Governments Failing on EVs: REPORT

The Electric Vehicle Council (EVC) has given Australian governments a failing grade and called for more incentives to encourage the uptake of electric vehicles (EVs) in its 2020 State of Electric Vehicles report, released in August.

A survey conducted by the EVC found that 56% of consumers would consider purchasing an electric vehicle as their next car. More than two-thirds (68%) want governments to provide more public charging infrastructure, 68% want government subsidies to reduce the cost of buying an EV, and 66% want government subsidies to reduce the cost of installing home charging equipment. A massive 82% of consumers identify public fast charging as “important”.

Rating the various state, territory and Federal Governments on their support for the EV industry, the ACT was the only government to earn a ‘B’ grade from the report’s authors. The NSW and Queensland governments each received ‘C’ grades, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia ‘Ds’, while Western Australia, the Northern Territory and the Federal Government were all given ‘Fs’.

“The last year has seen an increase in electric vehicle sales, improvements in consumer sentiment, and the rollout of public charging infrastructure. A number of states and territories have announced new policies to support electric vehicles,” the report said.

“However, Australia continues to lag comparable countries when it comes to electric vehicle market share, model availability, consumer awareness, industry development, and – critically – government support.

“It remains clear that if the Australian electric vehicle industry had comparable policy support to other countries, we would enjoy access to more low-cost electric vehicle models and greater consumer confidence in electric vehicles. Australia would also be capitalising on more opportunities to create jobs in the sector.”

In 2019, EV sales increased by 200% with 6,718 EVs sold, while petrol/diesel vehicle sales fell by 7.8%. EV sales accounted for 0.6% of new sales in Australia in 2019. There are 28 EV models for sale in Australia.

Australia has 2,307 public charging stations; 357 of these are fast public charging stations (an increase of more than 40% in the last 12 months).

A survey of 2,902 Australians carried out for the report showed consumers continuing to warm to EVs. Of those surveyed, 56% would now consider purchasing an electric vehicle as their next vehicle, representing a steady increase from 48% in 2018 and 53% in 2019.

Consumers cited reduced environmental footprints, lower running and maintenance costs, and relative performance as the most common reasons to encourage an electric vehicle purchase. The price of electric vehicles continued to be a discouraging factor.

“This concern should dissipate as the price of electric vehicles reaches parity with petrol and diesel equivalents. This point of parity could be reached much sooner with the introduction of national fuel efficiency standards, comparable to other countries like the UK and the US,” the report noted.

Many consumers said they were discouraged by the driving range of electric vehicles but, when asked how far they expected fully electric vehicles to drive per charge, almost 80% of respondents underestimated the range of electric vehicles currently available in Australia.

“The rollout of public charging infrastructure has continued apace over the past year on the back of significant investment from the private sector, some state governments, and the Federal Government through the Australian Renewable Energy Agency,” the report states.

“There are now 1,950 standard charging stations (less than 50kW) at over 1,200 locations, a 16% increase since July 2019; and 350 fast and ultra-fast charging stations (50kW and over) at over 150 locations across Australia, representing a 42% increase since July 2019.

“Given the importance that consumers place on charging infrastructure availability, it is imperative that private and public investment in infrastructure continues. Testament to this, Infrastructure Australia has included the rollout of a national electric vehicle fast-charging network as a High Priority Initiative in its 2020 Infrastructure Priority List.”

Of the 28 EV models available in Australia, eight are priced under $65,000. The report said six more models are expected to arrive on our shores before the end of next year, including two priced below $50,000.

“When surveyed about the requirements for bringing electric vehicles to a market, carmakers told the Electric Vehicle Council the absence of a national electric vehicle policy is restricting the supply of more electric vehicles to Australia, especially when such policies exist in comparable markets,” the report said.

“Globally, carmakers are rolling out more electric vehicle models, but so far production cannot keep up with demand. This means that without policy signals, Australians will continue to be denied access to the full global range of electric vehicles.

“Most apparent at the federal level, but also present at the state level, is the continued reluctance by governments to proactively position Australia’s transport sector to benefit from electrification. If governments wish to reduce transport emissions, improve air quality, remove fuel insecurity, and grow local jobs then policy support for electric vehicles must be part of the equation.”

Electric vehicle market penetration differs across Australian states and territories. Victoria and NSW continue to have the highest total number of electric vehicles with 2,540 and 2,532 respective sales between 2011 and 2019 (Tesla is excluded from this count). The two most populous states were also level in 2019 with 832 sales in NSW and 815 in Victoria.

However, as a percentage of new car sales, the ACT strongly outperforms others with 83 electric vehicles purchased for every 10,000 vehicles sold.
The most common factors to discourage the purchase of an electric vehicle are:

  • Accessibility to charging equipment
  • Purchase cost of an electric vehicle compared to a petrol or diesel vehicle
  • Driving range per charge compared to fuel tank
  • Convenience of recharging over refuelling

“Respondents overwhelming support government policies to provide public charging infrastructure, reduce the cost of electric vehicles, and reduce the cost of installing home charging. These three policies have been consistently identified by respondents as the top three priorities since 2018,” the report states.

When asked if the COVID-19 pandemic should impact government policy supporting electric vehicles, 38% of respondents said government prioritisation of electric vehicles should remain the same, but almost a quarter (23%) thought electric vehicle policies should become a higher priority because of COVID-19. Only 11% thought they should be a lower priority while 28% were not sure.

The reasons cited behind the need for electric vehicles to become a higher policy priority included:

  • Accelerating emissions and pollution reduction – many respondents noted the air quality and noise benefits from reduced vehicle use during lockdown periods and want governments to replicate those benefits by prioritising electric vehicle policies.
  • Increasing fuel security – respondents noted the increased potential for disruption to global oil supply chain impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, noting Australia’s heavy reliance on imported fuels. Electric vehicles would help reduce this reliance and protect Australia from such disruption.
  • Stimulating economic activity – many respondents identified that current economic conditions provide an opportunity for Australia to use its mineral endowment and skillsets to grow jobs in the electric vehicle sector.

Although EV sales are still proportionately low, Toyota has revealed that 20% of its new vehicle sales in Australia are hybrids. Toyota’s hybrid sales grew by 97% in the first half of 2020 compared to 2019. In July, hybrids made up 40.7% of Toyota’s sales. More than 87% of Toyota RAV4s sold in July were hybrids, with a waiting list of up to 10 months.

EVC CEO Behyad Jafari identified a lack of Government incentives and higher prices as the major obstacles to greater take-up of EVs. He called for the Federal Government to preclude a road user charge on EVs to encourage purchases.

The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) has announced a voluntary emissions target scheme for new cars sold locally from 2021 to 2030, a move welcomed by the Government.

The FCAI welcomed the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) announcement of funding for an EV smart charging trial. The $2.9 million trial will measure the benefits and impediments to controlled smart charging, including improving understanding of EV driver behaviour.

As part of the trial, Origin Energy Ltd has been allocated $838,000 in funding to provide and install 150 smart chargers across residential, commercial, and industrial premises. The trial covers the national electricity market, namely Queensland, New South Wales and the ACT, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania.

FCAI chief executive Tony Weber said the trial initiative was welcomed by industry.

“Low emission vehicles, including plug in hybrid (PHEV) and battery electric vehicles (BEV), are the way of the future and there is barely an automotive manufacturer today who does not have one of these vehicles either in production or in development,” Mr Weber said.

“However, the uptake of EVs in Australia has been slow for many reasons, including lack of policy, lack of both financial and non-financial incentivisation, and a lack of infrastructure development to support it.
“The announcement of an EV smart charging trial by ARENA will provide significant support to the growth of EV take-up in Australia and address some of the barriers to entry of this technology.”

The Federal Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy, Mark Butler, said the Government had been “asleep at the wheel” for failing to implement emissions targets. Australians pay considerably more for EVs than their counterparts in Europe and the US, who enjoy government subsidies and strict emissions targets that force prices down.
Hyundai will launch three new Hyundai Ioniq electric cars from 2021, with an Australian launch to follow.

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