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Electric vehicles can be powered by renewable energy, and could reduce emissions in the transport sector to help Australia meet its Paris Agreement emissions reduction goals at a lower cost. They also offer benefits to public health, through reducing air pollution in cities, and could generate Australian jobs in sales, charging infrastructure deployment, and potentially the manufacture of batteries and electric vehicle components.
Despite these benefits, Australia is falling behind on electric vehicle uptake. While there are two million electric vehicles on the road globally, just 1369 electric vehicles were sold in Australia in 2016, representing 0.1 per cent of the market.1 International evidence suggests a strong correlation between cumulative electric vehicle sales and the number of vehicle models being offered. An anticipated improvement in the number of lower cost models available in Australia is likely to increase sales.
Australia’s relatively slow rate of electric vehicle uptake stands in contrast to positive consumer attitudes. Our survey of 504 Victorians found that 50.2 per cent of respondents would be willing to consider purchasing an electric vehicle, and that 19 per cent had researched the options for purchasing an electric vehicle. However, purchase cost and the distance able to be travelled on a charge remain key concerns.
Strong government policy on electric vehicles can address these barriers to uptake. International experience has demonstrated that coordinated government policy is essential to supporting electric vehicle uptake. In Australia, the adoption of light vehicle CO2 emissions standards could provide an overarching incentive to support electric vehicle uptake, provide a signal to industry to support greater investment, and could help to lower electric vehicle costs over time. This policy is currently being considered by the Commonwealth Government. Governments across all jurisdictions also have the opportunity to support electric vehicle uptake through the incorporation of electric vehicles into government fleets, and through support for the installation of a charging network.