Monday, November 12, 2007

Green Transport Innovation Fund

electric bicycleThe ALP has promised a $500M Green Car Innovation Fund . If elected, hopefully this will be implemented as a broader "Green Transport Innovation Fund". Such a fund should allow for other forms of transport to be more fuel efficient, including buses, trains, trucks and ships. All of these forms of transport are made in Australia. Also a modest investment in hybrid electric bicycles and scooters could produce a new industry for Australia.

Adding new technology, such as hybrid diesel/electric motors to passenger cars requires decades of investment and billions of dollars. The equipment has to be designed to be made in high volumes at the lowest possible cost and to operate for years with little maintenance. Most Australian cars are designed elsewhere and even those designed in Australia have to conform to the international standards of their overseas headquarters. The Australian branch of a multinational car company can't simply decide to make its own version of a hybrid car. This will make the ALP's Green fund largely ineffective.

However, such an investment applied to other transport could produce results much quicker. Buses, trains, trucks and ships are made in lower volumes with more customization and local adaption than cars. Also Australia has small specialist arms of multinational companies making specialist vehicles, such as underground mining trucks, which would particularly suite low fuel drives. The payback period for fuel saving in such vehicles and the bonus of reduced air pollution in a confined underground mine would allow a payback for an investment in years, rather than decades.

Australia also happens to be the major international maker of high speed ferries, both for civilian and military use. In this areas Australia partners with US companies, but is the developer of the technology and a major manufacturer. These vessels have a high fuel consumption and new technology could be used to reduce that. As well as saving costs, this would be very attractive to the military to increase the flexibility of the ships.

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