eT60 electric ute. Photo courtesy of Solar Citizens.

Australia Fuel Efficiency Standards Released — Thank You, Solar Citizens Et Al.

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Just 17 days after Solar Citizens were driving Canberra politicians around the federal parliament in the LDV eT60 electric ute, progress on fuel efficiency standards has been announced!

On April 3rd, the Solar Citizens’ Electric Ute Roadshow was making a big splash in the nation’s capital — on Ngunnawal and Ngambri country — not just to promote the LDV eT60, but to push for the consideration of national fuel efficiency standards. As well as a chauffeured ride in the ute, politicians were presented with a copy of the Solar Citizens Recharging Australia report.

Fuel Efficiency Standards
Electric ute passes Australia’s Parliament House. Photo courtesy of Solar Citizens.

The first Member of Parliament in the ute was the member for North Sydney, Kylea Tink, a Teale independent. She was met by Solar Citizens national director Heidi Lee Douglas in her bright yellow jacket. The report was presented, photos were taken, and then it was off for a ride.

Parliamentarians were often accompanied by their advisory teams. “Ben drove us around both new and old Parliament Houses, driving carefully whilst doing his best to show them the incredible acceleration potential of the ute going up the hill,” Ajaya tells me. “From the back seat, I would ask questions and answer them, with Josh chipping in occasionally to get a slightly more emotive response for the videos he was capturing.”

Questions included the usual: “Where do you charge it? Could it tow? How far could it go? And how much did it cost?” Topics of conversation ranged from charging infrastructure to vehicle pollution and health impacts, from mobility in general to manufacturing opportunities.

It was important for the team to point out that this is the first electric ute in Australia but it won’t be the last. There are already many utes in other countries — the Ford F-150 Lightning and the Rivian in the USA, just to mention a couple. Ford has signaled a willingness to bring its electric lineup to Australia in the near future, and it just launched the F-150 Lightning in Norway. EVs are a rapidly evolving technology, with improvements accelerating.

Ajaya and the team consistently emphasized that Australia needed strong fuel efficiency standards to encourage carmakers to bring their products to Australia.

Fuel Efficiency Standards
eT60 electric ute. Photo courtesy of Solar Citizens.

And just this morning, this exciting email arrived in my mailbox:

“Good news! Just this morning, Energy Minister Chris Bowen and Transport Minister Catherine King launched Australia’s first National Electric Vehicle Strategy (NEVS), which includes a commitment to establish a Fuel Efficiency Standard by the end of 2023. This is a huge step forward that our community campaign has been pivotal in winning!”

The federal government ran a consultation process in 2022, to which 607 solar citizens contributed calling for a range of things, including “a strong Fuel Efficiency Standard, transport powered by renewable energy, local electric vehicle (EV) manufacturing, increased subsidies, and mode shift. Over 95% of all the responses the Federal Government received to the NEVS consultation were in support of a Fuel Efficiency Standard.”

Looks like the message has well and truly been received. But the final fuel efficiency standards adopted by the Australian government needs to be ambitious and in line with New Zealand’s standard. There will no doubt be intense lobbying in our nation’s capital by the fossil fuel industry and automobile importers to weaken the standard and delay the inevitable. Ajaya Haikerwal, for Solar Citizens, shares via email that the Electric Ute Road Show is now operating like a well oiled machine. Throughout their day in Canberra, they met with a variety of MPs and senators from the government (Labor), crossbench (Teales, Independents, and Greens), and opposition (Liberal/Nations) parties, giving out copies of the report and offering test rides in the ute.

After taking Senator Pocock for a lap around Parliament, they parked the ute on the lawn on Capitol Hill and he officially launched the Solar Citizens report. Senator Pocock is the Independent Senator for the Canberra electorate and has the key vote in much of the legislation that has to be passed.

Canberra is the capital of Australia and is situated halfway between Melbourne and Sydney — a compromise made at Federation to stop the two states of NSW and Victoria from squabbling. I am sure politicians now regret that, because it is very hot in summer and very cold in winter. The area around Canberra is designated the Australian Capital Territory (the ACT).

Fuel Efficiency Standards
Senator Pocock receives the report. Photo courtesy of Solar Citizens.

Electrical vehicle take-up in Canberra is the highest in the nation, sitting at 19% in March. There is a great chart here on its EV sales growth. This is due to generous territory incentives and the high average wage of Canberrans. Very few of these vehicles are PHEVs, and only 2 hydrogen cars have been registered. As BEV cars come down in price, helped by competition, innovation, and the fuel efficiency standards, the pace of electrification can only increase.

The ACT government has supported the rEVolution by buying appropriate EVs for the government fleet. Most Canberrans have off-street parking and charging for their EVs and tend to charge at home. Tourists and visitors sometimes find it a challenge to charge their EVs. There are very few public chargers. Distances around the capital are not great for the locals, even if they have a long-range EV.

Meanwhile, the Electric Ute Roadshow rolls on. Next stop — you guessed it — is Kylea Tink’s electorate of North Sydney, where she was hosting a Community Energy Fair.

“Ms Tink’s office, in partnership with the Smart Energy Council, did a fantastic job of bringing together 30 stalls, which lined the main auditorium. From clean energy retailers, to EV importer the Good Car Company, to e-bike shops, you name it — they were all there at the fair.”

Around 15 EVs were parked in the car park out back courtesy of the members of the Australian Electric Vehicle Association (AEVA) and Tesla’s Owners Club Australia (TOCA). Not only were the public interested in the LDV electric ute; they were also fascinated by the BYD Atto 3, various Teslas, a MG ZS EV, and Hyundai Kona EVs from NRMA.

Watch Kylea’s test ride in Canberra here. The more I read about Australia’s journey towards an electric future and write about our progress, the more I am noticing that the pedal is to the metal — and in an electric car, you know what that means. We aren’t quite plaid yet, but we are no longer in chill mode.

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David Waterworth

David Waterworth is a retired teacher who divides his time between looking after his grandchildren and trying to make sure they have a planet to live on. He is long on Tesla [NASDAQ:TSLA].

David Waterworth has 748 posts and counting. See all posts by David Waterworth