs in the world -- with 75 percent of new car sales being electric or plug-in hybrid in 2020. Oslo has achieved this by providing various incentives for EVs, such as exemption from road tolls, parking fees, and congestion charges, as well as access to bus lanes, free charging stations, and public procurement policies.
Innovation is about the development and adoption of new technologies, solutions, and business models. There are specific innovations that are intended to enhance green transportation and are involved in public-private partnerships, customer-centric design, digital platforms, smart infrastructure, and new mobility services.
Innovation can also create new opportunities for economic growth, social inclusion, and environmental protection.
Not to be left behind is Australia which has a strong research and innovation capacity on green transportation, where several universities, research institutes, and start-ups are working on several cutting-edge projects.
• The University of Sydney Business School has received a $7.9 million donation from alumnus Neil Smith, an internationally recognized transport business owner, to establish a ten-year Chair in Sustainable Transport Futures in the Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies (ITLS). The chair will fund research, education, and scholarship in the field of sustainable transport technology, and will provide leadership and translation of research with a view to influencing policy at all levels of Australian government.
• The University of Queensland has developed a world-first electric vehicle (EV) fast-charging technology that can charge an EV in 10 minutes using renewable energy. The technology uses a battery storage system that can be integrated with existing grid infrastructure, and can reduce the cost and environmental impact of EV charging.
• The Australian National University has developed a hydrogen-powered vehicle that can travel more than 500 km on a single tank of hydrogen. The vehicle uses a fuel cell that converts hydrogen and oxygen into electricity and water, and emits zero emissions. The vehicle is part of a larger project to demonstrate the feasibility and benefits of hydrogen as a green fuel for transport.
For the moment, these two projects cited show the potential of innovation to transform the transport sector in Australia and beyond.
Innovation also requires collaboration and coordination among various stakeholders, such as government, industry, academia, and civil society, to ensure that the benefits are shared and the challenges are addressed and resolved.
An example is Singapore, which has been ranked as the most innovative city in the world by the 2020 Global Innovation Index, has invested heavily in developing and deploying green transport solutions, such as autonomous vehicles, electric buses, smart traffic management systems, mobility-as-a-service platforms, and bike-sharing schemes.
Policy is covers the regulations, incentives, standards, and plans that can support and promote green transportation.
A policy can influence the behavior of transport users and providers, as well as the development and deployment of green transport options, and can also tackle the challenges and barriers that can possibly encumber or thwart the impending shift to green transportation.
What are these potential hindrances? Infrastructure violations, market failures, social opposition, and governance issues.
True, Australia has a complex and fragmented policy landscape for green transportation, whereby different levels and jurisdictions of government have different roles and responsibilities.
As such, Australia needs to have a clear and consistent national strategy for green transportation, as this has caused uncertainty and inconsistency for the industry and the consumers.
Australia also needs to develop and implement a coherent and comprehensive policy framework for green transportation, one that aligns with its international commitments and that of the country’s national interests.
There is no prancing about, nor skipping the urgent call. Green transport is a key component of sustainable development, and is vital for achieving global climate targets that will contribute to environmental protection, economic growth, social equity, public health, urban resilience, rural development, and global cooperation. All towards a sustainable future for future generations.