Brisbane’s Green Heart Fair has branched out this year to tackle the issue of sustainable travel, with a focus on electric and hybrid vehicles.
The fair, which is Brisbane’s largest free sustainability festival, showcased a “Move for Less” zone on September 9.
The family-friendly event is hosted by the Brisbane City Council at Carindale Recreation Reserve, and promotes green living.
More than 100 “green” organisations were involved in the Green Heart Fair including leading sustainability organisations, artisans, community groups, eco experts, green-thumbs, foodies, conservationists and local businesses.
The event also featured live entertainment, food trucks workshops, exhibitions, and activities for kids, such as the fair’s billycart championships.
The new “Move for Less” zone featured expert talks on the future of sustainable travel as well as electric and hybrid vehicles, and stands run by the Department of Transport and Main Roads, Translink, UT Electric Bikes, Muve, The University of Queensland, Brisbane Metro, Brisbane City Council Buses and more.
University of Queensland electric and autonomous vehicle researcher Dr Jake Whitehead said electric and shared autonomous vehicles (which are capable of driving themselves) were vital to the future of our roads, but said Australia was lagging behind the rest of the world when it came to embracing this technology.
“It’s not easy right now, but as these new technologies are starting to become more and more available, it will become easier, so it’s great to start to prepare for that change,” Dr Whitehead said.
“It’s about encouraging governments to do much more to support the uptake of EVs,” he said.
“We are already 10 years behind the rest of the world.”
Speaking at the event, Mathew Young from the Department of Transport and Main Roads agreed that Australia had yet to embraced electric vehicles, but said there was “a comprehensive strategy to encourage the uptake of EVs in Queensland”.
“We want to see a move towards these more sustainable fuelled vehicles,” Mr Young said.
“I’m here today promoting The Future is Electric [strategy], the first of its kind in Australia at the moment,” he said.
“There’s a comprehensive strategy to encourage the uptake of EVs in Queensland.”
Mr Young said The Future is Electric Strategy, which aims to prepare Queensland for a transition towards the use of electric vehicles, focused on “empowering the community to make more informed choices, enabling the transition with the rollout of EV charging infrastructure, like the Queensland Electric Super Highway, [and] exploring cost effective programs”.
He said the Queensland Electric Super Highway was a 2,000-kilometre stretch of charging stations for electric vehicles located at a variety of locations convenient to major highways, which made up “the longest continuous electric super highway in the world in a single state”.
Mr Young said the “highway” made it possible to travel from Coolangatta to Cairns and from Brisbane to Toowoomba in a low or no emissions vehicle at very little cost.
“We’re on the cusp of this technology actually taking off, for it to become a viable alternative to fossil fuel vehicles,” he said.
Dr Whitehead said the transition towards electric vehicles was vital as Australia was heavily reliant on fossil fuels.
He also said emissions were carcinogenic and could cause lung cancer.
“The reality is that motor vehicle pollution in Australia kills 40 per cent more people every year than accidents.”
“In terms of noxious emission standards, we have some of the worst standards, the highest threshold in the world.”
Dr Whitehead said there were new vehicles being sold in Australia that were illegal to sell in the US and Europe.
“Australia has become the dumping ground for the world’s most polluting vehicles and we’re not doing anything about it,” he said.
“It’s not something that we can just leave to be saved over time, we can start acting on that now nationally by bringing in emission standards.”
Mr Young said the transport sector was the second largest emitter and said the Queensland Government recognised the problem and was working toward reducing it through the Queensland Renewable Energy Plan that was released in 2009.
“The 50 per cent renewable target is going really well, we do need to put more effort into transforming some of our other sectors such as transport,” he said.
“The [Queensland] Government does have a commitment to go 50 per cent renewable by 2030 and we’re well on target for that.”
Congestion is another issue currently affecting Queensland roads and Dr Whitehead said the government needed to seriously consider investing in public transport systems rather than in creating more roads.
“Traditionally in infrastructure commitments there’s far too much of a focus on roads over public transport… [yet] building more roads actually only causes more congestion,” he said.
“Congestion is costing about $16 billion every year in productivity losses, emissions and accidents, and that’s set to increase to $30 billion by 2030.”
Mr Young agreed that public transport was key to improving road congestion, and said “we are really constrained in South East Queensland for our ability to build anymore infrastructure”.
“What we have is almost what we are going to be stuck with… so we really need to think about how we use these [roads] smarter,” he said.
“We do need a really good public transport system… and projects like Cross River Rail and Metro will start to provide that backbone, where we can start to use it as a platform into the future.”
Other options to reduce petrol and diesel car use and reduce emission discussed at the Green Heart Fair included active travel such as walking and bike riding.
Owner of UT Electric Bikes, Paul Goodridge, said electric bikes could be especially beneficial.
“It’s obviously a healthy activity to be involved in, and the economic benefit as well, as the cost of ownership on an EV bike is almost negligible,” Mr Goodridge said.
He said riding an electric bike was a great alternative to driving a car.
“You’re reducing road congestion [and] reducing pollution.”
Mr Goodridge said the Green Heart Fair gave people the opportunity “to literally touch, feel and understand” electric bikes, which allowed them to understand the benefits and costs and allowed them to make an educated purchase.