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Musk bags first Model 3, as Australia implodes over car emission standards

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Australia’s push-me pull-you approach to electric vehicle adoption is again on display, after claims that the federal government was proposing nation-wide emissions standards for new cars sparked a furious reaction from industry and the press.

In the same week that Elon Musk claimed the first Model 3 “mass market” electric vehicle to come off the new Tesla production line, and when he unveiled what will be the world’s biggest lithium-ion battery storage array, the push back from incumbent industries in Australia was in full flight.

Various members of the mainstream media quickly dubbed a belated proposal to implement vehicle emissions standards as a “carbon tax” on cars – re-booting a term well known to be toxic to policy ambition, and ignoring the fact that Australia’s stands alone with no controls and has become a dumping ground for inefficient cars, at a huge cost to consumers having to put more fuel in the car than they need.

No matter, the mooted vehicle emissions standard was front page news on Wednesday’s edition of the Murdoch-owned Daily Telegraph, which claimed to have obtained a government proposal outlining the emissions penalties, in which new cars would be “slapped” with a $100 surcharge for every gram of carbon per km they emitted over a target figure and failed to offset.

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Within hours of the first news report being published, the federal energy minister and PM Malcolm Turnbull (all the way from London) were busy hosing it down.

“Certainly no decisions have been made in that regard at all,” Turnbull told reporters in London; while Frydenberg told the ABC “there is as much chance of a carbon tax on cars as Elvis making a comeback”.

But the rapid-fire government disclaimers – themselves indicative of the Coalition’s reluctance to challenge the status quo in any industry – were not quick enough to stop knee-jerk responses from auto industry bodies.

Australian Automobile Association chief executive Michael Bradley said: “This would be one of the most extreme efficiency standards in the world and will lead to car prices going up and motorists having fewer cars to choose from.”

And acting chief executive of the industry body the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, Tony McDonald, said it would add “thousands of dollars in emissions penalties” to the current price of a car.

Put together, the government and industry reactions to the mere hint of carbon restrictions on cars paint a worrying picture for a country already lagging far behind the rest of the world on both EV uptake and vehicle emissions standards and reductions.

As Frydenberg himself put it – while, to his credit, slamming the car carbon tax reports as “beat-ups” – consultations on fuel efficiency standards have been ongoing since October 2015 with no final decision yet made.

Meanwhile, in the US, Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk is set to start delivering the first batch of his mass market EV, the Model 3, images of which he Tweeted over the weekend.

First Production Model 3 pic.twitter.com/TCa2NSUNI3

Just last week, Musk was in Australia, praising it – or, at least, the South Australian government – for backing development of the world’s biggest lithium-ion battery storage facility and setting an example for the world of the new energy future.

The same could not be said for Australia’s car market, however. As we reported here in May, the glaring lack of emissions standards for vehicles, and the lack of incentives for consumers to buy EVs, combined with narrow product choice, have put Australia well behind the pace.

Last year, a total of just 219 fully electric cars were reported as sold throughout Australia, compared to 12,000 hybrid vehicles, 363,000-plus diesel vehicles and more than 768,000 petrol fuelled cars.

In the rest of the world, by comparison, almost one million electric vehicles are projected to be sold over the next 12 months, with more than $50 billion invested in the industry over the last 10 years. And the release of Musk’s rather sleek looking, but accessibly priced, Model 3, are expected to speed up proceedings.

According to the Washington Post, analysts believe Musk’s new car could help jump-start the spread of pure-electric vehicles in the US, if the company can keep up with demand. Pre-orders alone stand at more than 370,000.

At this stage, it is expected to be delivered to the first 30 people on the wait list later this month. And Musk has predicted that by December, Tesla will be rolling out Model 3s at a rate of 20,000 per month.

Back in Australia, though, something has got to give – perhaps starting with the pulling of effective policy levers, whether they be carrot or stick, or both.

As ClimateWorks Australia Head of Implementation, Scott Ferraro, points out, the introduction of light vehicle emission standards would provide a net savings to consumers, by ensuring that Australians have access to the latest vehicle technologies, while substantially reducing emissions from the transport sector.

“Currently, the uptake of electric and other low emission vehicles in Australia is slow and the industry are saying this is in large part due to a lack of standards and other incentives,” Ferraro said in comments on Wednesday.

“Last year the improvement in fuel efficiency of new cars in Australia dropped to its lowest rate over the last 10 years. We are now well behind the European Union in terms of performance, and set to fall behind the US market, which is at a similar level of improvement being proposed by the government.

“The claim that these standards, which are in place in over 80 per cent of global automotive markets, are akin to carbon tax is incredibly misleading. The government has called out this scaremongering, which runs counter to positive actions we can take to improve fuel efficiency and provide cost savings to motorists.”

  

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  • MaxG

    Welcome to Australia :))

  • Ian

    Once again this government needs to toughen up and set the standards high, which will lead to innovation. I think they are too afraid though.
    The carmakers can’t believe how lax au is, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they succeed in shouting the government into submission.

    • Goldie444

      The VW diesel software scam will see VW pay billions in penalties in the US but those sames cars did not break any rules in Australia. Well what does this say?

      • Just_Chris

        Haven’t you heard – “Australia has some of the toughest emissions standards in the world”.

        Utter crap

  • john

    If the Federal Government was serious they would adopt EU standards not some watered down set of standards.
    Of course the industry is upset Australia is the dumping ground for unsold vehicles we get old standard vehicles here all the time it is a joke.
    I have seen vehicles branded as this years model and in fact it was not last years model but the year before from international manufactures.
    The poor pleb public know no better.

    The set of standards atm are pathetic so at least they are doing something but please put in place world best practice not copy the USA lowest set of standards.

    • Mike Shackleton

      It’s pretty stupid, we import every car we buy now – so we’ll just end up following the Euro standards anyway. It’s not like Volkswagen are going to put “dirty” engines in cars destined for Australia. If we had a local manufacturing base, sure, but even then given the commonality in design for engines across the world we would end up with vehicles that comply with Euro/Californian standards.

      • Geoff James

        I’ve heard that this isn’t entirely true – some features of the air-fuel-engine-exhaust system are an extra expense in efficient vehicles and these are omitted when sold in Australia. Can someone verify and give a bit of detail about this? Thanks…

    • Peter Campbell

      “If the Federal Government was serious they would adopt EU standards…”
      Not only that, it is administratively simple to do and it introduces no unique compliance issues for manufacturers.

  • Ken Dyer

    What do you expect. A mere glance at carsales.com.au shows that out of over 200000+ vehicles for sale in Australia, only about 50 are electric. The ICE industry is just as implacably opposed to renewable energy as the coal industry is in Australia is opposed to renewable energy, and their propaganda proves it.

    EV’s will never get off the ground in Australia without incentives
    https://myelectriccar.com.au/incentives/

    • john

      Actually I would not be that pessimistic if I were you.
      Yes early adopters will pay more however it would appear as the value of using an EV become apparent to the average person I honestly think Electric Vehicles will be sort after.

      • Ken Dyer

        I hope you had the chance to read the link I posted. The penny will drop in Australia eventually.

        You get cash incentives in the USA to a Nissan Leaf.

        https://cleantechnica.com/2016/12/15/get-new-nissan-leaf-low-11510-incentives-kansas/

        It is just not happening in Australia. You will be lucky to find a 2 year old Leaf covered in dust down the back of the showroom, or more likely, plugged into the power point in the in the mechanic’s lunchroom.

      • George Darroch

        They’re very close to being right for the average person in cost terms.

        The problem isn’t the public, it’s the manufacturers and their retailers.

      • Peter Campbell

        Our family has two electric cars and $24K is the most we paid – an ex-demo iMiEV almost 4 years ago (now would be $16K). Check carsales.com.au, advanced search, electric for fuel source then order by price.

  • simon gray

    Just make fuel more expensive and take away some other car related tax to compensate. I hope – very much – that the ‘low carbon’ alternative does not include diesel.

    • john

      There is no need to do that the usage of an EV already beats an ICE on economic grounds.
      The problem is that people who only do a few long drives a year think it can not do the job.
      It is rather like those who buy a 4X4 because they are going to go fishing one day a year and spend a heap on insurance fuel and registration, where as they could drive a cheaper vehicle vehicle and save a heap of money to do that.

      Buy an EV use it for your every day usage then when you want to go interstate use the other modes of transport you will be money wise.

      • George Darroch

        Or hire yourself a SUV/van/car whatever for the 1-2% of trips that you can’t do in an electric vehicle right now.

        • Peter Campbell

          Or keep your existing petrol car for your infrequent longer trips – it will last for ages. then save money by getting a modest range EV for all your local driving. There are a few iMiEVs for about $16K and Nissan Leafs for $24K on carsales.com.au at the moment.

  • john

    An EV is more economic than an ICE.

    • neroden

      Yeah, I just verified this. Even if you’re on one of the super-overpriced Australian electricity tariffs, it’s *still* cheaper than driving a petrol car at Australian petrol prices.

      If you’re being hit with AUD$0.45/kwh prices, it’s about equal to paying for gasoline. But if that’s happening, you need to install solar and batteries now!

  • Roger Brown

    More dodgy Jeeps flooding the country . I wonder what the % of jeeps get “Caught fire while owners not present ” ? Have seen two in my local area been torched . I wish that Nissan would bring in the Leaf based van e- NV200 into Australia .

  • Just_Chris

    I saw this in the news – shocking, just shocking. Why we continue to push for policy settings that benefit car companies, the very wealthy and oil companies beggars belief. The most stringent emissions standards that have been suggested would place us 5 years behind the EU and basically a decade behind places like holland and Norway. In fact in the EU had already met the least ambitious target suggested. In 10 years time someone on a low income in the us or eu will buy a cheap 2nd hand car to get them to work that will consume less than half the fuel of the Australian.

    • Ricky Lee

      It’s how our political system works. The 2 party system answers to their owners. Not to the Australian people.

      • Just_Chris

        I honestly don’t think we should accept that this is just the way things are. The uk has a very similar 2 party system yet is does far more for the people than our system which seems to be driven by interest groups and extremes.

        • neroden

          FWIW you’d be better off with proportional representation in the House of Commons (sort of like you have in the Senate).

    • Alastair Leith

      Lobbyists are paid in gold coins for nothing!

  • trackdaze

    Seeing that australia is about to import all its cars and most of its fuel it would take the oportunity to incentivise only those that save its consumers and the trade deficit and possibly kick start a local electric vehicle manufacturer.

  • George Darroch

    The good news on the local front (I’m sure it will be covered here today) is that Victoria is now an electric vehicle manufacturer.

    http://www.premier.vic.gov.au/first-electric-truck-hits-the-road/

    • Joe

      Could this be the rebirth of The Aussie Car Manufacturing Industry? All those empty car making plants could be converted to EV manufacture. Where is our Technology and Innovation nimble PM on this ?

      • Alastair Leith

        Or even just do EV conversions to second hand cars?

  • DevMac

    Instead of retreating and offering disclaimers the Government should be getting on the front foot. Call out the automotive industry on how much of a free ride they’ve had with Australians’ wallets up to this point.

    The inefficiency of their Australian-release vehicles means the Australian public have been paying x% more than our European counterparts for petrol per kilometre.
    Get the information ‘out there’ about fuel efficiency disparities between Australian and European released cars.

    It strikes me that the Government position would be unassailable if the numbers were to be published.

  • Peter Campbell

    Why are we so slow? I have been driving an electric car since May 2009. It is easy. A no-brainer. All the things people think are problems are not. I only buy petrol a few times a year for longer trips out of town.