After many years under the thumb of climate denier Scott Morrison, Australia is finally ready to join the 21st century thanks to the leadership of newly elected prime minister Anthony Albanese. Last week at the first ever Electric Vehicle Summit in Canberrra, Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen said the government will present a clean transportation position paper in September that will outline strategies for reducing emissions from cars and trucks.
Today, Australia is one of two major countries that do not have any emissions regulations for new cars. The other is Russia. While the UK and Europe are seeing electric vehicles approaching a 20% market share of the new car market, Australia is at less than 2%. “Australia risks becoming a dumping ground for older technology which can’t be sold in other markets,” Bowen told the audience. “To me, this is ultimately about choice and policy settings are denying Australians real choice of good, affordable, no emissions cars,” he added.
Bowen said the position paper due in September will usher in “a time of hope, that after a decade of denial and delay, after an era of demonization of innovations like zero emissions cars, after years of frustration, we now have a chance to give Australians access to the world’s best transport technology.” While Australia is behind the curve, Bowen emphasized that policy initiatives can have significant consequences in a short period of time. He pointed out that Sweden increased its proportion of EV sales from 18% to 62% in just two years.
Tesla & Volkswagen In Australia
Robyn Denholm is the chair of the Tesla board of directors and an Australian. She told the conference Australia has to catch up with the rest of the world as quickly as possible. “It isn’t just about EVs. Its also about reducing the emissions from petrol vehicles. What we can’t accept is the world’s dirtiest cars in Australia. That’s what we have today and that’s increasing.”
Paul Sansom, the head of Volkswagen Group Australia, was on hand at the conference, where he said harmonizing policies between the states and the federal government would help speed the EV revolution. Several Australian states, such as South Australia, Victoria, and New South Wales are way ahead of the federal government on environmental policies, particularly clean energy.
Even the Australian Capitol Territory, where Canberra is located, has announced the sale of cars and light trucks with internal combustion engines will be banned by 2035. Sansom suggested that the rapid expansion of EV charging infrastructure would give a major boost to the market for electric vehicles and that an educational campaign explaining the benefits of EVs would be welcome as well.
He also said the price gap between electric cars and conventional cars was already narrowing fast and incentives in the range of $5,000 to $10,000 would be sufficient to create a tipping point and added that benefits like allowing EVs to use bus lanes or designated parking spaces could also be helpful. Norway has been very successful at encouraging people to buy electric cars through such non-cash incentives, which can be easily phased out as demand increases. The Volkswagen importer for Norway just announced it would bring only battery-electric cars into that country starting January 1, 2024.
Volkswagen dealers in Australia report that half of the customers visiting their stores are asking about electric cars. “In five or 10 years’ time, no one will want to buy an internal combustion car — why would you?” independent MP , Monique Ryan, said.
A Boost To Business In Australia
Tritium is an Australian company, but most of its business is in other countries where policies favor electric cars and trucks. Its CEO, Jane Hunter, told the the Electric Vehicle Summit that Australia risks missing out on significant business opportunities. Tritium gets the majority of its revenue from outside the country and has now has a factory in Tennessee capable of manufacturing 30,000 Level 3 high speed chargers a year. That is six times more than the company produces at its factory in Brisbane.
Hunter told the audience the new Inflation Reduction Act has made America “incredibly attractive to business to build onshore” and will draw in other related industries such as car and battery makers. “Australia has got to take some big steps in legislation” to draw and keep those industries in the country, Hunter said.
Even Australia’s financial institutions are getting involved in the EV revolution. As my colleague David Waterworth reported recently, Bank Australia has announced it will stop providing loans for conventional cars in 2025, and another bank, Pepper Money, will provide customers who take out loans to buy electric cars with 12 months of free charging.
Policies Have Consequences
What’s happening in Australia make it abundantly clear that policies matter. While the new Australian government is to be applauded for moving quickly to reverse the “know nothing” attitudes of the prior administration, in the end it is the citizens of Australia who deserve the credit for putting an end to the despicable policies of Scott Morrison and his henchmen. If the people will lead, their leaders will follow. Nowhere is that more evident than in Australia today. Good on ya, Aussies!
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