Australia’s transport transition to electric vehicles is picking up pace but compared to many countries we’re stuck in the slow lane. As we hurtle towards our 2030 climate targets, it’s time to put our foot on the gas. Actually, let’s update that saying; Australia needs to find its spark, now.
Transport is Australia’s second largest emission source, so switching from internal combustion engines (ICE) to electric vehicles (EVs) to reduce emissions is a vital puzzle piece to achieving net-zero by 2050. While EV uptake Down Under hit a new high in June 2023 reaching 7.4% of all new car sales , China, UK, Germany, New Zealand and many others have long since zoomed past us and in Norway, which aims for sales of all new cars to be zero-emission by 2025, EV sales in December were 82.8%.
What’s the key to their EV success? Government commitment, policy, regulation and incentives to support the adoption of EVs, in the form of fuel efficiency standards, subsidies, technology research and development and, importantly, investment in all forms of charging infrastructure. All of which equate to a strong EV ecosystem.
Things are changing, but years of federal government inaction has been damaging, leaving us without strong policy or regulations to drive uptake and ambition – apart from Russia, we’re the only other developed nation without fuel efficiency standards – and our charging infrastructure is years behind where we need to be.
As a result, manufacturers have focussed on more EV advanced and commercially appealing markets, creating a vehicle price premium and fewer vehicle options, locking many Australian consumers out of the EV market.
The good news is the Albanese Government has implemented the National Electric Vehicle Strategy to improve EV uptake with initiatives including the Electric Car Discount, a $500 million investment to boost electric vehicle charging infrastructure across Australia and a commitment to ensuring 75 percent of new Commonwealth fleet purchases are electric by 2025.
Will this be enough to get Australians onboard? In a cost-of-living and climate crisis cheaper-to-run, environmentally friendly cars that come with government incentives should be zooming off car lots, but there are still barriers unique to Australia and there’s a lot needed to get us to a zero-emission future.
A recent Deloitte Access Economic study shows 60% of Australians are interested in buying an EV if the price is less than $50,000 — great news, except 89% of EVs available in Australia cost more. It’s no surprise then that our surveys show price point and lack of product under $50,000 is the number one barrier to EV uptake. Equitable access to EVs is key to a successful transition but 70% of Tesla owners in Australia are over 50, mainly due to affordability. Wait times for new EVS are also challenging, which can run into many months (or longer).
Another issue for us rough-terrain loving, long-distance driving, tradie-working Aussies is lack of vehicle options for the larger SUV and ute segments – which currently make up 59% of new vehicle sales in Australia.
To make our transport transition successful it must be equitable – affordable access to EVs that fit our varied lifestyles and a charging infrastructure that supports all communities across our vast land.
We’ll need different solutions for the different needs of our diverse communities.
But how do we achieve this?