electric car Source: Pixabay/Ben Kerckx
Source: Pixabay/Ben Kerckx

Australian auto and energy industry stakeholders are hailing a new electric vehicle strategy announced today by the Labor opposition party as a game-changer for the economy and the environment.

But while some agree that getting even one major political party over the line with an actual policy with actual targets is a promising step, others – including the country’s biggest motoring group, the NRMA, say it is still not enough.

The policy, which the Australian Labor Party says it will implement if voted in at the upcoming federal election, includes a 50 per cent target for all new passenger vehicle sales by 2030 and all government vehicle sales by 2025.

It also includes a fiscal incentive for businesses to “go electric”, offering an upfront tax deduction upon purchase of an electric vehicle, and also seeks to establish a formal COAG agenda to inform and improve a national EV charging infrastructure.

Behyad Jafari, CEO of the Electric Vehicle Council which gives guidance to government and industry stakeholders on the implementation of strategy to accelerate EV uptake, says the new policy is a massive step forward for Australia.

“This policy is the step-change Australia has long been waiting for,” Jafari said in an emailed statement.

“It would finally see Australia accelerating from the back of the global pack as we should. We are a well-resourced, modern nation full of people who care about their local environments and the planet.

“The lack of certainty and support that the Australian Government has offered the electric vehicle sector to date is unique in global terms. But Labor’s 50 per cent target will finally show industry that Australia is committed to an electric transition and allow greater investment to follow.”

Australia has fallen shockingly behind other developed countries with its track record on absolutely doing nothing whatsoever to improve fuel standards or invest in electric mobility, leaving states and local government to pick up the shortfall to the detriment of a nationally managed transition to clean transport.

“Without a hard target or an improvement in emissions standards, Australia is destined to become a dumping ground for dirty, petrol-thirsty vehicles that can’t be sold elsewhere. They might seem cheap at purchase, but they’ll cost consumers a lot more in the long run,” says Jafari.

While electric vehicles are currently priced considerably higher than petrol and diesel equivalents, the total cost of ownership of EVs is increasingly coming in line with that of ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicles, thanks to lower maintenance and fuel costs of EVs and the dropping costs of li-ion battery tech.

“Every Australian would benefit from a pivot to electric vehicles. Our cities could have clean, quiet roads. Drivers could be spared the unpredictability of the petrol bowser. And the nation wouldn’t be completely dependent on foreign fuel imports,” says Jafari.

“Australians want to own electric vehicles, this much we know from polls. But they need much better support from their government and Labor’s plan would deliver it.

“We urge the Coalition to support this plan so the nation can be guaranteed progress and a cleaner transport future.”

Farokh Ghadially, VP of Partner Projects and Power Solutions at Schneider Electric said in an email to The Driven that, “National action on EV policy is long overdue and its absence has been a missing link for greater EV adoption and infrastructure preparation in Australia. A policy like this has to be seen as a priority for the next Australian Government.”

“As a member of the Electric Vehicle Council we see the positives of like minded businesses gathering together to influence this policy direction. This is what our nation needs to deliver better transport options, cleaner cities and a more sustainable future.
“The reality is that we have the technology to make it happen, we’re also seeing new cars entering the market and more variations in price points. The last piece of the puzzle is government planning and involvement.”

Labor’s policy comes little less than a week since the LNP government confirmed it would not be introducing a national electric vehicle strategy until mid-2020, courtesy of Minister for the Environment Melissa Price’s office last Tuesday (and only if it were to win next month’s federal election, at that).

This is despite recommendations put forward by Senator Tim Storer after an exhaustive senate committee process at which the Coalition and Labor were not able to meet on common ground.

But even though Labor has finally come to the EV party with a 50 per cent target by 2030, other stakeholders say it is not enough.

NRMA chief Rohan Lund has told ABC’s Four Corners that due to Australia’s laggard status in electric mobility, more should be done, and sooner.

“So if anything, our targets here need to be a bit more aggressive than what we’re seeing in other markets.

“I would expect to start seeing targets that are between 2025, 2030 for banning [the sale of new] petrol-driven cars in this country,” Lund said.

Lund’s comments are reflected by the Australian Greens, which has damned the new Labor policy calling it weak and lacking clarity and drawing attention to its EV uptake strategy of 100 per cent electric vehicle sales by 2030 that it re-iterated last week.

“Not only does the target lack ambition, but the policy lacks mechanisms that would get us even close to 50% electric vehicles by 2030,” said Senator Janet Rice, Australian Greens transport and infrastructure spokesperson in a note.

“We have the opportunity to join countries like Norway, Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and Ireland which have a target of all new vehicles sales being electric vehicles by 2030. This is also what the NRMA is calling for.”

Rice says that for Labor’s 105g CO2/km light vehicle emissions policy to be successful, it must be introduced immediately and ramped up over time, yet Labor has not yet indicated a timeline for implementation.

“This is a weak electric vehicle target for Australia, when we already have the lowest uptake of OECD countries and other countries are zipping us by with bold, ambitious EV policies that are working.”

“Labor’s EV announcement is nothing but an attempt to grab some headlines on climate change without any actual substance.”

This article has been edited to correct attribution of a statement from Schneider Electric.

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