The Morrison Coalition on Monday hailed an electric vehicle strategy as a core component of its newly based Climate Solutions policy – but so far it turns out to be a single page with no details.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is committing $3.5 billion over 10 years to fund what is effectively a re-badged Direct Action plan, funneling money to farmers and some other projects, such as big pumped hydro schemes, that might have happened anyway.

But, in a move that may spark hope that the country may finally adopt an EV plan to try to fix Australia’s party uptake of electric cars, the Coalition hailed a “National Electric Vehicle Strategy”  – but so far it comprises of just one page with a link to a “fact sheet” that doesn’t yet work.

This consists of a seven paragraph, one minute read, that recognises the fact sales of EVs are on the increase overseas, but says if “managed sensibly” in Australia could lead to a slew of benefits from better air quality to improved health, lower transport costs and of course, a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

There are as yet no targets, no policy aimed at accelerating the transition to electric vehicles, no mention of how the Australian government will follow the suit of countries around the world in addressing one of the main barriers to EV uptake, that is the higher cost of electric vehicles.

Nor does it set in place a clear roadmap to ensuring EV charging infrastructure is accessible for all Australians. Nor is it accompanied by any renewable energy target that would facilitate the transition to a low carbon transport sector,.

“Addressing these issues now is necessary,” the document states, without actually doing so, possibly because it is scared of rekindling the “carbon tax on wheels” accusations thrown out by the Murdoch media when former energy and environment minister Josh Frydenberg canvassed some form of vehicle emissions standard.

The Coalition is not short of references or ideas.

The recent Senate Select Committee on Electric Vehicles, chaired by independent Senator Tim Storer included a slew of policy recommendations, including targets and incentives, but these were stymied by both the Coalition and Labor who chose not to come on board to any actual solid policy commitment.

“With the right leadership, Australia has an opportunity to capitalise on the global EV transformation,” Storer noted at the time.

“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,” Storer wrote.

In fact, the one page policy thought bubble from the Coalition says it will seek to “coordinate action across governments, industry and urban and regional communities,” and will include considering whether mandating an electric vehicle plug type could improve the consistency of public charging.

The only reference to a plan the Coalition document makes is to mention it will “build on” existing grants.

“The strategy will build on grants from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), finance from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) and the current work of the COAG Transport and Infrastructure Council,” it reads.

This statement would be referring to projects such as the ultra-fast EV charging network that once finished will stretch from Brisbane to Adelaide, that is partly funded by ARENA to the tune of $6 million that was announced in October 2018.

It also implies various financing projects undertaken by the CEFC such as enabling Australians to access discounted finance to purchase electric vehicles, a loan for Victoria-based SEA Electric and investment in large scale infrastructure – in total, CEFC has invested $1.7 billion to such projects including $43 million finance.

But it’s too little, too late, according to Behyad Jafari, CEO of the Electric Vehicle Council which provides guidance to government on EV policy.

Australia is far behind the world in the shift to electric mobility, and with the federal government only now stating it will take its commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement seriously, Australia has a hell of a lot of catching up to do.

Speaking to The Driven in regard to the lack of detail in the one page document, Jafari says: “This is clearly a government that hasn’t done its homework …. since before January 2018 we’ve been making very clear recommendations about what needs to happen and what we could be doing.”

Several very easy and clear actions that could be implemented immediately have already been paid out by the EVC to the federal government.

Talk of “coordination” of action should have started a few years ago, Jafari says, stating that today’s “strategy” is far from being a new announcement.

As an example of what the government could actually be doing towards encouraging EV uptake, the EVC has provided to The Driven sample recommendations based on research and evidence around what actually works.

They include a recommending a range of policies from electric vehicle sales targets for the general public as well as fleets, funding for public charging infrastructure, incentives to encourage purchase of electric vehicles and an e-mobility contestable fund to support innovation and electrification of mobility in business.

An EV sales target that is geared to a serious acceleration to electric mobility would be 50% of all new vehicles to be electric by 2030, or 3 million EVs on the road by 2030.

Fleets should have similar targets that would push growth in the EV market and as has been noted by the Queensland government, fuel a secondhand EV market.

$400 million in matched funding for a national EV charging network is another example, and while the ARENA funding is a start it’s a far cry from where it could be.

As for financial incentive for private EV purchases, the EVC suggests a 50% discount to Fringe Benefits Tax and correction of the Luxury Vehicle Tax mark up.

These are not new ideas; many countries around the world have implemented similar strategies with much success.

 

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