BIC, Opinion

BIC discusses accelerating to zero

BIC says it is preparing to advocate for a Zero Emissions Buses Roadmap to help make the transition to green energy easier for the industry

It’s often amazing the difference that an election will make.  At the 2019 election, Scott Morrison declared that electric vehicles would “end the weekend” resulting in the transition to zero becoming an election battleground for all the wrong reasons. Roll onto the 2022 election and the ALP went to the polls with a Powering Australia Plan, a key commitment of which was the development of a National Electric Vehicle Strategy.

The development of this strategy and the delivery of key commitments are underway. In late November, the Albanese government honoured their election commitment to make electric vehicles more affordable for more Australians via the Electric Car Discount Bill which will result in what is in effect a tax cut to make electric cars cheaper. The Budget also honoured the government’s commitment to support the transition of heavy vehicles by providing $125 million for electric bus charging infrastructure in Perth.

Heavy vehicle transition, however, still appears to be somewhat of an afterthought.  The BIC had to advocate hard to ensure that heavy vehicles were included in the consultation paper for the National Electric Vehicle Strategy.  We were successful in this but it is clear that the Commonwealth continues to struggle to understand that it is not the buses that will hold up the transition, rather the refueling and recharging infrastructure. Grid upgrades and the provision of reliable and affordable green energy in the immediate and short term are critical.

Our research has revealed the power required to make trucks and buses zero emissions is approximately 100TwH per annum. Australia currently produces around 70TwH of renewable energy annually. That is a lot of new energy that needs to be produced. And we need to be able to recharge or refuel quickly.  This is particularly important for bus and coach operators who don’t have the ability to return to base and recharge overnight.

The federal government has acknowledged that the transition to zero emission buses was occurring faster than anticipated and that the lack of a policy and regulatory framework is a constraint to the safe and sustainable manufacture and operations of zero emissions buses. The BIC has obtained funding to develop a series of industry advisories that will help bridge the gap between roll out and the adoption of new regulations. 

The first advisory on standards and specifications will be released to members and governments early in the new year for comment prior to finalisation. Work on other advisories will commence early in 2023 and are likely to provide guidance on the operation and maintenance of ZEB’s specifically in relation to fixed systems and infrastructure needed to support these new technology vehicles and the new vehicle technology systems themselves such as battery packs, electrical power control and distribution systems, high-pressure hydrogen storage and distribution componentry, fire protection and emergency response.

The development of these advisories is being oversighted by the BIC ZEB Committee – a cross industry expert committee comprising BIC Members with expertise ranging from operations, manufacturing, recharging and refuelling infrastructure and training and research. The Technical, Environment and Safety Committee are also involved.

Whilst the advisories will go some way towards bridging the gap in the policy and regulatory framework associated with the transition to zero emission heavy vehicles, the BIC will continue to pursue other avenues to ensure Industry benefits from the opportunities and manage the challenges related to the transition.  To this end the BIC is advocating for a National ZEB Roadmap to be co-developed by government and industry. 

A Zero Emissions Buses Roadmap is critical to ensure a smooth transition to ZEB’s, create Australian jobs and stimulate innovation. This roadmap will include a 10-year national bus procurement plan detailing the forward procurement intentions of each state and territory government. This would provide certainty to operators, bus and chassis manufacturers, bus body builders and auxiliary equipment suppliers (including energy providers) who need to invest significantly in infrastructure, training, and recruitment of appropriately skilled workers to facilitate the transition to ZEB’s.

This Roadmap was a key recommendation in our response to the National Electric Vehicle Strategy Consultation paper.  Advocacy on this and many other issues will continue well into the new year.

On that note the Council and Secretariat of the BIC extend our warmest season’s greetings to our members.  We look forward to engaging with you in 2023.

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