The Morrison government has finally conceded that there will be all-electric utes for tradies, and that models already available in the Australian market are suitable for towing caravans, despite a fear campaign run throughout the 2019 election campaign.
In the lead up to the 2019 federal election, the Morrison government sought to scare voters over the Labor party’s support for electric vehicles, saying that Labor would dictate to Australians which cars they could drive and that the Morrison government would instead “save your ute”.
The Morrison government also claimed that the Labor party’s election platform included plans to “end the weekend”, by supporting electric vehicles that would not be able to tow a caravan or pull a trailer.
However, in response to ‘questions taken on notice’ by senator Simon Birmingham on behalf of federal energy minister Angus Taylor during a session of Senate Estimates held in March, the government has now conceded that its fear-mongering in the election campaign had no basis.
In response to a Senate Estimates questions about the ability of electric vehicles to tow caravans posed by Australian Greens transport spokesperson Janet Rice, the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources pointed to the Tesla Model X as being a suitable model that had the ability to tow a standard caravan.
“The Tesla Model X SUV is capable of towing, with a maximum towing limit of 2,270 kg. This is enough to tow a large caravan or trailer,” the government’s response said.
“Towing at high speeds reduces the battery range of an electric vehicle.”
“These answers completely contradict the laughable lies rolled out during the election campaign. But it’s not too late,” Australian Greens senator Janet Rice, who posed the initial questions to the department, told The Driven.
“The government needs to get their National Electric Vehicle strategy out of the slow lane. It was announced more than a year ago, but we still have no details.”
“Transport contributes almost 20% of carbon pollution in Australia, and we’ve now had seven years of dysfunctional conservative governments failing to deliver a plan to shift people out of polluting cars and into electric vehicles that reduce pollution. Australia is already lagging behind on the world stage when it comes to EV uptake,” Rice added.
As reported in The Driven, Hyundai’s all-electric Kona has also proven itself capable of towing a caravan, and that there are no technical limitations that would prevent an electric vehicle from towing
In response to an question about electric utilities, the federal government said that it was aware of multiple models of all-electric utes.
“The Department is aware that vehicle companies Tesla and Rivian have announced they will produce electric utility vehicles. The Tesla Cybertruck was previewed in November 2019. The release of these vehicles into the Australian market is a decision for the vehicle companies.”
Birmingham had declined to provide answers to the questions during the Senate Estimates session, conceding that he did not hold himself out “to be an expert in the technical specifications of electric vehicles.”
The questions were instead taken ‘on-notice’ with answers provided by the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources and published earlier in May.
The department also confirmed that it is continuing to work on the development of the National Electric Vehicle Strategy, having undertaken a range of consultation with vehicle manufacturers, EV charging companies and a range of government agencies.
The National Electric Vehicle Strategy was announced more than a year ago by federal energy minister Angus Taylor, but nothing more than an initial single page overview that accompanied the announcement has been released by the government.
Electric vehicles featured in the Technology Investment Roadmap recently released by the Morrison government, having been identified as a technology that could drive cost-effective reductions in emissions, but gave no indication of what policy support may be on offer from the government, other than saying that the National Electric Vehicle Strategy remained “forthcoming”.
Without a strategy for electric vehicles, and effective standards for fuel efficiency and performance, Australia risks becoming a dumping ground for inefficient petrol vehicles.
According to a report published by BloombergNEF, Australia remains a global laggard in electric vehicle uptake, due to a lack of policy incentives and a resulting hesitancy from electric vehicle manufacturers to push new models into the Australian market.
Michael Mazengarb is a journalist with RenewEconomy, based in Sydney. Before joining RenewEconomy, Michael worked in the renewable energy sector for more than a decade.