Wagga Wagga City Council’s electric car. Credit: Wagga Wagga City Council
Wagga Wagga City Council’s electric car. Credit: Wagga Wagga City Council

Country mayor forced to drive new electric car to Sydney

A country mayor will be forced to drive his council's new electric car nearly 500km to Sydney to prove its worth after a feud erupted over the "absurd" purchase.

Wagga Wagga City Council's $54,000 Hyundai IONIQ can only travel 280km before it runs out of battery power. It then takes four hours to charge. It's led a councillor to question its suitability, months after the council voted to overturn its initial decision to declare a climate emergency.

To put the car to the test Councillor Paul Funnell successfully moved a motion requiring Mayor Greg Conkey to drive the vehicle to Sydney and report back to council.

Cr Funnell said the idea of a bush council owning an electric car was absurd.

"This is not like owning an electric car in the city. To put it in perspective we have 2500km of road network in Wagga alone," he told The Daily Telegraph.

"It can't be serviced in Wagga. If there are any problems the car has to go to Canberra to be fixed. It cost $54,000 and it has a short lifespan, there is no way we are getting bang for our buck."

Wagga Wagga Mayor Greg Conkey (far right) with the new electric car and council staff.
Wagga Wagga Mayor Greg Conkey (far right) with the new electric car and council staff.

 

According to council publications the IONIQ takes four-and-a-half-hours to charge and the council has built the only charging station in Wagga for it.

Cr Funnell said a similar model of Hyundai, the Elantra, gets around 650km per tank when running on petrol.

Councillor Paul Funnell. Picture: Dylan Robinson
Councillor Paul Funnell. Picture: Dylan Robinson

Mayor Conkey said he was not in council chambers when Cr Funnell's motion for him to drive the car to Sydney was carried but he was happy to test the vehicle's feasibility.

"The trial is to test a whole range of things. It is worth seeing the pitfalls, pros and cons of the car," he said.

"At the moment it takes about five hours to get to Sydney or Melbourne. We need to see whether this vehicle would take much longer."

The mayor said his staff were planning a route so he would not be left stranded on the side of the road with a flat battery during his journey.

His report has to address the availability and efficiency of the charging stations, any delays incurred due to the range of the vehicle and a record of any "anxiety zones".

Earlier this year Wagga Council declared a climate emergency however this was later overturned when Cr Funnell argued it should be more focused on local issues.

The electric car was bought as part of council's commitment to the Cities Power Partnership program - a coalition of councils attempting to "transform Australia's energy landscape from the ground up".

Council general manager Peter Thompson said the vehicle was cheaper for shorter trips around the city. He said it was ideal for short trips council officers made and about 70 per cent cheaper to power per kilometre than a standard combustion engine.

He said a cost-benefit analysis would be conducted after a period of operation.