It’s two years overdue and the details were leaked months ago, but the Federal Government has finally released its plans for supporting electric vehicles.

It coincides with US President Joe Biden making significant changes to reduce emissions from cars and American auto manufacturers foreshadowing the end of petrol and diesel cars.

But the Coalition’s ideas for backing the switch from combustion engines to battery cells are far more modest.

So, what is the Government proposing for electric cars?

It’s released a discussion paper called the “Future Fuels Strategy”.

Basically, it’s tossing around ideas to include in a final strategy to support the shift to electric vehicles, which will be released mid-year.

The Government says it’s looking at:

  • Co-investing (with the private sector) in charging infrastructure
  • A trial of an electric car fleet for COMCAR, which provides cars and drivers for politicians
  • Updating the “Green Vehicle Guide” website
  • Asking energy agencies to consider options for managing potential congestion on the electricity grid

But it’s not considering:

  • Direct financial help for motorists to purchase electric cars
  • Targets for new electric car sales
  • Minimum fuel emissions standards

Didn’t the Coalition campaign against electric cars at the last election?

In the 2019 election campaign, Labor promoted its target of having 50 per cent of new car sales being electric vehicles by 2030.

The Coalition derided the plan, declaring it was a “war on the weekend” and claiming it would force people into electric cars that could not tow boats or caravans.

But there’s no talk of a “war on the weekend” now, with Energy Minister Angus Taylor instead talking about supporting consumer choice.

“Australians should be able to choose which type of car they drive and the Government is continuing to support them in this decision,” Mr Taylor said.

A hand holds a plug towards the open charging port of an electric car.
The discussion paper is looking at co-investing in charging infrastructure for electric cars.(Supplied: CSIRO)

I want to get an electric car but can’t afford it. Will this help me?

Not directly. The Government isn’t planning any financial support for drivers wanting to purchase an electric vehicle.

Instead, the ideas suggested in the discussion paper are mostly about supporting the infrastructure electric vehicles require.

It’s also geared towards helping businesses convert their fleets to electric cars and provide charging stations at workplaces.

That said, some state governments already offer direct financial incentives to buy an electric car.

The ACT Government offers free car registration and interest-free loans for purchases, while Victoria offers discounts on registration and stamp duty.

The EV industry was hoping the Government would exempt electric cars from the luxury vehicle tax, but have been left disappointed.

Electric Vehicle Council chief executive Behyad Jafari says the low take-up in Australia is deterring manufacturers from selling a wider range of electric cars here.

“Many of the most popular electric vehicles in the US and UK are unavailable to Australian consumers,” he said.

“Australia’s inertia on [electric vehicles] has been noticed by the global auto sector, which now withholds the best and most affordable electric vehicles from our market.”

What’s the rest of the world doing?

Whether you want to drive an electric car or not, you may not have much choice in the future.

Auto manufacturers are switching their focus to electric and hydrogen-fuelled cars instead of internal combustion engines.

Recently, America’s General Motors declared it would stop producing petrol- and diesel-powered cars altogether by 2035, enlisting Hollywood stars to drive home its support for electric vehicles.

With the demise of the car manufacturing industry in Australia, drivers here will be buying cars made for overseas markets where demand for electric cars is flourishing.

More than half of all new car sales in Norway are now electric cars, with significant tax incentives accelerating the transition away from petrol and diesel.

In the United Kingdom, the sale of new petrol and diesel cars will be banned from 2030, while in the United States, President Joe Biden has announced a plan to replace the entire fleet of vehicles owned by the US Government with electric vehicles.

“Joe Biden has done more for electric vehicles in one week than the Morrison Government has done in eight years,” said Richie Merzian, a climate and energy director at the Australia Institute.

“We need an actual electric vehicles policy roadmap to ensure everyday Australians can benefit from the major savings and clean air that electric vehicles can deliver. Right now they are priced out of the market.”

But the Coalition is resisting calls for more direct intervention to boost electric car sales.

“If we were to subsidise, for instance, a typical electric vehicle for a consumer, it wouldn’t be value for money,” Mr Taylor said.

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