How Australia’s electrical vehicle industry can take a leaf out of the Nordic policy playbook. 

According to Audrey Quicke, a researcher for the Australia Institute’s climate and energy program, Australia is a ‘long, long way behind’ the Nordic nations (encompassing countries like Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway and Iceland) when it comes to supporting the electric vehicle industry.

In Norway for example, three quarters of the country’s vehicle sales are for electric vehicles. The global average for percentage of electric vehicles that make up total vehicle sales is about 4%.

To put it into perspective, if you look at new vehicle sales in Norway, they are at around 75% of new vehicle sales now that are electric vehicles,” Quicke said.

“You compare that to Australia, and we’re at less than 1% of [electric vehicles comprising] new vehicle sales. We are way, way behind.”

“Norway is a huge leader but Australia also is a huge loser at the moment, unfortunately.”

One of the secrets of Norway’s electric vehicle success is that the country puts taxes on what it does not want, and incentivises the consumer behaviour it wants to encourage.

Quicke says the approach is simple but effective, with Norway implementing purchase incentives to waive the 25% value added (VAT) on electric vehicle purchases.

A one-off purchase tax up to 30% is also waived on purchase for these types of vehicles.

“It’s those purchase incentives that all of the studies show really make a huge difference because they bring down that upfront sticker price,” Quicke said.

“We know that the cost of ownership for electric vehicles might be lower but, as consumers, what we’re really concerned about when we’re in the shop buying a vehicle is that upfront sticker price.

“If you can see a fossil fuel vehicle there is cheaper, it’s very tempting to go for it,” she added.

Quicke noted that Norway had also implemented use-incentives, reducing road toll and ferry fees for drivers of electric vehicles. The country also offered these drivers access to special parking spaces and permission to use bus lanes.

Quicke shared her views as part of a Mandarin Talks panel, hosted on Wednesday by The Mandarin’s managing editor, Chris Johnson. They were joined by the Australia Institute’s deputy director Ebony Bennett and Deakin University’s Professor Andrew Scott.

When asked what Australia could learn from Norway’s example, Quicke suggested the first step was to articulate what it was the country wanted to do. If the government wants a higher uptake in electric vehicle use, it needs to make a clear policy statement on that position.

We haven’t done that yet in Australia, we’re just not seeing that coming from our politicians,” Quicke said.

She cited that research undertaken by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and commissioned by the Australian government has already shown that Norway’s electric vehicle policies can be replicated locally.

“It’s absolutely doable through purchase incentives,” Quicke said.

Professor Scott said that the Nordic capacity to be innovative and agile was made possible by government policy settings. The politics expert said that there was nothing inherently great about ’being Lutheran or in the northwest corner of the world’ that made these nations successful.

Rather, it was the sensible support and investment Nordic governments dedicated to research and development that saw it nurture agile companies like Nokia.

“These countries do have a niche in particular products, and that ser

ves them well in terms of exports. I think it’s because of government policy,” Scott said.

“When we get on buses or drive trucks in Australia, a lot of them are made in Sweden — they are heavy-engineered products, made in high-wage, high-tax countries, and they move all the way over here because they have a niche.”

Quicke said that there was tangible scope for Australia’s electric vehicle industry to become really established if it committed to manufacturing component parts of the product locally.

“We used to have an automobile manufacturing sector here in Australia. Holden obviously went bust, and then what happened? Their parent company GM went all electric by 2035.”

“I think that there would be plenty of manufacturing opportunities here with lithium suppliers as well, if we had that sort of policy [framework] that we see in Norway,” she said.

Extracted in full from: Australia’s EV policy miles behind Nordic nations, researcher says (