Editorial April 28th 2023
Welcome to this week’s editorial, Back in days of old there was an expectation that a hotel would provide shelter and hay for a guest’s horse. That seemed fair enough however the burden was on the hotel to have stables and provide feed. No doubt the provision of a stable and feed was considered when a traveller was looking for accommodation. Then along came the automobile. Their requirements were simple. Off street secure parking. So hotels became motels and built carparks to accommodate the demand. And once again the provision of secure off street parking would be considered by a traveller, looking for accommodation. Each and all of us have our particular needs when travelling. Mine includes a decent coffee machine, good wi-fi, a good bed and bedding, a reasonable bathroom and security for myself and my car. While I don’t remember most of those places that ticked the box I remember many of those that did not. The places that one will neither recommend or readily return to. When you think about what it would take for each of the poor rating places to lift their game it mainly comes down to money. Money for refurbishment, for bedding, for cleaners and more staff, for internet, bigger TVs in the rooms, a coffee pod machine, fresh milk in the fridge. The list could go on and on and as it does the cost of the room goes higher because the hotelier has to bare the cost. At the end of the day it is the hotelier that needs to make a profit. There is a fine line between the costs and the returns. And at the end of the day it is the choice of the guest as to whether they return. As was the case in days of old when a hotel didn’t have a stable or hay, where a motel didn’t have off street parking, Cable TV or free Wi-Fi or more recently a charging dock for an Electric Vehicle (EV), the choice remains with the guest to look elsewhere. I ponder however on the hotel of old providing fresh feed and hay. Basically it is the hotelier providing, at their cost, fuel for your journey. Fortunately for motels there was no such obligation to provide fuel for clients automobiles but now it appears that the EV drivers are making their holiday accommodation choices based on whether EV charging is available. In the ABC South East News article of Wednesday 26th April ‘Businesses rush to install electric vehicle charging to keep tourists coming back’ Holly Tregenza reports: “EV-driving tourists visiting the New South Wales South Coast are already increasing, raising concerns a lack of charging stations may force them to go elsewhere”, and “Katherine Maxwell from the South Coast Health and Sustainability Alliance is one of a growing number of people worried tourists will start looking elsewhere for a holiday. We had queues lining up four or five deep over summer," Ms Maxwell said. I’m not sure when it happened but what we now have is EV owners expecting more and more infrastructure to be provided by Councils, workplaces, shopping centres and now hotels, motels and even BnBs. And not content with just trickle charging the demand is for fast chargers. And how much do the EV owners want to pay for such provision. Nothing. Ms Maxwell told the ABC "Imagine showing up in a petrol car and you had to wait an hour and a half to fill up your car. You just wouldn't do it." Ms Maxwell said the South Coast was currently considered an EV black spot, with most new chargers being built along the Hume Highway, far from the coastal route.
She said the council and state government must prioritise building more fast chargers before it was too late. I am left wondering about this cart before the horse. No doubt we had it in days of old when horses provided our transport and travellers had to do without stables and provided feed. No doubt there was range anxiety with the first motor vehicle travellers reliant on petrol and venturing into the regions that had no petrol stations. But in both of those instances the private sector jumped in and stables were built and petrol stations lined our highways. But now it appears to have shifted where the expectation is that the government provide free charging stations and that hotels, motels and even BnBs gear up to avail free charging for guests vehicles. While Eurobodalla Council has come up with a fairly nebulous draft Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure (EVCI) Strategy that ‘addresses the provision of EV charging infrastructure on council managed lands’ there is no requirement at all for any of the hundreds of apartments and homes in the Eurobodalla to future proof new buildings by proactively taking strategic action to provide the electrical infrastructure which will support expansion and connection of additional electric vehicle supply equipment as demand grows. The report to Council on March 28th, 2023 stated: While EV uptake in the Eurobodalla is relatively low, there is a need for Council to take action on EVCI for these reasons: • there is a clear push from Australian and NSW Governments to deliver a national charging network for EVs. Council has a role to play in this network. • there are opportunities for ECVI to enhance both the tourist economy and placemaking initiatives in the Eurobodalla through colocation with businesses and attractions. There are risks for Council in not keeping ahead of demand for EVCI in the Eurobodalla (long wait times at chargers causing problems for residents and visitors, and subsequent reputational damage for both Council and the Eurobodalla as a destination). In a nutshell the Council has only identified that it needs to have in place a policy if a third party wants to put a charging station in a Council carpark. This would be at no cost to Council or ratepayers and will garner a fee by way of a lease. Meanwhile Council and Planning NSW have not imposed any requirement for new buildings to be suitably, and safely wired for the expected tsunami of electric vehicles. All Planning NSW has to say is: One of the biggest concerns for potential EV owners is the availability of EV charging. There is an overwhelming preference to charge at home overnight or at workplaces during the day because this is where cars are already parked.
Many buildings are not yet ready for EV charging and will need to install appropriate infrastructure to deliver the most convenient and practical charging option. The good news is that there is a private enterprise solution on the horizon that works like AirBnB called ChargeHound that gives EV drivers access to a network of reliable EV charging options at affordable rates across Australia - all verified and bookable online. You might not have solar panels on your house with an EV plug in but maybe your neighbour has. Maybe the motel you are staying at doesn’t need to provide free charging when it only needs to install a ChargeHound outlet. These are indeed early days for EV cars in the region and there will be many lessons to learn. Somewhere within all the potentials are things that the government and private industry can do that require little in the way of cost and more in the way of policy, guidelines and rationality of expectations. I still reflect on the horses of old that ate hay and left patties. Australia produces around 3,300 tonnes of lithium-ion battery waste each year. We are so fast to adopt rechargeable gizmos and cars but our recycling rate is just 3%. And a lot of that goes into landfill via our bins. While it might be said that “the council and state government must prioritise building more fast chargers before it was too late” I am of the opinion that we need to prioritise a discussion as to where we are rushing towards and ensure that the community as a whole is included in the ride. Building free public fast charging stations to satisfy the demands of tourists should not be funded from the public purse, just as giving free petrol to visitors cars would be unacceptable. But nothing will come of it all while the planners sit on their hands and private enterprise remains cautious during a time when so much government money is being spent on establishing EV charging networks. There is much to consider and we still have a long way to go. Let’s just hope we have battery range enough to get there. Until next Lei