Opinion: How can we rely on electric vehicles during natural disasters?

With summer well under way, parts of Australia are already dealing with bushfires and we know the Labor Government is trying to force Australians into buying, by majority, electric vehicles.

We’ve even seen Labor’s Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen recently at COP 28 talking up a phase-out date for all fossil fuels.

But I am concerned about how EVs will actually work during sudden bushfires, cyclones and/or floods — particularly for those of us who live and work in regional and remote parts of Australia — when there is no power because the poles and wires have been destroyed or badly damaged.

Will our lives and livelihoods be at even greater risk as a result?

In the sudden summer lightning strikes that caused the Yarloop bushfires in 2016, thousands of hectares of land were burnt and two people lost their lives. In the windy conditions, the fires moved very quickly.

Given the time of year, we were home working on our dairy farm.

As the fires raged and wind directions kept changing, one of the first things we lost was our electricity. The poles and wires had been burnt.

The first thing we had to do was fuel up each of our farm and personal vehicles in case we had to evacuate, and we had to move those farm vehicles into irrigation paddocks and away from the fires as much as we could.

Very quickly, several of our neighbours came to fuel up at our farm fuel tanks because their own vehicles were low on fuel and they didn’t have enough fuel to get away if they were told they had to evacuate.

But what happens when all or most of these vehicles are electric, according to the Government’s plan — all of our tractors, trucks, utes, motorbikes and farm gear? How and where will we charge our vehicles at the height of an emergency when there is no power, when there are aggressive, fast-moving and unpredictable fires, driven by strong and changing winds, or when the spot fires are at times kilometres ahead of the actual fire front?

When the embers are landing on our homes, on our dry paddocks, and when the charging stations have no power because the power lines have been burnt down?

When whole towns and communities are told to evacuate, how will these people get away from the fires, cyclones or floods when there is little or no charge left in their batteries?

Where and how far will we have to go to charge our vehicles or find a charging station that actually works? And, if we do, how long will the queues be?

People in the Harvey and Yarloop communities were told to leave and travel to an evacuation centre, or to family or friends to get away from the fires.

Where will people go when there is no power to charge their vehicles to get away? How is the Government planning to risk-proof our areas and people in these circumstances?

Can you imagine the amount of stored power needed to cool the thousands of litres of milk produced every day, as well as constantly recharging our vehicles, engines, pumps, and cool rooms on our farms and properties, let alone the power needed in our communities, businesses and industries?

This will disproportionately affect those of us who live and work in regional and remote parts of Australia, and greatly increase our costs.

The Labor Government’s fossil fuel phase out will mean WA’s current 1700 fire and rescue trucks will also have to be electric.

How long will they be able to operate during a fire? What size and weight battery will they need to be able to work the fire ground and pump thousands of litres of water?

How often will they need recharging and where will they go when they’re trying to fight a fire front at a time when the power infrastructure is gone?

In the regions we often lose our communications at the same time, and when there is no power we rely on our vehicles to charge our phones — good luck with that in Labor’s “EV only” world.

Source: Countryman 4 January 2024