The cost of electric vehicles (EV) and a lack of charging infrastructure are behind Australia’s relatively slow take-up of the cars not a lack of taxpayer-funded incentives, the federal government has argued as international research shows subsidies are the best way to fuel the transition away from fossil fuels.
Federal Energy and Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg, told a recent Energy Networks event, that price and a lack of national EV charging infrastructure are the main hurdles for electric vehicles growth in Australia.
“The reason why Australia has such a poor level of take-up rate for electric vehicles is because they are expensive compared to other cars, thirteen out of sixteen of EVs that are on sale in Australia cost more than $60,000,” Mr Frydenberg said.
A recent International Energy Agency report found government initiatives for purchasing EVs are the best way to reduce costs.
“The growth of EVs has largely been driven by government policy. Vehicle subsidies and/or exemptions on purchase taxes that reduce the gap in the price faced by EV buyers have proven to be the single most effective lever for boosting EV sales,” the IEA said.
Globally, the number of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEV) has surpassed three million, a 54 per cent increase on 2016, with the IEA forecasting this space to grow to at around 125 million by 2030.
The Australian government has been firm in not providing financial subsidies instead calling on the energy industry to provide incentives for EV owners to provide incentives to shift charging to off-peak times.
“With a million electric vehicles expected to be on our roads by 2030, this will be a two per cent increase [in demand on the grid],” Mr Frydenberg said.
“We can manage that level of change, but what we need though are incentives so that when people come home and charge their electric vehicles they don’t charge at a time when peak demand exists.
“We want them to charge their vehicles at two in the morning when prices are low or demand is low. We need a system to take that into account.”
In 2017, Australia had 7340 electric and PEHV vehicles while New Zealand has only slightly less at 5880.
New Zealand is targeting 64,000 electric vehicles in the country by 2021 while Australia has no defined national targets, although the ACT is targeting a 100 per cent transition towards electric vehicles.
Mr Frydenberg said travel distance in Australia is also a concern for EV uptake.
“People are also concerned in such a large country about the distance you can travel before you have to recharge. The other is the number of recharging stations,” he said.
The International Energy Agency report found there were 436 publically available EV chargers in Australia in 2017, although only 40 of these were fast chargers.
Mr Frydenberg said despite this issues he still believes there will still be an exponential growth of EVs in Australia.
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