Give the green light to eco-friendly cars

By Rachel Borchardt

One of the world’s leading environmental lobbyists has urged Australian governments to lead the switch away from gas guzzlers to green vehicles.

Jon Dee, chairman of social and environmental lobby group Do Something and co-founder of Planet Ark, said it was time for government and corporations to help develop better green vehicles and incorporate them into their fleets.

“People know technology exists somewhere and they want it implemented,” he said.

“They want someone else to take the lead and resolve the issues that we face.”

Dee said there were two major constraints holding back the electric and hydrogen car market in Australia. First, there was still a misapprehension that the technology was new and untested. And, second, there was a belief that electric cars would not satisfy people’s need for speed.

Speaking recently at the Local Government Association of Queensland’s Infrastructure Symposium 2009, Dee dismissed such concerns and said car buyers had an outdated perception of green vehicles.

“Most people tend to think of environmentally friendly cars as something similar to a golf buggy powered by valium … but new alternatives are taking it to the stage where it is now starting to become a practical alternative,” he said.

Apart from vehicles such as Toyota Prius’s hybrid and Mitsubishi’s all-electric i-MiEV, a new green option is the Tesla, a battery-powered car jointly designed by American start-up company Tesla Motors and Lotus. It can reach speeds of up to 100kmh in less than four seconds, has a range of 300km on one charge and a top speed of 210kmh.

The Federal Government is pressing ahead with its Green Car Innovation Fund, which provides financial assistance to Australian companies developing technologies that reduce fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions of passenger motor vehicles.

Some government bodies are turning to green vehicles such as the Prius, including a number of councils.
Dee said through purchasing power and community influence, local government could have an impact on the motoring sector.

“The reason (Planet Ark was) able to make things like National Tree Day so successful is because councils got behind it and communicated it to the local community … We need to think of how councils can play a similar role in promoting these environmental alternatives with cars … and together we can play a key role in creating a future where eco-motoring is a reality and not a novelty.”

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