The federal government’s Comcar fleet has chosen a Tesla Model 3 long range electric car and a Hyundai Ioniq EV to take part in a trial to assess how best to integrate electric cars into the day-to-day transport services of parliament staff and guests.
The vehicles will be trialled by the department of finance over a two-year period in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra, focussing on the ins and outs of charging the vehicles and associated costs.
They are the first EVs made available to federal politicians, although NSW energy minister Matt Kean already has a Tesla Model 3, which he is pretty pleased about. See: “Best car I’ve ever driven”: NSW energy minister’s new car is Tesla Model 3
The Comcar trial, which has already begun, is at best is a tacit acknowledgement that electric vehicle technology is mature enough for use in the federal fleet, and at worst is an indirect admission that the Coalition’s 2019 attack on electric vehicles was just plain out of line, has been a long time coming.
Electric cars were originally overlooked by Comcar in 2020 in favour of diesel-hungry BMW 6 series GTs and hybrid Toyota Camrys (which use less fuel than a non-hybrid but must burn it nonetheless).
Senate estimates later confirmed that although two Tesla vehicles – the premium $130,000 Model S and $150,000 Model X – were taken for a short test drive, they never actually made it to the shortlist for a more comprehensive test.
Now, it is the more affordable Tesla Model 3 long range, which is priced from $81,900 (before on roads), and the Hyundai Ioniq, a fastback that is one of a small handful of electric cars in Australia that is priced from under $50,000.
Both were on the market in Australia when the original 2020 shortlist was made, and as a “fact sheet” provided by Birmingham’s office to The Driven outlines, both are eligible for use in a Comcar trial inclusion because they meet the Australian Government Fleet Vehicle Selection Policy.
These criteria include a five-star safety assessment (both were tested before 2020), minimum “fit for purpose” requirements, addressing environmental considerations, and provide value for money (The Driven has contacted minister for finance Simon Birmingham’s office for more clarification on why these two vehicles were chosen, but the office did not directly respond).
Notably, the fact sheet provided by Birmingham’s office does not state the trial will assess the cost of ownership of the vehicles themselves, nor the (incorrectly calculated) “cost of abatement” that energy minister Angus Taylor uses in the “future fuels” discussion paper to claim hybrids are better than electric vehicles.
Regarding the cost of ownership, that’s just as well – there are already many studies that show electric cars are already more affordable than fuel burners because they have lower energy and maintenance costs, such as this 2019 report by Climateworks.
In fact, the government’s own Green Vehicle Guide confirms that the “fuel costs” of both electrics are half that of the BMW 6 series (which by the way would fail the EU’s strict vehicle emissions limits of 95gmCO2/km).
In fact, both the Model 3 and the Ioniq are the most efficient cars available in Australia.
Transitioning the entire federal fleet to electric cars would also cost much, much less than the $200 million figure thrown around by the Parliamentary Budget Office. Evenergi has gone so far as to say it could cost just a 10th of that figure.
What the two-year trial will do is see the department of finance share data with the department of industry, science, energy and resources and federal science organisation CSIRO and other entities to “share information and improve understanding of charging infrastructure and technologies”.
It will do this via “both off-road assessments on a closed circuit track and on-road assessments in business as usual service delivery to clients,” to “consider how to best operate an EV fleet to ensure there is minimal disruption”.
It’s not hard, particularly seeing as the future fuels discussion paper has identified that rolling out charging infrastructure where it is needed is its number one priority.
Considering one of newly elected US president Biden’s first steps in a bold $US2 trillion ($A2.6 trillion) climate and energy package after being inaugurated in January was to commit to transitioning 645,000 government vehicles to electric, a two-year trial of two electric vehicles is tardy, to say the least.
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 since 2018. She 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.