The electric vehicle conversation has been recharged by the government’s announcement it will invest $250 million in car charging infrastructure in Australia.

But the government’s “future fuels strategy” has arrived with missing pieces, in particular a target for electric vehicle sales that has been long sought after by the industry.

At the COP26 international climate summit in Glasgow on Wednesday, the United Kingdom and several other nations will pledge to ban the sale of petrol cars in developed countries by 2035 and in developing nations by 2040.

And there are more than 20 nations that have already announced plans to phase out petrol cars even sooner.

Car manufacturers themselves are turning their fleets electric, with Volvo, Ford in Europe and even Rolls Royce committed to selling all-electric vehicles by 2030, and many other makers, including General Motors and Volkswagen, soon after.

The race is on to get off the gas.

But Australia is just leaving the starting line.

Leading car markets are already selling mostly electric

Just 0.8 per cent of new light vehicles sold in Australia so far this year have been electric, according to the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries.

And while that is double the number sold last year, it is behind the global trend of 4 per cent of new cars sold being EVs, and even further behind trends in Europe and the UK, where one in 10 cars being bought are electric.

In Norway, the world leader, three-quarters of new cars sold last year were electric.

And EV sales have continued to grow and outpace petrol car sales. Even through the pandemic, electric car sales have grown as petrol car sales have fallen.

Many of the nations planning to sign the pledge to ban petrol cars also have more developed charging infrastructure.

According to The Blueprint Institute, as of last year Australia had fewer than 100 public charging stations per million people, compared to more than 400 chargers per million people in Europe.

A red electric Tesla vehicle charges while parked next to a black Tesla as security guard is seen walking in the background.
Australia needs more car charging infrastructure to be able to support a growing EV market.(AP: Ng Han Guan)

Even the United States, which is similarly behind on EV adoption and does not intend to sign on to the 2035 petrol car ban, has roughly twice as many chargers for its population as Australia does.

Why won’t Australia sign on?

Getting petrol vehicles off Australian car lots by 2035 would require a serious increase in Australia’s ambitions.

The government has pointedly refused to set a policy that could appear to force Australians to adopt zero emissions cars, instead saying people should be able to buy what they want.

“We’re not going to tell them what to buy, we’re not going to tell them where to drive, we’re not going to tell them how to live their lives,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

“Australians will make their own choices.”

Federal Labor has also not committed to introducing a sales target, though its now-dumped 2019 election policy had advocated for half of new cars to be electric by 2030.

But several states have set goals to go electric. The ACT, which leads the country in electric car sales based on population, has set a goal for all new cars to be zero-emission vehicles by 2030.

Cars in traffic on a road.
More than one in 10 cars on European roads will be electric by 2030, but Australian projections are less ambitious.(Supplied: Infrastructure Victoria)

While the federal government will not follow the states’ lead by setting a formal sales target, it did quietly set a forecast in a February discussion paper on its future fuels strategy that it expects one in four cars sold in 2030 to be electric.

Industry groups say on its current policies, Australia is unlikely to see those sorts of figures.

The Electric Vehicle Council has advocated for discounts, tax exemptions, and emissions targets to drive a change in the car market.

The EV Council says without those, Australia’s car market will continue to lag behind the rest of the world.

Extracted in full from: Several nations are promising to ban petrol car sales by 2035, but Australia isn’t one of them – ABC News

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