Reports have emerged that Japan – another key right-hand drive market – is considering banning the sals of all new petrol and diesel cars and light commercial vehicles by 2035.
The move follows Japanese PM Suga Yoshihide’s pledge to slash Japan’s carbon emissions to net zero by 2050, and would see only electric, hybrid and fuel cell vehicles sold from 2035.
First reported by Japanese news agency NHK on Thursday (Japan time), the potential ban on fossil fuelled vehicles comes shortly after the UK confirmed that it would ban the sale of pure petrol and diesel vehicles from 2030, and hybrids from 2035.
Other countries and states are doing the same, and as Ketan Joshi noted on Thursday, the world is looking to the success of Norway, which is banning fossil fuel car sales from 2025, in how to do the clean transport transition well.
But the news that Japan, which along with the UK is the key right-hand drive market, will follow suit is important, and should not be swept under the policy door-mat that highlights the Morrison government’s lack of commitment on climate change action.
Because Australia no longer makes its own cars, it is wholly dependent on overseas OEMs, and when those OEMs stop making petrol and diesel cars – which Australians are still buying up in bootloads – our national infrastructure, and policy, will need to be ready for it.
As Eytan Lenko, exective chair of climate action advocacy group Beyond Zero noted in a tweet on Thursday, how Australia responds now will determine how smoothly the transition to clean transport is in Australia – or risk, as we have noted here and here, becoming the Cuba of the western world, but without the 1950s nostalgia.
— Eytan Lenko (@eytanlenko) December 3, 2020
Currently that’s looking likely, not least because, as November’s uptick in local car sales demonstrates, purchasing polluting diesel cars is still something Australians choose to do.
And while some states – most recently the ACT – are making moves to incentivise EV uptake, any federal EV strategy is likely to present Australians with a “false narrative of choice” while actually doing nothing tangible to educate and encourage drivers to reduce their own transport emissions, Joshi also notes here.
Japan is already decades ahead of Australia, having introduced in 1996 its first incentive for drivers to help pay for 50% of the difference in price compared to ICE cars, followed by its first EV target in 1997 with a goal to have 110,000 electric vehicles and 2.11 million hybrids and fuel cells on Japanese roads by 2010.
Japan has a national fleet double the size of the UK’s circa 40 million cars, and notably it is also the home of several car makers with significant global footprints, including in Australia.
While Japan’s EV sales have fallen in past years according to the IEA, the new ban will undoubtedly drive an upturn, as has been seen when EV policies are implemented such as in Norway, Germany, California (which accounts for 50% of the US EV market), and most importantly for Australia, the UK.
What exactly it will mean for Australia will depend on policy. Investment in charging infrastructure will be wasted if enough drivers cannot afford EVs.
Price parity may be reached within the next few years in overseas markets, but this will mean little if car makers choose to squeeze every last buck out of the final years of ICE development by shunting them to Australia because nobody else will accept them.
Even rideshare giant Uber has this week lamented the recent news that Australian states such as Victoria, South Australia and possibly NSW will tax EVs instead of introducing incentives to buy them.
“I’m a little bit nervous about some of the policy thinking that we are hearing in terms of the EV tax that has been proposed,” Uber’s APAC mobility chief Pradeep Parameswaran told Business Insider on Friday.
“I do think where we’ve had success is where governments have really incentivised ownership with substantial subsidies early on. And overtime once you get critical mass you can always pull back on subsidies. But taxing to me is actually quite a challenging barrier.”
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.