The EV market in Australia – dubbed a laggard compared to overseas markets – has had its fair share of difficulties not least due to the pandemic putting a stop to shipping in 2020.
Although there continues to be an undeniable upturn in electric vehicle sales as registrations hit 20,000, the percentage of auto sales that were pure electric in 2020 sits at a disappointing 0.5%.
A federal electric vehicle (EV) strategy morphing into a hollow “future fuels” discussion paper, and some state governments touting road user fees for electric vehicles, despite abundant evidence to the contrary this would be damaging for the industry at such a premature stage, has not helped.
Understandably, moves like these have sparked heated discussion about the lack of support for EVs in Australia, which you can read at length in our EV policy articles.
But there are also some glimmers of hope on the horizon, as states continue to work on their own electric vehicle policies, and in some cases, set targets for government fleets and the general driving population.
So as we reach the end of 2020, here is your ready reckoner for EV policy in Australia – where it is at, and where it is going.
National EV policy
Sad to say there is nothing to see here folks. The “future fuels” discussion paper leaked last Tuesday shows no ambition in regards to increasing the number of electric vehicles on our roads, despite the fact they hold the potential for reducing harmful traffic pollution as well as transport-related carbon emissions.
As Giles Parkinson noted, it “contains no new initiatives to encourage the uptake of EVs, but points to the need for more charging infrastructure and basic information for consumers.”
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.”
There is no mention of targets, or incentives to encourage uptake, despite proof overseas (such as in Norway, the US, the UK, Europe and China) that these are strategies with measurable proof of success.
One small light in the federal EV policy chasm in 2020 was the lifting of the Luxury Car Tax threshold for low and zero emissions vehicles to $77,565.
Although not actually a state, the Australian Capital Territory became the “most EV-friendly” jurisdiction in November when it announced it would offer zero-interest loans of up to $10,000 to Territorians who make the switch to buy a new EV, as well as the added bonus of free rego for the first two years
It also has a goal for all government fleet leases to be all-electric in 2020/21, and has committed to allowing EVs to drive in transit lanes until 2023.
New South Wales
Australia’s most populous state in June tripled its pledge to purchase 10% electric vehicles for the state government fleet from 2021/21, increasing the target to 30% (it does however include hybrid vehicles).
In December, it announced it would commence a roll out of 70 new electric buses to the public transport fleet in 2021, with another 50 also planned, as it aims to completely replace the 8,000 strong fleet entirely.
All-electric vehicles are eligible for a concession on motor vehicle tax in NSW.
Victoria threw a spanner in the works in November when it announced it will introduce a road user fee for EVs in 2021 at a rate of 2.5 cents per kilometre driven, or 2 cents for plug-in hybrids, a move that was swiftly denounced as “shameful“.
However, it has also passed legislation to ensure that non-pluggable vehicles caught in public EV parking spots, or EVs found parked but not charging, will cop a fine in a bid to stop “ICE-ing” (blocking EVs from charging with an internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle).
All-electric vehicles in Victoria are eligible for a $100 discount on registration fees, and enjoy a reduced rate of stamp duty.
Australia’s sunshine state has been on the EV wagon for some time now, with the longest intra-state charging network (known as the Queensland Electric Super Highway, or QESH) in the world to show for it. In 2020, it has announced 13 more charging sites to be added to the QESH, taking the total up to 31.
Queensland also has its eyes on being a hydrogen super-power, with a trial underway testing five Hyundai Nexos fuelled by home-grown “green” hydrogen. It also has a plan to double the number of EVs bought for the government fleet each year to feed a secondhanf EV market.
All-electric vehicles in Queensland pay less stamp duty than other vehicles.
Possibly the biggest news of this week is that South Australia has announced a goal to sell only electric passenger vehicles by 2035, which it describes as “the biggest change since the Model T”.
Part of an overall climate plan, it will aim to entirely transition its 6,800-strong government fleet to all-electric vehicles by 2030, and its policy force already has five Hyundai Kona Electrics in service.
All very encouraging – but South Australia is also touting the addition of the controversial road user charge, which may be shouted down in parliament but if it is not, could actually have the opposite effect of encouraging electric vehicles unless it offsets these with incentives.
After sidelining an electric vehicle report for many months, the West Australian government finally released in November an electric vehicle strategy which puts in place a plan to push Queensland off its perch by building Australia’s longest intrastate charging network.
It is also planning to acquire 25% electric vehicles in its state fleet of passenger and commercial light vehicles, and will invest in to hydrogen refuelling stations as well as trial electric buses in Perth.
In November, Tasmania set a target to transition its entire government fleet to electric vehicles – starting with four hybrid vehicles – by 2030. To do this it is committing $2.3 million towards the transition for the next three years.
It will also trial electric and hydrogen buses in the next two years, as it buckles down to double renewable power generation by 2040.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles for two years. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.