Australian consumers are not buying electric vehicles, but around half of them would – possibly two-thirds – if there was more choice in the market, and greater economic incentive.
That is the broad conclusion of a report released on Thursday by Australia’s newly formed Electric Vehicle Council – its inaugural review of the state of the national EV industry, prepared by ClimateWorks Australia.
According to the report, EV uptake in Australia is currently on a downward trajectory, with sales falling 23 per cent from 2015 to 2016. Australians purchased only 701 plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, and 668 fully electric vehicles in 2016, making up 0.1 per cent of the total Australian market.
But despite these grim figures, the report suggests that around 50 per cent of Australian consumers would, if in the market for a new car, consider buying an electric vehicle – and that this number could increase to almost 70 per cent with the correct policy support.
As it stands, however, Australia’s lack of supporting policies, such as vehicle emissions standards and policies to reduce EV costs, is creating a chicken-and-egg scenario of lack of supply of lower cost models, and lack of sales to drive that supply.
This is not a revelation. It has been the state of play in the Australian EV market for some years now. But three charts – or two charts and one table – from the ClimateWorks research illustrate quite neatly just how much of an difference effective policy support could have on EV uptake, and how much the absence of it has hampered the fledgling market.
Table 4, below, offers a comparison of the current discounts on offer to EV buyers in various states and territories around Australia.
The ACT, which has led the country on climate and renewable energy policy, is also leading the charge on electric vehicles, offering a more than $2,000 rebate for EV buyers. Not surprisingly, this is reflected in figure 2, below the chart, which shows that the ACT is out and away leading the country in sales of electric vehicles.
“In those states, such as the ACT, where there are stronger incentives for electric vehicles through stamp duty discounts which can reduce the cost of an electric vehicle by over $2,000, we have seen the greatest rate of electric vehicle uptake,” said Electric Vehicle Council CEO Behyad Jafari in comments on Thursday.
“Australia is one of the few remaining developed countries without light vehicle CO2 standards in place,” Jafari added, although the report notes that their introduction is currently being considered by the Commonwealth government.
The third chart, Figure 5, below – paints a neat picture of that chicken-and-egg scenario, as the nation’s overall EV sales chart the same downward trajectory as the number of lower-cost models available on the market.
This tells us that a disproportionate range of prestige EVs, including the $100,000-plus Tesla Model S and X cars, make up the majority of the Australian market – and of current sales. Sales of models between $60k and $100k have also increased, alongside a tiny increase in the number of models available in that price range.
EVs priced at $60k and below, however, have all but disappeared from the market, sales going with them.
“What we have in Australia is not a lack of consumer interest in electric vehicles, but a lack of suitable models to choose from,” Jafari said.
“The right level of support and standards provide manufacturers with an incentive to invest in Australia by bringing more choice to the market, providing lower cost alternatives.
“With that support driving initial momentum, electric vehicles are particularly attractive as they are cleaner and cheaper to operate.”
The report also notes that perceptions around the availability of public EV charging infrastructure can be crucial to uptake, even if research shows that most car charging is done at home or in the workplace.
According to the report, there are currently 476 dedicated EV public charging stations in Australia, led – again – by the ACT (on a per capita basis), with 3.5 chargers per 100,000 residents.
The report says charging stations are currently concentrated in Australia’s capital cities, but notes there is an expanding regional network as towns and cities capitalise on the potential tourism benefits of providing electric vehicle charging infrastructure.
In addition, governments, membership organisations and vehicle manufacturers are installing electric vehicle fast charging highways, the report says, with spuer-chargers available at regular intervals along major regional routes.
“The electric vehicle market in Australia is still in its infancy but we are seeing it grow, from under 50 electric vehicles sold in 2011, to over 1,350 sold in 2016, and with almost 500 dedicated public charging stations deployed to provide additional convenience and options for electric vehicle owners,” Jafari said.
“We expect this rate of uptake to continue, with manufacturers bringing seven new models to market in the next 18 months, and key to this three of those models are forecast to be under $60,000.
“We already have some innovative businesses being developed in Australia to service the electric vehicle industry. With over $50 billion already invested in the global electric vehicle industry, now is the time for Australia to take action,” he said.
Sophie is editor of OneStepOffTheGrid.com.au and deputy editor of its sister site, RenewEconomy.com.au. Sophie has been writing about clean energy for more than a decade.