NSW minister for transport Andrew Constance says NSW will support the acceleration of clean transport rather than hinder it, flagging a range of measures to support electric car drivers and a possible “drop-dead” date to ban the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles.
Victoria has sent out a confusing message on EV policy, introducing a purchase subsidy of $3,000 for up to 20,000 new electric cars at the same time as rolling out a distance-based road user tax, but Constance says that NSW will not introduce a levy on EVs until 40-50% of the auto market is electric.
Instead, measures such as waiving stamp duty, access to transit lanes, subsidised parking and investment in electric car charging infrastructure will be proposed, Constance told the Sydney Morning Herald, adding that a “drop dead” rate should also be considered for a “complete conversion to electric vehicles”.
It would be at least four or five years until NSW will consider any sort of electric vehicle tax, Constance was quoted as saying, adding that now is not the time to discourage EV uptake.
“This is the time that we will be judged accordingly for those who deliver a system which scales up EVs and improves our air quality and our public health and at the same time delivers for our environment,” Constance said.
In Victoria, treasurer Tim Pallas is introducing road user taxes for EVs to make up for declining federal fuel excise revenue, but opponents argue that with only around 1% (when Tesla estimates are included) of new car sales currently electric, this is little more than a grubby cash grab that will hinder the fledgling industry.
But Constance says introducing a road user tax for electric vehicle too soon would make NSW, “the laughing stock of the world,” SMH reports.
“The rest of the world will have moved to full manufacturing of electric vehicles and here we are sort of struggling.”
The move was hinted at by NSW treasurer Dominic Perrottet in April, saying that NSW would take a more “nuanced” approach to supporting EVs than Victoria.
The move has been praised by Electric Vehicle Council CEO Behyad Jafari, who says NSW has a “historic opportunity” to support the transition to electric vehicles, which is happening at an increasing pace overseas but which has been lagging in Australia due to a lack of policy support.
Jurisdictions in many major global markets have been supporting the transition to clean transport. Norway has had policies in place since the 1990s, and is now seeing electric cars bought en masse – as many as 7 in 10 new sales are electric.
“At this point in time the public interest is going to be much better served by rapid electric vehicle uptake than by skimming a little extra tax from the few EVs that are already registered,” Jafari said in a note by email.
“The transition to electric cars will clean our streets of exhaust and noise, lowering health costs, reducing carbon emissions, and helping break the state’s dependence on foreign oil. This will represent billions of dollars in economic benefit.
“There’s a great opportunity for New South Wales to have it all here. Well-targeted subsidies now, as seen elsewhere across the globe, would create a boom in EV sales.
“Then, once the state starts capturing the benefits from fleet electrification, that would be the perfect time to start introducing smart road user charges.”
Richie Merzian, climate and energy program director for The Australia Institute, agrees that Constance is right in raising the alarm about Australia’s terrible transport emissions and the need to accelerate not hit the handbrake on policies to lower them.
“NSW, like all states, is a car-taker not a car-maker and if you want to attract the best, cheapest, cleanest cars to the state you need to put in place incentives not taxes on electric vehicle,” Merzian said in a note to The Driven.
“For too long treasurers have dictated Australia’s approach to electric vehicles, seeing it as an opportunity to cash grab, regardless of the impact. Its about time transport ministers speak up and it’s great to hear Minister Constance take a stand on this absurd approach to taxing electric vehicles.”
The transition to electric vehicles represents a once-in-a-lifetime paradigm shift that will have impacts upon health, climate, and the very way we view transport. Discouraging uptake risks condemning Australia to becoming a “third world”, VW Australia boss Michael Bartsch said in March.
Danny Lenartic, GM for MG’s electric division in Australia which recently introduced the MG ZS EV (now the second most popular EV in Australia at $43,990 driveaway), says that drivers in Australia are indicating they are more than ready to make the switch to clean transport.
“At MG, we’re seeing first-hand that consumers are genuinely ready to buy an electric vehicle – and it’s no longer about early adopters, either. The proposals put forward by the NSW Government’s transport minister are logical, sustainable and workable,” he said in a note to The Driven.
Introducing policy to support EV adoption will ultimately mean more choice for consumers, he says.
“It’s not about giving the buyers of electric vehicles a free kick at the expense of ICE vehicle owners, it’s about offering consumers a chance to make a choice on an even playing field.”
NSW has also made a commitment to transition the state’s entire bus fleet, which will see 8,000 or so diesel and LPG buses phased out in favour of electric buses.
Constance launched the first such bus to be made in NSW by Custom Denning in March, that is now being trialled on busy Sydney routes in Bondi.
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.