The Morrison government has yet again missed an opportunity to support Australia’s emerging but struggling eletric vehicle market, offering no new targeted support – while offering a temporary reduction on petrol and diesel taxes.

The federal budget, presented by treasurer Josh Frydenberg on Tuesday night, included no new measures to support the uptake of electric vehicles. Widespread calls for added spending on infrastructure, and for a vehicle or fuel efficiency standard, were ignored.

It wasn’t as though they didn’t have any money. Substantial new funds were committed for the construction of new roads, with more than $1 billion committed across Northern Australia, and more than $500 million added to the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure program, and $392 million set aside for more roads in Tasmania.

But it appears that none of this funding will provide a boost to electric vehicle infrastructure, such as the much needed expansion of Australia’s charging network, or increases in hydrogen refuelling capacity.

The budget instead delivered a temporary halving of the fuel excise for six months that the government claims will lower the cost of petrol by around 22 cents, and cost around $2 billion, around the same sum it offered to protect the country’s oil refiners. Fuel prices have surged in the wake of global disruption caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The Australia Institute’s climate and energy program director, Richie Merzian, called the fuel excise cut “bad economic policy” and said the government had ignored opportunities to help households and businesses achieve longer-term reductions in fuel use.

“For the last nine years this government has kept Australians hooked on foreign oil. They’ve been caught asleep at the wheel and are now scrambling. We have seen no Government action on fuel efficiency standards, on vehicle electrification, or on public and active transport, and it is Australians who are paying the price,” Merzian said.

“At the current rate of the global oil price rise, this short-term fuel discount sugar hit will be wiped out by mid-year – and that’s if it is passed on to customers at the bowser in full.”

Australian Greens leader Adam Bandt said that he doubted that many drivers would see any real benefit from the temporary cut to the fuel excise, given the suring oil price and the clear profits being collected by oil companies.

“A temporary Budget cut to fuel excise may not even make its way to people’s pockets. There’s every chance that world oil prices or profiteering from oil corporations will wipe out any gains to motorists overnight, at very substantial cost to the budget,” Bandt said.

“The lesson the government should be taking from skyrocketing petrol prices is that an economy based on coal, gas and oil is vulnerable to world events. By shifting to renewables and electric vehicles, Australia will be energy independent and motorists will be better off.”

The fuel excise has been cited as justification for the imposition of new road user taxes on electric vehicle owners.

Several state governments have argued that because electric vehicle users do not pay the fuel excise, an alternative form of taxation was necessary to raise funds to pay for new roads and road maintenance.

At this stage, it appears unlikely that a discount on road user chargers, such that those imposed by the Victorian state government, will be provided to electric vehicle owners.

Meanwhile, the call continues for Australia to introduce compulsory fuel emission standards. It is the only western country that has yet to implement such standards and and it has left the average car owner paying an estimated $600 extra a year in fuel costs.

Car makers such as Volkswagen have cited the lack of any such standards as the reason why it has not brought its electric cars, such as the ID.3 and ID.4, to the Australia market. Other carmakers have also pointed to the lack of standards for the small numbers of EVs made available, contributing to a chronic supply shortage in electric models.

Pitcher Partners’ Steve Bragg said levelling the playing field for Australian motorists with the rest of the world in fuel efficient vehicles would see long-term benefits and less dependency on oil price fluctuations.

“What is really lacking is leadership in these important areas that effect every Australian who own a car,” Bragg said.

Zoomo co-founder Mina Nada offered another solution, micro-mobility, and called for support for individuals and businesses to buy e-bikes.

“Australia is well placed to take advantage of the booming micro-mobility market and reduce the impacts of climate change. There is so much we can and should be doing,” Nada said.

Extracted in full from: Hooked on foreign oil: Morrison does nothing for EVs in budget, but cuts petrol tax (thedriven.io)

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