Queensland wants to use Bruce Highway's sunshine

    Friday, August 07, 2015

    In a recent article, we discussed some of the engineering priorities highlighted in the Bruce Highway Action Plan, which aims to renovate the disruption-prone motorway.

    However, the state government isn't stopping at improving Queenlsand's traffic infrastructure. A recent announcement by the Queensland Cabinet and Ministerial Directory maintained that green energy investment is on the agenda. 

    The Bruce Highway is going solar 

    According to Minister Assisting the Premier on North Queensland Coralee O'Rourke, Townsville may be the first of many municipalities to have a service station where electric vehicle (EV) drivers can plug in. The power won't come from coal-fired plants, but rather on-site solar panels. 

    "Our vision is for this to be the start of an 'electric super highway' by facilitating fast-charging service locations for drivers travelling up and down the length of Queensland," said Mrs O'Rourke. 

    "Up to two electric vehicles could charge at the same time, with an expected average charge time of 15-30 minutes." 

    The initiative is being supported by both Economic Development Queensland (EDQ) and Ergon Energy. The latter is offering small businesses the chance to lease 25 kilowatts (kW) of solar panels, while EDQ will help enterprises cover the costs of leasing EV charge equipment.

    How will EVs impact Queensland's transit infrastructure?

    At first glance, it's hard to imagine that EVs would have a dramatic impact on urban engineering solutions, highway traffic, and Queensland's wider transportation infrastructure. The Energy Supply Association of Australia (ESAA) wrote a discussion paper that alluded to these concerns, highlighting a mix of concerns and benefits.

    When developing urban streets or highways, traffic analysts always consider how their decisions will impact driver safety. Road safety audits, impact assessments and intersection capacity analyses​ all provide insight into this concern. 

    Because EVs don't have large combustion engines, EVs typically weigh less than gas-powered vehicles. EV manufacturers can utilise this lighter weight to improve their automobiles' structural safety, according to the ESAA. This trait also makes for a vehicle that is more easy to manoeuvre, suggesting that drivers will be able to exercise better control. 

    Still, EVs aren't without their own safety concerns, as mentioned in the following tweet:

    Changes to the power infrastructure 

    The idea of placing solar panels at petrol stations to provide power for electric vehicles may relieve pressures on the main grid. Researchers from the University of New South Wales noted that the average EV has a range of about 160 kilometres.

    While the technology is improving, this range means those travelling long distances will have to charge up quite frequently. Assuming that EVs become immensely popular in the state, Queensland's grid will have to accommodate them.