IT’S ELECTRIFYING: Lockyer set to power into EV future
Swapping the keys from my trusty 4x4 to those of the all-electric Jaguar I-Pace for a few days has given this petrol head a lot to think about.
Driving an electric vehicle might seem futuristic, especially for those living in regional Australia - however what might seem space-age will soon be reality.
As car makers across the globe make the transition to producing electric vehicles only, regions like the Lockyer Valley will need to be ready for them.
With quite a lot of scepticism surrounding EV ownership, I took the plunge and experimented using an electric vehicle for my job as a regional journalist.
With only a small range able for travel, and a huge starting price to buy an electric car, you can see my initial hesitation, especially considering how many kilometres I do for work.
Driving the Jaguar I-Pace for the first time was quite literally an electrifying feeling.
I was immediately blown away by the sheer power the Jag had to offer - it will go from 0 to 100km/h in 4.8 seconds.
And when you've gotten used to the Jaguar's Regenerative Braking (the car converts braking force to usable electricity) you suddenly realise what a pleasure it is to drive.
It was almost completely silent, even on the highway where I primarily used it.
For anyone driving, or thinking of buying an electric car, the amount of range the vehicle can travel and where the car can be recharged with electricity quickly, plays a significant role in deciding where to go.
In optimum conditions, the I-Pace has a class-leading range of 470 kilometres.
On a hot day though, like the ones when I had the car, that range would fall down anywhere between 350 to 400 kilometres - and every time you adjusted the temperature or fan speed it would either give you more or less electricity.
EV owners across the state have been crying out for more public infrastructure to be installed, and car dealerships that already sell electric vehicle's said sales would be stronger if the infrastructure was there.
At a time when governments and businesses alike are calling out for people to travel locally, regions like the Lockyer Valley have an enormous opportunity to bring a whole new and ever-growing type of traveller into town.
In an exclusive interview with the Gatton Star, Mayor Tanya Milligan revealed the Lockyer Valley Regional Council was investigating the significant economic benefits electric vehicle infrastructure could bring to the region by installing charging stations in town.
"COVID has forced us to explore our own backyards. We are as a region encouraging people to come and visit and this would obviously be a great way to do that," Cr Milligan said.
As electric vehicle sales continue to rise, the market for charging infrastructure will increase too.
As it stands, the only publicly available fast charger in the Lockyer Valley region, sits at the University of Queensland Gatton Campus, approximately 10 kilometres out of town.
Dr Jake Whitehead, a Transport Scientist at The University of Queensland and EV owner said it was important to have charging infrastructure every 70 to 100 kilometres.
"This provides drivers the opportunity to comfortably travel without ever being too far from a charger," Dr Whitehead said.
The UQ station operates using the Chargefox app that enables EV drivers to find, use and pay for charging up their cars.
The charger at UQ Gatton costs $0.20/kWh.
In the two times I used the station to recharge the I-Pace, it cost $16.39 to give me more than 400 kilometres in range.
With an array of attractions including the Queensland Transport Museum, Art Gallery, visitor information centre and a new café set to open by Easter, Mayor Milligan flagged the Lockyer Valley Cultural Centre as a potential site for installing fast electric vehicle charges.
"You have the ability to bring people into town and keep them here at a time when it is really important to do that," Cr Milligan said.
Cr Milligan said council had not discussed bringing more electric vehicle infrastructure to the Lockyer Valley until the Gatton Star flagged the move.
After discussions with the council's CEO, Cr Milligan confirmed council officers were investigating grants to fund the infrastructure before council determines the "appropriate places to locate" charging stations.
Dr Whitehead said fast charging infrastructure was important for increasing consumer confidence and "encouraging longer trips".
He said fast charging was important for supporting regional tourism.
"This is why it's great to have charging infrastructure in regional communities to encourage EV drivers to visit and spend money at local businesses," Dr Whitehead said.
"Of course if charging infrastructure isn't available EV owners are less likely to visit - even if they don't need to use it. It's more the knowledge that if for some reason they needed to top up, it's there," Dr Whitehead said.
David Barron, General Manager of Toowoomba Jaguar Land Rover said awareness was definitely growing in the customer base of electric vehicles and people were "doing their own research" when considering electric technology as an option.
Since its release, Toowoomba Jaguar Land Rover has sold four I-Pace models, which Mr Barron admitted was "not massive numbers" but said there was "no doubt" electric vehicles would be a big part of Jaguar's future.
"Early planning and infrastructure development will be crucial for our region," Mr Barron said.
"It will be important for places like Toowoomba and the Lockyer Valley to adopt the technology and market that to the electric travellers," Mr Barron said.
After the I-Pace well and truly lived up to my expectations of what a good work car is, it was hard to hand the smooth operator back to the dealer.
The announcement by the Lockyer Valley Regional Council to investigate the opportunities that electric vehicle infrastructure could bring to the region is a promising one that will hold the region in good stead for an EV future but also allow the region to reap the rewards of the already established market.