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Government grants help drive Net Zero targets

Zero Emissions Vehicle Grants from the Victorian Government have already proven advantageous in helping recipients reduce carbon emissions.

The Victorian Government’s strong commitment to helping drive down carbon emission and move towards a Net Zero industry, with its Zero Emission Vehicle Grants being just one example of this commitment. 

To accelerate the transition to ZEVs, the Government invested $5 million to establish a ZEV Commercial Sector Innovation Fund (CSIF).

The CSIF had been established to encourage the use of ZEVs and ZEV technology in commercial settings.

Grants were awarded following an expression of interest (EOI) process to businesses and organisations which were able to demonstrate the greatest potential to influence and change business behaviour and thinking regarding ZEV technology.

The projects selected to receive grant funding include representation from rural and regional Victoria, and business sectors spanning agriculture, education, fleet, logistics, commercial passenger vehicles and public transport.

The grant program, which is now closed, was taken advantage of by commercial businesses looking to scale up their use of electric vehicles and associated technology in place of internal combustion engines. 

One such recipient was Duxton Dried Fruits, located in the Sunraysia region, in northwestern Victoria and southwestern New South Wales. 

Duxton Dried Fruits is Australia’s largest dried fruits grower by hectares under vine.

Henry Young, sustainability project manager, Duxton Dried Fruits, has lots of praise for the grant program and the impact of swapping in electric vehicles. 

“Duxton Dried Fruit crops 540 hectares of vines producing roughly 30 per cent of Australia’s dried fruit harvest,” he said. 

“As a successful recipient of the grant, Duxton has used the funding to replace six existing internal combustion engine farm utility task vehicles (UTV). We’ve replaced those with fully
electric vehicles.” 

To compliment and support the new use of six electric all terrain side by side vehicles Duxton Dried Fruits has also installed the appropriate solar infrastructure. 

“We have a rooftop mounted solar array totalling 60 kilowatts and we have installed a complimentary battery system that stored 128 kilowatts,” said Young. 

“As a successful recipient we were able to work with a solar provider and they were able to design a system that will account for all of our usage and allow for the vineyard to be a Net Zero producer.” 

A huge advantage to the new solar array is its ability to give Duxton Dried Fruits excess energy reserves. 

“Currently the vineyard uses half a megawatt of electricity a year, with the solar system it’s designed to produce one megawatt of power a year,” said Young. 

“This is a keystone project to demonstrate to our existing portfolios and the wider agricultural community of the way solar can be adopted on the way to Net Zero.” 

Young said any concerns about the integration of the EV’s into the existing systems of Duxton Dried Fruit were almost immediately put to rest. 

“The machines have been really well received, there was a sense of anxiety with a battery replacing internal combustion engines, but they have been absolutely faultless so far,” he said. 

And the routine used to ensure they are always ready for each day’s production has also proven simple. 

“At night the vehicles are parked and plugged in and then by the morning they are fully charged and ready to go,”
said Young. 

“The UTV’s are integral to our day-to-day operations and are used daily by our staff. 

“The various roles they fulfil include fuel and harvest support and general yard duties, irrigation checks, and currently they’ve been used widely for
weed control.” 

Young said the EV’s provided a string of advantages beyond the reduction in carbon and the move towards being a Net Zero producer. 

“My favourite thing is the reduction in noise in the operator environment, they are also considerably more powerful than the machines we’ve replaced, and they have a range of innovative features,” he said. 

“From a pricing standpoint the machines are on par with what’s out there in the market layered in terms of internal combustion engines. 

“There is significant outlay in the solar and battery set up but that is offset by a greatly reduced operating cost of not having petrol in the system.” 

The EV’s replaced six internal combustion engine systems. 

“The solar system and battery have in general replaced us having a fuel bowser and fuel tank,” said Young. 

“We don’t have to have trucks coming from town to fill it up and we aren’t having to run into tow for
emergency fuel.” 

Duxton Dried Fruit has also partnered with local educational institutions to help educate and drive the wider sector towards more sustainable and environmentally efficient modes of production, all a positive flow on effect of the Victorian Government’s drive towards Net Zero. 

“We have partnered with TAFE Victoria and have been working with Sunny TAFE in Mildura to develop an educational course that our staff are completing,” he said. 

“That course goes through maintenance procedures and operating procedures unique to high-voltage electric vehicles.” 

“And in terms of the solar infrastructure, we’ve partnered with La Trobe University, and they’ve been fed the live data and are compiling a pathway to adoption roadmap for the technology in the agricultural sector.”

Duxton is also working closely with the Mallee Regional Innovation Centre. 

“They regularly put on grower workshops and field days and through them we’ve been able to showcase the technology and expose it to the local sector,” said Young.  

“There have been unexpected benefits. We’ve saved greatly on the complexity and labour savings of not having to organise fuel and have emergency run ins to town which is 40km from the site.” 

Young said programs like this are important for the push towards Net Zero. 

“Each business is unique, and you’ll have to analyse figures to see if it works for you but up in the Sunraysia region having a solar and battery system is a no brainer,” said Young. 

“For the future, I am hopeful that the battery technology can continue to improve, it has already come so far. 

“We would love to see out tractors become fully electric, but we know it’s not quite there at the moment but given the progress so far it’s inevitable.” 

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