Australia’s first national electric vehicle strategy has finally been announced. While consultation on the strategy kicked off pretty quickly after the change in Federal government in 2022, Australia is lagging behind the rest of the world when it comes to EVs, and action is needed ASAP.
While fuel efficiency standards are the key change this strategy is bringing about (we’re one of the only OECD countries without fuel efficiency standards), there’s a lot more the government wants to do in this area. In fact, the government has six key outcomes it would like to achieve that are aimed at encouraging the uptake of electric vehicles in Australia: national standards, data sharing, EV affordability, remote and regional charging infrastructure, fleet procurement and education and awareness.
These underscore three objectives: increasing the supply of electric vehicles, establishing greater charging infrastructure networks, and increasing the demand of electric vehicles.
Let’s break that all down.
On national standards, the government is opening another consultation paper, seeking input on how fuel efficiency standards should be created for Australia. Fuel efficiency standards regulate the emissions produced by all vehicles, limiting how potentially polluting vehicles sold in Australia can be.
“On average, new cars in Australia use 40 per cent more fuel than the European Union, 20 per cent more than the United States, and 15 per cent more than New Zealand,” Federal Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen said.
“With passenger cars making up almost 10 per cent of Australia’s CO2 emissions, it is an important step to meet our emissions reduction targets.”
Following the review of the second consultation, the Federal government is planning to release its proposed Fuel Efficiency Standard by the end of 2023. You can contribute to the consultation online.
This morning, Minister Catherine King and I launched Australia’s first National EV Strategy; a comprehensive roadmap to ensure Australians have a better choice of electric vehicles and encourage greater use of cleaner cheaper to run cars #NEVS pic.twitter.com/fNUBs3yG6s
— Chris Bowen (@Bowenchris) April 18, 2023
The Federal government is also calling for data to be shared on vehicle use and infrastructure, to better guide the development of policy. This data will help governments decide the most optimal places for chargers to be installed.
At the moment, electric vehicles are quite inaccessibly priced, starting at $45,000 (and up to $100,000) for a new vehicle in Australia today. As such, the report outlines that efforts should be made to bring down the cost of electric vehicles, including that incentives may be considering in lowering costs.
Remote and regional EV charging infrastructure
Outside of Australia’s major cities, it can be difficult to find a charger – this point addresses that head on, with a focus on bringing chargers to regional and remote areas of Australia. This may involve strategic planning with private infrastructure operators and already existing transport networks.
The government wants its vehicle fleets across Australia to be electrified, and is seeking collaboration with New Zealand, the states and territories to aggregate government fleet purchasing. Electric non-light vehicles, such as buses, will also be considered in the uptake of EVs for government fleets. The government considers this to be an important point, as large fleet orders give manufacturers greater confidence in EV uptake.
Education and awareness
Finally, the government wants to prioritise educating Australians about the benefits of EVs and how they may be beneficial to our everyday lives, to help individuals out when making purchasing decisions.
A review of the strategy is planned for 2026.
How have EV advocates responded to the National Electric Vehicle Strategy?
The announcement has been welcomed by advocates for electric vehicles.
“There’s clearly the willingness from both the community and the industry to fix Fuel Efficiency Standards and get it right as soon as possible, to bring more clean car choices for all Australians,” clean transport campaigner for Solar Citizens Ajaya Haikerwal said in a statement.
“Australia is already at the back of the global queue when it comes to access to electric vehicles – we’ve become a dumping ground for crappy, inefficient vehicles that aren’t accepted in other countries. We need to join the same queue as the rest of the world, but there’s no point joining at the back, or we’ll simply end up in the same predicament we’ve been in for the past decade.”
“The situation that we’re in today is that there are hundreds of thousands of Australians who are trying to buy electric vehicles but the supply isn’t there, and that’s because car companies … choose to sell those vehicles in other markets because they have those standards in place,” Electric Vehicle Council CEO Behyad Jafari said to the ABC.
“We are way behind the eight ball on this issue so it’s important that … we put [the standards] into place early.”
The federal government published 448 submissions to the National Electric Vehicle Strategy back in February, from anonymous comments to statements from large companies and advocacy groups.
Tesla wrote that a massive 75 per cent of the lithium and 40 per cent of the nickel in Tesla’s lithium-ion batteries around the world come from Australia, and that global decarbonisation of transport cannot be achieved unless Australian governments work with industries to expedite projects and mobilise capital, referring to the country’s massive lithium reserves.
The EV giant would like to see Australia increase the supply of minerals. Ideally, Tesla would like to see more of the supply chain captured within Australia, in particular the refining of lithium and the building of batteries, instead of sending the lithium overseas for it to be developed.
Meanwhile, in the Electric Vehicle Council’s submission, it was clear it wanted some more tangible items. It proposed seven it wanted addressed in the strategy:
- By 2025, 100 light-vehicle electric car models should be available in Australia;
- A fuel efficiency target of less than 60 grams of CO2 per kilometre for new light vehicles by 2030;
- One million EVs on Australian roads by 2027 (in line with the wishes of more than 100 companies in October);
- By 2030, 60 per cent of new car sales should be electric;
- Multi-bay charging stations every 70km on arterial roads and multi-bay chargers every 5km in urban areas;
- At least one domestic manufacturer of EVs using Aussie-made batteries;
- By 2040, 25 per cent of all new vehicles should be manufactured locally.
This submission underscores the importance of opening policy considerations up to organisations and the public, particularly to gather responses from groups that may or may not be industry stakeholders. It makes perfect sense for low-speed neighbourhoods, mixed pedestrian areas and in busy car parks. Pedestrian safety is absolutely something that should be considered.
The National Electric Vehicle Strategy is a welcome step in the right direction, but there’s a lot to be done before there’s an EV in the driveways of every Aussie’s home.
This article has been updated since it was first published.
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