Pundits have been popping up all over the shop to cover the onset of the electric vehicle (EV) revolution in Australia. Good, bad or ugly, all agree that we have been left behind in the global rush away from internal combustion (ICE) vehicles and that Australia is sadly lacking in EV infrastructure, has little relevant government legislation or policy, and that there is no general availability of suitable (and affordable) vehicles. Ten years of a reactionary government, who stuck their head in the sand on fossil-fuel related issues, is largely held to blame.
There are large differences, however, in these pundits attitudes to 4WD and towing vehicles. In an annoyingly smug article, Guardian Australia ‘explains’ how ‘Australians are in love with big polluting cars‘ – and offers some EV ‘alternatives’. Just one problem with that – there simply aren’t any alternatives to the vehicles they list. In a really cringe-worthy piece of greenwashing flim-flam, the article tries, and fails miserably, to identify one single available alternative to the Hi-Lux, the Landcruiser, the Ford Ranger or the D-Max.
The Toyota Landcruiser, the tow vehicle of choice for so many ‘vanners and 4WDers out there, is described as a ‘beast’ of a vehicle – emotive language which could be seen as an example of greenwash ‘truck-shaming’. According to the Guardian, there are, however, “companies that do electric conversations“. Conversations? Perhaps they meant conversions? A typo that they couldn’t even be bothered to correct. Really sloppy piece of journalism, based on media hype and a click-bait headline that makes no sense at all. Yes, some EVs are going to be a boon for folks who live in the cities and who travel short distances; but they do have fundamental problems with range, with weight, and with towing which would make them unsuitable for many Australian 4WDers.
They are coming to save your weekend, apparently…
Over at Drive, they have a similarly mealy-mouthed article, spruiking vaporware EVs. OK, fair enough, they do say that they’re not here yet; and they do detail the limitations of EVs and weight:
Weight is the enemy of driving range of course, and nothing adds more weight more quickly to an electric ute than towing.
While we are yet to feel the impact of towing with an electric ute in Australia, early reviews out of the US of the Ford F-150 Lighting indicate that its regular driving range of 480km drops to well below half and can drop to as little as 150km when towing at its maximum capacity.https://www.drive.com.au/caradvice/opinion-electric-utes-are-coming-to-save-your-weekend/
The title, though, which appeared in Drive’s stable-mates, SMH and The Age, reeks of three-week old clickbait and the article itself is lightweight. This is almost surprising, given that Drive has a really excellent and very informative ‘Electric Car Hub’. They really could do better.
Meanwhile, Big Bad John…
In a universe far, far, removed from that of the Guardian, we have gonzo motoring journalist John Cadogan. John, who likes to be, er, plain-speaking, with his huge (334k) YouTube audience, is no big fan of camping or towing, and caravans especially. He does pull out the basic facts of physics though – and even some graphs – to demonstrate the challenges EVs are facing in Australia. Weight, explains John, is the big issue – and that’s an unescapable physical fact.
Lock Your Hubs…
Then there’s the guys over at 4WD 24/7, who were part of the team at 4WD Action, once one of Australia’s best selling magazines, and who now run a phenomenally successfully YouTube channel (with over 203m views). Taking a more prosaic line than John, the 4WD 24/7 team come to much the same conclusion: 4WD EVs face massive problems in Australia. They see the issue as ‘a problem that needs fixing’.
Certainly, the 4WD, camping & caravanning lifestyle so many Australians enjoy face some enormous challenges. We face one climate emergency after another, vehicles new or old are either hideously expensive or unavailable, and the cost of diesel has gone through the roof. The world is moving away from ICE vehicles, while polluting diesel vehicles are facing an outright ban in some metropolitan areas. Yet, there are no available, affordable EV alternatives on the market.
And yet, for every problem there is also an opportunity, an opportunity to think laterally and develop non-polluting vehicles that will allow us to access the wild terrain and experience the breath-taking grandeur of the great Australian landscape. What shape could these vehicles take? Light-weight solar-powered RVs? A trailer-tow vehicle combo, both lugging batteries? Hydrogen? Hybrid vehicles?
I’m sure there’s some engineering team working out there, right now, who are going to be a big part of the solution. Part of the change, undoubtedly, will be cultural, as well. A difficult period as we transition away from ICE vehicles is almost inevitable. Let’s hope that the change will be equitable, that those who can’t afford the newer vehicles will not be penalised. Let’s hope that people who want to be able to access remote, off the beaten track areas will continue to be able to do so.