From the Australasian College of Road Safety (ACRS)
Electric car sales have more than tripled in Australia in the past year, as industry advocates urge the Morrison government to follow Britain’s ban on new petrol, diesel or hybrid cars within 15 years. New figures from the Electric Vehicle Council show 6718 electric cars, including hybrid plug-ins, were sold nationwide last year, up from 2216 in 2018. The 203 per cent jump comes amid a fall in traditional car sales in the same period, with new combustion engine vehicle purchases dropping by 7.8 per cent in 2019.
The British government announced on Tuesday it would ban the sale of internal combustion engine vehicles in the UK by 2035, with industry now set to push the Australian government on a similar goal. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s new policy brings forward the previous ban date from 2040, and he said a block on selling new petrol, diesel, and hybrid cars would come even earlier if possible.
Australia trails the world in the take-up of electric vehicles, with the plug-in market about 0.6 per cent of the total market, compared to Norway’s 56 per cent, Iceland’s 25 per cent, the Netherlands’ 15 per cent and China’s 4.7 per cent.
Electric Vehicle Council chief executive Behyad Jafari said the path was clear for Australian governments to increase infrastructure investment and transition planning. “Boris Johnson is a dyed-in-the-wool conservative and his leadership on electric vehicles provides some stark perspective for Australians,” Mr Jafari said.
“Mr Johnson’s new 2035 ban is eminently reasonable, economically prudent, and consistent with conservative values. It could easily be replicated by Australian governments at both the federal and state level. Unfortunately, Australia’s policy settings as they stand are encouraging the opposite. We have become a global magnet for dirty, inefficient vehicles that can’t be sold in smarter markets.
Mr Jafari said if the Australian electric car market had the same incentives and support as the EU and China, Australia would now have 50,000 new vehicles of this type on the roads. “These new figures show that Australians are enthusiastic early adopters. We love seizing the advantages of new tech and we love getting on board first. So, even without government support, we are still eager to embrace the myriad advantages of electric vehicles.”
Federal Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor said as part of a $3.5 billion climate solutions package, the government was developing a National Electric Vehicle Strategy, to be finalised by the middle of the year. He said the strategy would ensure a “planned and managed transition” to the new vehicle technology so that Australians who “choose to adopt new technologies are supported in doing so”. The issue was turbo-charged during the federal election campaign as the Morrison government aggressively criticised Labor’s election pledge that half of all new cars sold in 2030 would be electric.
Infrastructure Australia, the government’s independent infrastructure adviser, has called for the fast-tracking of a national charging network to allow for a smooth transition to the electrification of the transport sector – particularly along highways, in regional Australia and in urban centres.
Electric vehicle manufacturers have cited “range anxiety” as a major hurdle in the uptake of the cars in Australia, with a lack of public charging infrastructure holding back the adoption of such vehicles. Cost also remains a major barrier, with only about six models on offer in Australia in 2019 and about a dozen expected to be available by mid-2020. This compares to more than 150 in Europe and elsewhere.
Tesla accounted for about 70 per cent of electric vehicle sales in Australia last year, with the $68,000 Model 3 making up about two-thirds of that figure even though first deliveries occurred only in late August.
EY energy lead partner Matt Rennie said the Australian government should consider UK-style direct intervention to send a strong signal to the industry to start building the necessary green-transport infrastructure. He said at least $5 billion would be required to build charging stations over the next 20 years in people’s driveways, garages, on streets, at work, near supermarkets and on the road network.
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