The dream of the fuel-free Big Lap is moving a huge step closer with the news that Outback Queensland set to join the electric super highway.
New charging stations will be installed in 18 regional towns under stage three of the Queensland Electric Super Highway (QESH) project. They are: Cloncurry, Mount Isa, Julia Creek, Hughenden, Charters Towers, Winton, Barcaldine. Longreach, Emerald, Dingo, Blackall, Kingaroy, Charleville, Roma, Miles, Esk, Goondiwindi, and Stanthrope.
The chargers are strategically placed 180 to 200km apart to ensure EVs have enough charge to travel between stations.
The highway already has 31 stations stretching from Cairns to Coolangatta and west to Toowoomba, and is set to almost double to 3,800 kilometres.
Carly Irving is the executive general manager of Yurika, part of Energy Queensland, which is constructing the QESH. She told the ABC it was a chicken and egg situation.
“If you need the infrastructure for people to be able to travel, they cannot travel if there is no infrastructure,” she said. “We really want people to visit the sites and the communities … we want to be ahead of the game, so that when people start to take up electric vehicles (EV) more readily, the infrastructure is already there.”
But the fact is that Australia still has some of the lowest rates of electric car ownership in developed countries, with only seven EVs sold per 10,000 vehicles in Queensland last year.
Car manufacturers have blamed a lack of federal government incentives for the slow uptake, while other advocates have lamented EVs being caught in the ‘culture wars’.
The owner of Toowoomba’s Drayton Medical Centre, Anupam Kumar, was an early adopter of electric vehicles (EV). He told the ABC the expansion of charging stations would entice him further afield.
“I would take my car as far as it can go,” Dr Kumar said. “I love camping and I tow my camper with my Tesla, so if there were more charging stations, I would go to more western and rural parts of Australia to camp and enjoy.”
On the other side of the debate are people like the State Member for Traeger, Robbie Katter, who told the ABC the decision to spend millions on charging stations in rural Queensland was bizarre.
“Let’s put it this way – I have never seen a Tesla in Cloncurry,” Mr Katter said. “If only they applied that same thinking to dams, strategic roads and rail infrastructure, that would enable us to build a more prosperous future.”