Nation in clean car traffic jam after decade of delay

Nation in clean car traffic jam after decade of delay

The chamber’s data is calculated on a business-as-usual basis, assuming there were no further significant government policy changes such as tougher fuel efficiency regulation. Tougher standards would mean more infrastructure was needed more quickly.

The car industry is lobbying for relatively lax regulation of CO2 standards, but sees “an opportunity for the FCAI to try to promote a consumer-friendly narrative capable of becoming the accepted wisdom among those with an interest in EVs”, its public relations strategy says .

“In Europe… the transition to electric has been much easier [from economical cars]. In Australia, the jump from V8 to electric is a big leap.”

Professor Richard Hopkins, University of NSW

The FCAI’s push for weak regulation has been criticized by industry analysts. “It’s a typical delaying tactic we’ve seen across legacy industries – from tobacco to emissions,” said Audrey Quicke, a researcher at the Australia Institute think tank, who authored a paper on fuel standards that was released yesterday.

The Electric Vehicle Council, the peak body for non-fossil fuel powered cars, agrees that a lack of affordable electric cars is throttling the switch to low emissions cars, but argues that fuel efficiency regulations will change the auto market.

In a discussion paper sent to the federal government, the group proposes mandatory fuel efficiency rules for new cars that would gradually ramp up to bring Australia in line with Europe by 2030, with a target of ending the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2035.

The International Energy Agency has calculated that a global ban on petrol and diesel vehicles by 2035 is one of the changes necessary if the world is to avoid the most devastating effects of climate change.

An electric car charging station in Zetland. Many more will be needed.Credit:Steven Siewert

Selling new fossil fuel-powered vehicles after that date is not compatible with the world reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050, the IEA says – a target Australia has signed up to via the Paris Agreement. The United Nations says the net zero emissions by 2050 plan would “avert the worst impacts of climate change and preserve a livable planet”.

Australia currently has no mandatory regulation of CO2 emissions from its passenger vehicles. The Australian Capital Territory has moved to ban the sale of new fossil fuel-powered vehicles by 2035.

Independent experts share the view that a decade of little action has left Australia without sufficient electric vehicle infrastructure.

“I’ve just come back from three years in the UK, and it’s just incredible that you can walk the streets of Sydney and the streets of London and see such an amazing difference in the electric vehicle infrastructure and uptake,” said Professor Richard Hopkins , a motoring expert and professor of practice at the School of Engineering at the University of NSW. “It’s just so much about government policy, so much stems from that.”

The City of London has public fast-charging stations for one in every six electric cars on the road, with thousands of electric lamp posts being refitted as chargers. There is free parking for most electric vehicles and large subsidies for home charging equipment.

“From somebody who calls themselves a bit of a petrolhead, I think a lot of it comes down to the Australian psyche,” Hopkins said. “Everyone used to drive Holden V8s, Ford V8s, and the reality is that comes down to having low petrol prices. In Europe, they’ve tended to have to drive more economical internal combustion energy cars, so there’s been this longer lead time,” he said. “The transition to electric has been much easier. In Australia, the jump from V8 to electric is a big leap.”

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The federal government is examining new emissions policies for the transport sector, with a goal of reaching zero emissions within the next three decades. The government was contacted for comment.

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