Photo by Michael Fousert

The NSW government has taken a national lead on electric vehicles by announcing $490 million over four years to increase their prevalence on the road. However, academic modelling shows the approach falls short of what is required to hit emissions targets.

Most notably the package includes abolishing stamp duty on the purchase of new EVs under $78,000 and cash rebates of $3000 for the first 25,000 eligible new EV buyers.

The government also committed $171 million for new charging infrastructure across the state, including $131 million for ultra-fast charging stations, and $33 million to transition the government’s vehicle fleet to EVs “where feasible” with the target of a fully electric fleet by 2030.

Some environmental groups welcomed the package, including the Nature Conservation Council which described it as “the beginning of the end of the internal combustion engine’s 120-year monopoly on road transportation in NSW.”

However, according to University of New South Wales PhD candidate and former transport policy advisor to the NSW government, Gail Broadbent, the package will see the state fall short of globally accepted emissions reduction targets.

Modelling conducted by Broadbent showed that to reach a proposed target of net zero emissions by 2050, Australia would need to see EVs become 100 per cent of new car sales by 2030, compared with the government’s target of 50 per cent of new car sales by the end of the decade.

The government’s approach of subsidies and tax relief is aimed at balancing out the cost of EVs, which currently sit at the more expensive and luxury end of the market.

Broadbent said what the government should be doing is encouraging cheaper EV models into the Australian market, making them available to a wider range of consumers without the need for subsidies.

“We need a range of EV models, because at the moment you’ve got the expensive ones and that’s great to satisfy the people who want those, but we don’t have the ones that are at the cheaper end of the range,” Broadbent said.

One of the ways to do this is to be selective in which models to choose in transitioning government vehicle fleet to electric.

“The buying power of government is quite considerable, so for a manufacturer if they can sell 500 vehicles of one particular model, that will encourage them to bring it in,” Broadbent said.

“So it’s then up to the government to say ‘OK we’ll buy some of these lower end models to use within our government departments for whatever reason,’ and that will help the manufacturers have a reason to bring in those models.”

Another option is to place limits on emissions from combustion vehicles entering Australia, as is the case in Europe.

A voluntary standard currently exists and has been agreed on by local industry representatives for new passenger cars and most SUVs to reduce their average CO2 emissions by 4 per cent each year to a target of 100g/km by 2030, and for heavier vehicles such as utes, vans, and four-wheel-drives to reduce their average emissions by 3 per cent each year to a target of 145g/km by 2030.

“At the moment the voluntary standard is quite high in terms of CO2 per km emissions, and so there’s no encouragement for manufacturers to bring in electric vehicles because there’s no penalty involved for them to do anything different,” Broadbent said.

EV owner and The Fifth Estate contributor on the topic, Robin Mellon, said as someone who already drives an EV in Australia he was pleased to see more commitment to charging infrastructure and welcomed efforts by the government to increase the number of EVs on the roads.

However, he said it was important to note both that EVs could only be zero-emissions if the source of power for charging stations is transitioned away from fossil fuels, and that EVs should only be one part of the “transport mix”.

“I may be an EV nerd but passenger vehicles should still come last in the transport hierarchy, so we need similar commitment to pedestrian and cycle networks, public transport infrastructure and shared mobility systems,” he said.

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