Electric Vehicle Policy Sparks Debate Over Car Bans in Australia

Australian Associated Press is an Australian news agency.
February 3, 2023Updated: February 3, 2023

Widespread support for changes that could lower the price and increase the supply of electric vehicles has been outlined in hundreds of responses to the federal government’s National Electric Vehicle Strategy.

More than 440 submissions to the consultation paper were published on Friday, also revealing calls for more local production of lithium batteries, electric buses and trucks.

However, respondents were divided over whether to ban the sale of petrol or diesel cars from being sold in Australia, and whether motorists should pay to keep them on roads.

The National Electric Vehicle Strategy consultation closed in October 2022, attracting more than 500 submissions representing more than 2150 individuals.

Most organisations, from energy suppliers to climate groups, revealed their support for a fuel efficiency standard in Australia that would encourage car brands to bring more electric vehicles into the country.

The Clean Energy Council went a step further in its submission, setting a deadline of January 2024 for the introduction of “an ambitious and robust” standard.

The measure, which has already been introduced in the European Union, the US and New Zealand, would set a limit for pollution across a car brand’s entire fleet, and introduce penalties if they failed to meet it.

The Electric Vehicle Council also argued the federal government should set targets for electric car adoption, including having 100 models in the country by 2025, one million electric vehicles on roads by 2027 and 60 percent of all new car sales electric by 2030.

Other submissions called for Australia to produce more battery-grade lithium and batteries themselves, including the response from Tesla that said it could not achieve its climate goals without the country’s help.

“Australia currently supplies 75 percent of the lithium in Tesla vehicles worldwide and has the strongest reserves of lithium in the world,” the company’s submission said.

“To meet global decarbonisation goals, production of refined lithium must scale by over 25-fold by 2035.”

However, some organisations differed over proposals to deal with petrol and diesel vehicles in future, disagreeing over whether they should be banned from sale or attract fees for their use after a certain date.

In its submission, climate action non-profit Boundless Earth called for the government to consider removing internal combustion engine vehicles from sale by 2030, while the Australian Electric Vehicle Association named 2035 as a deadline.

But the Australian Automotive Dealer Association argued any electric vehicle policy should explicitly “rule out” plans to ban petrol vehicles to give the industry certainty.

“The government should reaffirm its opposition to placing bans on the sale internal combustion engine vehicles or any other drive-trains,” its submission said.

More widely supported claims included zero-interest electric vehicle loans for low-income households, training standards for vehicle maintenance, and a larger network of electric vehicle charging stations.

Uber also argued the government should delay the introduction of road charges for electric vehicles, IKEA called for public chargers for vans and trucks, and Blind Citizens Australia said the government should mandate artificial engine noise in electric vehicles at low speed to protect pedestrians.

The federal government is expected to respond to the submissions before the May budget.