EV experts say Australia will rapidly adopt electric vehicles — as long as the government gets its CO2 standard right
By Sourced Externally
April 20, 2023
Electric vehicle advocates say Australians are ready to buy EVs and they expect to see a rapid uptake — as long as the government can land an “ambitious” mandatory CO2 limit on car makers.
Industry expects a rapid uptake of EVs if supply issues can be solved
Advocates say only stringent CO2 standards will incentivise car makers
Industry warns if standards are too tough some people will be left behind
The federal government has committed to implement a “fuel efficiency standard”, which would impose an overall CO2 limit on each car manufacturer, determined by what kinds of cars they sell into the market.
The standard is intended to incentivise car makers to sell more lower emission vehicles, including EVs, though the federal government has yet to decide how aggressive that CO2 limit will be.
Australia has lagged well behind the rest of the world in EV sales, with fewer than 4 per cent of new cars being all-electric compared to 9 per cent globally and 15 per cent in the United Kingdom.
The Australia Institute’s Noah Schultz-Byard said while the strategy was welcome, Australia would have to be aggressive with its emissions standard to catch up to the rest of the world.
“All they have said is that at some point in the future a version of fuel efficiency standards will be introduced but we don’t know when and we don’t know if they will be up to scratch,” Mr Schultz-Byard said.
“What we are arguing about here is the pace of that change, and unfortunately is a long, long way behind the rest of the world when it comes to EV adoption … and when you start from behind you can’t catch up to the rest of the world by going slower.”
Riz Akhtar, the founder of EV data agency Carloop, said Australians had already sniffed the wind on EVs, and that despite the lack of new incentives in the government’s strategy, EV uptake in Australia should be able to quickly catch up to the rest of the world.
“Given how rapidly Australians have started to adopt electric vehicles … we were going to get there anyway in the next 18 months or so, because Australians want EVs,” Mr Akhtar said.
“If the supply can get there to match the demand at an affordable price we’ll get there in the next 18 months. Twelve to 15 per cent adoption will happen.”
Even with long wait lists and the rising cost of living, EV sales in the first quarter of this year were more than double the same period last year.
Carloop estimates there will be more than 80,000 electric vehicles on the road by the year’s end, and advocacy group Solar Citizens has projected that could explode to more than 10 times that number on Australian roads in five years’ time if a strong standard is in place.
Expect more EVs on the road under new electric vehicle strategy
“Most people I speak to now know someone who has [an EV], and they more than likely are saying their next car is going to be a battery electric vehicle.”
Tony Weber, the chief executive of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, said while the end goal was zero emissions, Australia would have to straddle a careful line in its approach.
The FCAI has supported emissions regulations that follow similar trajectories to other nations.
But Mr Weber said a more radical trajectory to bring Australia into line with the EU and US in just a few years, when it took those nations more than a decade to achieve the same cuts, would be damaging.
“We should have a target which is ambitious but achievable in the Australian context, given the distances we travel, given the infrastructure, given the lifestyle of people,” Mr Weber said.
“The tradies who need their utes are not going to pay over the odds for a vehicle that doesn’t meet their needs, and the farmers likewise.
“But we should make a sensible trajectory so that when that technology comes we’re jumping from the gutter rather than off of a cliff.”
He said achieving 10 or 20 per cent adoption rates was not the concern, but rather the last 40 per cent of people who would be slowest to shift to an EV, and that other lower emissions options needed to be available in the meantime.
MrSchultz-Byardsaid it would require major developments before “late adopters” became the main concern.
“We’re not even picking the low-hanging fruit when it comes to EV adoption in Australia,” he said.
“Vehicle manufacturers see Australia as a dumping ground where they can send their least efficient, most polluting vehicles, so we’re a long way away from worrying about the hard-to-transition sectors.”
Federal government to return in June with fuel standard
The federal government will spend the next six weeks consulting on how aggressive its approach should be.
The Greens have already drawn the battlelines on a standard, saying anything less than an approach at least as strong as Europe’s would be insufficient.
“The Greens are likely to be in the balance of power on the implementation of the strategy. Labor can choose to work with the Liberals and the oil barons or work with us,” Mr Bandt said in a statement.
The party’s support will be needed to pass the reform unless it was also adopted by the Coalition.
Shadow Infrastructure and Transport Minister Bridget McKenzie said the government was delaying the issue.
“What we’ve seen released from the government today is the commitment to do more consultation on their consultation strategy,” Senator McKenzie told the ABC.
“But obviously I don’t want to see an EV strategy that discriminates Australians on where they live, what they earn or what they actually do for a living.”
Infrastructure and Transport Minister Catherine King told the ABC that Australia was behind due to the lack of action by the previous government.
“We’re already behind where we should be … my intention is to have an exposure draft of legislation available by the end of the year [and] legislated by next year, and part of the consultation is determining when the start date is, how fast this goes,” Ms King said.