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EVs in Australia - where are we headed?

by Australian Road Research Board on June 24, 2020

ARRB recently sat down with Behyad Jafari, CEO of the Electric Vehicle Council. Here's what he had to say about the state of electric vehicles (EVs) in Australia.

Social Posts - Electric Vehicles_Facebook and LinkedIn no. 6

How is Australia performing in the global uptake of EVs?

Globally the direction has been set and now the world is taking the steps to get to a worldwide technological transition. A key consideration is in our relationship with the energy sector – how closely aligned are we? We should be one and the same. We need to take into account what the needs of the energy companies are? What’s their environment like?

There are many different challenges that Australia currently faces.
The availability of EV models is a big one. Take the UK market for example, they have over 30 models you can purchase for under $60k, whereas we have around seven. The fact that these models are manufactured predominantly for overseas markets and are mostly left-hand drive is a massive factor.
Price is another one. The early adopters will need to pay a higher price but with more people adopting, we're already starting to see a reduction in price.
We also need more access to readily available charging infrastructure.
The final barrier is consumer awareness, does your neighbour have one? If so then you may be more inclined to purchase one yourself. But if not, then you may not know much about EVs!

What is the current EV strategy in Australia ?

There isn't currently a national strategy in place, however a number of states do have a policy in place covering things like charging infrastructure and  government fleets. We need to get the federal government on board so we can start to see more change.
One way to do this would be to focus on how to electrify our buses, this is better for the environment and cheaper to run. State governments need to say that they want all buses to be electric. There is a lot of effort to transition at the start but again, this will become easier as more people/companies adopt. State goverments would need to purchase the bus service. In NSW, the state government only part owns the bus service.
The states in Australia with some sort of EV strategy in place are NSW, QLD, VIC and ACT. Tasmania are currently working on increasing and redeveloping their policy and SA and WA are developing theirs.

Is the federal government working on the national strategy?

Yes, they have been working on a national strategy for several years now. The main concerns are:
1. How do we make EVs available to Australian consumers and actually get them on our roads?
2. When this does happen, how do we manage this demand with the energy suppliers, with a need for more energy?
3. We need to accelerate and coordinate. Accelerate meaning actually do something. This is what every government around the world is doing. And by coordinating, we are planning for grid integration. We need to look into what it will do to our system. If it works well it could be very efficient but if not then it could add strain. For example, if people all came home from work and plugged in at the same time to re-charge their vehicles, this might cause a strain to the network. So we need to look into charging at off-peak times. The chargers would need to have the ability to communicate with the grid and figure out when the best times to charge are. Pricing tariffs could be added into the grid making it cheaper to re-charge during off-peak times. This not only makes it cheaper for the customer, but we can also reduce the congestion of the power. Therefore maximising the benefit of having EVs on our roads.

What are the next steps for Australia?

In the early stages, one thing Australia could look into is waivers for the gross vehicle mass of electric garbage trucks. Electric garbage trucks will be automatically heavier because of the battery and may cause more wear and tear on the road but will significantly reduce diesel emissions. The savings on fuel could then be used on road maintenance and not charged to the consumer. 

Vehicle emissions impact public health – this number actually kills more people than road accidents. "Cleaner and safer roads for NSW", a study done by the EVC and Asthma Australia in 2019, showed that air pollution from motor vehicles kills over 1,700 Australians per year. 650 of these occurred in NSW. This loss of life is 60% higher than loss of life caused by motor vehicle crashes in the state. EV adoption can help to address these issues while improving road safety.

Countries such as Norway have reported a high uptake of EVs, what do you think is the key to their success?

Norway has a national policy and currently has 56% of all vehicles being sold are EVs. This is extremely high compared to the standard in most other countries being around 3% - 5% and Australia is trailing at 0.6%. Their success is due to having a range of measures in place. Their government has introduced financial incentives such as reduced stamp duty for EVs and reduced tax on EV purchases. 

Their vehicles also have a CO2 or fuel efficiency standard they must meet so vehicles manufactured need to be cleaner and greener before they are allowed to be sold.

For something closer to home, New Zealand has seen a growing uptake on EVs – they are currently at 4.4%. What do you think is the driver there?

New Zealand has had a national policy in place for at least a year. They replaced other purchase taxes with an annual fee and introduced a road tax which electric vehicles were exempt from. They set a target of selling 64,000 EVs by 2021. Their federal government has purchased all EVs for their own fleet, even their Prime Minister drives one. These are all things Australia could start doing too.

What key message does the Electric Vehicle Council want to share?
The transition to EVs requires a proactive effort by entire sectors, we need to keep building a close relationship with our energy companies. You all have the same goal now. Everyone who gets involved gains a lot out of it and will develop new projects. 
It's frustrating for Australia as we are quite behind but there is a lot of certainty around it that's slowly starting to be accepted. It’s happening, it’s just a matter of how fast we will do it. Come and get involved, this is a great time!

Which EV do you drive?

I have to drive all of them for short stints of time due to our leasing agreements. However, before isolation I was looking to buy a Tesla model 3. I currently ride an electric bicycle and take public transport as much as I can.

ARRB is ready to help road agencies with the widespread adoption of electric vehicles. Click below to get in touch and find out how we can help you!

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Topics: Sustainability, Future Transport, Australian Road Research Board, Transport Data, Smart cities, Road and Transport Research