Pokemon cards are riding a wave of nostalgia and some are more expensive than ever

In the late 90s, riding the popularity of two wildly successful video games, the first Pokemon cards were released into the world.

Like beanie babies, discmans and a Blockbuster video membership card — everyone wanted to be a part of the craze.

And like beanie babies and their ilk, they faded out as the world moved on, right? Wrong.

Here in 2021, Pokemon cards are back. From the school yard to high-end auction houses that usually sell Picassos, the cards are everywhere.

Here’s what’s going on, and why you might want to go digging in your closet for that binder of cards you forgot about 20 years ago.

It’s almost impossible to understate how wild the interest in Pokemon cards has been the past year.

If you’d like to go and buy the latest release, forget about it. Cards are such a hot commodity that sets not even released yet are already sold out.

The Pokemon Company had to issue a statement saying the high demand and “global shipping constraints” (looking at you, Suez Canal) were making it tough for fans to get a hold of cards, and it was printing more as quickly as possible.

In the US, department store Target stopped selling the cards saying it needed to protect its staff from fans (and scalpers) desperate to snap up whatever crumbs of stock were available.

Anything even remotely related to the cardsfrom Happy Meals to cereals with bonus cards — is met with a stampede of collectors.

And the really expensive ones? They’re breaking records, sometimes literally hours after new ones have been set.

This holographic Charizard from the first-ever set sold for $US369,000 ($475,500) last December.

An ultra-rare Illustrator Pikachu card sold for $US375,000 in February.

Ehren Roebuck started buying and selling Pokemon cards 10 years ago as a side hobby after falling in love with playing the game.

But the explosion in interest in the past year means he’s now considering making it his full-time job. Roebuck says the boom is kind of like the boom in cryptocurrency.

“There are so many different people into Pokemon,” Roebuck said.

In its State of Trading Cards report, eBay said that sales of all trading cards on its platform surged 142 per cent worldwide from 2019 to 2020. Australia topped the world with the highest increase, with sales growing at 379 per cent year on year, beating out China (205 per cent) and Canada (149 per cent).

And Pokemon cards saw the most growth of all, with sales increasing a whopping 574 per cent from 2019 to 2020. 

Roebuck credited the coronavirus lockdowns for creating the conditions that sent the Pokemon card craze into overdrive.

A combination of people taking the opportunity for a cleanout and discovering their cards combined with others with a little more money in their pocket than normal looking for a nostalgia hit from the world’s highest-grossing media franchise.

“Almost every day someone is on (Facebook) with a folder of cards saying ‘what are these worth?’,” he said.

Massive internet personalities (like Logan Paul) both cashed in and helped stoke interest in the boom, with live streams opening super rare packs drawing millions of viewers.

Every pack offers a slice of drama, as personalities slowly reveal each card and viewers wait to see if this is the one worth hundreds of thousands of dollars or not.

“He (Paul) was charging a premium on packs above what they are worth, just because people wanted to have their pack opened by him, in front of his audience,” Roebuck said.

“It’s a massive element of it and that’s got a lot of people into the hype.”

As the value of the cards (both original sets and modern ones) has skyrocketed, scalpers have swooped in, making life difficult for fans to get their hands on stock.

“There are a lot of people who realise there is potentially money in it … called flippers or scalpers … who have no clue about the cards or the game,” Roebuck said.

Before it banned the sale of the cards, one Target in the US posted a notice that it was willing to call the police on scalpers who camped out overnight to snap up stock.

And services that “grade” the cards — a group of eagle-eyed valuers who can spot every small imperfection and rank the condition of any given card — have suspended business because they’ve been overwhelmed.

Cards are rated on a scale of 1 — 10 and the difference between a 9 and a 10 can add hundreds or thousands of dollars to a card’s value.

Even a card graded at less-than-perfect can be worth double or triple an ungraded one.

So collectors flooded the offices of services like PSA looking to increase the value of their cards.

First off, cool your jets.

Roebuck said you’ll want to spend a good amount of time researching.

Roebuck said he’s spied plenty of instances of people posting on social media and taking the first offer, only to later find out they’ve been sold for well short of what they’re worth.

Beyond that, Roebeck said not to be too concerned with the condition of the cards as long as they’re the right ones.

The older the cards, the more chance they’ll be worth serious money.

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Brisbane motorists facing ‘obscene rip-off’ as the city once more becomes the nation’s most expensive capital city for unleaded fuel

The latest RACQ data reveals Brisbane service stations were pumping fuel at a 15-month record high in April, despite a fall in the international oil price.

In recent weeks, prices at many petrol stations have hovered between $1.60 and $1.70 a litre, giving the big oil companies more than 45 cents profit for every litre pumped into a car.

RACQ spokeswoman Lauren Ritchie said the data showed what many people feared.

“Brisbane is the most expensive capital city in Australia when it comes to unleaded petrol prices,” Ms Ritchie said.

“When we are seeing jumps of around 40 cents a litre from the bottom of the cycle to the top of the cycle that really hurts.

“Retailers are taking a very healthy margin on top of what we should be paying here.”

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Canberra, Sydney, Darwin most expensive to rent a home

Housing rental prices have reached record highs in multiple Australian capital cities, with Canberra tenants facing the highest costs in the country.

According to the Domain Rent Report released today, Canberra tenants coughed up a mega $600 in weekly rent for houses in the latest quarter and $500 for units.

Housing rentals in Sydney remained at a high of $550 per week, $20 more than the asking price in March last year.

Canberra tenants are facing the highest rental costs in the country. (Peter Rae)

The weekly rent for units remained at $470, which is $60 less than this time last year.

Sydney units recorded the steepest annual fall since Domain records began in 2004.

Overall, the harbour city was tied in second place for highest rental prices with Darwin, followed by Hobart in third at $480.

Brisbane overtook Melbourne by $10, the asking rental housing price hitting $440.

It means for the first time on record, Melbourne is the second most affordable capital city in the country, tied with Perth at $430.

Housing rental prices have reached record highs in multiple Australian capital cities. (Peter Rae)

Melbourne’s rental market saw significant rental price falls for houses and units over the last year and quarter, which could be due to the effects of its lengthy COVID-19 lockdowns.

Adelaide was crowned the most affordable with housing rental prices at just $425.

Outer-city regions across the country also saw median rental asking prices rise as demand ramped up.

Areas such as Sydney’s Northern Beaches, Sutherland, outer south-west, outer west and the Blue Mountains grew in rental asking prices.

Prices similarly rose in Melbourne’s outer-east, south-east and Mornington Peninsula.

Demand also increased for the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast in Queensland.

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Silicon Valley’s most expensive home with 35 bedrooms up for sale for $176.5 million

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Silicon Valley’s most expensive home with 35 bedrooms is for sale. Picture: Realtor

Silicon Valley’s most expensive home is for sale for $175 million. Picture: Realtor

A Silicon Valley home that just hit the market is the area’s highest-priced listing, asking a whopping $176.5 million (US$135 million).

The estate sits on a massive 74 acres of land and is made up of 32 bedrooms and 26 bathrooms.

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Silicon Valley’s most expensive home with 35 bedrooms is for sale. Picture: Realtor

The property holds three separate pools, a tennis court, a game room and a barn. Picture: Realtor

Silicon Valley’s most expensive home with 35 bedrooms is for sale. Picture: Realtor

The home boasts panoramic views. Picture: Realtor

The property, located in Woodside, is making a splash in the San Francisco Bay Area market, offering more than 2220 sqm of living space.

Known as Green Gables, the opulent property was constructed for a banker, Mortimer Fleishhacker, starting in 1911.

The entire compound now consists of seven homes in total, and has been held by the same family for five generations.

“There may not be another estate of this size in the country [that] can offer its owner such an unusual combination of privacy, panoramic views … and multiple living options,” Brad Miller, one of the Compass co-listing agents, told Realtor.

Silicon Valley’s most expensive home with 35 bedrooms is for sale. Picture: Realtor

The main residence comes with an additional six properties. Picture: Realtor

Silicon Valley’s most expensive home with 35 bedrooms is for sale. Picture: Realtor

A two-storey rustic tea house is chock-full of windows. Picture: Realtor

“The estate is also surprisingly close to the town’s shops, restaurants and the school in Woodside, one of the wealthiest and most vibrant enclaves in the heart of Silicon Valley,” Miller added.

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Features of the property include a stadium-size Roman pool and panoramic views of California’s Pacific Coast Range.

With the scaled main house and carefully designed gardens surrounding the six additional homes, other amenities include two more swimming pools, a tennis court, an artist’s studio, a barn and a rustic, two-storey stone tea house.

Silicon Valley’s most expensive home with 35 bedrooms is for sale. Picture: Realtor

The property sits on 74-acres. Picture: Realtor

Silicon Valley’s most expensive home with 35 bedrooms is for sale. Picture: Realtor

An open dining space looking out to the gardens. Picture: Realtor

Silicon Valley’s most expensive home with 35 bedrooms is for sale. Picture: Realtor

Known as Green Gables, the beautiful property was commissioned by a banker, Mortimer Fleishhacker, in 1911. Picture: Realtor

One of the pools is built as a free-form pool shaped around a colony of oaks. The Roman pool, located steps from the main house, is built to look like ruins.

Three of the bedrooms contain original furnishings, and there is a game room with hand-carved furniture.

Additional structures include a home from the 1970s with its own pool, an estate manager’s cottage, a modernist-style six-bedroom home and two buildings from the 1860s that have since been updated.

Silicon Valley’s most expensive home with 35 bedrooms is for sale. Picture: Realtor

The home oozes early 20th century charm. Picture: Realtor

Silicon Valley’s most expensive home with 35 bedrooms is for sale. Picture: Realtor

The grounds boast edible and flower gardens, a lily pond, orchards, olive groves and a reservoir. Picture: Realtor

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There is also an expansive, spring-fed reservoir — supplying much of the estate’s irrigation needs — and a flower and vegetable garden.

Aside from edible gardens and flower gardens, the grounds also have a lily pond, orchards and olive groves.

The home boasts two private roads, wooded trails and — according to the listing — offers the potential for a vineyard and equestrian centre.

In 1965, it was the site of a gala for the 20th anniversary of the United Nations.

Silicon Valley’s most expensive home with 35 bedrooms is for sale. Picture: Realtor

The Roman pool built to look like ruins. Picture: Realtor

Parts of this article first appeared in The Post and were republished with permission.




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Plane expensive – Why taking pilots out of planes has been more expensive than anticipated | United States

WHEN TOM CRUISE first appeared as Lieutenant Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, the rakish naval aviator of “Top Gun”, in 1986, the F-14 Tomcat fighter jet that he jinked around Soviet warplanes cost little over $50m. When he reappears in this year’s sequel, “Top Gun: Maverick”, he will fly a F/A-18E Super Hornet that approaches $60m. And if a geriatric Mr Cruise should be plucked from retirement to complete a trilogy, he might star in a stealthy F-35C that exceeds $90m.

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The answer to such runaway costs was once thought to be drones. The idea was that remotely piloted aircraft were not just smaller and thus cheaper than their crewed equivalents, but that they would also allow air forces to save money by pruning personnel. But a new report by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a think-tank in Washington, suggests that replacing humans with machines is not so simple.

Drones do require fewer people. Consider America’s fleet of planes for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR)—essentially, spotting things from the air. Crewed aircraft like the E-8, E-3 and RC-135 have average annual personnel costs of around $12m per plane. Though the comparison is imperfect, an MQ-9A Reaper, a drone that can perform similar missions, comes in at $3m per plane. That is not cheap—it is about the same as the personnel costs associated with an F-35 jet—but it is a saving.

The problem is that the savings tend to be wiped out because the drones rack up so many flying hours. Each of America’s Global Hawks, a surveillance drone that can conduct day-long sorties, flies an average of almost 1,400 hours annually—the equivalent of two months in the air. The U2 spy plane, a cold-war stalwart still in regular use, does less than half of that. During 2016-17, the last period for which complete figures are available, America’s ISR drones flew six times as many hours as every crewed ISR plane combined. Commanders’ “insatiable demand” for eyes in the sky has “prevented overall reductions in personnel and operating costs”, concludes CSIS.

That demand was evident in Iraq and Syria during the American-led war against Islamic State. A recent study by the RAND Corporation, another think-tank, notes that drones, by feeding back full-motion video, largely replaced the human targeters who in previous wars had been needed on the ground to guide air strikes. Yet precisely because drones generate so much intelligence, they require more humans to analyse it all—at least until artificial intelligence is good enough to do the job.

Doing away with the humans is hard. At present, keeping a single Predator or Reaper drone above a given target around the clock requires four drones, and thus 49 people in mission control and 59 more, most of them for maintenance, in the local “launch and recovery” area where the drone is operating. The current practice is to have one pilot per drone. Adopting a “one-to-many approach”, with a single pilot flying several aircraft at once, would be more efficient, notes CSIS—in other words, multi-taskers rather than mavericks.

This article appeared in the United States section of the print edition under the headline “The sky-high cost of drones”

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Australia’s most expensive private boat shed hits the market for $37m to $40m

A privately held boat shed on a vast Point Piper waterfront block is being offered to buyers on the quiet amid expectations it will – again – set a nationwide record in its rarefied class.

A guide of $37 million to $40 million has been set by Ken Jacobs, of Christie’s International, and his colleague James Hall, for the almost 2000-square-metre holding with prized R2 zoning.

Despite there being no house on the site, the boat shed is in a class of its own in terms of amenity. It has an upper level which has been used as accomodation for many years, a harbourfront swimming pool and one of the largest private marina berths on Sydney Harbour. It has four berths, the largest of which is fit for a 26-metre yacht.

29a Wunulla Road Point Piper
The two-storey boat shed was for decades a private family playground to the O’Neil family.

More pertinently, Woollahra Council records show that previous questions over the block’s residential status have been resolved after a recent development application was approved to convert the boat shed into a house.

For much of last century, and up until four years ago, the property was the private family playground of the wealthy eastern-suburbs O’Neil family, who hosted significant family birthdays and summer get-togethers there over the 60 years they owned it.

Property developer and former Olympic sailor Denis O’Neil often moored his various floats at the property, but the title was long held in the name of his brothers Colin and Rodney O’Neil.

The O’Neil family bought it in 1958 for £9000 from Polish-born World War II survivors Dr Ignacy and Elvira Listwan.

29a Wunulla Road Point Piper
The berth is one of the largest privately held on Sydney Harbour.

A third title was added in 1973 for $21,500 when it was bought from the then Maritime Services Board, giving the O’Neils ownership up to the waterfront.

The O’Neil family listed it in 2017 for $33 million and  sold later that year to the Scharrer family for what was then a record price for a boatshed of $30 million.

Four years later it returns to the market amid one of the strongest boom markets in almost 20 years thanks in part to record-low interest rates and a chronic shortage of prestige home listings.

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Perth’s most expensive houses sold in 2020 and the people who bought them

Mark Barnaba.Credit:Philip Gostelow

The six-bedroom home was $5.5 million more than the second most expensive house sold in Western Australia in 2020.

This one, a cliffside mansion on ‘Millionaires’ row’, Saunders Street Mosman Park, sold for $8.5 million to Reserve Bank of Australia board member and non-executive director of Fortescue Metals Group, Mark Barnaba.

The house neighbours Perth’s most expensive home ever purchased, a 7564-square-metre estate bought by Mineral Resources founder Chris Ellison in 2009 for $57.5 million.

Mr Barnaba’s Saunders Street property.

Mr Barnaba’s Saunders Street property.Credit:CoreLogic

The oldest house was a 1955 character home in Wellington Street in Mosman Park purchased from finance consultant Mike Coffey by an unknown buyer in February 2020 for $6.6 million.

REIWA president Damian Collins said 2020 had seen the top end of the property market showing signs of recovery after a few slow years.

This 1955 home in Mosman Park sold for $6.6m.

This 1955 home in Mosman Park sold for $6.6m. Credit:CoreLogic

“With the overall property market being soft, we certainly didn’t see too many stand-out properties being sold,” he said.

“But now the economy is doing so well, so many people in the mining sector – in particular the iron ore sector – are wealthier and feeling optimistic about the future.

“I think in 2021 we’ll start to see an increase in higher end sales.”

This City Beach mansion was sold for $7.5 million in August.

This City Beach mansion was sold for $7.5 million in August. Credit:CoreLogic

He said most of Perth’s top-tier properties, with values above $5 million, were mostly located in the western suburbs along the Swan River, with some also beachside in Cottesloe, City Beach and Trigg; and riverside in East Fremantle and Bicton.

 Shell Australia chairman, Zoe Yujnovich.

Shell Australia chairman, Zoe Yujnovich. Credit:Louise Kennerley

Mining executives made up around half of the buyers of the top ten homes sold in 2020, including Shell Australia chairman Zoe Yujnovich, who purchased an $8 million Mosman Park mansion with her husband Jason in August; and former Detour Gold Corp chief executive Mick McMullen who purchased a 2260-square-metre City Beach estate with his wife Bryony for $7.5 million.

The only property south of the river to crack the top 10 was a $7.1 million house on the Swan River, with uninterrupted views of the Perth city skyline.

The home was bought by Laurence Escalante, who made his fortune by founding an online gambling business, Virtual Gaming World.

In contrast, Perth’s median house price is around $535,000.

More than 40,000 dwellings were sold in 2020 in Western Australia, with 152 of those priced above $3 million.

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How affordable are they and how expensive are they to run?

Powering up his local government’s car fleet with electric vehicles is one way for Canterbury Bankstown mayor Khal Asfour to deliver on his council’s climate commitments – but it’s saving some serious cash, too.

“The majority of our electric fleet consists of the Hyundai IONIQ, with each of these vehicles saving council in excess of $11,000 a year in maintenance and fuel costs,” says Cr Asfour. He’s starting small – with 46 electric or hybrid vehicles – but aiming big, with a 2025 goal to make all 345 of the council’s fleet electric vehicles, or EVs as they’re known.

It’s a far cry from what’s happening across Australia’s car market, where just 6718 electric vehicles were sold across the country in 2020 – a mere 1 per cent of annual car sales.

In an electric vehicle, the traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) is replaced with an electric motor – which means no fuel tank, no exhaust, no emissions of carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide. Electric vehicles will be crucial for countries aiming to deliver on their commitments under the Paris Agreement to reduce greenhouse emissions. In Australia, the transport sector accounts for roughly 20 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions and reducing this output will be critical to achieving the Prime Minister’s goal of decarbonising the economy before the end of this century.

Credit:Artwork: Matthew Absalom-Wong

What’s more, the size of electric vehicle batteries means they can help power homes that are hooked up to them. In fact, one day, when there are enough electric vehicles, they are likely to become integral to the smooth flow of power across the nation.

Countries around the world are starting from a low base of electric car ownership but many advanced economies are zooming ahead with ambitious plans to ramp up sales, motivated by the benefits to the planet of lowering carbon emissions and to consumers of reducing operating costs.

How is Australia going with accelerating the switch to electric cars? Why is it becoming a “pariah” among car makers? And how will cars become an integral part of the power grid one day?

Do electric cars emit fewer emissions?

Electric cars are powered by batteries that are recharged by being plugged into an electricity grid, or network. Around the world, grids are being made cleaner as low-emission solar and wind energy replaces high-emission fossil fuels.


A typical electric vehicle charged using the average Australian electricity grid generates about 40 per cent fewer emissions than a petrol-powered car with an internal combustion engine, a recent study by the Queensland University of Technology found.

Unless the nation’s light vehicle fleet of cars and small trucks is 90 per cent electric (buses aren’t light vehicles), state governments won’t be able to reach their net zero emissions by 2050 targets, says Dr Jake Whitehead from the University of Queensland.

It has been claimed that the emissions generated in manufacturing car batteries, coupled with the emissions created by the electricity generation needed to power them, makes the lifetime emissions of such vehicles higher than those of a petrol or diesel car.

A recent study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which analysed the emissions generated in manufacturing and powering EVs, found their greenhouse contribution is offset over six to 18 months, depending on how much fossil fuels are burned to power the grid used for charging the car’s battery.

Norwegians have the highest uptake of EVs. Here, a resident charges her Tesla electric car.

Norwegians have the highest uptake of EVs. Here, a resident charges her Tesla electric car.Credit:Getty Images

How does Australia compare with the world on EV targets?

Unlike many advanced economies, Australia doesn’t have a target for electric vehicle ownership, nor a deadline on internal combustion engine car sales. Nevertheless, the federal Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics forecasts that even in Australia, where’s there’s no policy to incentivise uptake, 60 per cent of new cars sales will be electric by 2046.

The federal government is working on an electric vehicle policy that will focus on infrastructure, such as charging stations, and support for researching and developing new technology, but it is not expected to incentivise buyers to switch from petrol and diesel vehicles.

Meanwhile, the UK, Japan, France and Germany have pledged to ban sales of combustion engines between 2025 and 2030. The international experience shows the market share of electric vehicles could rise faster in Australia if we followed the lead of other countries that have set targets to phase out internal combustion engines.

Norway leads the world in electric vehicle ownership, driven by a range of incentives such as waiving import tariffs and sales tax as well as registration fees. In 2020, it became the first country where EV sales outstripped the sum total of all petrol, diesel and hybrid vehicle sales. There were about 140,000 EVs sold in Norway in 2020, or 54 per cent of the market.

Electric vehicles comprise about 5 per cent of vehicle sales in China – which has now ditched its strategy of incentivising consumers to buy them and has instead imposed a mandated sales target on manufacturers to make such vehicles 40 per cent of all sales by 2030.

And US President Joe Biden pledged in late January to replace the US government’s fleet of almost 650,000 vehicles with EVs produced in the country. A day later, iconic US car maker General Motors announced it would cease production of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2035 and replace them with electric models, as part of its plan to be carbon neutral by 2040.

An EV charging point car park in the UK.

An EV charging point car park in the UK.Credit:Getty Images

Do electric vehicles add to the grid or drain it?

Regardless of how quickly the market share of electric vehicle grows, there are ongoing concerns over their drain on the electricity grid. When the Labor Party made an election pledge ahead of the 2019 federal poll to lift the market share of such vehicles to 50 per cent by 2030, energy agencies warned the grid could meltdown due to the drain on the grid from millions of car batteries plugging in for a recharge.

But Victoria Energy Policy Centre director Bruce Mountain says there’s no cause for concern for the health of the energy network, as the spike in energy demand from growth in EV sales “is not going to be a big deal”.

“It’s amazing how much energy we use to heat our homes and hot water systems. The energy for motor cars is much smaller and can be accommodated by the grid quite simply.”

Mountain says a typical array of rooftop solar panels generates more than enough power for the home and an electric car. But because many electric vehicles will be used for a daily commute, and solar power isn’t available at night, he doesn’t expect the home will be the primary charging point for many drivers.

A home rooftop array produces 20 kilowatt hours of electricity each day, averaged out across the year. An average household consumes about 10 kilowatt hours, and a commuter in a major city needs about five kilowatt hours a day to recharge their EV.

But the size of an electric vehicle battery is bigger than the household batteries coming onto the market, meaning they could be used for the home to avoid expensive peak demand periods in the early evening when people get home from work and switch on their appliances. EV batteries are around 60 kilowatt hours compared to a typical five- to 10-kilowatt hours in-home battery used to store power for rooftop solar.

What’s more, electric car batteries can be hooked up to the grid through charging points at home. With smart technology, their stored power can be tapped to smooth peaks and troughs in network supply, which will come from the growth of large-scale wind and solar farms.


Energy retailers are trialling contracts under which a vehicle owner is paid by the network operator to use their car battery as a power supply when it is hooked up to the grid in peak times while also making sure the battery is charged with cheap power overnight.

Mountain says many suburban workplaces would be able to install rooftop solar to power their workers’ charging stations, but in cities where space is more limited power would need to be bought in off the wholesale market.

“I think the pressure will be on workplaces to have charging stations. I expect it to be offered as a fringe benefit for employers because as the cost of power comes down, it won’t be a significant cost for employers but it would be very attractive for employees,” he says.

But isn’t the price tag a bit steep on electric cars?

Electric vehicle advocates warn that Australia’s lack of emissions standards is out of step with international markets, which have encouraged manufacturers to phase out some of their petrol models. Unlike Australia, the US and EU and other markets set a quota for the volume of carbon dioxide that can be emitted collectively across the fleet of a manufacturer’s internal combustion engine cars, in part to encourage manufacturers to develop new electric models.

Price tags in showrooms reflect a lack of policies to entice electric car makers Down Under. The cheapest EVs in the UK and US sell for about $30,000 whereas currently the five cheapest electric car models available in Australia cost between $44,000 and $64,000 and are expensive compared to the cheapest petrol models – which start at less than $15,000.

An electric car-charging station in Taizhou, East China’s Jiangsu province.

An electric car-charging station in Taizhou, East China’s Jiangsu province.Credit:Getty Images

Whitehead says Australia is becoming a “pariah” in the eyes of electric vehicle manufacturers because there are no major incentives to encourage consumer uptake. Car makers would choose to run out their end-of-line petrol models here while they ramp up sales of electric vehicles in more attractive markets, Whitehead says.


“Manufacturers are in a situation where they have to make a choice [as to] where around the world they send their limited production. Australia is a risky choice compared to the US and UK, where the vehicle is sold before it hits the dock,” he says.

Energy company AGL is the first Australian company to commit to the EV100 global initiative, pledging to replace its fleet of 400 vehicles with electric vehicles by 2030. AGL chief operating officer Markus Brokhof says EVs “are at a point where the vehicles themselves are no longer just for early adopters, and we will begin to see prices fall”.

Brokhof moved to Melbourne from Switzerland nine months ago and was “shocked” at the small range of electric car models on offer to commuters.

“There were 17 used vehicles for sale in Victoria when I got here,” he says. He eventually bought a second-hand Nissan Leaf model. “It’s not the newest model but it’s got a range of 170 kilometres, which is very sufficient for me,” he says. “It’s very easy, too. I can charge it at home with a normal socket and it’s fun to drive because the acceleration is rapid.”

AGL’s Markus Brokhof with his second-hand EV. “I can charge it at home with a normal socket and it’s fun to drive because the acceleration is rapid.”

AGL’s Markus Brokhof with his second-hand EV. “I can charge it at home with a normal socket and it’s fun to drive because the acceleration is rapid.”Credit:Luis Ascui

How much does it cost to run an EV?

With virtually no engine maintenance required and electricity to charge an EV battery costing the equivalent of 30¢ to 40¢ a litre for fuel, the running costs of current electric vehicle models are low compared to those of petrol cars, says the Australian Electric Vehicle Council.

“An EV engine has far fewer moving parts than an internal combustion engine so most wear and tear on the vehicles is in the tyres and brakes,” says the council’s chief executive, Behyad Jafari.

“In general terms, a petrol car’s maintenance costs around 7¢ per kilometre and for an EV that is more like 2¢ per kilometre.”

Batteries are a major cost factor for electric vehicles and with recent improvements they now have an average lifespan of around 15 years.

A peek under the hood of Brokhof’s battery-powered car.

A peek under the hood of Brokhof’s battery-powered car.Credit:Luis Ascui

Why are our governments taxing electric cars?

Growth in electric vehicle sales is set to siphon off the stream of petrol tax revenue that flows into state coffers – and that will be lost when EVs come to dominate the market. Fuel excise revenue has fallen 30 per cent in the past 20 years as petrol and diesel vehicles become more efficient, and federal government projections show an $11-billion decline by mid-century.

Eyeing this looming revenue drop, Victoria announced in November a 2.5¢ per kilometre tax on electric vehicles, and South Australia plans to legislate a similar measure. The state governments argue that road-user charges levied on such vehicles compensate for the loss of fuel excise tax.


But, while governments miss out on fuel excise, Ernst and Young says this is more than compensated for by higher registration costs due to the heavy weight and high prices of electric vehicle models sold in Australia, with the average electric vehicle delivering an extra $137 in annual revenue compared to fuel-powered cars.

Electric vehicles also save governments money by lowering the public health costs associated with pollution from combustion engines.

Whitehead has recently completed research on the impact of fuel excise taxes on electric car sales, including a survey of 500 drivers, which he said was a representative sample of the national market. He found that a 2.5¢ per kilometre tax like Victoria’s would discourage sales and reduce market share to as little as 30 per cent by 2050 – or up to 9.5 million fewer vehicle sales.

How will we get enough charging stations?

Car manufacturers have cited concerns over the driving range of electric vehicles and a lack of public charging infrastructure as a major factor in their popularity. It’s a chicken-and-egg scenario, with the low number of such cars on the road holding back the rollout of more charging stations. The EV models on offer in Australia have a range of around 130 kilometres on a single charge.


Mountain says he “wouldn’t be surprised if the problem took care of itself” as the retail cost of new electric vehicles comes down, with cheaper models hitting the market as manufacturers cease producing combustion engine cars. “My guess is, as more EVs are on the road there’ll be a niches for retailers to combine the cost of charging with services like coffee or car washes and so on.

“I would also expect there would be a role of government to roll out infrastructure to generate confidence in the EV market – and that is entirely within the capability of state budgets to do that without big costs.”

Jafari says businesses such as shopping centres and those in regional towns are rolling out charging stations to attract customers.

“In more mature markets in Europe, EV charging is done where you are – at the movies, in hotels, in shops or towns which are off the main highway,” he says.

“The electricity grid has already been built so charging stations are relatively cheap to build, so businesses don’t care about the 30¢ in electricity it costs to charge your car if they get you into their shop.”

This explainer has been updated to reflect US President Joe Biden’s pledge to replace the US government’s fleet with EVs made in the US; and General Motors’ announcement it will stop making petrol and diesel vehicles by 2035.

An EV charging point car park in the UK.

An EV charging point car park in the UK.Credit:Getty Images

Also in the Future Power series …

With a worldwide energy revolution under way, where is Australia up to? In this six-part series, we’re exploring some of the issues in green (and perhaps not so green) energy and reviewing how new technologies – and the issues that come with them – are set to shape up in 2021 and beyond.

What’s a “just transition” and can you switch to green energy without sacking coal workers? Science says the switch to renewables needs to be fast while workers on the ground say it should also be fair. We ask, how did Germany do it? And could Australia really have a “just transition” too?

What is the role of gas in a green economy? We explain why the Australian government wants more gas and we ask, how clean is it actually? So what, then, is the future of gas in Australia?

What is carbon capture and storage (and does it work)? We unpack “CCS” and variations on it. What are the hopes for them? And why are they so devilishly hard to pull off? 

Still to come … How big are batteries now? and Is hydrogen the new super energy source?  

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U.S. sets record for most expensive weather disasters in 2020

A boat motors by as the Bidwell Bar Bridge is surrounded by fire in Lake Oroville during the Bear fire in Oroville, California on September 9, 2020. (Photo by JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images)

OAN Newsroom
UPDATED 8:30 AM  PT – Sunday, January 10, 2021

The U.S. set a new record for most billion dollar weather and climate catastrophes in 2020. Last week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the U.S. saw 22 disasters last year, each costing more than $1 billion each.

This shattered the previous annual record of 16 disasters, which was reached in both 2011 and 2017.

California’s record-breaking wildfires and the nation’s 10 major storms garnered the attention of Americans throughout the course of the year. These disasters also took the lives of 262 Americans.

FILE – In this Aug. 27, 2020 file photo, buildings and homes are flooded in the aftermath of Hurricane Laura near Lake Charles, La. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)

“So for the 22 events, we had a record number seven tropical cyclone events, we had 13 severe storm events, one major drought and one wildfire event,” Applied Climatologist Adam Smith said. “Really most of the country was impacted by some of these extremes.”

The disasters reportedly cost emergency services at least $95 billion, marking 2020 as the fourth highest costly year since 1980.

According to the NOAA, 2020 is the sixth consecutive year in which the United States has been impacted with ten or more billion dollar weather and climate disasters.

“Typically of the seven types of billion dollar disasters, we usually see three or four types per year,” Smith explained. “But it’s just the sheer number of events this year that really catches your eye.”

The United States has had $285 billion in weather and climate disasters since 1980.

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Villa Firenze: Stunning $211.4m mansion set to go to auction as America’s most expensive home

News Corp Australia

1 Jan 2021

News Corp Australia Network

In case you were wondering, this is what a $211.4 million home looks like. Picture: Hilton & Hyland/TopTenRealEstateDeals.com

A 13-bedroom, 17-bathroom estate will be the most expensive home ever to go to auction in the United States.

The one-of-a-kind property took over seven years to build and has been listed for an eye-watering $211.4 million (US$160 million).

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Inside Liam Hemsworth’s new Byron pad

Villa Firenze is set on over 4 hectares of land and located in Beverly Park, which is an exclusive area of the celeb-studded and A-list filled Beverly Hills in Los Angeles, according to TopTenRealEstateDeals

Villa Firenze

Be greeted by a grand facade as soon as you walk through the front door. Picture: Hilton & Hyland/TopTenRealEstateDeals.

x x x Picture: Hilton & Hyland/TopTenRealEstateDeals.com

A mansion fit for a top-shelf A-lister, mogul or billionaire. Picture: Hilton & Hyland/TopTenRealEstateDeals

Home to the likes of Denzel Washington, Sylvester Stallone and Mark Wahlberg, the neighbourhood is guard-gated at the north and south entrances, with gates and the occasional private guard posted at each residence.

x x x Picture: Hilton & Hyland/TopTenRealEstateDeals.com

Every feature of the home screams opulence and grandeur. Picture: Hilton & Hyland/TopTenRealEstateDeals

Villa Firenze

The grand residence is an entertainer’s paradise. Picture: Hilton & Hyland/TopTenRealEstateDeals

Leaving no opportunity for luxury unexplored, the property boasts several two-storey windows, large Old World-style fireplaces and surrounds, coffered ceilings and wide-arched walk-throughs.

Guests and residents are welcomed by an exquisitely landscaped motor court lined by 12m Canary Island palm trees, as well as a central landscaped fountain.

If that wasn’t enough, the home also has parking for up to 30 cars – something that might come in handy given the 1858 sqm of formal entertaining space that’s available.

x x x Picture: Hilton & Hyland/TopTenRealEstateDeals.com

Just one of this home’s 13 bedrooms. Picture: Hilton & Hyland/TopTenRealEstateDeals

The interiors of the home also offer a mix of spaces too. The new owners will be in no short supply of rooms, from intimate sitting areas to expansive lounges.

Outside the home, the grounds are home to a two-storey guesthouse, huge pool pavilion with pool house, tennis court and the property comes with its own jogging/walking trail too.

Its future owners can also enjoy an abundance of plush grassy lawns, water features, rose gardens and other areas and multiple verandas for outdoor entertaining too.

Villa Firenze

The perfect spot for a morning swim or pool party. Picture: Hilton & Hyland/TopTenRealEstateDeals

x x x Picture: Hilton & Hyland/TopTenRealEstateDeals.com

Absolutely breathtaking … Picture: Hilton & Hyland/TopTenRealEstateDeals

The sprawling property will be auctioned by Concierge Auctions with agents Jeff Hyland and Rick Hilton of Hilton & Hyland on January 26.

No reserve or minimum bid has been set for the listing.

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