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by Christopher Allan, Journalist, Energy magazine

Australia’s states and territories are delivering new programs for electric vehicles to make EVs more accessible for the average Australian income and entice a new range of electric models into our vehicle market. Here, we break down the latest state packages and promises for electric vehicles – including networks of fast-charging stations, long-term targets, and purchase incentives – all pursued to keep significant emissions out of Australia’s transport sector.

While consumer research consistently finds that most Australians would consider going electric for their next vehicle purchase, Australia’s EV market is being outperformed by the  higher purchase rates of EVs among our OECD counterparts.

Norway is already on-track to only sell electric vehicles by the year 2025 and New Zealand is already achieving an EV sales rate of 9 per cent, outpacing our national rate of 2 per cent.

California, the largest state economy in the United States, has recently declared that all its new passenger vehicles must be zero-emission by 2035, a fitting response given that the transport sector makes up half of that state’s carbon pollution.

Around the world, it appears that electric vehicles are here to stay – even manufacturers like Volkswagen openly acknowledge that EVs should reach price parity with internal combustion cars within the new two or three years.

Why go electric?

Arguably, there has never been a better time for Australia’s states and territories to transition road vehicles to electric. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Australia’s transport sector contributed a significant 18.9 per cent of national emissions in the year 2019, second only to emissions from the energy sector.

Over half of these transport sector emissions are attributed to road vehicles, putting pressure on state governments to transition to more and more electric vehicles. One widely adopted strategy to promote electric vehicle uptake is the construction of fast-charging stations across the continent.

Depending on the EV model and the charger type, these fast-charging stations can fully charge a vehicle in as quickly as 15 minutes: the perfect answer to any ongoing reservations about the range performance of electric vehicles.

While most electric vehicles are sold with an alternating current (AC) charger, which might be used to power a vehicle at night, most of these fast-charging stations leverage the rapid charging times of direct current (DC) chargers.

Waiving stamp duty and road user fees, offering purchase rebates, and procuring EVs for government fleets are all tactics being leveraged by different states and territories to speed up the electric vehicle transition.

Electrics vehicle policies and funding: state by state

New South Wales

In perhaps the most promising state government electric vehicle package, the New South Wales Government has announced a half-a-billion-dollar Electric Vehicle Strategy in the 2021-22 New South Wales Budget, actioning both infrastructural and policy incentives for going electric.

It’s no surprise that an investment of this size was recently recognised in an EV policy scorecard, published by the Electric Vehicle Council (EVC), where New South Wales was graded as our top-performing state.

The ambitious Electric Vehicle Strategy aims to boost EV sales to 52 per cent by 2030-31 – no small feat given that battery EVs made up just 0.68 per cent of new car sales in the state at time of announcement.

Several EV policies coming out of New South Wales directly incentivise non-luxury vehicle purchases: stamp duty will be waived on all EVs sold below the $78,000 price tag, and a $3,000 rebate is available for the first 25,000 EVs sold after the first of September that retail below $68,750.

An online interactive map, called the Electric Vehicle Charging Masterplan, will reflect NSW’s progress by mapping a growing network of fast-charging stations around the state, empowering investors to find the best locations for new fast-charging infrastructure as well as optimising charging station grant assessment.

New South Wales Minister for Transport and Roads, Andrew Constance, announced that the map “highlights our plans to boost our existing charging network by over 300 per cent – providing more EV charging stations than all the other Australian states and territories combined”.

The NSW government will co-fund at least 1,000 charging bays along major travel routes, working with major partners such as Ausgrid and JOLT as well as emerging investors.

A substantial import target – to electrify NSW’s entire government fleet by 2030 – should also boost the supply of more EV models in the state.

The Electric Vehicle Strategy also promises fleet incentives to councils, businesses, and car-share companies, adding to the running total of planned EV fleet vehicles.

Australian Capital Territory

With the transport sector responsible for more than 60 per cent of the territory’s emissions, the ACT Government has engaged seriously with both infrastructural support and purchase incentives for electric vehicles.

The ACT ZEV Public Charging Masterplan will see a roll-out of 50 publicly accessible charging stations in 2021-22. Financial incentives on offer include a full stamp duty exemption on Zero Emissions Vehicles (ZEVs) purchased for the first time, as well as two years of free registration for both new and used ZEVs.

More broadly, the Sustainable Households Scheme will continue to provide zerointerest loans of up to $15,000 for eligible ACT households, to help with energy efficient home upgrades.

The ACT’s ambitious policies to promote electric vehicles also include ensuring newly leased fleet vehicles are ZEVs and trialling transit lane privileges for electric vehicles.

Tasmania

In Tasmania, key actions taken to promote electric vehicles include ongoing funding for fast-charging infrastructure, state-wide electric vehicle targets, and EV purchase incentives.

The Electric Vehicle ChargeSmart Grants Program has already delivered 12 Direct Current (DC) fast charging stations across Tasmania in the 2018-19 period, and a second wave of the program was announced in August this year by Tasmanian Premier and Minister for Climate Change, Peter Gutwein.

“The previous program supported the installation of 14 fast chargers and 23 destination and workplace chargers across the state, and this new program will aim to fill in some of the gaps in between,” Mr Gutwein said.

Another landmark of Tasmania’s fastcharging infrastructure is the Tesla V3 Supercharger in Devonport, strategically located at the Spirit of Tasmania terminal to service EV tourists and commuters arriving from mainland Australia.

Alongside fast-charging infrastructure, the Tasmanian Government has also set an ambitious target of transitioning the entire Government fleet to electric vehicles by the year 2030.

A purchase-focused initiative in Tasmania’s well-rounded EV policy is the waiving of stamp duty for EVs purchased in Tasmania for the next two years, which can reduce the initial purchase costs of a mid-range EV by around $2,000.

Northern Territory

In the Northern Territory, the Electric Vehicle Strategy and Implementation Plan will support greater uptake of EVs over the next five years.

NT Minister for Infrastructure, Planning and Logistics and Renewables and Energy, Eva Lawler, said, “Actions in the Implementation Plan have been directly influenced by feedback from the community, including 79 per cent of respondents supporting the NT Government encouraging EV use and 77 per cent agreeing that now is the right time to encourage EV use.

“Feedback indicated there is significant support for the NT Government installing EV chargers, as well as setting targets for the NT Government Fleet,” Ms Lawler said.

The Electric Vehicle Strategy and Implementation Plan will provide training and up-skilling for local workers to roll-out new charging stations and to conduct ongoing servicing.

Key purchase incentives adopted in NT’s Electric Vehicle Strategy and Implementation Plan include reduced registration and stamp duty fees for EVs from mid-2022.

Queensland

A leading electric vehicle project in Queensland is the development of the Electric Super Highway, a long chain of fast-charging stations that connects Queenslanders from Coolangatta to Port Douglas, and from Brisbane to Toowoomba.

The first two phases of the Electric Super Highway have already delivered 31 fast-charging stations in the state. Phase 3 of the Electric Super Highway will deliver even more regional, rural, and interstate connections, with 18 fast-charging stations at sites such as Goondiwindi, Emerald, Longreach and Cairns.

Queensland Energy, Renewables and Hydrogen Minister, Mick de Brenni, said that the Electric Super Highway is just one example of the Palaszczuk Government’s ongoing commitment towards a 50 per cent renewable energy target by 2030.

“Growing the Electric Super Highway means we can look towards accelerating the transition of the government fleet from petrol to electric, building on our commitment to double the number of EVs in QFleet year on year,” Mr de Brenni said.

In June, the Queensland Government announced a new Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Strategy, which will likely deliver substantial EV policies and targets to match the state’s ambitious scale of investment in fast-charging infrastructure.

Victoria

In Victoria, the $100 million Zero Emissions Vehicle Roadmap will help the state move towards its target that half of all light vehicle sales be zero emissions vehicles (ZEVs) by 2030.

To help early adopters access non-luxury electric vehicles, the Victorian Government is providing a $3,000 subsidy for up to 20,000 new ZEVs priced under $68,740. In terms of charging infrastructure, $19 million of the Zero Emissions Vehicle Roadmap will be put towards charging infrastructure across regional Victoria.

The Victorian Government’s Zero Emissions Vehicle Roadmap has received some criticism – the package is made possible by a road user charge administered to zero and low-emissions vehicle owners.

Part of the rationale for the Road User Charge is that zero emissions vehicles do not pay a fuel excise to support road funding; however, low-emission plug-in hybrid vehicles may even find themselves paying both the Road User Charge and fuel excise.

Indeed, the Electric Vehicle Council (EVC) gave Victoria’s EV policies a scorecard rating of just 6/10, pointing to a “lack of confidence” among stakeholders regarding the Road User Charge.

However, the EVC also concedes that Victoria’s goal, that half of all new light vehicles are EVs by 2030, could signal greater support for electric vehicles in the near future.

South Australia

In South Australia, an $18 million Electric Vehicle Action Plan will help fast-track the state’s electric vehicle stock, with a target for all new passenger vehicles to be electric by the year 2035.

Given that 30 per cent of South Australia’s emissions between 2018-19 came from the transport sector, a transition to electric vehicles will be ideal for the state to meet its target of at least a 50 per cent reduction in state-wide emissions by 2030.

The Action Plan also outlines key electric highways of charging stations, which will encourage state-wide uptake of electric vehicles.

These electric highways include:

1. SA/WA Border Village to Bordertown SA – 1,525km

2. Mount Gambier to Ceduna – 1,210km

3. Victor Harbor to Coober Pedy – 927km

4. Adelaide to Port Lincoln – 778km

Purchase incentives offered under SA’s Action Plan include a $3,000 subsidy available for the first 6,000 new electric vehicles, subject to the passing of the Motor Vehicles Amendment Bill 2021.

In response to vocal feedback from a variety of interest groups, the SA Government also recently postponed the introduction of its Electric Vehicle Road User Charge, which will now begin from July 2027.

South Australia is also exploring how vehicle-to-grid (V2G) chargers will empower EVs to serve as movable energy storage for existing state renewable supply, with electric vehicles charging and discharging electricity from a connected power supply just as a home or community battery would.

Western Australia

In Western Australia, a $21 million Electric Vehicle Fund and State Electric Vehicle Strategy will support Australia’s longest electric highway of charging stations.

The project will deliver up to 90 fastcharging stations and backup chargers at 45 different locations, servicing both Perth and regional Western Australia. The electric highway will stretch north to Kununurra, south to Esperance and east to Kalgoorlie, with an average distance of 160km between charging stations.

With a tender scheduled to go out to market by the end of 2021, WA’s charging network is expected to be fully operational by early 2024, and the locations of the stations have already been determined by energy providers Synergy and Horizon Power in consultation with WA’s Department of Water and Environmental Regulation.

In terms of new vehicle targets, WA has committed to a minimum of 25 per cent electric vehicle targets for new light and small passenger vehicle sales by 2025/26, as well as a 25 per cent target for state fleets.

While Western Australia’s EV package may seem more focused on charging infrastructure when compared to other states, the State Electric Vehicle Strategy does importantly highlight that Western Australia only stands to benefit from demand for EV battery materials.

The Strategy claims that Western Australia is “the world’s largest producer of lithium”, with a lithium sector valued at $1.55 billion in 2018-9, as well as being a leading producer of other battery materials like nickel, cobalt, manganese, vanadium, and alumina.

Collaborations such as WA’s Future Battery Industry Strategy and the Future Battery Industries Cooperative Research Centre reflect the long-term potential for Western Australia to throw even greater support behind electric vehicles.

A national perspective

While many states and territories have delivered comprehensive plans for electric vehicles, the role of other levels of governments cannot be overlooked.

Many local governments around the country have shown leadership on electric vehicles, particularly when it comes to EV fast-charging infrastructure and the transition of government fleets. Yet questions remain about future action on electric vehicles by the Federal Government.

A scorecard prepared by the Electric Vehicle Council (EVC) graded the Federal Government with a lower score than all states and territories, pointing to a lack of federal leadership on electric vehicles and a failure to deliver a national policy framework.

Indeed, binding national policies and targets might be the fastest way for Australia to signal to global manufacturers that our market is ready for a new wave of affordable EV models.

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