Australia seems to be of two minds when it comes to clean energy policies. On one hand, it is a signatory to the COP 21 Paris climate change protocols. On the other, it has done next to nothing to promote sales of electric cars and has little official interest in renewable energy, at least at the national level. Australia has fewer electric cars than most of its peers in the world community. At present, only 0.1% of the new cars sold in Australia are electric, most of them Teslas. Other electric cars available are the Renault Zoe, Nissan LEAF. BMW i3 and Hyundai Ioniq Electric, according to Electric Cars Australia.
Now the Green Party is calling for a ban on internal combustion powered cars beginning in 2030, along with economic incentives, according to The Guardian. That proposal is part of a package of measures, which include adding a 17% surcharge on the sale price of cars costing more than $65,000. Such vehicles are already saddled with a 33% tax levy, which is one reason why most of the cars on Australian streets are smaller and lighter than those normally seen in America.
Part of that 17% surcharge would be used to build an EV charging infrastructure for the country. Gail Broadbent, a researcher at New South Wales University, claims the lack of chargers today is one of the biggest factors keeping people from buying electric cars. “There is no incentive for vehicle manufacturers to bring them into the country so we just get fobbed off the old vehicles,” she tells Guardian Australia. Because Australia has no emissions standards for cars and light trucks at the moment, manufacturers are free to keep cranking out obsolete models and dumping them on Australian customers.
Other policy proposals by the Green Party would set a limit of 105 grams per kilometer for carbon emissions by 2022, three years sooner than a similar proposal by the national government, and a reduction in registration fees for electric vehicles. The emissions rules are similar to those in the European Union but less strict. The EU standard is now 90 grams/km. Predictably, any hint of emissions standards evokes howls of protest from the car makers and importers.
The Australian car manufacturing industry has been devastated by long standing federal tax policies and competition from imports, especially Toyota. Recently, UK entrepreneur Sanjeev Gupta proposed taking over a shuttered Holden factory to manufacture electric cars. Holden is Australian for GM. That could mark a significant shift in the market for electric cars Down Under.
While the federal government dithers, Australian states have been charting their own course when it comes to bringing renewable power to their citizens. South Australia, home to the port city of Adelaide, has led the way. After Tesla installed the world’s largest grid scale storage battery (for the moment) in South Australia last year, that state is busy making plans with Tesla and sonnen to put rooftop solar systems on tens of thousands of homes and turning them into virtual power plants.
Australians in general are well aware of the awesome amount of solar energy available in their sun kissed country. Solar power and electric cars are two sides of the same coin. The electric car revolution will come to Australia eventually. The results of the upcoming by elections and how much support the Green Party receives from the voters will have a great deal to say about how soon that transition will begin in earnest.