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Governments urged to help boost electric vehicle sector

Australia can transition to electric vehicles, but it needs government policy to build a foundation for the sector’s growth, says Renault senior model line manager Elena Woods.

Speaking from the sidelines of the Schneider Electric Innovation Summit this week, Ms Woods said electric vehicles can become more ingrained in Australia’s transport landscape if the government is willing to support it in its early stages.

“What we’ve seen in Europe is that government policy did launch the uptake of electric vehicles,” Ms Woods told Fairfax Media.

“It was strong thanks to government policies that drove interest and customers to think about the opportunities around electric vehicles.

“In Australia, the interest has picked up in the last few years and now these discussions around EVs are happening.”

State governments have already made significant headway, with Queensland creating the world’s longest electric vehicle ‘superhighway’, running from Cairns to Coolangatta.

Ms Woods forecast the fastest EV growth in the business and fleet car sector, thanks in part to carbon credits companies can claim for transitioning their fleets to electric vehicles.

Electric vehicle maker Renault is no stranger to Australian shores, launching its ZOE car late last year and carrying out a small four-year trial project with Australia Post using four electric Kangoo Z.E. vehicles.

Federal Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg – a supporter of electric cars – also visited Renault’s headquarters in 2016, meeting with Jean-Philippe Hermine, who holds the title of chief executive of Renault Environment and vice president for Planning and Strategy of Renault Group.

“The [electric vehicle] industry now has real momentum,” Mr Frydenberg said.

Renault electric vehicle at Schneider Electric Innovation Summit, in Sydney.

Photo Cole Latimer / Renault electric vehicle at Schneider Electric Innovation Summit, in Sydney.

“There may only be 4000 electric vehicles currently on our roads, but there has been a tenfold increase globally in the last five years alone,” he said, calling the sector “very exciting”.

He said while Australian surveys show about half the people in the market for a new car are prepared to consider purchasing an electric vehicle, what has held them back to date are issues relating to price, range and infrastructure.

Mr Frydenberg also dismissed concerns over electric vehicles’ negatively impacting the nation’s electricity grid.

“An extra one million electric cars is the equivalent of 5.2 terawatt hours of power demand. This is about a two per cent increase in overall grid demand. The Finkel Review found electric vehicle charging can be ‘relatively easily managed’ and AEMO has said something similar,” Mr Frydenberg said.

“With the right preparation, planning and policies, it is estimated that by 2025 there will be 230,000 electric vehicles on our roads and more than one million by 2030.”

However, the federal government is as yet to implement major policies such as tax exemptions, rebates on charging stations, or upfront subsidies.

Renault has partnered with Schneider on its supporting charging infrastructure in Australia, while Schneider is working closely with the City of Adelaide to promote the industry through helping to set up around 40 electric vehicle charging hubs.

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