The Albanese government has launched consultation on its National Electric Vehicle Strategy, as it moves to boost the affordability, supply and uptake of EVs in Australia and tackle the nation’s second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.
The consultation paper, which is available to view here and open to submissions until the end of October, is seeking feedback on the best ways for the government increase the uptake of electric vehicles in Australia.
Crucially, the paper is seeking views on how best to design and implement “robust” vehicle fuel efficiency standards – the absence of which in Australia is broadly considered to be a gaping hole in transport decarbonisation policy and major roadblock to EV uptake.
Vehicle fuel efficiency standards set limits on a manufacturer’s average emissions and apply across all vehicle classes. They work to send signals to manufacturers to increase supply and sales of EVs and low emissions vehicles.
The federal government paper says it is initially seeking feedback on whether vehicle efficiency standards will be effective in cutting transport emissions and stimulating Australia’s EV market.
But the report notes that more than 80% of the global car market has vehicle fuel standards already in place, including the EU, US, UK, China, Japan, Brazil, India, Canada, South Korea, New Zealand, Mexico and even Saudi Arabia.
The paper says that if vehicle fuel efficiency standards are implemented in Australia, they will need to be designed specifically for Australia. But it then adds:
“Evidence also suggests that standards that lack ambition will continue to leave Australia at the back of the queue for cheaper, cleaner new vehicles.”
“Carbon tax on wheels”
As much as the introduction of vehicle fuel efficiency standards seems like a no-brainer to both stimulate the EV market and cut emissions, there are reasons Australia has struggled to get it done.
As The Driven has reported, vehicle fuel standards have been tossed around for more than a decade. Even in 2014, the Climate Change Authority said the benefits from fuel savings would be $850 a year by 2025, or a total of $8,500 – more than offsetting the estimate $1,500 increase in costs.
But past political attempts to introduce standards – or even to introduce the idea of introducing standards – by both the ALP and the Coalition have been met by concerted fear campaigns led by auto industry lobby groups and happily supported by the Murdoch media.
When former federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg raised the idea of emission standards several years ago, he dumped the idea almost immediately after a Murdoch tabloid branded it a “carbon tax on wheels.”
Most urgent next step
For Electric Vehicle Council CEO, Behyad Jafari, setting a strong fuel efficiency standard is “the most urgent next step” in Australia’s EV strategy.
“It is a breath of fresh air to see a federal government take this issue so seriously, acting on a national policy within the first months of its administration,” Jafari said on Wednesday.
“Australia can absolutely be an EV powerhouse, employing Australians to build products right across the EV supply chain. But we won’t realise those opportunities while our standards lag the rest of the world.
“Russia is the only other developed nation without a decent fuel efficiency standard. We have been at the back of the global queue for new vehicles. But with the right policy settings we can get this right and accelerate progress,” he says.
“This policy is a low-hanging fruit that will see a wave of affordable EVs being brought into the country, increasing consumer choice and reducing our emissions, but only if it’s designed correctly, without loopholes,” added Solar Citizens clean transport campaigner, Ajaya Haikerwal
National EV strategy long overdue
The decarbonisation of Australia’s transport fleet is becoming and increasingly urgent task if the nation’s climate targets are to be met.
Currently, Australia is well behind the rest of the world on EV uptake. Even worse – as the consultation paper notes – it is the destination of some of the highest emitting cars in the world, with new passenger vehicles producing around 40% more emissions than in Europe.
Minister for climate and energy Chris Bowen says this is changing under the Albanese government – or at least, trying to.
“This is a genuine consultation to inform the right policy settings so we can see more affordable electric vehicles on our roads,” said Bowen on Wednesday at the Paper launch.
“[I saw] …first hand in the United States last week, when I saw the wide range of electric vehicles available there, there is such a thing as electric utes, there is such a thing as electric trucks,” Bowen told media.
“Of course, the technology is improving all the time and the getting cheaper every day. But they are not by and large available in Australia. And we want to have a conversation, a real conversation with Australian people about the best ways of fixing that.”
What else does the Albanese government want feedback on?
Beyond a vital discussion on implementing vehicle standards in Australia, the Consultation Paper is seeking feedback on the best ways to make EVs more affordable, how to encourage consumer uptake and increase choice, the best ways to build out appropriate charging infrastructure, and how to establish local EV supply chain manufacturing.
The Albanese government says the goals of its EV strategy are clear: to make electric vehicles more affordable, to expand EV uptake and choice, reduce transport sector emissions, save Australians money on fuel, and increase local manufacturing.
Some key questions posed in the paper include:
– Over what timeframe should we be incentivising low emission vehicles as we transition to zero emission vehicles?
– What policies and/or industry actions could complement vehicle fuel efficiency standards to help increase supply of EVs to Australia and electrify the Australian fleet?
– How could we best increase the number of affordable second hand EVs?
– Are there other proposals that could help drive demand for EVs and provide a revenue source to help fund road infrastructure?
– What more needs to be done nationally to ensure we deliver a nationally comprehensive framework for EVs?
The consultation paper is available at https://consult.industry.gov.au/national-electric-vehicle-strategy and submissions can be made from now until 31 October 2022.