The Victorian state Labor government, under fire over its controversial electric vehicle road tax, has announced a $3,000 subsidy for electric vehicle purchases, and a target that aims to see half of all new vehicles sales to be fully electric or hydrogen by 2030.
The $100 million package unveiled on Saturday also includes a commitment to build charging infrastructure and achieve more zero emission vehicles (ZEVs) in government and commercial fleets.
(On Sunday, the Victoria government announced a broad climate package, upgrading its emissions reduction target to between 45-50 per cent by 2030.
The $3,000 subsidy will come into effect on Sunday (May 2) and will be available for more than 20,000 zero emission vehicles, and only to those with a sticker price of less than $69,000. So it won’t be available to top range Tesla, Jaguar, Mercedes, Audi and Porsche EVs.
The goverment says an expert advisory panel will be established to advise the Government on policies, programs and infrastructure required to ensure it meets its 50 per cent target by 2030.
The plan for charging infrastructure will involve $19 million in funds to add ding at least 50 charging points to the existing network of 24 sites, to be sited on major highways, key tourist attractions, and locations across Melbourne and regional Victoria.
Victoria will also invest $10 million to add ZEVs to the state government fleet, starting with 400 vehicles in the next two years. A $5 million innovation fund will work to support the uptake of ZEVs in the commercial sector.
The $3,000 subsidy is the first major initiative be a leading state, although the ACT also has generous interest-free loans and has removed stamp duty imposts on EVs, which amounts to nearly the same amount.
It is also the first EV target, but it compares to international targets that seek to ban the sales of fossil fuel cars altogether, by 2030 in the case of the UK and other European countries, and 2025 in the case of Norway.
The state government says the $100 million package has been made possible by its controversial zero and low-emissions road user charge that has been widely criticised because of the lack of EV incentives. That fee, which will into effect from July 1, if it passes parliament, will cost 2.5c a kilometre for full electric vehicles.
“Our transport sector is a significant contributor to our emissions. This package of reforms makes cars the vehicle for change, by getting more zero emissions vehicles on our roads,” said the minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio
Treasurer Tim Pallas, who was behind the EV road tax said: “These investments will encourage more drivers to consider purchasing a zero emissions vehicle – and ensure Victoria leads the nation in zero emissions vehicle uptake.”
Victoria will also put pressure on the federal government to introduce a fuel standard in the country, a subject raised by former environment minister Josh Frydenberg several years ago, but quickly withdrawn when the Murdoch media branded it a “carbon tax on wheels”.
But it has become increasingly clear that Australia is becoming a dumping ground for old and dirty technologies, with high particulate emissions responsible for nearly 2,000 deaths a year, and added fuel costs from inefficient engines and dirty fuels costing an extra $600 a year per vehicle.
Mark Tipping, from the Tesla Owners Club of Australia, said in a Facebook posting: “Many thanks to the many TOCA members and other EV owners and enthusiasts that put pressure on the Victorian Government. Although the RUC (road user tax) is still in place, (the new initiative) is a huge step in the right direction.”
The main car lobby, the FCAI, which represents nearly all major car makers, apart from Tesla, welcomed the incentives but criticised the 50 per cent sales target, saying it preferred a CO2 emissions target, although it has insisted any such target should be voluntary.
“The aim is to reduce CO2 emissions from vehicles. Governments should focus on targets, not technologies,” said FCAI boss Tony Weber.
“If governments set the targets, the carmakers will deliver the range of vehicles into the market that achieve environmental outcomes and meet the needs of Australian motorists. We have already come a long way and we believe these issues can be resolved.
Weber said the Federal Government risked missing an opportunity to provide leadership and policy direction on the increased take-up of Zero and Low Emissions Vehicles (ZLEVs).
“The FCAI has consistently advocated for a national approach to these issues that ideally would be Federally-led to avoid the prospect of individual State Governments introducing their own standards and incentive programs in support of ZLEVs.
“Consistency is the critical element for Australian customers. If other States introduce their own programs, they must align. Otherwise, the result will be another disjointed and chaotic system like the introduction of different rail gauges across the country.”
Electric Vehicle Council CEO welcome the move, saying it was exactly the kind of momentum needed if Australia was to catch up to the rest of the world.
“We know from surveys that Australians are eager to get behind the wheel of an electric vehicle, they just need to know their governments will back that decision. Policies like this tell Australians that buying an electric vehicle is a choice they can make with confidence,” he said.
“Only 0.1 per cent of Victorian cars are currently electric. The subsidies announced could help drive that figure up sharply and put a huge dent in Victoria’s carbon emissions.”