Plugging into the future

STEVE LAGUE, MOTORING EDITOR

An Australian-first trial involving real-world use of an electric vehicle for two years has begun in Perth.

Electric vehicles are on our doorstep. Earlier this week, Mitsubishi announced it would be selling its iMiEV city car, making it the first mainstream manufacturer to sell electric cars in Australia.

Mitsubishi will be followed next year by Nissan's LEAF electric car while Holden and Toyota will bring plug-in hybrids with the Volt and Prius respectively.

But are we ready for the change? What infrastructure will WA need to cope with a growing number of electric vehicles?

Will our power grid be able to cope with the extra demand?

An electric vehicle (EV) will draw as much power per annum as the average household.

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Do we have the expertise to support EVs in WA? With the wide open spaces of WA are EVs even a viable option?

These are some of the questions that participants, including The West Australian, hope to be able to answer through Australia's first electric vehicle trial.

The two-year WA EV Trial is being run as a joint venture between the University of WA, through its REV (renewable energy vehicle) project and CO2 Smart Pty Ltd.

The purpose of the trial is to provide a public demonstration of the operating characteristics and environmental benefits of electric cars. It also provides an opportunity to look at the impact of electric cars on the power system, the type of infrastructure that will be required, and identify any regulatory and planning issues that may be unique to EVs.

Seven West Media chief executive Chris Wharton said The West Australian had become involved in the trial because it had overtones of environmental advantages and potential savings for motorists.

"As the leading daily newspaper publisher in this State, with a sense of community responsibility and a strong commitment to the motoring industry in WA, we can play our part in the trial as well as report on it," Mr Wharton said.

The West Australian has taken a leading role in providing infrastructure by being the first company to have an IEC-approved Level II recharging station put in its visitors' carpark at Newspaper House in Osborne Park.

The single-phase station, which will recharge an EV in about four hours, will be free for EV owners who visit the newspaper.

By the end of the month all trial participants, which include UWA, the RAC, Telstra, Water Corporation, LandCorp, Main Roads, the departments of Transport and Environment and Conservation and the cities of Perth and Swan, will have recharge stations installed.

All the stations will be available for public use.