Monday’s announcement that the NSW state government would commit $5 million towards electric car charging infrastructure has been met with disappointment from independent MP Jeremy Buckingham, who says that while it’s a good start, targets should be higher and more should be done.
Targets put forward by the Berejiklian government under its Electric and Hybrid Vehicle Plan aim to have the government passenger fleet at 10 per cent electric or hybrid from 2020/21.
On top of that, $3 million in funding will see EV chargers installed along major regional motorways and another $2 million will fund charging points in commuter carparks.
But former Greens MP Buckingham says that while the policy measures are a good step in the right direction, more must be done to jump start the state’s uptake of electric vehicles.
“Electric vehicles that generate zero pollution are the future of transport,” Buckingham said in a statement.
“It would be madness not to further investigate how we can drive the uptake and associated infrastructure needed for this game-changer technology for Sydney and our regions.”
In his proposal, Buckingham wants to extend the NSW government fleet target to 50 per cent by 2025 (twice that of Labor’s 25 per cent proposed target), as well as add a 20 per cent target for all passenger vehicles by 2030.
Setting targets and incentives for electric vehicles is widely recognised as a key factor to ensure the transition to zero emissions mobility, as has been demonstrated in several countries worldwide.
Take Norway, where policy has driven the transition since 1990 and 50 per cent of all car sales in September 2018 were EVs, or California where a target for 1.5 million EVs on the road by 2025 was set in 2012 (the state now has over 500,000 EVs on the road).
In addition to increased targets, Buckingham says that NSW EV drivers should be supported with reduced registration fees for the first five years of ownership and free travel on publicly owned toll roads.
“A recent survey found 45.5 per cent of residents in ACT, NSW and Victoria would consider buying an electric vehicle and electric vehicle sales in Australia jumped 67 per cent from 2016 to 2017.
“Australians are ready to get behind the wheel of an electric vehicle, they need support for making the shift happen,” Buckingham said.
Government can help these targets be achieved in a variety of ways, a spokesperson for Buckingham tells The Driven.
“There are also various ways Australian governments can choose to assist people with the purchase cost of electric vehicles, including stamp duty exemptions and financial incentives.
“As we have seen with the cost of hybrid vehicles and technologies such as rooftop solar, as more and more consumers and government fleets choose electric vehicles, there will be a market signal for prices to come down. We’ll also see growth in the second-hand market that would improve the availability of lower cost models for purchase,” Buckingham’s spokesperson says.
Buckingham also wants to see it become compulsory for all new units and multi-use developments to install EV chargers, and for government fleet chargers to be located in easy-to-access locations to allow for public use.
CEO of the Electric Vehicle Council Behyad Jafari, who has been working with the state government to help form the electric vehicle plan announced this week, agrees more can be done.
He points to the ACT government’s zero net emissions transport plan which aims for 100 per cent of its newly leased fleet vehicles to be powered by clean energy by 2021.
For NSW, he tells The Driven the 10 per cent target is, “Better than nothing, [but] based on learning from around the world we could be doing a lot more.”
“Just two days ago we had a long decade of nothing and now we have something,” he says, adding that the next steps are implementation of the existing plan but also working with government to assist them increase their ambitions.
“Jeremy’s [ideas] are very sensible recommendations – they are all very achievable tasks,” he says.
The challenge is convincing government that doing more to encourage the transition to clean transport is what the public wants, he says.
“Often we’re the only people they’ve ever heard about EVs from. We can provide research and analysis – but the more they’re hearing about it from electorates, the more they have a support base,” he says.
With a NSW state election in the offing, Buckingham wants to see all parties get on board the EV transition.
“I’m calling on all parties contesting the NSW election to support my plan for accelerating the uptake of electric vehicles, including targets for government fleet and community use, increasing charging infrastructure, reduced registration fees and free travel on some toll roads,” he says.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles since 2018. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability. She has participated in podcasts such as Download This Show with Marc Fennell and Shirtloads of Science with Karl Kruszelnicki and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.