Wednesday, 22 June 2022

Statements on parliamentary committee reports

Environment and Planning Committee

Environment and Planning Committee

Inquiry into Tackling Climate Change in Victorian Communities

Mr McCURDY (Ovens Valley) (10:18): I am delighted to rise and speak on the inquiry into tackling climate change in Victorian communities. I want to burrow into 7.2.1 in the transport section because, as we know, the government for Melbourne continues to bang on about renewables and climate change and targets, but there have been some missed opportunities. At 7.2.1 in the report it says:

Although the Inquiry into Electric Vehicles made no recommendations, it provided a comprehensive overview of the benefits and challenges of the introduction of more electric vehicles (EVs) into Victoria.

Now, in the transport industry this is where the opportunities are missed. We know that with people with electric vehicles—those who purchase electric vehicles—many of them do so with a moral obligation, wanting to do their bit for the climate and do what they can to support in that area, but when you look at trucks and freight it is a whole different matter. There is an absolute commercial imperative and benefit straight away, whereas that it is not always the case with electric vehicles. Certainly it is cheaper to run an electric vehicle, but the cost to get into one, when you look at the overall cost, may not be beneficial. But in a commercial aspect there are great opportunities.

As many people know, in the Ovens Valley the Hume Highway, the biggest freight corridor in the country, runs right through Wangaratta, and there are some real, great opportunities there on the Melbourne to Sydney freight line, as there are in New South Wales, where they are already doing it between Sydney and Brisbane—it is a similar freight line or length. There is a company called Janus Electric, who have developed a swap-and-go type situation with batteries for trucks.

If you think about trucks having to pull up and charge for 12 hours, that would not work at all. But at a swap and go it takes 3 minutes to change a battery from a truck with a forklift. They get another battery, and away they go. It is a bit like gas bottles at Bunnings, really, when it comes down to that, but it is quite a practical outcome. If you look at the numbers, on the Melbourne to Sydney freight line it is about 960 kilometres. For a diesel truck, a diesel B-double, it would cost $800 in diesel to do that trip. With hydrogen it would be $1450 to do that trip. But for an electric vehicle under this scenario it would be $320 per trip. When you superimpose those commercial imperatives, it really is quite outstanding. If you look at the average interstate truck, Melbourne to Sydney, it does two trips a week. That is a saving of $920 a week. More commonly they do five trips a fortnight, and that is a $2500 saving per week on average. If you look at that, it is like getting the driver for free in that sense. So when you look at transport companies with multiple trucks—many, many hundreds of trucks—you can see where the savings would go.

As I said, there are 6000 to 7000 electric vehicles in the whole of Australia in terms of cars. But Janus Electric do not rely on new vehicles being produced; they can actually convert trucks. In five days they can convert an old diesel truck into an electric truck, put the batteries on, and away they go. If we roll those numbers out, of the 25 000-plus articulated vehicles in Victoria, even if 20 per cent of those were converted, there would be 5000 articulated vehicles—B-doubles, semitrailers, long-haul carriers—and massive benefits in the emissions drops and in improvements in driver fatigue. Certainly the commercial improvements would see half a billion dollars in savings. That is just for 20 per cent of the articulated vehicles if they turn to this swap-and-go battery scenario.

While the government continues to prattle on about different things with climate change, I just think there is a real opportunity here. They could certainly look into supporting commercial businesses—because, let us face it, private enterprise runs this country and runs this state, and we need to be able to promote and support private enterprise. And yes, the Victorian government are doing a bus—terrific—but at the end of the day we need to support small business and commercial business because that is what makes the wheels turn in Victoria.

I think the opportunities would work out very well. They can do it in Queensland and New South Wales, where Queensland is 1.7 million square kilometres and New South Wales is 800 000 square kilometres. Victoria is only 220 000 square kilometres, so you would only need to put five or six of these swap and gos around Victoria, strategically placed, and they would be most beneficial in terms of how we would move forward. A driver takes 20 minutes to fill up his truck with diesel. In terms of a swap-and-go battery, it is about 4 minutes. I just think it really is a no-brainer for benefits to the climate, to the drivers and to a company’s bottom line, and this government needs to look further afield into how we can do this. As I said, Janus Electric is doing it in New South Wales and Queensland. We certainly are behind the eight ball here, and I think it is time the government took a closer look at opportunities particularly in regional Victoria but certainly on this freight line between Melbourne and Sydney.