The picture above features one of around 400 types of electric car that exist in the world but not in Australia. While we do have a few models available to us, the ones we’re missing out on are mechanical marvels from companies who put as much thought into the design and performance of their vehicles as they do into their environmental sustainability.
The Karma Revero has a dual electric motor giving you endless torque. Tesla’s electric cars have an auto-drive feature that, on a scale of one to ‘my car drives while I nap’, is well beyond simple cruise control. While it lets you do all the driving, the Rimac One has a ridiculously high-tech 4WD system that algorithmically distributes force to keep your path true.
Of all these mechanical delights, in Australia, we are limited to about a baker’s dozen. Yet, if we could switch more of our on-road vehicles over to the electric variety, ClimateWorks Australia claim we could reduce emissions in the transport sector by up to 47%.
What’s holding up EV expansion in Australia
As of the first half of 2017, we’re yet to crack the 5,000 mark in total electric cars in Australia. Our low and slow uptake, compared to both developed and developing nations, has us stuck in a catch 22 situation. Manufacturers wont bring vehicles here because the low uptake tells them it won’t be financially viable. But if our vehicle choices are severely restricted we can’t increase our uptake enough to get them to come here and help us increase our uptake.
So absurd, in fact, news is even made of non-announcements. When companies like Volkswagon and Nissan simply fail to give us a thought, their silence is newsworthy because it’s drastically affects our ability to make progress on carbon neutrality in transport.
To be fair, electric cars are relatively new and, if driven in a predominantly coal-powered society, the quality of their environmental hygiene isn’t without controversy. However, when compared to countries we’re generally on par with tech-wise, the minisculity of our marketshare becomes abundantly clear.
If you tried to add Australia to that graph our sliver would be invisible. To get an idea of the progression of EV uptake over the same period of time in Australia, we’ve made a separate chart. And, given some of these models are hybrids, it’s a generous distribution.
While our growth is small, it is there. The slight downturn in 2016 is most likely due to the withdrawal of a couple of brands from our market in 2015; a strong indicator that the presence (and absence) of brand options in the marketplace will have an immediate, appreciable impact on Aussie uptake of EVs. While convincing manufacturers of this is no small task, there are other ways to boost the market and, in those areas at least, we are starting to see some action.
A new hope for electric vehicles in Australia
The Electric Vehicle Council (EVC) may sound like an eighties synth-pop band but they are 2017-fresh and are the cohort you’ll have to thank when you’re cruising the streets in your first emission-free car.
The EVC’s inauguration marks the moment in history when our government got on board with reducing emissions in transport. At this point in time, electric cars seem to be the way to go (if you’re reading this from the future, you possibly know better but this is where we’re at now).
The EVC is being launched with a $390,000 grant from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency. This was fought for by ClimateWorks and a number of big guns in the industry including Tesla, AGL Energy, NRMA and the Adelaide and Sydney city councils. Head of implementation at ClimateWorks, Scott Ferarro, was thrilled to have finally broken the government on the issue of funding:
“International experience has shown that government policy is a key driver to enable uptake.”
The EVC has not released a full plan of action as yet but there has been talk of setting up financial incentives for Aussies prepared to buy an electric car. At the moment, EV purchases are actually dis-incentivised in many cases thanks to the Luxury Car Tax that comes with a vehicle over the value of $75,375.
However, it’s envisioned we may be able to follow in the footsteps of other nations who offer rebates—much like the first home-buyer’s grant—to help with the initial outlay, cheaper rego and access to the faster car-pooling lanes.
Are we ready for electric vehicles?
At this stage, Tesla has actually done the most work of anyone on the infrastructure front. Their network of Superchargers extends along the east coast and they have their own incentive system for customers.
Along with increasing the availability (and acceptance) of electric vehicles in Australia, ClimateWorks has recommended introducing CO2 emission standards for light vehicles. While Australia is one of only a few developed nations without such a scheme already in action, its not as simple as just putting it in place and leaving it be. Such a standard would necessitate something along the lines of the California Smog Inspections which would have a huge impact on those Australians who can’t afford a new car, let alone the latest electric model.