The infrastructure Australia needs to make electric cars viable

By Craig Froome, The University of Queensland. Originally published at The Conversation.

Tesla may have ambitious plans for battery technology for the home but it is also looking to upgrade its electric vehicle batteries, which will allow them to travel twice the distance they currently do. So what will be the implications for Australia?

While Australia has generally been an early adopter of new technology, electric vehicles pose more of a problem. Anybody who has grown up in regional Australia knows that being the family taxi at weekends for children’s sporting events can regularly mean a round trip of more than 200km.

The current battery life of an electric vehicle is around 160km – the Nissan Leaf is quoting an average even lower at 135km – so they are still not an option as the primary vehicle for even the most die-hard regional environmentalist.

There has been some take-up of hybrid vehicles – and they are more suitable to Australian conditions – but what is needed for those who would love to move to a fully electric vehicle?

Electric is more suited to the major cities, where they can be used for the daily commute to work (and may provide an alternative for the second family vehicle).

But the uptake of new electric vehicles is slow according to one recent report, with limited sales in the first few months of the year, although BMW claimed the most with 70 of its i3 model. (It’s a similar story in other countries where sales are far less than predicted.)

One of the reasons for the slow take-up in Australia has been identified as a lack of infrastructure to keep electric vehicles powered, especially on the longer journeys that are typical here.

The need for distance

Three main issues need to addressed if we are to see more electric vehicles on our roads are:

  1. The battery technology
  2. Availability of charging stations
  3. Whether the cost of electricity continues to increase to a point where liquid fuels are the most economic option.

Technology in electric vehicles is changing fast. Vehicle battery charging stations that are being deployed in the United States and Europe are being developed right here in Australia.

New “fast chargers” will enable quicker charging, but will cost more (for both electricity at a higher tariff and use of the charger) compared to the overnight charge in the home garage. The Australian-designed Veefil by Tritium will allow for a charge of approximately 48km for each 10-minute charging cycle.

A battery boost network

The problem is who will pay for establishing a network that will allow for vehicle charging around what is one of the greatest highway networks (by length) anywhere in the world?

We could retro-fit every current petrol service station with electric vehicle chargers – but what incentive would there be for the oil companies to even entertain the idea?

Maybe the electricity distribution companies or retailers may look at vertical integration and diversify into their chain. Co-locating at existing sub-station sites may be a feasible option for them.

There is also an opportunity for electricity generators as it will help use up the excess capacity they currently have due to falling demand.

Image: A parking bay reserved for charging electric cars at a shopping mall in Ohio, US.
Flickr/Nicholas Eckhart, CC BY

With a maximum charging time (utilising a fast charger) being 30 minutes, shopping centres or take-away food chains may also provide a viable option, providing drivers with something to do while their vehicle is being charged. Maybe valet car charging may become an option.

While there has been much focus on the new Tesla battery for domestic use (primarily for photovoltaic (PV) systems), this is really a spin-off from what the company is doing for its vehicle batteries.

The company’s co-founder, Elon Musk, has stated that it should be able to extend the life of its batteries considerably within 18 months. This is a key area for all manufacturers of vehicle batteries and development in storage technology will flow through to the vehicle industry.

The final issue was the rising price of electricity within Australia. There has been much discussion around electric vehicles being a de-facto energy storage system for the home. However, in many cases the vehicle will not be in the garage during the day.

Electric cars will be the future, one day

For the foreseeable future, the price of charging the electric vehicle will be less than a tank of petrol and the whole distributable generation market will change considerably over the next decade.

While electric vehicles are the way of the future, for Australia we still have to wait until they go through the pain of the innovation curve for a little longer and technology makes them more suitable to our driving conditions.

We are at that stage where people will not invest in the vehicles until there is infrastructure to support them and those willing to put in the infrastructure will hold back until there are enough vehicles on the road to support the investment.

It is not a case of will electric vehicles dominate the market, it is just a case of when. This is an area where Australia can play a dominant role in the long-term roll-out of infrastructure requirements for long-distance travel.

The Conversation

Craig Froome, Global Change Institute – Clean Energy Program Manager , The University of Queensland

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Michellina Van Loder is a Professional Writer, Journalist and Blogger. This is where she shares her tales about trail blazing her way out of the Labyrinth of Chemical Sensitivities and Mould. This is also where you will find the latest Research on related topics.

The Butterfly Effect

The Butterfly Effect: Finding Sanctuary in Butterfly Town, USA, By Jennifer Lunden was a piece of creative nonfiction that I chose to present to my Creative Nonfiction class early in 2014, during the last year of my Diploma at Victoria University (VU).


My Creative Nonfiction teacher, the wonderful Michelle Fincke, read the following analysis of ‘The Butterfly Effect’ out in class. (The 3M mask, I sometimes have to wear to protect my airways from fragrances, solvents and petrochemicals, prevented me from being able to read this out loud due to lack of oxygen, compounding already existing upper respiratory health problems; these are (head pains, sinus pain, shortness of breath) issues that happen while talking for extended periods of time while wearing the cloistering thing!)

This particular Professional Writing and Editing class was early on in the semester, and it was only during the first two weeks that I had to suffer wearing a mask for the whole class: after that short, but intense, time, this wonderful and compassionate teacher managed to persuade and gain the understudying of my fellow classmates as to why and how they could help accommodate and include me in classes. For the rest of the semester I attended classes without wearing a mask (I still wore it in my car and into the building), and I was able to read out my own work to the class. (Having the air purifiers running in the classroom also helped! As did a tick sheet, which allowed me to assess the air without having to breath it in to do so.)

Here is the written analysis of Lunden’s piece that was read out by Michelle on my behalf:

One of the reasons that I, particularly, like The Butterfly Effect: Finding Sanctuary in Butterfly Town, USA is because it’s written by the writer, Jennifer Lunden, who just happens to have the same condition that I have; although over in the US, it’s called Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS); another reason is it’s about the Monarch Butterflies and their habitat, our Earth. Lunden manages to weave both topics seamlessly into this wonderfully written work of creative nonfiction.


It’s probably my all-time favourite creative nonfiction piece of another writer’s work. Ever.

The story reads like fiction because Lunden uses two timelines, the first is of her as a young girl, aged 9, where she is fascinated with Monarch caterpillars and their metamorphism into butterflies, and the second is of her as an adult diagnosed with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities, researching the Monarchs, and weaving into the story her analysis that many people with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity are unable to find safe habitats—as is also the case for many of the Monarch butterflies. The story is ultimately about saving the butterflies and finding solutions to the population’s decline.

One literary device used in this piece is the tactic of switching point of view (POV) throughout: mostly, it’s written in first person POV; ergo, there are two parts where it’s written in third person POV. After careful analysis of the text, I think these are both about a young girl and the way she sees the beauty of the butterflies, and her relationship with them. It’s not directly clear if the girl is Lunden, herself, or not, but personally, as a reader, I felt that it most certainly is. This switching about of POVs is also a literary device utilised by some savvy creative nonfiction writers to make their work more interesting: it creates a greater emotional connection with the reader, allowing them to see and feel events from another’s perspective.


I also enjoyed the way she has written about what it’s like to be forced to wear a mask if you have this condition and need to attempt to partake in normal life. (I’ve included two examples below.) And, during undertaking the research for this story, even though Lunden knows the journey might make her ill, she attempts it anyway, and writes about it. I can relate to this in so many ways:

it’s like our passion carries more power than our illness (sometimes; and if only for a while until we get knocked flat, once again).

It’s obvious that this is creative nonfiction because it’s factual but also something Lunden is enthusiastic about… Not only is it written using wonderful imagery and figurative language such as metaphors, similes and analogies, but also includes facts, research and quotes from interviews. These all make for mind-riveting reading.  I take an awesome amount of inspiration from all of this; but, at the same time, I feel deeply despondent that it’s almost a guarantee that she will, and does, have her health intruded on by chemical exposures impacting upon her immune system, just from going out into the world to pursue her interest: writing about the butterflies.

I especially enjoyed the use of metaphors throughout the piece. Such as this example: “They are nature’s stained-glass windows, flying high between us and the sun.” to describe the butterflies and the pattern on their wings. As a reader, for me, this creates the most intensely beautiful imagery: I feel in touch with the creatures even though I’m [at the time or writing this] enclosed in a tiny foil-lined room.

“They are nature’s stained-glass windows, flying high between us and the sun.”

Rightfully so, Lunden’s story won the 2012 Pushcart Prize for Creative Non Fiction:

“The Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses series, published every year since 1976, is the most honored literary project in America.”

The Butterfly Effect: Finding Sanctuary in Butterfly Town, USA

By Jennifer Lunden

Some Extracts from Lunden’s piece (Note: the whole story is linked to at the end of this post):


“It was cold in Maine. Cold. And the snow was heaped in dirty piles on the side of the road. And the sidewalks were icy. And it got dark at 4:30 in the afternoon.

It was the dead of winter, and I wanted out, so I flew to California—to Pacific Grove, aka Butterfly Town, USA, to see the monarchs. It was a journey home, really, though I had never been there.

I grew up in a box-shaped house on a well-manicured lawn in the suburbs of a mid-sized Canadian city in Ontario. Across the road and abutting the river was a patch of city land, untended, wild, a field of tall grasses flecked with milkweed and Queen Anne’s lace. There, I discovered my first monarch caterpillar. I was 9 years old, and I had never seen anything like it. Boldly ringed in concentric stripes—black, yellow and white—it was stretched out on a milkweed leaf, eating. I plucked it off, held it in my hand, touched it with my fingers. Its skin was smooth, leathery. It did not roll up in a ball. It did not seem afraid. Docile. I broke off the milkweed near the top and carried my find home.

I scoured the fields in search of more. I filled jars with milkweed and caterpillars. I pounded nail holes in the lids. I spent hours watching them.

They ate voraciously. I could see their mandibles working. I could see the chunks they took out of the leaves, bite by bite. They grew fast, and before I knew it, they were climbing to the lids of their jars. They spun small mounds of silk and attached themselves to the mounds and hung there in the shapes of J’s for a long, long time. And then, when the moment was right, they split the skins on their backs, wrestled with themselves and turned inside-out, and, suddenly, there they were, something wholly different: an emerald green chrysalis with little golden flecks and a gold crown.


They would hang for days, for what seemed like forever, and nothing changed. And then one day, I could see the darkening. The butterfly was forming. Soon, I could see the outline of a wing. The orange. The black veins. The white polka dots.

The waiting for what would come next. … It seemed interminable.

I didn’t want to miss it.”

Example one by Jennifer Lunden:


“I have a carbon filter mask. If I were to give it a name, I think it would have a male name. Tom. Something strong and protective.

My mask is battleship gray. It shields me from perfumes and colognes, air fresheners, cleaning products, pesticides, fumes from fresh paint. I carry it in a baggie in my purse, and I take it out now, on this airplane, and strap it on.

I wear it when I can feel the headache coming on. When it hits, it feels as though my brain has swollen inside the cradle of my scalp. A fog rolls in. My capacity to juggle a number of thoughts at once, an ability most people take for granted, dwindles. It alarms me when this happens, when my brain gives way.

I have it easy compared to some people. I know people who suffer seizures when exposed to chemicals. Closed airways, joint and muscle pain, nausea, insomnia, disabling fatigue. Panic attacks, mood swings. I know people who could never hazard the bad air on planes. Some of them live in ceramic trailers in the deserts of Arizona. Some of them are homeless; they live in their cars or tents. They can’t find anyplace safe to breathe. They can’t find habitat.

We call ourselves “canaries in the coal mine.” We have multiple-chemical sensitivity, and our numbers are growing.”

Example two by Jennifer Lunden


“My other mask—my special occasion mask—is a flowery, lacy affair, skin-toned, with a little rose appliqué by its left strap. Feminine. Or as feminine as a fume-deterring mask can be.

It’s not any better, really, this flowery, lacy mask. What I really want is a mask bearing an appliquéd symbol that stands for “your toxic products are making me sick.” It would be nice if the symbol could point out, too, that 62,000 chemicals used in the United States have never been tested for safety. That we are human guinea pigs. That while we think our government would surely protect us from egregious toxins, we are wrong.

But what would that symbol look like?

If I have to wear something that makes me stand out in a crowd, I’d rather it not be something that stands for “crazy” (think Michael Jackson) or “communicable” (think SARS). I want people to know that this mask isn’t about me so much as it is about us.”


I love the way that Lunden has drawn attention to the Monarch Butterflies while also showing how people sensitive to chemicals are intrinsically linked to what is happening to our precious ecosystem and its inhabitants. Of course, when I read about her experience with the mask, it blew my mind: here is a person going through what I am and she is (or was at the time) studying creative nonfiction!

When my teacher read this out to the class, I could tell she really liked it because she read it with such enthusiasm, and she even said to me that I had chosen a great piece because of the content and my situation: Getting a whole class to go fragrance free when the school is yet to implement a fragrance-free policy (yet!) is no easy task—for the teacher or the student!

However, I truly believe that having this particular author’s work on this particular subject read out to the class as my example of a work of creative nonfiction helped lay the foundation for getting that large group of students to help me. It surely helped cement in the understanding of why it was so important that students not wear chemical-laden products to class. And, yes, it worked!

To Jennifer Lunden, Michelle Fincke, my fellow students and VU, if you ever read this post, thank you: all of you have enriched my life in so many ways. Yay! I have a Diploma. (I can’t stop saying this; and I still feel like I’m dreaming.)

Love Michellina and the world’s Butterflies xo

More About Jennifer Lunden

One Canary Sings

Read Jennifer Lunden’s Blog: One Canary Sings ~ Notes from an Industrialised Body

Read all of ‘The Butterfly Effect: Finding Sanctuary in Butterfly Town, USA‘ ~ by Jennifer Lunden

Creative Creative Nonfiction ~ True Stories Told Well

Jennifer Lunden: I Know the Truth, I Know it In My Body

Michellina Van Loder is a Professional Writer, Journalist and Blogger. This is where she shares her tales about trail blazing her way out of the Labyrinth of Chemical Sensitivities and Mould. This is also where you will find the latest Research on related topics.

Dear Mr Cameron: Don’t Let Fracking Be The Next Asbestos

Guess what David Cameron got for Christmas?

A fortune cookie laced with Asbestos?

AsbestosCookie for frackheads

No, it was a gift wrapped box of Asbestos, apparently!

Dame Vivienne Westwood and Santa Claus joined forces to hand deliver an Asbestos Christmas present to the UK Prime Minister, Mr David Cameron at no. 10 Downing Street. All in the name of driving home the dangers of Fracking. The British public should be pleased!

A recently published Annual report, Innovation Risk, Managing it, Not Avoiding it, by the Government Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor Sir Mark Walport, which compares the potential health risks of Fracking with those of asbestos and thalidomide, was also hand delivered:

‘Walport’s report says: “History presents plenty of examples of innovation trajectories that later proved to be problematic — for instance involving asbestos, benzene, thalidomide, dioxins, lead in petrol, many pesticides, mercury, chlorine and endocrine-disrupting compounds…”’1.

More from Telegraph UK:

“Though the box of asbestos, which was carried by a gas mask-wearing Santa Claus, was not allowed through the Downing Street gates, Westwood and Corre were allowed to deliver a dossier of “independent medical reports” on the consequences of fracking.”

(Umm, why does it bother me when people use gas-masks for publicity stunts? Oh well, guess it’s for a good cause and all; ergo, best leave ours at home next time, hey? If we want to be taken seriously, that is.)

Kindly, they also gave Cameron a Christmas card to go with his Asbestos. A part of which read:

“Dear David,

… Although you have no democratic mandate to foist fracking onto the British people, or to sweep away our protections under civil law in order to allow drilling companies to drill under our homes, schools and environment without our consent, this is precisely what you are doing.

Please take some time over the festive period to consider the legacy that your decisions as Prime Minister will have on the British people and our green and pleasant land. We don’t want fracking to be the next Asbestos or Thalidomide, and we’re sure you wouldn’t want that on your hands either.

Wishing you a merry Christmas
Talk Fracking”

Inside the card was an open letter signed by 150 high profile individuals and organisations including Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF), Naomi Klein, End Ecocide EU, Sir Paul McCartney, his daughter Stella, Yoko Ono, Helena Bonham Carter, Jude Law, Sadie Frost, Greta Scacchi, Sir John Elliot Gardiner, Bianca Jagger, Lily Cole, Thom Yorke, Russell Brand, Vanessa Redgrave and Sir Antony Gormley; calling for an immediate suspension of fracking in the UK.

You can watch the Fracas surrounding the fracking and Cameron below:


From TalkFracking: What is Fracking?

Anti-Fracking Resources


1. Innovation Risk, Managing it, Not Avoiding it, by the Government Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor Sir Mark Walport

‘Asbestos fortune cookie’ image source: Redkid


Michellina Van Loder is a Professional Writer, Journalist and Blogger. This is where she shares her tales about trail blazing her way out of the Labyrinth of Chemical Sensitivities and Mould. This is also where you will find the latest Research on related topics.

Information, products and views presented by guest bloggers @The Labyrinth are not necessarily the same as those held by this blog's author, Michellina van Loder. Reviews are my own personal opinions (unless stated otherwise); and satire is used throughout personal posts. Any health topics discussed are not to be taken as medical advice. Seek out medical attention if needed and do your own research; however, you're welcome to use mine as a start.
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