The federal government not releasing its electric vehicles strategy until mid-2020 is “woefully inadequate and downright irresponsible”, independent senator Tim Storer said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison committed to developing a strategy that would “ensure a planned and managed transition to new vehicle technology and infrastructure so all Australians can reap the benefits” earlier this year as part of a broader climate change policy package.
While no date was given for when the strategy could be expected, there were hopes within the sector that it would be produced before the May election.
But environment minister Melissa Price has confirmed that the electric vehicles strategy won’t be produced by the government until mid-2020.
“The development of a National Electric Vehicle strategy will ensure Australia’s transition to electric vehicle technology and infrastructure is planned and managed. 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. It will be released around mid-2020,” a spokesperson for the minister told The Driven.
“In developing the strategy, the government will explore issues including standards that improve the consistency and interoperability of public charging, and the integration of electric vehicle batteries with the electricity system. We have already started to engage stakeholders, which will continue to inform the issues covered by the final strategy.”
With the federal election in May, the Coalition may not still be in power when it plans to hand down the strategy.
Independent senator Tim Storer, who chaired the inquiry into the electric vehicles sector that recently handed its report to government, said action is needed now, not in more than a year’s time.
“The EV revolution is on our doorstep and this is further evidence that they refuse to take it seriously. My senate inquiry just delivered a 197-page report that looked in great detail at what needs to be done to support EV uptake here in Australia. It provided the government with all the evidence it needs to take action, and yet they will take no practical action between now and mid-2020. It is not only laughable, it is downright irresponsible,” Senator Storer told InnovationAus.com.
“They are again failing in their duty to appropriately prepare for what is inevitable, and it will be Australian consumers who suffer with less choice, more pollution, poorer health, higher prices and dated technology.”
The long wait will likely anger the electric vehicles sector, which has already been left frustrated by lacklustre policy action in the space over a number of years. The apparent focus on charging and batteries rather than more concrete funding and targets will also leave the industry unhappy.
Electric Vehicle Council CEO Behyad Jafari said the long wait is “not good enough” but is unsurprising from the current government.
“It has become the status quo when it comes to this government’s approach to new technologies more generally and electric vehicles. When they announced the strategy it was a plan to make a plan when we were already 10 years behind the rest of the world, it was far too little, too late,” Mr Jafari told InnovationAus.com.
“We’ve been engaging with the ministers and departments for several years, providing them with details of what needs to be in the plan, and now they say they’re just beginning. It’s a bit of a falsehood.”
The wait for concrete policies is creating investment uncertainty in the country, Mr Jafari said.
“Policy uncertainty creates investment uncertainty. It’s very restrained here compared to how well it would look if we had policy certainty compared to the levels of every other developed nation. It’s not a politically controversial issue in any other developed nation,” he said.
With a federal election just weeks away and polls suggesting that a Labor win is likely, the Coalition may not be in power next year to deliver on the strategy.
“We’re working with both parties, we treat all parties equally but not all parties treat us equally. Labor and the Greens and independents are much more supportive of the agenda and the mass economic benefits that new technologies like our sector bring,” Mr Jafari said.
“We’re non-partisan but the pragmatic reality of this is one party understands the benefits and opportunities better and is more willing to respond.”
The delay was also slammed by the Greens, who said it would leave Australia “stalled on the sidelines of the electric vehicle revolution”.
“The Morrison government’s delay to the electric vehicle strategy means Australia isn’t even in the slow lane when it comes to electric vehicles, we’re stalled on the sidelines. The Labor party isn’t much better, watering down the recommendations in the Senate inquiry report. The major parties have no plan, no policies and no incentives to drive electric vehicle uptake,” Greens transport and infrastructure spokesperson Janet Rice said in a statement.
Schneider Electric electric cars lead Laetitia Odini said the government has already had ample time to formulate the crucial strategy, and is lagging behind the rest of the world.
“The New Zealand government announced their EV national plan in 2016. In mid-2018 the Australian Senate established the Select Committee on Electric Vehicles to inquire into the use and manufacture of electric vehicles in Australia and tabled its report on 30 January 2019,” Ms Odini told InnovationAus.com.
“That would indicate there has been considerable time already for considering this issue. There is a groundswell of businesses who would like Australia to have a national strategy as soon as possible.”
The strategy needs to include a number of targets and funding options, Ms Odini said.
“There are numerous examples around the world demonstrating what is required in a strategy to make it successful. This is about electrifying transport across all forms – private cars, government and company fleets and freight. That can be facilitated through procurement plans, standards, incentives and promotion,” she said.
“A national target of EVs on the road is required so government and business can appropriately plan the infrastructure required. Planning and investment across transport, road and the energy infrastructure has to occur as soon as possible. A plan that fosters electric vehicle charging infrastructure is critical.”
The recent report by the Select Committee on Electric Vehicles warned that Australia is already lagging behind the rest of the world on electric vehicles, and a lack of policy direction will make things worse.