The Senate inquiry into electric vehicles has stopped short of making specific targets and policy incentives for EVs in Australia – despite the obvious environment and economic benefits – after the two major parties refused to come on board.
Neither Labor nor the existing Coalition government would support support specific targets, leaving the inquiry headed by the independent Senator Tim Storer to effectively call for a national plan, without saying what that should be.
Storer – who had delayed the release of the report by nearly two months in a bid to bring the major parties over the line – voiced his frustration in his chairman’s report. He wanted a target of 25 per cent EV sales by 2025, compare to a measly 0.2 per cent in 2017.
“While I am pleased to have achieved a consensus report, I am disappointed that Senators from the Labor and Liberal parties were not prepared to go further, particularly with regards to measures that were fiscally balanced,” he said.
“Throughout the course of this inquiry, the Committee was presented with strong evidence on the benefits to Australia of accelerating EV uptake.
“With the right leadership, Australia has an opportunity to capitalise on the global EV transformation. That would result in benefits to the economy, our environment, and public health.
“Seizing this opportunity does not have to come at great cost.
“Measures like setting national EV purchasing targets will come at no cost to the Australian Government. While others, like investing in public charging infrastructure, can be offset by sensible policy reforms in related areas. “
But neither Labor nor the Coalition would buy in, agreeing only to the proposition that a target should be considered, along with possibility of emissions standards for vehicles and a plan for infrastructure.
The Greens said it was not good enough.
“The weak recommendations of this report demonstrate just how feeble Labor and Liberal are when it comes to electric vehicle policy,” transport spokesperson Janet Rice said in a statement.
“Both major parties say the right words about electric vehicles when it suits them, but when it comes to actually getting behind policies and incentives that will support electric vehicle uptake they are missing in action.”
Australia trails most of the uptake of electric vehicles, even though some of its companies such as Tritium lead the world in technologies such as fast-chargers.
In 2017, full eletric and plug in ybrid vehicles accounted for just 0.2 per cent of motor vehicle sales, and are expected to be about the same in 2018, due to the paucity of buying options.
In Norway, sales of EVs already account for more than 50 per cent of motor vehicle purchases, and numerous countries have targets of 100 per cent EV sales, including China and many European countries.
Storer says Australia should target a 25 per cent share of light vehicle sales to EVs by 2025, and 30 per cent of light commercial vehicle sales (utes and vans), and 20 per cent of metro bus sales by the same date.
“As the Committee found, targets can provide confidence to consumers and businesses and encourage vehicle manufacturers to make a broader range of EV models available,” Storer said.
“Setting specific targets for the light passenger, light commercial and metropolitan bus sectors would also bolster the business case for expanding domestic EV manufacturing and supply chain activities.”
Storer also proposed measures to make such a target revenue neutral, with proposed changes to the luxury vehicle tax offsetting the cost of incentives needed to meet the EV targets.
This included exmepting EVs from import tariffs, fringe benefit tax, reductions in registrationa dn stamp duty costs and manadating that all new federal government fleet leases be EVs by 2025-26.
Storer also proposed an EV manufacturing grants scheme, and more grants for EV research and development, and recommended a road user tax to be introduced from 2025-26, when he expected the cost of EVs to be broadly at price parity with petrol and diesel equivalents.
“As the contribution of fuel excise to the cost of building and maintaining our roads declines, it is only equitable that owners of EVs make a contribution to our transport infrastructure,” he said.
“EVs are projected to achieve price parity with ICE vehicles by the middle of the coming decade, so it would be responsible and equitable policy to delay the introduction of a Road User Charge for EVs until 2025-26.”
The major parties rejected these ideas. This is not surprising from the Coalition, whose tentative moves into the area of EVs have been met by cries of a carbon tax on wheels by the Murdoch media and other idiots.
But the failure of Labor to come on board is disappointing, particularly with a poll from The Australian Institute showing overwhelming public support for policies and targets for EVs.