The NRMA is calling on governments to do everything they can do stimulate and prepare for a local electric vehicle market, saying Australia must urgently decide what role it wants to play in the inevitable EV revolution over the next decade.
The roadside assistance mutual, which has no special financial interest in EVs over internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, but is growing increasingly concerned about the lack of national preparedness for the inevitable change, has made 10 recommendations that would prepare Australia’s roads for an EV-dominated world.
These recommendations included procurement of EVs for state and federal government fleets, subsidies for private EV fleets, investment in charging stations in government car parks, and purchasing incentives that would encourage consumers to choose EVs over petrol cars.
“Within the next decade, the cost and infrastructure obstacles which have kept EVs exclusive and beyond the reach of mainstream consumers are likely to disappear,” the NRMA report said. “The moment has arrived for Australia to decide what role it wants to play as a manufacturer, researcher, supplier and consumer.”
It comes as nations around the world make commitments to hit net zero emissions within the next 30 years, though Australia is yet to follow.
Transport is the second biggest source of emissions after the power sector, accounting for around 15 per cent of total emissions both nationally and globally. Rapid electrification of transport will therefore be key to reducing emissions to zero.
US president Joe Biden’s progressive climate policy — a radical reversal of the pro-fossil fuel Trump presidency that has injected new energy into the global push to net zero — includes a plan to replace the entire federal government fleet of more than 670,000 vehicles with EVs.
But Australia remains without any significant EV policy, and as a result has only around 20,000 EVs on the road. With no car industry or major oil reserves, Australia has no obvious economic motivation not to support an EV market, but the federal government has remained deaf to calls for a clear EV policy.
The NRMA said one major area of reform could be tax policy, and it called on the federal government to review a range of existing tax structures. It recommended altering fringe benefits tax to focus on emissions rather than price, and exempting battery electric vehicles from the luxury car tax.
It also called for a clear charging infrastructure framework, saying even under moderate take-up scenarios, 28,370 public fast chargers would be needed by 2040.
Such a regulatory framework, to be developed by the Transport and Infrastructure Council, would have to tackle a range of major logistical challenges, including standardising charging plugs, signposting charging sites, changes to traffic law to accommodate on-street charging sites and modelling to predict and prepare for future demand.
It also called on the federal government to undertake an audit of Australia electricity networks to assess upgrades required to support the huge rise in demand that electrification of transport would put on the grid.
It also called for grants for research and development, regulation of battery-related issues, and community education programs.
James Fernyhough is a reporter at RenewEconomy and The Driven. He has worked at The Australian Financial Review and the Financial Times, and is interested in all things related to climate change and the transition to a low-carbon economy.