– By Carola Jonas, founder of Everty –
OPEC’s recent decision to cut members’ oil production by 2 million barrels a day has intensified a trend that has been a long time coming. As millions of Australians juggle increased cost-of-living expenses including soaring fuel prices exacerbated by the end of the temporary fuel excise cut, interest in electric vehicles has once more been rekindled.
The benefits of EVs are unequivocal: not only will Australian consumers profit from a cleaner, greener environment, they’ll also enjoy more money in their hip pocket as their initial investment in EVs pay themselves off. According to Transport NSW, the average EV can save drivers $1000 in fuel per year which equates to a savings rate of 70% compared to combustion vehicles. EVs are significantly cheaper to maintain as well, costing 40% less in upkeep compared to regular cars.
Transitioning to EVs makes even more sense in Australia – as the nation with the highest number of solar installations per capita, there is an abundance of renewable energy sources to choose from. According to data released by the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water, a record 29% of Australia’s total electricity generation in 2021 was from renewable sources including solar, wind and hydro. Australians are clearly interested in sustainability but the barriers preventing higher EV uptake must be removed.
Unlike the renewable energy sector, Australia’s EV sector is struggling to gain traction in the market – and it’s not because of consumers. A 2021 consumer attitudes survey conducted by the Electric Vehicle Council found that 54% of Aussies were willing to consider an EV as their next car purchase and 49% could see themselves driving an EV by 2030 but 40% would be more inclined to purchase an EV if the government subsidised their purchase.
If Australia is to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, it must move quickly to bring the transport sector (which is responsible for 20% of Australia’s emissions) in line. Increasing the number of EVs on the road by the end of the decade is an essential part of hitting this target, but won’t happen until there are more EV options and better infrastructure in place for EV owners.
By introducing an ambitious and robust fuel efficiency standard, manufacturers would be compelled to introduce more fuel-efficient vehicles into the Australian market, including more electric vehicle models. To accelerate the supply of electric vehicles to Australia, the government should commit to implementing the fuel efficiency standard by 1 January 2024 at the latest. Additionally there should be temporary incentives put in place to reduce the upfront cost of all types of EVs to ensure equitable access to vehicles for all households and businesses. This could take the form of zero-interest loans as well as subsidies.
There should also be greater integration of a national charging infrastructure network with the electricity grid. This integration will act to minimise costs and create efficiencies in the energy sector that will be amplified by the widespread adoption of EVs. Investment in charging infrastructure to encompass regional areas as well as high-density suburbs will enable electric cars, buses, trucks, and other vehicles to traverse the entire nation with ease.
Other targets in the newly fledged National Electric Vehicle Strategy should include a pledge to increase EV car sales to 80% by 2030, increase heavy electric vehicle sales (trucks and buses) to 50% by 2030, create multi-bay fast charging locations every 70km on arterial roads and every 5km in urban areas by 2027 and create a domestic market for battery production by 2025. Lastly there needs to be a national EV industry development plan with targeted funding and policies aimed at sparking investment and innovation across the full EV supply chain in Australia to streamline electric vehicle assimilation in the Australian market.
There has never been a better time to pivot towards new EV technology and the conditions are ripe for government and industry alike to take advantage of the opportunities for a strong, profitable, and sustainable EV sector. Going electric will not only reduce Australia’s vulnerability to global energy price fluctuations, it will also create more certainty for the economy and for consumers who are looking to cut down on expenses and do good for the environment. To position ourselves as leaders of the future and ensure we meet targets for decarbonisation, the government must act quickly and decisively or risk losing momentum at this significant juncture in time.