Local councils urged to drive electric cars, trucks

Representatives from more than 100 local councils have jumped behind the wheels of electric vehicles ranging from luxury sedans to garbage trucks at an event to celebrate the upcoming World EV Day.

The Climate Summit for Local Government conference, held at Melbourne Showgrounds on Wednesday, gave councillors the chance to test drive nine electric vehicles from brands including Polestar, MG, Mercedes-Benz, Hyzon and BYD.

Organisers said the event was designed to give policymakers more hands-on experience with the technology as councils played a "powerful role" in cutting emissions and fuelling the second-hand car market.

The event comes a day after figures revealed more than six per cent of new cars sold in Australia in August were electric - a rise of two per cent from August 2022.

Cities Power Partnership director Portia Odell said the event, held with the Climate Council across two days, was designed to inspire local government leaders and show them available electric options.

"A lot of councils across the country are already doing a lot on electric vehicles such as purchasing electric vehicles for their fleets and rolling out public and active transport infrastructure," she said.

"Local governments can play a really powerful role in providing zero-emission transport options for communities."

Electric, low-emission options, Dr Odell said, ranged from passenger vehicles that could save on petrol costs and ultimately fuel the second-hand market to larger vehicles such as quiet and efficient delivery and garbage trucks.

"We are already seeing some councils start to trial electric garbage trucks, such as Blacktown in NSW and Casey in Victoria," she said.

"This is just the beginning."

Jason Modica, from Mildura Rural City Council, said councils could be the "engine rooms of the energy transition" for Australia and use renewable energy to save ratepayers money while cutting emissions.

"In Mildura, we have the raw energy of the sun - over 300 days of sunshine a year," he said.

"We've got seven large industrial solar farms, all with over 770,000 panels, and over 900 kilowatts of solar on our council buildings so that's led us to put in infrastructure for charging and transition our initial drive fleet."

The local council had adopted six electric vehicles, he said, with plans to replace its remaining petrol and diesel vehicles within five years and heavy vehicles between 2030 and 2040.

The fourth annual World EV Day, to be held on Saturday, is designed to encourage the adoption of battery-electric vehicles and reduce transport emissions.

Australia had approximately 130,000 electric vehicles by July, according to the Electric Vehicle Council, with more than 180,000 expected to be on roads by the end of the year.

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