By Rebecca Todesco, Journalist, Energy Magazine

The Federal Government has provided an official update on a national electric vehicle (EV) strategy, publishing a consultation paper that explores what a national EV strategy will look like for Australia, EV policies already in practice around the country as well as the importance of having a cohesive, nation-wide policy.

The National Electric Vehicle Strategy (NEVS) consultation paper offers insight into the government’s proposed goals and actions for a national strategy and invites Australians to have their say, with the government also seeking views on implementing vehicle efficiency standards in Australia.

The main goals of a national strategy, as outlined in the consultation paper, include:

» Making EVs more affordable for Australians
» Expanding nationwide EV uptake and choice options
» Reducing emissions
» Saving Australians money on fuel
» Increasing manufacturing at a local level

In 2021, EVs made up less than two per cent of new light vehicle sales in Australia, compared to EVs’ market share of five per cent in the United States and Canada, and nine per cent globally. Closer to home in New Zealand, EVs increased from 2.5 per cent of new registrations to more than eleven per cent.

Transport makes up nearly a quarter of total global emissions, with road transport contributing 70 per cent of that. In Australia, transport is the second largest contributor to national emissions, a share of 19 per cent.

Speaking at the recent National Vehicle Summit in Canberra, Federal Minister for Climate Change and Energy, Chris Bowen, highlighted that one of the main reasons for the Federal Government to implement a national EV strategy is to give Australians options.

“I want Australians to have the choice and have more choices,” Mr Bowen said.

“I know many Australians would love to drive an electric vehicle. But they look at the cost and they look at the availability in Australia and say it just doesn’t stack up.”

Australia’s standing in EV uptake around the globe

The world is rapidly moving to electrify road transport, with the global utilisation of EVs helping facilitate the global goal of keeping warming to below two degrees. Electrifying Australia’s roads is more critical than ever to reaching the country’s emissions reduction goal of net zero emissions by 2050.

Australia, alongside Russia, is one of the only major economies without vehicle fuel efficiency standards in practice or under development. These policies help other countries to reduce emissions and secure a supply of affordable EVs for its residents.

This absence of policy means Australians are being sold some of the highest emitting cars in the world, with new passenger vehicles in the country having on average around 20 per cent higher emissions than the United States and a staggering 40 per cent higher emissions than Europe.

“I’m sorry to say Australia is a dumping ground for cars which would not be able to be sent to other countries,” Mr Bowen said.

“Australia and Russia are really the only developed countries without fuel efficiency standards. “It’s time to have a sensible, mature conversation about changing that.”

Policy settings to date have failed to secure the supply of affordable EVs for Australians, resulting in Australia lagging behind the rest of the world when it comes to reducing transport emissions.

Policies at a State and Territory level

The lack of a collective agreement by government and industry in Australia has not prevented the states and territories from deploying their own strategies and policies to spur EV uptake, with some performing better than others.

One of the primary barriers to EV uptake – the upfront cost of purchasing – is being tackled by most states and territories in a variety of ways. The Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory are taking advantage of the two policy levers available to every state and territory government – the waiving of registration fees and stamp duty exemption – with the Australian Capital Territory offering the greatest discount on upfront EV costs in the country.

Other EV uptake incentives include the New South Wales Government’s introduction of a $3,000 subsidy for 25,000 EVs, the Tasmanian Government’s stamp duty exemption, and the Victorian Government’s initial subsidy to assist in reducing the upfront cost of purchasing an EV.

The Queensland Government has released a new Zero Emission Vehicle Strategy, which includes support for reducing the upfront cost of EVs, with Western Australia the only location without policies currently in place to reduce the upfront costs of EVs.

South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria have signed the COP20 Declaration, committing to 100 per cent zero emission passenger sales by 2040, with Victoria setting an interim target of 50 per cent EV sales by 2030.

The states and territories are united in acknowledging the need for more charging infrastructure, with the New South Wales Government leading the country with its strong investment in a state-wide charging network.

Governments in the Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia in particular are focused on reducing range anxiety when considering charging infrastructure, and Western Australia has also undertaken efforts to improve consumer awareness of EV technology.

Why the need for a national EV strategy?

Although the states and territories have implemented their own policies and incentives to increase EV takeup, coordination and alignment at a national level up until now has been lacking. For something as important as accelerating EV uptake, national leadership is essential.

Effectively integrated infrastructure and systems are critical, the planning for which needs to occur at a national level to ensure the benefits and opportunities from the transition are fully realised.

The $500 million Driving the Nation Fund has committed to establishing a national EV charging network and a hydrogen refuelling network on major highways, with charging stations available at an average interval of 150km on major roads.

The roll out of reliable EV charging and refuelling infrastructure needs to be aligned and accessible across the whole country for energy and parking needs. It will need to consider metropolitan, rural and remote motorists. Additionally, Australian governments will need to coordinate public investment to make sure it does not duplicate or crowd out private or state and territory government efforts.

What a national electric vehicle strategy will look like

The NEVS will see various government initiatives put to work. Australians can expect to see the establishment of a national EV charging network and a hydrogen refuelling network on major highways funded by the Driving the Nation Fund.

The Powering Australia plan will include making electric cars cheaper with the Electric Car Discount by exempting eligible electric cars from fringe benefits tax and import tariffs, working towards the Federal Government’s commitment to an EV target of 75 per cent of new leases and purchases in the Commonwealth fleet by 2025.

Additionally, the government is developing a National Battery Strategy and a National Reconstruction Fund, aiming to add value in the resources sector as well as drive investment across a range of activities, including clean energy component manufacturing.

The NEVS will:

  • Build on the strong platform that governments and industry have already started
  • Deliver a nationally consistent, comprehensive and overarching framework
  • Enhance existing actions to ensure greater alignment to the Strategy
  • Raise the pace and scale of change
  • Address national gaps so all Australians can access the benefits of EVs
  • Be dynamic and adapt over time to reflect the rapidly evolving nature of the sector
  • Ensure Australia is on track to meet emissions and transport electrification goals and proposed objectives

What this means for Australia

The transition to EVs presents enormous opportunities for Australia, which has the mineral resources, capital and skills potential to assist with this work. Australia can value add and participate in:

  • Manufacturing batteries and other aspects of vehicle manufacturing
  • Manufacturing mechanical and electronic componentry and control systems
  • Developing intelligent electricity grid integration systems and markets
  • Leveraging other economic opportunities including:
    • Increased growth and investment
    • Upskilling the workforce
    • Creating more jobs
    • Increasing export revenue
    • Increasing fuel security

Australia can expect to gain social, health and environmental benefits, including industry growth, less air quality related health costs, less noise and reduced emissions.

Accelerating EV uptake offers lower operating costs and reduced exposure to fuel prices for households, as well as better safety features and increased choice of vehicles. Future innovations should enable more EV models to provide battery storage for the home and the electricity grid.

The transition to EVs can also benefit the environment and overall health of Australians, with an anticipated reduction in air pollution a favourable side effect. Air pollution due to vehicle emissions has been linked to health conditions including respiratory disease, cancer and dementia, with speculation that vehicle air pollution may cause more deaths than the national road toll.

The Federal Government has called upon the industry to share their ideas and views on the consultation paper. “We want good ideas, we want feedback,” Mr Bowen said.

“I want to work with people across the sector, whether they be from the manufacturers or the Electric Vehicle Council, and I’m looking forward to strong engagement, to strong feedback about this.”

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