Australia needs to get cracking on charging electric car drivers to use roads or risk losing $17 million a year in fuel excise if Labor’s new national electric vehicles policy gains traction, infrastructure bodies have warned.
“Electrification is an enormous opportunity to rethink the way we deliver roads for a better outcome for users and taxpayers,” said Infrastructure Partnerships Australia’s chief executive Adrian Dwyer.
Mr Dwyer, who represents private companies as well as government agencies, said it was “relatively urgent” for the Commonwealth to act.
With Opposition Leader Bill Shorten pledging tax deductions for businesses to buy electric vehicles and setting targets for half of all new vehicles sold to be electric by 2050, Mr Dwyer said the road taxation system was at risk of becoming unfair and outdated if changes were not made soon.
“The next government at least needs to begin the process of solving this – otherwise we might be in a situation in which it’s just too late.”
Australia currently only sells a few thousand electric cars each year, but based on global trends – registrations of electric vehicles jumped 38 per cent in the European Union in 2018 – sales are expected to rise faster if the government formally supports a shift away from combustion engines.
No firm policies have been established by either major party on how to charge electric vehicle owners to use roads. Options include using odometers to track how far cars travel and asking motorists to pay a per kilometre fee.
The Coalition government said in 2016 it wanted to set up a bipartisan panel to consider alternative methods of road funding but a spokesman for Opposition infrastructure spokesman Anthony Albanese said the panel had not progressed.
Plea for chargers
Kia’s chief operating officer in Australia, Damien Meredith, said the South Korean carmaker was not expecting any tax breaks or other “handouts” to encourage a switch to electric vehicles but did want the government to invest money in building charging stations.
The government would be “crazy” not to put electric car chargers into existing petrol stations, Mr Meredith said.
Kia has brought three electric cars to Australia to trial and hopes to have two models, including a sports utility vehicle (SUV), available for purchase by the end of the year.
“The demand in the Americas and the demand in western Europe has dried up a lot of the production, so it’s hard for us to get those cars,” Mr Meredith said.
Fuel retailer Caltex has no electric vehicle charging stations but said it was in talks with potential partners to supply them.
“The opportunity to deliver EV charging is something that is being discussed,” a spokesman said, adding Caltex supported the adoption of electric vehicles and the emergence of alternative fuels, including biofuels, compressed natural gas, liquified natural gas and hydrogen.
The BP Group also does not offer charging stations in Australia but is investing in electric vehicle technologies and infrastructure globally.
Last year BP acquired Britain’s biggest supplier of charging stations, Chargemaster, and in January its venture capital arm BP Ventures took a stake in Chinese start-up PowerShare, which creates products to connect cars to charging stations.
Australians ‘want electric vehicles’
The Electric Vehicle Council, which represents car manufacturers, said the Coalition should support Labor’s plan to show that Australia was committed to shifting towards electric vehicles.
“Australians want to own electric vehicles, this much we know from polls,” said the council’s chief executive, Behyad Jafari. “But they need much better support from their government.”
Roads Australia said it was “highly likely” that fuel taxes would need to be replaced in Australia within the next 10 years.
“A change so significant will require a bipartisan approach across government and involve input from industry, the community and road users,” said Roads Australia’s president, David Stuart-Watt.
Extracted from AFR