Technology has the power to inspire hope as much as it can inspire fear and loathing. Welcome to the baffling situation Australia finds itself in; between the demise of an old industry and the green shoots of the new.
Clean, efficient, locally produced electricity powering an electrified vehicle fleet would ordinarily attract support from all quarters, but the merchants of doubt and delay will invariably stand in the way.
Thus, with the federal election just months away and a couple of state elections due in 2022, we can expect the volume and frequency of the rhetoric to get dialled up to 11.
Governments, both state and federal can play a huge role in decarbonising transport, so it is essential they get it right through ambitious and equitable policy.
AEVA has advocated for several key policy initiatives which would set us on course for a fair transition, most notably a federally legislated vehicle emissions standard.
This standard, ensuring only passenger vehicles emitting less than 100 grams of CO2-e / km, would create the necessary incentive for manufacturers of EVs to offer more and better models to the Australian market.
While the federal Labor party has put forward a better proposal than the Coalition, neither can be described as ambitious, let alone adequate given the scale of the problem.
But sustainable transport and mobility goes further than the automobile.
The Commonwealth spends almost $6 billion on the construction of new roads every year. These projects, typically private-public partnerships, always enjoy a honeymoon period of eased congestion, before reverting to parking lots within two or three years.
Our collective will to ignore the well-studied impacts of induced demand continue to burden us with mammoth motorway projects, which only ever encourage more people to drive.
And who pays this cost? We all do, through our health, while the invariable loss of habitat to road projects seems to be collateral, we’ve sadly become accustomed to.
There has been a push over the past five years to consider a road user charge (RUC) as a means to help pay for these costs, and the idea of a per-kilometre levy on all road users is one the AEVA actually supports.
But please note the bold underlined all. Whether your private vehicle runs on electricity or diesel, it still has external costs which are borne by everyone.
And since the damage caused by road traffic is proportional to their mass, this levy should be multiplied by vehicle mass as a proxy for the wear and tear caused.
Unfortunately, we now have the situation where state governments are introducing their own RUCs without a nationally consistent approach. A missed opportunity to curb road demand if ever there was one.
It’s not all doom and gloom though – several state governments are outright progressive in their support for EVs, particularly the ACT government with its interest-free loans for EVs, and the NSW government’s massive investment in charging infrastructure.
Other incentives are on the table in Tasmania and South Australia, while even the EV-taxing Victorian government offers financial assistance through the Zero Emissions Subsidy.
Australia needs to have a mature discussion about the future of mobility and transport. Changing the source of energy is a big step forward, and EVs will play a huge role in reducing emissions in the sector.
But we can do a fair bit better on how we address the demand side of the equation. Our cities should be planned with people in mind, not the automobiles they are expected to drive and park.
We should be investing heavily in electrified railways for moving freight and people. Investments in cleaner shipping and electrified air travel will be essential to truly decarbonise the sector.
Continuing the theme of a mature discussion around sustainable transport and mobility policy, the AEVA will be holding a short series of National Webinars kicking off this Thursday night with a live panel discussion with SA Senator, Rex Patrick as our guest. MC John Harris will keep the discussion on track.
You can register for the webinars (free for AEVA members, or $5 for non-members) through our website.
Dr Chris Jones is the incoming president of The Australian Electric Vehicle Association (AEVA).