Gladstone Ecofest, with the motto Repowering Gladstone, has a history of promoting environmental issues, but also difficulty attracting electric vehicles to the event. Locals seem reluctant to display their Teslas (yes, there are some in this huge coal export hub). The fact that the event is sponsored by major energy companies firmly committed to fossil fuels might be part of the problem. The Gladstone Library fully electric Kia Niro EV was a notable exception.
So, when my friend Arthur Hunt suggested I attend, bring my Tess, and invite some friends, I thought, “What an adventure!” The reception, as I have mentioned previously, was fantastic! Organiser extraordinaire Anna Hitchcock, Coordinator, Gladstone Conservation Council, had warned us that we would be mobbed, and we were, even after I managed to up the number of cars attending from 2 to 7. Anna had to go back to the Council and ask for more space — a good problem to have.
She said that we would have to have deep technical knowledge to answer the questions of the “car nuts and revheads” of Gladstone, and that they “would be impressed by our cars.” Well, I thought, we have Sam and Rado with us, so that handles the technical stuff. We actually didn’t seem to attract the diehard, V8 car buffs, and we seemed be answering normal questions around range, charging time, and costs. She was right about this though: We’re a bit insulated from this change here in Central Queensland.
There ended up being 8 electric vehicles in our display — 4 Tesla Model 3s, 1 Tesla Model S, 2 Hyundai Kona EVs, and 1 BYD E6. Only one car was local. We ended up parked next to Sam Moran’s 2022 Tesla 3 Performance — a humbling experience for our Tess, who I now describe as an antique (2019 build SR +). My wife explains that our car came out on the first fleet. (That is, the first fleet of Tesla transporters to Australia in 2019).
We encouraged open access to our car, and I don’t think there was a moment when there wasn’t someone sitting in the car. Parents found it difficult at times to remove their youngsters from the screen.
During the day, hundreds of people went through the display, including lots and lots of kids. The 12–25 year olds really knew their stuff and played with the screen like pros. They were really excited to see the car and to sit in it. And then there were those who were too scared to sit in it. Fart mode got a good workout.
I did my talk about the rapidity of the uptake of EVs globally. Ironically, I spoke after the Toyota talk on self-charging hybrids. I managed to catch up with the speaker later in the day and we had “the chat.” He clarified that Toyota’s hybrids self-charge when using regen braking. Good point. He also informed me that the Toyota BZ4 EV will be in Australia soon. Even better point. Bill Robertson Toyota is a major sponsor of Ecofest, and a supporter of green hydrogen, which they expect will have a major role in repowering Gladstone.
Company manager for noodoe Sam Moran (check out his interview here) made the observation: What was a little surprising was the lack of a DC fast charger in Gladstone, especially when considering the calibre of the energy companies with considerable presence locally — including Origin, Santos, and Shell.
Some DC fast EV charging stations in Gladstone would be a great initiative to encourage the uptake of EVs locally. Origin and Shell have been making some effort recently with their activity in the EV charging infrastructure space. If they can get their ducks in a row, hopefully by the next Gladstone Ecofest, we might see a new fast charger or two in town.
Gladstone is a port city undergoing change. The change is from exporting fossil fuels to exporting renewables. Fortescue Future Industries is setting up a massive green hydrogen export hub here to repower Gladstone. For this vibrant city, the future is bright, and green.