I often get asked this question – in both my personal life, and especially during my public EV presentations. In the rest of the world, EVs continue their rise and rise with many countries passing 10% of new car sales. Some have even passed the tipping point of EV sales outnumbering ICE ones.
Policy and incentive settings are part of that rise, because governments see the transition of passenger cars to EV as one of the (many) planks needed to produce cleaner air and ultimately eliminate all transport greenhouse emissions.
Choice is another – if there are EVs to buy (cars, busses, bicycles, ferries and all the rest), overseas experience is that both the private citizen and business will buy them, despite their currently greater initial cost than ICE (internal combustion engine) ones.
Countries like New Zealand have previously shown us the way to assist EV uptake. Coupled with incentives to encourage EV adoption, New Zealand currently exempts EVs (including electric buses) from the Road User Charge levied on all other vehicles there. (Note: this exemption was extended in 2016 to December 2021, with a decision to extend it further currently being considered).
Sadly, NZ is now showing Australia up even further (and particularly Victoria) by recently announcing an EV purchase incentive scheme funded through taxing sales of the most polluting ICE vehicles.
Yet here in Victoria we have the ludicrous situation that an EV-only road tax is introduced on the currently tiny percentage of new car buyers trying to reduce their personal emissions by buying EVs … despite government inertia on the issue.
What is even sillier, the EV Tax is to be used to offer ‘incentives’ to other Victorians to buy EVs … who ultimately give the incentive (and more) back through that very tax.
It really does beg the question as to why it is being introduced – when simply ditching the EV Tax (along with the Victorian $100 registration discount for EVs) would cover the cost of the incentives, without the need for the complicated and costly bureaucracy needed to administer the EV Tax.
As a result, here in Australia we still have a poor EV model offering and uptake in all areas of the EV transition (cars, trucks, buses, bicycles, ferries etc, etc).
That’s because there are a range of issues against the business case to bring EVs to Australia:
- no unifying federal support, or even policy, recognising the worldwide transition away from fossil fuelled transport. (Be it even in its most basic forms of standards for vehicle fuel quality, tailpipe pollution or reality based consumption figures – given ‘real-world’ consumption measures used in the rest of the world produce much higher figures than currently derived by ADR 81/02);
- piecemeal state and territory level programs, policies and incentives focussing on differing aspects of the EV transition and
- the (very) odd disincentive like the world-first Victorian EV Tax.
So it seems that manufacturers and importers will continue to leave our EV market to ‘work it out for ourselves’ whilst the rest of the world works to abandon ICE development and manufacture in favour of vehicles that offer cleaner air and lower CO2-e emissions.
By all reports and surveys, the Australian population wants to do their bit to address climate change – including take up EV over ICE for personal transport.
So perhaps I should reframe the question that started this article: just what is Australia’s governmental problem with EVs?
Bryce Gaton is an expert on electric vehicles and contributor for The Driven and Renew Economy. He has been working in the EV sector since 2008 and is currently working as EV electrical safety trainer/supervisor for the University of Melbourne. He also provides support for the EV Transition to business, government and the public through his EV Transition consultancy EVchoice.