Fossil of a federal government keeps handbrake on EV uptake

Ian Bushnell 7 February 2021 64
Electric vehicles

The switch to electric vehicles is underway, but Australia is holding back. Photo: File.

A tipping point has been reached with electric vehicles, yet the Morrison Government seems intent on limiting their take-up in Australia and the contribution they can make to reducing our greenhouse emissions.

GM is but the latest of the big car makers to announce it was throwing the switch to EVs in line with the Biden Administration announcing renewed vigour in the fight against global warming and committing to transitioning the entire US Government car fleet.

The US has also had a range of cash and tax incentives for EVs for years.

China is in the midst of an EV manufacturing revolution, including autonomous vehicles, and the UK won’t allow the sale of new petrol cars and vans from 2030 and offers a range of subsidies to increase the uptake of EVs.

The ACT Government understands this and is doing what it can to encourage EV uptake.

The fact is it’s happening. Yet a federal government discussion paper for its future fuels strategy rules out any such incentives, a phase-out of petrol vehicles or even fuel efficiency standards, opting for the language of giving Australian drivers choice.

The Morrison government appears to accept the shift is on, expecting the range of new vehicle technology options in the Australian market to continue to increase each year, and that by 2030 battery electric vehicle sales will reach 26 per cent of annual new vehicle sales. It could be so much more.

But the Morrison government wants to hedge its bets, to assuage its own internal critics and vested interests.

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A national EV strategy canvassed in February 2019, before the last federal election, was replaced last year with a broader approach that also covers hydrogen fuel-cell and biofuel-powered vehicles, which may just be sops to the gas industry, agribusiness and their National Party patrons.

Of course, the election was also marked by the Prime Minister’s inane comments about EV proponents wanting to end the weekend.

The PM says Australia is not about to tax its way to lower emissions, and argues subsidies to hasten the transition to EVs are not value for money, despite a combination of carrot and stick being a proven way to achieve an outcome.

It talks about the costs but not the benefits.

It’s a hands-off approach that ignores the urgency of combating global warming, the pace of change overseas, and the benefits a faster transition would bring.

Not only would it make a huge dent in our emissions but clear the air of our cities, reduce noise, and bring better health outcomes.

The government’s approach also risks Australia being left behind and facing greater costs to update later on, a bit like the NBN.

Some fear Australia will become a dumping ground for dirty, old-tech vehicles.

While consumers reap the benefits of government-supported accelerated uptake overseas, Australians may still face cost barriers and a market still dominated by a redundant technology.

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Advocates also argue that it leaves Australia exposed from a national security perspective if supply chains are disrupted, with the nation only having six weeks’ supply of fuel.

At least work is continuing on how an EV-based transport system will integrate with the electricity grid, with the Australian Renewable Energy Agency’s trial of smart chargers to observe how charging can be managed at optimal times.

The government also says it will be prioritising charging and hydrogen refuelling infrastructure where it is needed, but again are we talking green hydrogen or that derived from gas, and what does ”where it is needed” actually mean?

This is a government that continues to not want to lead, and uses the idea of choice to string out Australia’s reliance on fossil fuels.

It’s an approach that will cost consumers, affect the nation’s health, restrict the nation’s ability to reduce emissions and undermine national security.

Australia should be at the forefront of this momentous shift, not dragging its feet.

The question has to be asked: who is benefiting from this approach?

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27 Responses to Fossil of a federal government keeps handbrake on EV uptake
Jorge Gatica Jorge Gatica 9:34 am 09 Feb 21

Ah yes! The greens ideology, buy an electric car made from raw materials mined and manufactured with fossil fuelled machinery and factories and charge the batteries with fossil fuel generated electricity

Nick James Nick James 9:48 pm 08 Feb 21

Rent seekers everywhere

Fortress Epiphany Fortress Epiphany 4:24 pm 08 Feb 21

Yep, charge an electric car using coal-fired power....sounds sensible to me.

    Adele Craven Adele Craven 5:06 pm 08 Feb 21

    Fortress Epiphany Well if you took a moment to think about it and stopped ignoring what has been going on for decades, it's obvious that powering cars from electricity generated in Australia is so much better for multiple reasons than shipping fuel from overseas

    Adele Craven Adele Craven 6:06 pm 08 Feb 21

    Fortress Epiphany No - you haven't thought about it or you're not going to think about it?

Peter Major Peter Major 1:07 pm 08 Feb 21

EVs are a waste of money. Hydrogen fuel cells are the future not these coal guzzling dinosaurs. Industry lobby groups trying to drum up business for overpriced obsolete rubbish.

    Adele Craven Adele Craven 3:41 pm 08 Feb 21

    Peter Major Hydrogen is wasteful, inefficient and no advantage over ICEV. Electric is so much better - convenient, much simpler, multiple times more efficient and can charge everywhere

    Peter Major Peter Major 7:23 pm 08 Feb 21

    Adele Craven rather BS, try crossing the Nullarbor as they only have generators for power and minimal charging capacity. Hydrogen has a longer ranger fillup in normal not glacial time and is totally renewable.

    Adele Craven Adele Craven 9:08 pm 08 Feb 21

    Peter Major I intend to cross the Nullabor in my current electric car one day. I could do it tomorrow if I chose - because there is electricity at multiple spots across the Nullabor (been there for years) And there are spots to charge an EV. Where are the hydrogen stations, or the hydrogen cars?

Bill Gemmell Bill Gemmell 8:51 am 08 Feb 21

My next car will probably be an EV. But I don't agree with the level of support people want provided, mainly because it will distort market forces. There is also the issues of road space being finite and the other airborne particulates emitted.

Put simply, if the product offered is good enough and the price is right we will buy them in droves.

    Adele Craven Adele Craven 3:38 pm 08 Feb 21

    Bill Gemmell Luxury car tax should be abolished because it was designed to protect the Australian car industry. Stamp duties were meant to disappear with the introduction of GST. Fossil fuels get tens of billions of dollars a year in various forms. There are very good reasons to provide incentives for EVs

    Bill Gemmell Bill Gemmell 3:42 pm 08 Feb 21

    Adele Craven disagree entirely with removing incentives. There are good reasons to remove the disincentives you describe

    Neil Craven Neil Craven 5:05 pm 08 Feb 21

    Bill Gemmell how about we cease the 29bn$ fossil fuel subsidy that the government pays with our tax dollars.

    Bill Gemmell Bill Gemmell 6:21 pm 08 Feb 21

    Neil Craven my previous post has been edited. Sorry, written on the fly. I fully support a totally level playing field.

    Thomas Boyce Thomas Boyce 9:36 am 09 Feb 21

    The “level playing field” argument is a classic tool for ignoring “externalities” to an economic model. The issue is: What are the boundaries of the playing field? If we begin to include “externalities” of ICE transport such as all the emissions from fuel production, use, and ultimately burning, which produces proximate health care costs and fatalities, we start to see some of the true cost of ICE transport.

    But fatally, (pardon the pun), playing field arguments also ignore impending changes to the playing field, i.e. the catastrophic consequences of > 2 degrees C climate change. How do you factor into the cost of the ICE transport the known, yet not yet internalised change? Answer: by responsible governments shifting the economics to achieve the desired resilience to the change. Examples would be universal healthcare and the like.

    So, yes. Subsidies ("distortions in the market") make sense if the problem is viewed in its entirety and "the market" is incapable of responding for the overall good.

    Bill Gemmell Bill Gemmell 10:21 am 09 Feb 21

    Thomas Boyce so replacing a distorting subsidy with another one makes sense?

    Thomas Boyce Thomas Boyce 10:49 am 09 Feb 21

    Depending upon the ultimate goal for society, yes.

Eric Anthony Lucas Eric Anthony Lucas 8:01 am 08 Feb 21

So the government should use taxpayers money to subsidise electric cars? They already have a tremendous competitive advantage because their owners pay no fuel tax. The cost of the subsidies demanded by this author is disproportionate to the tiny savings in emissions. And it is absurd to claim the Feds are applying a “handbrake” by refusing to pay subsidies.

    Adele Craven Adele Craven 3:29 pm 08 Feb 21

    Eric Anthony Lucas Admittedly it is no where near as much but EV owners still pay tax on the electricity. It’s so much better to know the price per kilowatt and to pay the amount once a quarter rather than dealing with ever changing fuel prices and pulling your wallet out every time

    Eric Anthony Lucas Eric Anthony Lucas 7:44 pm 08 Feb 21

    Adele Craven you’re right, I overlooked gst. But on top of gst petrol carries 42.3 cents excise per litre! That gives electricity a huge advantage.

Corey Karl Corey Karl 7:57 am 08 Feb 21

If every house in Australia can’t run an aircon at the same time without blackouts, how are we all going to charge electric cars all at the same time ??

    Anura Samara Anura Samara 8:15 am 08 Feb 21

    Corey Karl check the current draw. I mean, we’re all able to light our houses at the same time without blackouts!

Mick James Mick James 7:49 am 08 Feb 21

All this hype about EVs, what about the methods used to generate the electricity used to charge these vehicles????

    Chris Mitchell Chris Mitchell 7:52 am 08 Feb 21

    Which is why we also need to move away from fossil fuel power plants

    Adele Craven Adele Craven 3:34 pm 08 Feb 21

    Mick James .. you mean the world leading renewable adoption we have actually in Australia- as opposed to the liquid fuel that is so resource hungry and inefficient and all has to come from overseas.

Paul South Paul South 7:33 am 08 Feb 21

Ev is not very environmentally friendly .

Wake up !

Liz Hughes Liz Hughes 7:28 am 08 Feb 21

Terrible policy and lack of foresight and opportunity. LNP keeping us in the dark ages again.

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