The push to dramatically increase the number of electric cars on the streets would bring a major cost to the housing market, it has been revealed.

According to The Daily Telegraph, one element of Labor leader Bill Shorten’s policy is to “work with states to ensure new and refurbished commercial and residential developments include EV charging capacity”.

What this means in reality is that homeowners could be slugged with the cost of upgrading their wiring to allow for three-phase power so that electric cars could be charged; an expensive proposition on its own without the additional cost of installing EV chargers.

However, there’s an even bigger problem looming for Australia’s electricity network if everyone switches to EVs.

Real-world limitations

While the average homeowner can get an EV charger installed relatively easily, a problem emerges when people do it en masse.

Our entire electrical system is based around streets, suburbs and cities using a certain amount of power, but in recent years major issues have arisen on hot days when everyone switches on their air-conditioning. In some states, rolling blackouts have become all too regular during summer, and the loss of baseload power stations is starting to take its toll.

There are estimates that at least 10 solar panels would have to be installed per vehicle, per premises, to charge these vehicles. But since many people are out during the day and home at night, home-based solutions would require additional batteries and infrastructure to store solar power.

Setting aside the limitations on power generation, the next obstacles is the actual power infrastructure. You can only run so much electricity through a wire, and many of Australia’s substations and grids are set up to accommodate what’s there now. A rapid uptake of electric vehicles could place extra strain on this infrastructure, requiring large-scale upgrades similar to the NBN rollout.

In more densely-populated areas, such as retirement villages or in the major cities, there could be physical limitations on getting enough solar panels on roofs, or chargers to parking spaces, creating a new set of ‘haves and have-nots’. Those with the money to pay would be fine, while those without would have to rely on public transport. This is, of course, not a problem in major cities with buses, trains and ferries, but it is a real problem for those in regional and remote communities.

The politics of climate change

Labor leader Bill Shorten has repeatedly said he wants half of all new cars sold by 2030 to be electric, with tough restrictions on traditional (and very popular) vehicles such as utes and family-sized cars.

This would unfairly hit country people, who rely on the cheap, long-distance travel offered by petrol and diesel. While city-dwellers could comfortably live with a car that can only drive 200-300km between charges, out in the regions people will often travel those distances just to go to the shops. The prospect of an overnight stay in order to go to town would have a lot of country people feeling like they had time-travelled.

It’s clear that Labor is chasing the Green vote with promises of electric vehicle quotas, taxes and emissions reduction targets, but the reality of the economic wrecking ball that is set to swing could drastically change Australia’s fortunes.

Even though many agree carbon emissions should be reduced, voters will have to choose whether or not they can afford to pay Labor’s Bill when they go to the polls on May 18.