The electric vehicle revolution is being won in the inner-city suburbs of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, but the Albanese government is under pressure to ensure EV uptake is replicated in the outer “tradie” suburbs and regional areas to help Australia cut its transport emissions.

With the federal government set to unveil its national EV strategy within weeks, data from the Australian Automobile Association reveals affluent motorists from inner suburbs have embraced the move away from internal combustion engines.

But with the price of EVs in Australia mostly over $50,000 – with 10 models available for more than $100,000 – they have also become a status symbol for wealthy inner-city residents who want to show they care about the planet, at the same driving what is essentially a luxury car.

Data compiled by the AAA’s electric vehicle index, which went live on Sunday, revealed the Victorian postcode of 3170 (Mulgrave and Waverley Gardens) has the highest number of registered EVs, with 281.

This was followed by postcode 2000 (Sydney CBD, Barangaroo and Dawes Point) with 241 registered, then the Queensland postcode 4217 (which includes the wealthy Gold Coast suburbs of Chevron Island and Isle of Capri), with 184.

The Victorian regional town of East Sale, near Lake Wellington, had the highest penetration of EVs with 4 per cent.

Up to the end of January last year, there were 34,536 registered EVs in Australia, comprising 10,542 in NSW, 9572 in Victoria, 7350 in Queensland, 3324 in Western Australia, 1574 in South Australia, 1377 in the ACT, 757 in Tasmania and 78 in the Northern Territory.

The AAA’s “heat map” showed EV vehicles are never far from the centre of areas with large populations.

Preparing for change

Despite a surge in sales in recent years, EVs still only made up about 2 per cent of light vehicle sales in Australia in 2021. This compared with 9 per cent globally.

The EV industry has long called for tighter fuel efficiency standards – to ensure a better supply of EVs on the Australian market – as well as more incentives to bring down prices.

The Albanese government has been preparing the sector for changes on fuel efficiency standards since it released a consultation paper in September last year.

But after exempting electric cars from fringe benefits tax and import tariffs, it is unlikely the government will offer any direct incentives for motorists to ditch internal combustion engine vehicles.

It has also set a target of 75 per cent of new purchased and leased vehicles in the Commonwealth fleet to be EVs by 2025.

The government’s consultation paper acknowledged that 80 per cent of the global car market had vehicle fuel efficiency standards.

“The standards send signals to manufacturers to increase supply and sales of EVs and low emissions vehicles,” it said.

“The absence of these standards in Australia has been cited as a key reason why EV models are not supplied to the Australian market.”

State and territory governments have their own respective EV strategies to stimulate demand and boost supplies.

The South Australian and ACT governments want all new passenger vehicles sold in their regions to be fully electric by 2035.

Transport emissions are about 19 per cent of national carbon emissions, the bulk of these from road transport.

In its submission to the consultation paper, AAA managing director Michael Bradley called on the federal government to adopt “sufficiently ambitious” fuel standards to boost the supply of EVs into the Australian market, but it needed to get the balance right.

“A target that is insufficiently stringent will fail to boost EV supply. But a target that is too stringent will see Australian consumers pay higher costs [taxes flowing from carmaker non-compliance] for cars that won’t deliver the stated environmental goals,” he said.

The Electric Vehicle Council of Australia said a package of incentives of up to $10,000 was needed until EVs made up 25 to 30 per cent of market share. They currently only make up 2 per cent of market share.

It said the federal government should aim for a target of 60 per cent of all new car (light vehicle) sales being EVs by 2030.

The roll-out of public charging infrastructure is also crucial to win over sceptical motorists.

The Grattan Institute said the government should relax restrictions on the import of new and second-hand low and zero-emissions vehicles, provided they met Australian safety standards, which it said would reduce the cost of the EV transition.

“It would [also] increase the supply of EVs in the near term, and reduce prices. It would also catalyse a livelier second-hand market,” it said in its submission.

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