Opinion

Commonwealth support vital on zero emissions

In the lead-up to the COP 26 Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, and as the Commonwealth Government gears up for a federal election, likely in May 2022, public attention has turned to emissions policy and what steps will be taken by the government to support and achieve its new net zero emissions by 2050 objectives.

A key plank in this policy portfolio was recently released, outlining how the government would support the transition of the nation’s vehicle fleet to electric or hydrogen.

The Future Fuels and Vehicles Strategy announced by the government includes $250 million in a Future Fuels Investment Fund that will see investment in technology and associated policy to support the transition away from internal combustible engine (ICE) vehicles.

The focus of the strategy will include public electric vehicle charging and hydrogen refuelling infrastructure, commercial fleets, and household smart charging, with funds also allocated for heavy and long-distance vehicle technologies.

The government’s prioritisation of the freight and logistics industry for support as tentative steps are taken to transition toward electricity and hydrogen fuelled vehicles has been welcomed by the Victorian Transport Association.

While the major manufacturers had recognised the need to include zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) in their product lines, operators increasing uptake of lower emitting Euro 6 engine technology would help dramatically reduce freight and logistics emissions in the short and medium term.

The transition towards ZEV freight vehicles has certainly increased in recent years as expectations from the community, industry and other stakeholders about lower emissions have steadily increased.

The VTA has had a leadership role in this transition, with consistent advocacy for incentives for operators that adopt Euro 6 engine technology such as discounted registration and tolls.

As important as it is to plan for a transition to broader uptake by industry of zero emissions technology, there is low hanging fruit available right now that can make a meaningful difference to freight vehicle emissions.

The Cleaner Freight Initiative that the VTA developed with resident groups in Melbourne’s inner west was a fantastic example of industry working with the community on solutions to reduce vehicle emissions and noise, harnessing Euro 6 technology and efficient fuels that are affordable and available right now.

The initiative would have seen operators rewarded for transitioning to cleaner, greener vehicles in the form of longer access to curfewed roads. Regrettably, the Victorian Government withdrew from the initiative at the eleventh hour, which was disappointing for the many stakeholders that had worked hard to create a meaningful solution.

The VTA will continue to advocate for incentives for operators that adopt zero-emission technology but not until these vehicles come down in cost and proliferate in the market.

Many local government jurisdictions have already indicated zero-emission delivery vehicles may be granted better access to infrastructure in a push to incentivise their uptake by operators. For example, the City of Melbourne has indicated ZEV delivery vehicles may be prioritised CBD access, underscoring the need for jurisdictions like this to provide charging infrastructure for ZEVs if they are to treat them differently from ICE delivery vehicles.

GET Electric is a recent VTA Associate Member that provides electric vehicle charging infrastructure and joined the association in recognition of the enormous opportunity to support freight operators as they consider adopting EV technologies within their fleets.

Having a truly zero emission transport fleet will require investments in renewable energy charging solutions like solar, which is where a company like GET can provide a turnkey solution for EV chargers and solar power. Logistics and warehousing businesses have ample roof spaces and are ideal for panels that can effectively provide a free and charging solution for ZEV freight vehicles.

As important as it is to transition to a future of ZEVs, we need to acknowledge the present environment and the terrific work that the fuel companies and OEMs are doing to make diesel more efficient.

Over the transition it will be important to provide the necessary support to operators to be able to economically make the switch so that our supply chains aren’t compromised by policy and regulation that prices operators out of business.

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