It’s taken a long time but there are signs the Australian Government is finally making tentative steps to a more realistic electric vehicle policy and distancing itself from the days when it launched a rather silly “war on the weekend” scare campaign against them for political purposes.
Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction, Angus Taylor, recently put out a discussion paper, “Future Fuels Strategy”, which looks at a few ideas. These include co-investing in charging infrastructure; trialling electric cars for the COMCAR government fleet; updating the “Green Vehicle Guide”; and asking energy agencies to look at managing congestion on the electricity grid caused by electric vehicles.
But what’s not on the cards is financial help to get us into electric cars, targets for new electric car sales or minimum fuel emission standards that could push electric car sales. Or in other words, any policies that could actually increase electric car sales.
Another measure that’s not on the cards is removing the luxury vehicle tax on electric cars, a move that’s supported by the electric vehicle industry.
It does, however, go some way to boosting the infrastructure electric car owners need – charging stations.
The Electric Vehicle Council’s chief executive, Behyad Jafari described the discussion paper as acutely disappointing, contrasting it to the British Conservative government’s allocation of $1bn in subsidies for electric vehicle buyers and charging stations last year.
“A rapid transition to electric vehicles would clean our city air, drastically reduce our carbon emissions, and free us from our insecure dependence on foreign oil imports. Mr Taylor is apparently happy to leave all those benefits on the table and cement Australia’s reputation as the world’s transport tech laggard,” Mr Jafari said.
“Most other nations, including the US and the UK, have had fuel efficiency standards in place for decades. Taylor thinks we’re still not ready for even this modest measure.
“As always, the result of inaction in a dynamic environment is not stability. Australia’s inertia on EV has been noticed by the global auto sector, which now withholds the best and most affordable electric vehicles from our market.
“Many of the most popular electric vehicles in the US and UK are unavailable to Australian consumers and that trend will rapidly accelerate under Taylor’s do-nothing plan.”
The Federal opposition, by contrast, is noticeably keener to promote electric vehicles.
It wants to remove government charges on non-luxury electric cars, including fringe benefits tax and import taxes to reduce their price.
Labor also says it will work with stakeholders to develop a National Electric Vehicle Strategy, including stimulating the production of electric car components, especially batteries.
However, like the government, Labor rejects a national target on commercial sales or mandating electric vehicles for government fleets, a move that would go some way to eventually increasing their availability on the used car market.
The Electric Vehicle Council estimates that a fringe benefits tax exemption on a $50,000 vehicle, such as the Nissan Leaf, would save employers as much as $9,000 a year.
Federal Labor’s gentle encouragement of electric vehicles stands in contrast to that of its Victorian comrades’ plans to introduce road user charges on electric vehicles in lieu of fuel tax, raising the cost of owning an electric vehicle.
The rest of the world is moving to end the sale of new internal combustion vehicles and vehicle makers are shifting production towards electric ones. Without an effective transition policy to electric vehicles Australia risks being left behind as a dumping ground for outdated vehicles. On top of that we’re vulnerable to disruptions to imported fuel supplies in an increasingly uncertain world. It’s an indictment of our federal and state governments that such a policy still looks to be some distance away.