Labor’s ‘quite ambitious’ electric vehicle strategy expected to be released this week
Australia’s long-awaited national electric vehicle strategy is expected to be released this week, finally detailing the introduction of pollution standards that should accelerate the uptake of electric cars.
Industry sources say the federal climate change and energy minister, Chris Bowen, will release the strategy ahead of an event in western Sydney on Wednesday.
“We’re expecting something quite ambitious,” said one of those briefed.
Bowen’s office declined to confirm the timing or details of the strategy, saying only it “will be launched soon.” The plans will “provide a nationally consistent, comprehensive framework to looking at supply, demand and infrastructure needs for cleaner and cheaper vehicles”, a spokesperson said.
Australia is the only OECD nation to not have, or be in the process of developing, fuel efficiency standards. Bowen said last August that Australian consumers could choose between just eight low-emissions vehicles under $60,000, compared with 26 available in the UK.
Impetus has only gathered internationally since then, with the US becoming the latest country to flag much stricter emissions standards. Under proposed changes by the US environment protection agency unveiled this week, the share of electric vehicles in the world’s second-largest car market could soar from about 6% last year to 66% by 2032.
“Motor vehicle emissions contribute to ozone, particulate matter and air toxins, which are linked with premature death and other serious health impacts, including respiratory illness, cardiovascular problems, and cancer,” the US EPA said, while explaining the need for the new standards.
“In addition, there is consensus that the effects of climate change represent a rapidly growing threat to human health and the environment … caused by greenhouse gas emissions from human activity, including motor vehicle transportation.”
Asked whether Australia could reach EV sales of two out of every three purchases, Bowen said he believed “Australia can catch up with the rest of the world”.
“You look at the United Kingdom, United States, other countries are way ahead of Australia’s electric vehicle sales,” he said on Thursday.
“That is partly a supply issue because we don’t require low emissions vehicles to be sent to Australia because we don’t have fuel efficiency standards,” Bowen said. “It’s partly because the previous government talked down electric vehicles.
“Battery electric vehicle sales are 2.5 times higher in the first quarter of this year, than [the same time] last year,” he said.
The government said it had received more than 500 submissions to the strategy’s consultation paper. They represent more than 1,500 individuals and more than 200 organisations.
Industry groups such as the Electric Vehicle Council have warned Australia’s status “as the world’s dumping ground for dated, high-emission vehicles will be cemented if the Albanese government does not move swiftly to catch up with new fuel efficiency standards” as announced by the Biden administration this week.
“This shift in position from the US is of monumental consequence to Australia,” the council’s CEO, Behyad Jafari, said in a statement.
“Car companies will now be racing to meet the more stringent standards set in the US, Europe, China, and even New Zealand.
“We know the federal government has been slowly working on a new EV policy,” Jafari said. “This move in the US means the buzzer has sounded. The time for talk is done, we know the action we need to take, so let’s introduce strong new fuel efficiency standards now.
“The US first introduced fuel efficiency standards into law in the 1970s and has been strengthening them since then,” Jafari said. “In 2023, Australia has a discussion paper about them. It’s ridiculous.”
Industry members have also expressed concern the strategy, once announced, will require further public feedback, with the result that changes to emissions standards won’t start until next year at the earliest.