Australia is a land of standalone houses with spacious driveways in sprawling suburbs – and that should be a big advantage when it comes to rolling out electric vehicles, becuase it means home charging is easy.
Its worst asset, though, is a federal government that refuses to back the EV transition with aggressive policy, and that will hold Australia many years behind comparable markets, making it difficult to decarbonise transport by the middle of the century.
Those are two of the main conclusions Bloomberg NEF draws about Australia in its latest global EV market report.
The report identifies easy access to home charging as one of this country’s great assets when it comes to electrifying passenger vehicles, and predicts it will eventually allow Australia to catch up with the rest of the world even without aggressive policy incentives.
Today less than 1 per cent of new cars in Australia are EVs. But BNEF predicts this will rise to 7 per cent in 2025, 19 per cent of new cars sold will be EVs by 2030, and 66 per cent by 2040. By that date it said 5.5 million EVs would be on Australia’s roads, making up 27 per cent of the countries total car fleet.
While that may not be the worst imaginable outcome, it doesn’t bode well for net zero by 2050 – a target all the states and territories have committed to, even if the federal government hasn’t.
“The Australian EV market starts slower than many other advanced economies due to a lack of stringent fuel-economy regulations and limited EV model availability,” the report says.
“However, a high prevalence of multi-car households with easy access to home charging enables Australia’s EV market to catch up once EVs become cheaper than combustion vehicles.”
The 2016 national census found just 10 per cent of Australians live in apartments, while occupied houses outnumber apartments at a rate of five to one.
While countries with lots of high density, high rise housing need to spend lots of money building charge points in car parks or on the street, many more Australians can easily plug their EVs in at home.
BNEF said last year, EV sales made up just 0.8 per cent of car sales, puting it way behind comparable markets in Europe, the United States and Japan. It placed almost all the blame for this on the government’s refusal to back EV uptake.
“Australia’s lack of regulatory support for EVs is the main reason for the country’s relative slowness, as it provides little incentive for consumers to buy EVs, or for automakers to sell them,” it said.
“The Victorian government recently introduced an EV subsidy for its state,2 however, it only amounts to $2,310 (A$3,000)3 and came attached with a road-user charge.”
It said other state and territories were also beginning to increase ambition, but said “without federal government support and national fuel economy regulations, EV adoption in Australia will largely depend on economics and consumer preference alone”.
So where do the econmics leave us? BNEF predicts higher end EVs will reach price parity with the ICE counterparts in “the next five years”, and that all models will reach price parity by the end of the decade. After that, the main obstacles will be availability, access to charging infrastructure, and range anxiety.
On the latter, BNEF was otptimistic. “Improvements with battery energy density and charging times mean most EVs will be able to meet the high average driving distances common in Australia, leaving little need for plug-in hybrids and fuel cell vehicles.
“By 2030, there are over 800,000 passenger EVs on the road in Australia, rising to 5.5 million by 2040, representing 29 per cent of the total car fleet.”
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.