Victorian Greens Senator Janet Rice has slammed the federal government’s failure to drive electric vehicle uptake, describing its vision of just one million EVs by 2040 as “pathetic,” and its policies as not even adequate to meet that low-ball target.
Speaking at the Alternative Technology Association’s 2018 EV Expo in Port Melbourne on Sunday, Rice said Australia needed a clear and ambitious EV target to work towards, and said it must be based on strong policy settings.
Chief among those policy settings would be vehicle emissions standards, which were still nowhere to be seen in Australia, despite being the norm “virtually everywhere else in the world.”
The comments follow a recent broadside from the Australian boss of German car maker BMW, who last week called on the federal government to abolish stamp duty and deliver GST relief on electric cars to boost sales.
“We need to see some action or Australia will continue to lag behind the rest of the world,” BMW Australia’s Marc Werner said.
“Things like strong electric vehicle targets, CO2 emission targets, extended charging infrastructure and tax incentives … that all works in other countries, why not Australia?”
“The BMW brand is not prepared to wait. Our future is clearly electrified vehicles,” he said.
The Greens are not prepared to wait, either. Rice said her party was just a couple of weeks away from releasing its own “comprehensive plan” on lowering transport emissions and making the electric vehicle revolution happen “as quickly as possible.”
But she said the lack of any policy direction, or even ambition on EV uptake, from the top in Canberra was putting the nation at a distinct disadvantage – both economically and environmentally.
“At the moment, the Turnbull government is basically just letting Australia get left behind,” Rice told the audience in a lecture series at the EV Expo.
“We’ve got a (government) that is beholden to vested interests and old technologies; people who just want the status quo to continue.
“Energy minister Josh Frydenberg has just recently been talking really big on EVs, but his party is saying that they are going to make up 15 per cent of new vehicle sales by 2030, which is just pathetic.
“It’s absolutely pathetic – and it means that the benefits of the electric vehicle revolution just won’t be felt by the majority of Australians.
Even more of a concern, she said, was that it meant that Australia was not going to have transport playing its part in meeting its Paris targets in reducing carbon pollution.
“We know that we’ve haven’t got any carbon budget left. We know that we’ve go to reduce our carbon emissions and have a net zero economy as soon as possible,” said Rice.
“The government, in signing up to Paris … has committed (to that goal),” she added. “Having electric vehicles powered by renewable energy is such an important part of the solution.
“Basically we need … a suite of policy settings to really accelerate the take-up of electric vehicles, otherwise it’s not going to happen at the pace we need it to happen,” she said.
“We need to have a time-frame for introducing really strong vehicle emissions standards.
“Now they’ve been talking about that, but at the moment we’ve got no evidence that the government is going to be serious about implementing them.
“Basically it’s going to be a pipe dream that we’re going to get to … even 15 per cent by 2030 without strong government action.
“So we, the Greens, want to see strong vehicle emissions standards implemented, like those that, in fact, exist virtually everywhere else in the world.
“There are cars meeting those standards that are already being produced all around the world. …We should be only importing cars that meet those vehicles standards. Otherwise we risk becoming a dumping ground for the dirty cars of the world.
“We need a clear ambitious target to work towards. That’s absolutely essential. And then set the policy settings right, to get that,” Rice said.
“Leadership and that smart policy, that in itself will bring more vehicles to the market, and you will have the variety of vehicles that we need to have.”
A lack of available models for Australian EV consumers to choose from has been one of the biggest barriers, of late, to EV uptake. Currently there are only five pure electric vehicles available in Australia, four of which are $A50,000+ “prestige” cars, including the Tesla Models S and X.
As another speaker at the event noted, the Renault Zoe EV being offered for test drives at the Expo is new to the Australian market – but it has been available on the EU market since 2013.
The cheaper priced offerings of the new Nissan LEAF and Tesla Model 3 are due to become available here in late 2018 and early 2019, respectively.
Rice said that tackling the price differential between EVs and conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) cars was also going to be essential to kick-start the industry in the short term.
“Prices are going to come down, and people are going to realise that, because the costs of running electric vehicles are so much lower, it makes sense to pay that premium,” she said.
“But in the short-term, we’re going to need action to reduce that price differential.
“And obviously, public charging infrastructure, and fast charging infrastructure; they are the sorts of areas that the federal government really needs to take the lead on, and to really push forward.
“We’ve really got no excuses here in Australia. …We’ve got the renewable energy to power (EVs). We’ve got the sun, we’ve got the wind, we’ve got the intellectual capacity to make that all happen. We just need to seize the day and make it occur.”