The ACT will overhaul its vehicle registration scheme so it charges motorists based on the emissions they produce, rather than the weight of their vehicle, in an effort to make electric cars more attractive.

The rapid adoption of electric vehicles in the coming decade will also force governments to rethink how they fund road infrastructure as revenue from fuel taxes runs dry, the ACT’s Chief Minister has said.

Andrew Barr says he has a range of plans for the ACT to transition its light vehicle fleet to zero-emissions models, including a ban on new fossil-fuel vehicles in taxi and ride-share fleets from 2030 and a boost to public charging infrastructure.

The government will unveil its full electric vehicle strategy, which includes an already announced plan to ban new internal combustion engine light vehicles by 2035, later Wednesday.

Between 80 and 90 per cent of new vehicles sold in the ACT will be electric by 2030, under a new target set by the government.

Mr Barr said he was beating a path to the door of vehicle manufacturers and importers in an effort to secure between 18,000 and 20,000 new electric vehicles a year in the local market by 2030, needed to reach the sales target.

“We’re going to need thousands of extra vehicles, so part of that is persuading all of the major vehicle manufacturers to make their vehicles available in the ACT,” Mr Barr told The Canberra Times.

“But I think I’ve got a very story to tell to attract that, knowing they will sell, they are selling. There’s a very long waitlist and we’ve got these policy settings in place to encourage it.”

Mr Barr said he had no doubts manufacturers were stepping up to produce the vehicles an emerging electric market would demand, and state and territory governments could work together to deliver the infrastructure required.

“I think this will just be a no-brainer for younger people [to buy an electric vehicle] in particular. There’s nothing more certain than demography driving destiny,” he said.

Mr Barr said he had met with the NSW Treasurer and Energy Minister, Matt Kean, to discuss plans underway for the state to add fast-charging infrastructure to all the major highways out of the ACT.

New electric vehicles in the ACT will not pay any registration fees for two years if they are registered before June 30, 2024.

Mr Barr said he hoped the government would be able to develop the new registration scheme in six to 12 months, but it would be a slower and staged process to replace the weight-based scheme already in use.

“I think if you look at incentives and disincentives – so carrots and sticks – at this point we’re at the offering incentives phase but, yes, once more zero-emission vehicles are available and they’re cheaper, that will be the time for further pricing signals that again reward people making the choice for lower-emission vehicles,” Mr Barr said.

“At the moment, their current fuel taxes serve that purpose in that the more fuel guzzling your vehicle is, the more fuel tax you pay because you’re consuming more petrol.

“But the registration system at the moment doesn’t necessarily reflect that unless the vehicle you’ve got is in the highest weight class as opposed to highest emission class.”

Mr Barr said it would be desirable to achieve some consistency in electric vehicle policy between different states and territories, again signalling his preference for the NSW model of a 2.5c/km distance charge for zero-emission motorists that will apply from mid-2027.

A Victorian distance charge scheme, introduced in 2021, faced harsh criticism from electric vehicle industry figures and advocates, who said it discouraged take-up of the more environmentally friendly transport mode.

Mr Barr said there was already some inconsistency in the Australian federation for the way vehicles were registered.

“I think there is opportunity to work with other states and territories and with the Commonwealth now on a coherent policy framework to get us to where we need to be by the mid-2030s,” he said.

“I do note our zero-emissions vehicle sales target accords very well with the 43 per cent emission reduction target of the federal government, in that that’s what their expectation is around zero-emission vehicle sales by 2030 as well.”

Mr Barr also said the ACT’s electric vehicle strategy demonstrated Labor and the Greens’ capacity to work well together.

“I hope we can set an example for other jurisdictions about how we can work towards something that is practical and achievable but makes a difference,” he said.

Extracted in full form: Electric vehicles will pay less after ACT registration change to focus on emissions not weight: Andrew Barr | The Canberra Times | Canberra, ACT

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