Credit: Xan Griffin
Credit: Xan Griffin

Global and Australian car and truck manufacturers have weighed in on the future of electric vehicles in Australia, and are calling for government support to nurture low and zero emissions vehicles and infrastructure.

The uptake of electric vehicles in Australia is lagging far behind that of most developed countries, with industry experts warning that if government policy continues to fail both industry and the public, Australian drivers will be the ones to pay the price.

This was the message delivered to chair of the Senate Select Committee on Electric Vehicles, Senator Tim Storer, and now carmakers have had their opportunity to add their two cents worth, with the close of submissions to the Senate Select Committee on Electric Vehicles at the end of last month.

Japanese auto manufacturers Toyota, Mitsubishi, Nissan and Isuzu have heeded the call, as well as Uniti Sweden’s Australian subsidiary and Melbourne-based powerchain assembler SEA Electric.

The message is overwhelming: government needs to support both demand and supply-side, including financial incentives for both consumers and commercial fleets, and supporting infrastructure.

The consensus is that for as long as a gap remains between the price of EVs vs ICE cars, and charging infrastructure lacks the availability and speed with which to make driving EVs as convenient as their ICE counterparts, electric vehicles will struggle to be able to become serious contenders in the Australian market.

“Fast-charging infrastructure is critical to delivering a positive consumer experience by reducing the downtime when the vehicle is unavailable to be driven,” says Mitsubishi.

Nissan points to overseas initiatives which has made them the world leader in sales of  zero-emissions vehicles.

“The success of the Nissan LEAF electric car in regions such as North America, Europe, Japan and China is underpinned by the same two factors driving the wider consumer uptake of EVs overseas:  – Government-led purchase incentives for new-car consumers to select an electric car; and – Wide-spread publicly available electric vehicle recharging infrastructure, with full or partial funding from US and EU governments,” writes Nissan.

Put simply, carmakers want the government to set the scene for motorists to want to take up EVs.

Financial incentives suggested by the submitting carmakers on the demand-side by carmakers range from a reduced or zero stamp duty and registration costs for either passenger or commercial vehicles, or rebates linked to CO2 output.

Mitsubishi have even suggested a “Sustainable Transport Fund” funded by levies on ICE vehicles.

Isuzu, making the case purely for commercial EVs, suggests a moratorium of Road User Charges – a subject that on the side of passenger vehicles has been somewhat controversial.

Both SEA Electric and Isuzu suggest fixed price, off peak charging for commercial fleets, as well as early adopter grants such as programs run by New Zealand’s EECA.

Until zero emissions EVs are adopted widely, makers of established PHEV models Toyota and Mitsubishi push the argument for low emissions vehicles, highlighting the importance of electric hybrid technology bridging the gap while charging infrastructure is still thin on the ground.

“While PHEVs do not require significant investment in infrastructure to function as the technology provides a bridge between conventional ICE vehicles and pure EVs, the ability to access greater recharging facilities will benefit all customers and provide greater efficiency,” Mitsubishi explains.

“One of the main benefits of a hybrid vehicle is that it requires no infrastructure development as a hybrid self-charges the battery as it runs. This makes hybrid the perfect technology for the Australian market as zero emission infrastructure development is in its infancy,” writes Toyota.

On this point, Toyota also makes the case for fuel cell technology, which they have considerable investment in with the development of the Toyota Mirai.

The Japanese carmaker clearly has their eye on encouraging government to invest in it also, recommending “measures to influence the purchasing decisions of government fleet managers.”

These include revisiting “the weighting placed against environmental outcomes versus other factors”, as well as fuel efficiency targets and reducing the changeover age for government fleets to speed up adoption of low emissions (by this we take they mean Toyota fuel cell cars).

Across the board, carmakers want to see education of consumers to dispel myths surrounding all types of alternative fuel technologies, particularly in regard to range and charging.

The Senate Select Committee is due to sit its first hearing this Friday in St Mary’s Adelaide, followed by hearings in Melbourne and Canberra later this month. Readers can follow the inquiry on the Committee homepage.

Bridie Schmidt

Bridie Schmidt is staff writer for www.TheDriven.io, and RenewEconomy.com.au. She specialises in writing about new technology, as well as using her technical skills in managing our websites.

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