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Australian governments ‘shoot themselves in the foot’ with EV policy | Electric vehicles

As of last week, Canberraners who buy electric and other emission-free vehicles have automatically received two years of free registration. The Australian Capital Territory is already waiving stamp duty on clean cars and has committed interest-free loans to households and nonprofits of up to $ 15,000 to purchase.

Also last week, the Victorian Parliament passed the country’s first road toll – a tax on every kilometer driven – for electric vehicles (EVs) and hybrids. Labor state government legislation has been backed by enough Crossbench MPs to pass the House of Lords despite opposition from the coalition and the Greens. It starts on July 1st.

These contrasting approaches reflect Australia’s confused and contradicting approach to helping the country adopt electric vehicles at a time when other countries are increasingly supporting them.

Only 0.75% of new cars purchased in Australia last year were electric vehicles. This compares to more than 4% globally, more than 10% in the UK and the European Union, and almost 75% in Norway.

The Morrison administration, which has accused Labor of wanting to end the weekend before the last general election with a non-binding 50 percent EV target for 2030, does not see it as its job to change that quickly.

Emission Reduction Minister Angus Taylor has ruled out policies used elsewhere to encourage the diffusion of electric vehicles, such as direct subsidies to consumers or a ban on sales of new fossil-fueled cars from 2030 or 2035, as in countries like Great Britain, Germany and India promised, Thailand and Japan.

Taylor argues that the federal government’s political role is to give consumers choice by supporting electric vehicle charging infrastructure, rather than to drive rapid change for climate reasons. He cites a doubling in sales of non-plug-in hybrid cars last year that have both gasoline and electric motors and are still emitting CO2 from the exhaust.

As with power generation, where the Morrison administration dropped the coalition’s overarching policy plans, states and territories are trying to fill that state void.

The ACT Greens Labor Government’s approach has been to try to speed up uptake in order to cut greenhouse gas emissions from traffic as soon as possible. Treasurers in at least three states – Victoria, South Australia, and New South Wales – have taken a different route: introducing road tolls for electric vehicles before they take off to build a long-term revenue stream ahead of the inevitable expansion of technology.

Their stance follows a push by the think tank and lobby group Infrastructure Partnerships Australia and a report by the Victorian government to the Board of Treasurers – a forum of state and territory treasurers – which last year gave advice on introducing road tolls for clean, low-emission cars.

The dispute is usually not about whether a road tax is ultimately useful. It is over if now is the right time to roll out as the focus is on rapid emissions cuts and mounting warnings that Australia is at risk of falling behind and will have to pay more to rebuild its car fleet in the future.

Both the Victorian Treasury Department’s report and a separate independent expert analysis found that a road toll introduced without further support for electric vehicles could affect their adoption and slow down emissions reductions.

Shane Rattenbury, the Greens chairman and minister for the reduction of emissions, said last week that a road tax on clean cars is a “catastrophic policy” when national electric vehicle sales are below 1%. The territory’s government says it is prioritizing achieving net zero emissions by 2045. “I would encourage these other states to rethink their strategies,” he said.

Victoria’s new laws require owners of clean vehicles to keep mileage records to be made available to authorities at the end of the year. For electric cars and hydrogen fuel cell cars, 2.5 cents per kilometer and for hybrids 2 cents per kilometer are charged. The rate will increase with the consumer price index.

The Andrews Labor administration initially estimated the average cost to be around $ 330 per year. The cost of a car is expected to increase by at least $ 3,000 over its lifespan.

The key argument in favor of a road toll is that it must replace the national excise tax on fuel paid by gasoline drivers as a source of household income. The Victorian government said last year it had “proudly taken an active role” in urging treasurers across the country to introduce a road toll “that ensures that all motorists pay their fair share”.

Car manufacturers and environmental groups could not be convinced. A group of 25 published an open letter in April calling on the state government not to implement what they call “the world’s worst electric vehicle policy” and warned that doing so increases the risk that Victorians will not have access to good quality to have affordable electric vehicles.

The Andrews administration then announced it would offer a $ 3,000 subsidy for electric vehicles that cost less than $ 69,000, aiming to make 50% of new vehicle sales zero or low emissions by 2030, and promised more infrastructure to support.

Internal and external criticism has also delayed the introduction of road tolls in NSW – where Treasurer Dominic Perrottet’s proposal was rejected by Environment Secretary Matt Kean and Transportation Secretary Andrew Constance – and SA, where the government put a fee in the budget but decided a year later to wait to see how it works elsewhere.

The passage of the road tax by the Victorian Parliament was welcomed by the Chairman of the Board of Infrastructure Partnerships Australia, Adrian Dwyer. He described electric cars as “established technology” and applauded Treasurer Tim Pallas and “the sensible Crossbench” for staring down “a fringe fear campaign”.

“This is a clear confirmation that it is possible to promote the electrification of transport and still be able to pay for the infrastructure,” said Dwyer. “Now is the time for the NSW government to follow the Victorian Playbook and introduce an EV road toll along with a sweeping proposal to make the state’s light vehicle fleet green.”

Richie Merzian, the Australia Institute’s climate and energy director, said there was no serious evidence that the road toll was not a deterrent to reducing Australia’s rising traffic emissions.

“It will further slow the already embarrassing adoption of electric vehicles,” he said. “It is incredible that in the same month that the US President pledged $ 174 billion for the electric vehicle industry, the Australian government is not investing in its EV budget and a state government is taxing it.

“It is so difficult to explain to foreign governments how successful Australians are at shooting themselves in the foot.”

Road to nowhere? EV obligations



  • No stamp duty on new zero-emission vehicles.

  • Free vehicle registration for new zero-emission vehicles.

  • Promising Interest Free Loans Up To $ 15,000 For Households.

  • All newly leased fleet cars will be emission-free from 2020-21.


  • Low-emission light vehicles receive a discount of up to USD 30 upon registration.

  • Proposed but delayed road toll for clean cars.

  • Government fleets are expected to consist of 30% electric vehicles by 2023.

  • Fully electric bus fleet by 2030.


  • From July 1, a road toll of 2.5 cents / km for zero-emission cars and 2 cents / km for plug-in hybrid cars will apply.

  • $ 3,000 EV subsidies cheaper than $ 69,000.

  • $ 100 registration discount for EV owners.

  • Electric car owners pay a lower vehicle tax rate than other luxury cars.

  • 50% target for sales of new electric vehicles by 2030.

  • $ 10 million for 400 electric vehicles in the state fleet by 2023.


  • EVs in the lowest band for registration and stamp duty.

  • Doubling the number of electric vehicles in public fleets every four years.

  • Financing of 31 fast charging stations in 2017; an additional $ 2.5 million for 13 stations in 2020.

South australia

  • A road toll was promised, but postponed for a year.

  • Government fleet cars need to be replaced with electric vehicles whenever possible. The goal is to be fully-fledged electric vehicles by 2030.

  • $ 13.4 million for the public charging network.


  • The government’s goal of a 100 percent electric fleet by 2030.

  • $ 600,000 for the fast charging network.

Western Australia

Northern Territory

Source: Electric Vehicle Council


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