The federal government is under pressure to act to increase the uptake of electric vehicles after the Australian Capital Territory became the first state or territory to announce an end to the sale of petrol cars.
The Zero Emission Vehicle strategy was announced by the ACT chief minister, Andrew Barr, on Tuesday and commits the territory to phasing out internal combustion engines by 2035. This means no new petrol engine vehicles could be sold in the territory past that date.
“We are heading down a path that the internal combustion engine vehicle will be as much of a novelty as a cassette tape or a black-and-white television in the context of technological change,” Barr said.
sked about the ban during her address to the National Press Club on Monday, the federal environment minister, Tanya Plibersek, said she was “really proud” of the policies the Albanese government took to the election to lower the cost of electric vehicles including its “hydrogen highways” policy.
“ACT government’s absolutely able to go beyond what the federal government is committed to but as a federal government we deliver on our election commitments,” she said.
She would not be drawn on whether the federal government would act to introduce its own national ban to prevent an inconsistent phase-out but there have been significant moves in recent times.
These comments follow an unusual move by the federal government on Monday when it will support a constitutional challenge to the right of the Victorian state government to raise money under its electric vehicle user charge.
The charge was imposed to eventually replace falling revenue collected under fuel excise but the applicants in the case, two electric vehicle drivers, allege it is a federal responsibility to collect and distribute this money.
As other state attorneys general have moved to support Victoria, the intervention by the federal government puts it at odds with the states.
Richie Merzian, director of the Australia Institute’s climate and energy program, said the ACT announcement was “certainly not ambitious globally” but marked an Australian-first that put pressure on the federal government to do more.
The ACT has broken the taboo,” Merzian said. “It’s only three years ago you had the federal government running this scare campaign around EVs.
“The ACT’s moved first because it was also the first to hit 100% renewables, therefore transport makes up the majority of its emissions. It’s the next cab off the rank.”
Several carmakers have announced they will no longer make petrol cars by a certain day and multiple countries have announced dates banning the new sales of internal combustion engine vehicles. The earliest is Norway which has set a date for 2025 but the majority have aimed for 2030.
“It’s great the federal government have changed the rhetoric and taken the initial steps but there’s so much more we can and should be doing in the transport space,” Merzian said.
The ACT announcement also included a range of new policies to support those making the switch to electric vehicles, including interest-free loans, no registration fees and stamp duty exemptions.
Crucially the policy also said that if the federal government failed to introduce stricter fuel-efficiency standards, the ACT government will coordinate with other states and territories to go it alone.
Behyad Jafari, chief executive of the Electric Vehicle Council, said it would be better for the Australian government to act and provide the certainty needed.
“We need to urgently adopt nationally mandated fuel efficiency standards and they have to be as strong as they are in other markets,” Jafari said. “If not, it’s setting it in stone that Australia should be left behind.
“If we don’t act the leftover petrol and diesel vehicles will be dumped in Australia in increasing numbers.”
Paul Sansom, the managing director of Volkswagen Group Australia, said “above all else” Australia needs a “federal mandating of a national emissions target for the auto industry”.
“This is the single most significant measure toward securing EV supply from our factories,” Sansom said. “Markets that are subject to punitive fines for exceeding such emissions targets are perforce prioritised for zero-emissions vehicles.
“Counter-intuitive as it appears for an auto importer to call for tighter regulation, that’s precisely what the Volkswagen Group Australia asks of the federal government.”
Extracted in full form: Federal government under pressure to increase EV uptake after ACT announces petrol car ban | Electric vehicles | The Guardian