An electric vehicle (EV) tax that would see plug-in electric car owners pay up to 2.5 cents per kilometre in lieu of fuel excise paid was touted in late 2020 by Victorian treasurer Tim Pallas.
Electric vehicles currently make up less than 1% of cars on Australian roads, and the tax, which is similar to one proposed for South Australia, and possibly under consideration in NSW, is being touted as a substitute for falling fuel excise revenue, even though the main reason this revenue downturn is the result of more efficient petrol and diesel vehicles.
But a new survey that polled 2,000 voters shows that voters don’t want an electric vehicle tax.
A whopping 80% agree the government should be doing more to support the transition to clean transport, and nearly half of drivers would like to buy an electric vehicle next time they buy a car, the survey commissioned by the Electric Vehicle Council reveals.
Notably, nearly half of those surveyed across six key electorates also think the electric vehicle industry does not receive as much support as the legacy auto industry.
Before the local car-making industry was shut down in 2017, it was estimated the Australian government had slated some $5.4 billion for Toyota, Ford and Holden from 2008-2020 – equal to about $2,200 per car produced locally in today’s terms.
University of Queensland (UQ) research calculated that introducing an electric vehicle tax would add another $4,000 to the total cost of an electric vehicle, which in Australia already costs $20,000 or more than its petrol and diesel counterparts.
“Victorian voters don’t want a tax on electric vehicles, they want their politicians to be driving policies that will allow them to be able to go to a dealership and pick up the keys to an electric vehicle,” said Behyad Jafari, CEO of the Electric Vehicle Council in a note.
But while the Victorian Labor government said the tax would raise the state $30 million over four years, it will – as in South Australia – likely be defeated in parliament anyway.
Key Victorian independent MPs have indicated they will not support the EV tax, The Age reported on Sunday.
State opposition as well as two Liberal Democrats, Transport Matters’ Rod Barton, Sustainable Australia’s Clifford Hayes, Greens’ Samantha Ratnam and Animal Justice Party’s Andy Meddick all said they would likely oppose the bill.
Of the independent members surveyed by the newspaper, only the Reason Party’s Fiona Patten said she would support the EV tax. We have reached out to Patten for comment.
While Pallas says the EV tax is “modest” compared to what petrol and diesel car owners pay in fuel excise, Jafari notes that taxing electric vehicles is the exact opposite of actions being taken by governments overseas to achieve their net-zero targets.
In stark contrast, introducing an EV tax would have the effect of lifting emissions, UQ research showed.
“It’s clear the Andrews Government needs to do a complete re-steer,” says Jafari.
“If our politicians can’t be swayed by embracing policies that would result in cleaner air and help the state meet its net-zero carbon emissions target by 2050, perhaps they might be moved by thinking about re-election and what their voters actually want,” Jafari said.
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.