Denham Sadler
March 4, 2019

Electric vehicles: Too little, too late

Policy

Electric vehicles: Too little, too late

Electric dreams: The government has not moved quickly enough to create a new industry

The government’s one-page commitment to develop an electric vehicles strategy, without any new policies, is “too little, too late” as Australia risks missing out on significant opportunities, according to the Electric Vehicles Council.

Buried in the federal government’s Climate Solutions Fund, which was unveiled late last month, was a commitment to develop a National Electric Vehicles Strategy that would “ensure a planned and managed transition to new vehicle technology and infrastructure so all Australians can reap the benefits”.

“Greater electric vehicle uptake could mean cleaner air, better health, smarter cities, lower transport costs, and lower greenhouse gas emissions,” the statement said.

“The strategy will coordinate action across government, industry, and the community to address barriers to uptake and ensure Australia reaps the benefits of new vehicle technology.”

“There are challenges to overcome so Australia can embrace this technology. Australians want to know more about access to charging infrastructure, the cost of electric vehicles and the range of models available. Addressing these issues now is necessary.”

But the one-page announcement did not include any new policies or direction for the government, which has already pledged to launch such a strategy.

Electric Vehicles Council chief executive Behyad Jafari labelled the document a “plan about a plan”, and said there had been little real movement toward actual policies across the last three years.

“It was very disappointing that it was so brief. They’ve come out and said there will be a strategy after we’ve been engaging with them and giving advice for nearly three years on why we need a strategy and it’s well overdue,” Mr Jafari told InnovationAus.com.

“To say in 2019 that they’re going to begin the process to work on a strategy is too little, too late."

“They haven’t done their homework on the "issue. We’ve been talking to them for a few years, they can’t claim they don’t know what to do. It’s very clearly a bit of window dressing to go with the equally disappointing climate policy.”

“There’s not even a finalisation of what the process of developing the strategy will look like. They’re starting from a point of pretty low credibility for this government, considering how much further along we have been. And now they’re pretending it’s the beginning of the process.”

The government’s brief response comes after a senate inquiry into electric vehicles found that Australia risks missing out on the “realisation of substantial economic, environmental and health benefits, and risk seeing opportunities for economic development pass by” due to a “relative absence of overarching policy direction from Australia governments”.

While the final report did recommend a national strategy, its other points were “shallow and weak” according to an independent senator involved with it, after the government and Opposition watered down the final recommendations.

There is a long list of policies that should be included in the strategy and that have already been recommended to government, Mr Jafari said, including a target of 50 per cent of all new vehicles to be electric by 2030, funding for electric vehicle infrastructure and tax exemptions for purchases.

“That list of options runs pretty long. We’re looking to provide certainty for investment and we’ve said to government for a number of years that there’s a very long list of things we can do and know work, but they have to come to the table,” he said. 

“There is a number of things that could be explored but the problem is we’ve seen a lot of talk from them around the edges but it is not serious engagement.”

The lack of support from the federal government has seen Australia already miss a number of opportunities in the sector, he said.

“It has certainly slowed it down, and increasingly as time has gone on it has slowed down levels of investment. The government can accelerate it exponentially if they put their shoulder behind it. It requires both sides to be sitting at the table,” Mr Jafari said.

The government re-announced that it would be working on a national strategy on electric vehicles just months out of the upcoming federal election. With there likely being a change in government in May, the Electric Vehicles Council has been in discussions with the current Opposition on its own policies for the sector.

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