A national target and policies aimed at accelerating the uptake of electric vehicles is key if Australia is to avoid being left behind in the slow lane, a new report funded by the Australian federal government’s Australian Research Council (ARC) says.
Australians will suffer if adequate preparation is not made for the technological disruption of transport, risking a significant decline in quality of life, productivity and health compared to the rest of the developed world, the report says.
But more electric vehicles on Australian roads will be central in avoiding these issues, and as such the report recommends a national target as well as incentives designed to help expediate that shift.
Conducted by the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering as part of a three-year-study on readiness for new and emerging technologies for the ARC’s Learned Academies Special Projects, the report identifies three core challenges that it says must be addressed if Australia’s transport sector is to keep up with the rest of the developed world.
Academy Fellow Drew Clarke, who co-chaired the report, said in a note by email that: “The Academy has identified sustainability and climate change, productivity, and health as the three key challenges that will need to be addressed within the transport sector over the next decade.
“Specifically, the transport sector will need to lower emissions, improve the efficient movement of people and freight, and reduce transport-related deaths and serious injuries.
“The deployment of connected autonomous vehicles, low and zero-emission vehicles, high-frequency mass transport and intelligent transport systems are potential solutions to these challenges.”
With climate change a central focus in next month’s upcoming federal election, electric vehicles have been in the limelight with the Labor opposition proposing that 50% of new car sales should be electric by 2030.
The proposal, which the opposition says it will implement should Labor win the federal election next month, was met with inexplicable derision from the Coalition – despite it basing its own carbon abatement policy on an uptake of 25-50% EVs by 2030.
The new report from the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering further supports the push for a national electric vehicle strategy – and says that if change is not made, transport emissions will continue to rise.
Even with a 50% electric vehicle target for new car sales will mean only a third of the fleet in 2030 will be light electric vehicles, while increased consumption from the grid will take our electricity demand to 5,000GWh per year.
While it has been noted previously by a report from Evenergi that despite the increase in electricity demand, electric cars can in fact help smooth peak load resulting in lower energy prices – if managed appropriately – the Academy report highlights the importance of a strategy that does this effectively.
To accelerate the shift to electric vehicles, the Academy report recommends:
- A national target to drive the uptake of LEVs in Australia
- Incentives to use LEVs as fleet vehicles
- Industry to lead the way in the uptake of LEVs by ensuring that vehicles imported into Australia meet stringent standards for emissions, set by government
Academy Fellow Kathryn Fagg who chaired the investigation with Drew Clarke into the transport industry’s technology readiness, says the Australia’s vast distances mean the inevitable disruption that is already happening on a global scale will have enormous impact – and as such, a failure to prepare adequately could be catastrophic.
“The rapid advance of digital technologies across all sectors of the global economy has resulted in an extraordinary period of change,” Fagg said in a note by email.
“With Australia’s geographic isolation and long distances between urban centres, the transport sector will be both significantly disrupted and revolutionised by this technological transformation.
“Failure to be prepared will risk a decline in many aspects of our Australian way of life and society, including increased congestion and vehicle-related emissions, a deterioration in health, safety and security, and a negative impact on the cost of living, productivity and the ease of mobility.”
While Australia somewhat prepared in certain areas – social readiness and policy readiness – the report notes that Australia is lacking in terms of infrastructure, skills and economic feasability.
“Australia is performing well on a number of readiness indicators and is well place to capitalise on the coming technology revolution, but we need to make smart, strategic decisions to keep pace with the technological frontier,” Fagg says.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She has been writing about electric vehicles since 2018, and 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. Bridie also owns a Tesla Model 3 and has it available for hire on evee.com.au.