Electric car sales in Australia doubled in the first three months of 2021, but while they won on percentage increases their numbers were overwhelmed by the jump in volumes of petrol and diesel car sales.
After more than two years of declining sales across the auto industry board, and a dive in 2020 due to the pandemic, new car sales in Australia are on the up 13% in the first quarter compared to the same period in 2020, despite delivery constraints in factory supply chains.
Electric and hybrid car sales, which bucked the industry trend over the past two years by increasing rather than falling, delivered sharp gains in percentage terms, more than doubling and rising by 122.8% for all-electrics, 79.7% for plug-in hybrids and 24.8% for hybrids in the first quarter compared to 2020.
In real terms, however, EV sales numbers are still tiny, with just 411 new EV sales reported by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) for the month of March, for a first-quarter total of 969 full electric new car sales, compared to the 263,000 plus new petrol and diesel cars on the road in the first quarter.
The top-selling new electric cars include 225 Porsche Taycan electric cars, a surprisingly high number given their price (around $200,000).
Even with the assumed sales of 2,200 Tesla – as told by an anonymous source to The Driven (Tesla does not report local sales to the FCAI despite being a member) – this amounts to just 3,200 or so EV sales in the first quarter.
Although that’s approximately double the total deliveries of Q1 2020, it is still little more than 1% of all sales and far behind EV market share overseas, and the result of a lack of federal and state policy aimed at accelerating uptake that overseas has pushed a global EV market share of nearly 5%. (The UK market reported a 14 per cent market share for plug-ins in March, Norway reports 75 per cent).
A federal EV strategy to accelerate uptake in Australia that was promised after the results of an EV senate enquiry were published in early 2019 has never eventuated.
Instead, the LNP government’s Future Fuel discussion paper, which lauds hybrids as a better tool to mitigate carbon emissions and the effects of climate change, was released in February.
A submission from the Australia Institute responding to the Future Fuels document slammed the contents of the paper, saying it had no new commitments and rules out policies that would help Australia reduce its transport-related emissions by encouraging uptake.
Labor released a new commitment last Tuesday to remove the 5% import tax for electric vehicles under a certain value, as well as the fringe benefits tax for electric cars provided by employers to employees for private use.
While this policy implementation depends on Labor winning at the next federal election, the move has been praised by the Electric Vehicle Council and the Australian Conservation Foundation.
Bridie Schmidt is associate editor 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 Y and has it available for hire on evee.com.au.