A leaked discussion paper from the federal government on its electric vehicle strategy – which it dubs its “future fuels” strategy – contains no new initiatives to encourage the uptake of EVs, but points to the need for more charging infrastructure and basic information for consumers.
The discussion paper has been obtained by The Driven and RenewEconomy even though it has yet to be formally released by the government. A strategy paper had been promised for release earlier this year but has been repeatedly delayed.
The federal government has shown little interest in EVs, last year attacking the Labor goal to achieve a 50 per cent share of new vehicle sales by 2030, saying that EVs could not tow boats, couldn’t be taken camping, and were too slow to charge.
Since then many countries have announced outright bans on the sale of petrol and diesel cars, with the UK ban to come into force from 2030, and Norway’s from 2025.
Australia trails the world in the uptake of EVs, which account for less than 1 per cent of new vehicle sales, compared to more than 10 per cent in most of Europe, and nearly 80 per cent in Norway.
The Australian government discussion paper confirms the $72 million “future fuels” funding announced in the federal budget, which will include support for infrastructure for EVs, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and cars powered by biofuels, and assorted initiatives – such as vehicle-t0-grid trials and network rollouts – supported by ARENA.
But there is no mention of any targeted uptake of EVs, or incentives to encourage the purchase of EVs. It makes mention of a two-year trial for the Commonwealth fleet – which earlier this year snubbed EVs – and the desire to encourage commercial fleets to embrace EVs in order to create a strong second hand electric vehicle market.
“The Future Fuels Fund could support businesses make electrical upgrades and install battery chargers at a depot for battery electric delivery trucks, where installation costs might be a barrier to battery electric vehicle uptake.
The priorities listed in the discussion paper include recharging infrastructure for both EV and hydrogen cars, a focus on commercial fleets, improving information for consumers, integrating EVs into the electricity grid and supporting local innovation and manufacturing.
The “actionable” items include the future fuels fund, a “green vehicle guide”, more analysis on EV integration into the grid, and more studies into local opportunities for future fuels.
Comcar is to undertake a two year trial to include EVs in its fleet, which recently chose a premium BMW and a Toyota hybrid in its fleet review, and ignored EVs.
The discussion paper insists that conventional petrol and diesel vehicles would continue to dominate purchases over the short to medium term, and the government priority was to ensure that transport fuel supplies were guaranteed – hence the recently announced support to refineries and long term fuel reserves.
Behyad Jafari, the CEO of the Electric Vehicle Council, said the paper was a “real shame” as it contained no new initiatives. “It’s actually a do nothing strategy,” he told The Driven. “It’s a real shame because we know what works. The government has announced another $2.7 billion in fossil fuel subsidies, but on EVs they have got no plan.”
“This strategy leaves Australia miles behind just as the exciting global transition to electric vehicles is picking up pace,” Jafari said in a statement.
“Transitioning to electric vehicles is unarguably in our national interest, yet this strategy does nothing to accelerate the process.
“If Australians were supported toward electric vehicles we could significantly reduce respiratory illness in our cities, shake off our fuel insecurity, cut our carbon emissions, and even firm up our grid with a giant collective battery. This strategy does not help us realise this exciting future.
“In the US, drivers are offered a $10,000 tax rebate for buying an electric vehicle, and American consumers get access to much cheaper electric vehicle options because of their long standing vehicle emission standards.
Richie Merzian, from The Australia Institute, said Australia been waiting two years for an EV strategy, and was now not going to get even that.
“What it appears we will get is a watered down discussion paper, and from what I hear it will be wafer thin, and include very little in the way of direct incentives,” Merzian said.
“Which is so disappointing bcause we know that these work. The government is so quick to come in to help the fossil fuel industry, and so slow when it comes to supporting clean energy.
“This why the PM was not invited to last weekend’s climate summit, because Australia has no ambition.”
Labor spokesman Mark Butler lamented the lack of mention of even a fuel efficiency standard, which has been an effective policy tool in Europe and parts of the US. The lack of one means that Australian consumes have dirty and inefficient cars which cost up to $600 a year in extra fuel costs.