NSW energy and environment minister Matt Kean says NSW – in fact, all of Australia – will need to phase out the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2035 if it is to meet the net-zero by 2050 targets that are now expected of the state and the country.
In an interview with The Driven podcast, Kean said the state aims to have 50 per cent of all new vehicle sales being fully electric by 2030 – a target that once seemed like a stretch but now seems conservative.
“If the average life of an internal combustion engine vehicle is 15 years on the road, that means you have to have them phased out by 2035, or new vehicle sales of internal combustion vehicles phased out by 2035. So we’ve got a long way to go,” he said.
NSW has already introduced the most progressive EV support policies in the country, combining a $3,000 rebate for EVs udner $68,750 with a stamp duty exemption for those under $78,000, and deciding to punt an EV road tax down the road until the EV market is well established.
Kean says more incentives are needed, but there won’t likely be a vehicle fuel or emissions standard in place – as occurs in virtually every other developed country in the world – because the federal government won’t do it, and the NSW government can’t do it alone.
“Giles, I’ll give you a bit of a scoop, I actually looked at whether or not I could introduce tailpipe emissions (standards) here in New South Wales, so that we could not only provide carrots on one side, but have a stick on the other to really drive the uptake.
“The advice from the New South Wales crown solicitor was that we didn’t have the constitutional powers to put those measures in place to price pollution when it comes to vehicles. So it was outside our jurisdictional powers.
“That is something that I think we definitely should look at, we should be looking at using all the levers we have available to us. But we need to do that within the confines of the political reality that we live in, you know, carbon taxes and things like that are enormously controversial.
“Governments have fallen as a result of that. So what we’ve tried to do in New South Wales is look at the real politic, look at the constraints that we have and try to act within it to drive the agenda forward. And that’s what we’ve done here in New South Wales. We’re finding a way through, it may not be the perfect suite of policies, but it’s certainly pretty damn good.”
Kean is the proud owner of an EV, a Tesla Model 3. In fact, he was the first federal or state minister to choose an EV as his work car, after looking for a successor to his “gas guzzling” Toyota Kluger.
“As soon as I put my foot to the floor, I could feel my face being pulled back, and I’m like, I’ve got to have this car because it’s just fun to drive. And, you know, I haven’t regretted the decision for one second since I got it. It’s been awesome.” (He got a standard range plus, because it was the only option below the luxury car tax, the limit for MP cars).
It’s not just Kean who loves it. He says fellow ministers and MPs are queuing up for a test drive.
“Everyone is absolutely fascinated by it. They all want to have a go. They all want to check it out,” Kean says.
“The Treasurer, Dominic Perrottet lives in the Hornsby LGA. So we’ve been catching up, doing a bit of walking and whatnot, and he actually asked if he could have a drive the other day. And I’m not going to get him in trouble but it’s fair to say that he enjoyed the very fast experience.
“And he says to me, I’d love to get one of these things. So I’m doing a bit of environmental or EV diplomacy with my colleagues at the moment. And hopefully they can see that they’re fun vehicles, they’re cost effective and they’re a great product.
“I know the Attorney General Mark Speakman, he’s got a hybrid and he’s looking to upgrade. He asked me the other day about a Tesla Model 3 so I encouraged him to do it.
“So I think a number of my colleagues are starting to think in that space and me breaking down the barrier hopefully we’ll see the floodgates now open and a lot of my colleagues look to an EV for the next vehicle.”
As exciting as the Model 3 and other EVs are, the sad reality is that most remain largely unobtainable because the cheapest new EV in Australia – the MG electric SUV – remains around $40,000, or around $35,000 at best after the state incentives.
“Obviously, there’s a little way to go,” Kean says. EVs will continue down the cost curve as manufacturing scales up, but Kean says the key for NSW will be to roll out incentives for fleet purchases, which will catalyse the second hand EV market and a lower price point.
“That’s what we are focused on.”
The other key target is to break down the barrier of range anxiety, and NSW intends to do this by spending $131 million to roll out EV charging infrastructure across NSW, and ensuring that at least one ultra fast charging unit (350kW) is within 5km of people’s homes (in urban areas).
“For those people living in the regions, we’re going to be rolling out (destination) type chargers to encourage people or incentivise people to go out to wineries and national parks out in the bush, but we’ll also be creating an EV superhighway where we will have ultra fast charging network across our freeways and highways right across the state.”
Listen to the full interview here: The Driven Podcast: “Everyone wants to drive it.” Matt Kean and his Tesla