Australians will have a wider choice of electric vehicles as part of the federal government’s push to encourage more people to switch to low-emission cars.
High prices, limited supplies and long waiting lists have shut out most of the market, but a new national plan will help change that, said Climate Change Minister Chris Bowen.
Growing the Australian electric vehicle market and improving fuel efficiency standards will be at the center of a national strategy to be developed with state and territory leaders.
Mr Bowen announced the plan at the first National Electric Vehicle Summit in Canberra on Friday, attended by politicians, industry representatives and community leaders.
Australia is significantly behind when it comes to low-emission cars, with just eight options on the market under $60,000, Mr Bowen said.
Adoption of new low-emission vehicles is just 2%, nearly five times lower than the global average.
“Many consumers would be interested in purchasing an electric vehicle, but even if they could access the limited stock available, the price points them towards petrol or diesel models,” he said.
“Political settings are depriving Australians of a real choice of quality, affordable and emission-free cars.”
The strategy will also include measures to improve national fuel efficiency standards, which Bowen said would help reduce the costs of electric vehicles.
“Apart from Russia, Australia is the only OECD country that does not have, or is in the process of developing, energy efficiency standards,” he said.
“As the world moves towards more efficient and cleaner vehicles (Australia) risks becoming even more of a dumping ground for old technology that cannot be sold in other markets.”
The plan has been welcomed by industry while tech billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes, who co-founded the summit, said it was a “refreshing step” on the government’s part.
But Australia’s policy changes needed to be more of a “jump” to catch up with the rest of the world, Mr Cannon-Brookes said.
Mr Bowen estimates that Australia is about a decade behind Europe when it comes to electric vehicle policy.
The government must prioritize the adoption of environmentally friendly cars, say MPs.
Independent Kylea Tink plans to present a proposal at the next parliamentary sitting week in September that would legislate binding energy efficiency standards within the next two years.
Timelines for legislating standards will be worked out through public consultation, Bowen said.
Meanwhile, a change to the definition of fuel-efficient vehicles in luxury car tax laws would make electric cars more competitive and boost revenue by more than $410 million in three years, says independent Monique Ryan .
Greens deputy leader Mehreen Faruqi will call on the government to urgently invest in charging infrastructure and discounts on electric vehicles.
Last month, the government presented a proposal to parliament to change social benefits tax laws and remove import duties on electric vehicles to make them cheaper for more people.
But ANCAP, an independent vehicle safety advocate, says environmental goals should not take precedence over consumer protection.
“It is essential that initiatives to promote the uptake of alternatively powered vehicles do not compromise the safety of the Australian vehicle fleet,” said Carla Hoorweg, head of ANCAP.
“We are calling on all levels of government to ensure that subsidies and incentives are given only to models that offer the highest levels of safety.”