Australia’s push to zero-emission roads by 2035 demands billions of dollars in investment, consistent cooperation by the government, and a change in attitude from motorists.
The ACT became the first state or territory to commit to banning fuel-powered vehicles by 2035 – a landmark decision as the country looks to significantly decrease its carbon footprint.
While the announcement will be welcomed by eco-warriors – the ACT accounts for the second-fewest cars in the nation at just over 300,000, behind only the Northern Territory, because of its low population.
With the great Australian roadtrip a beloved national past time, there are growing concerns about how electric cars would fare, as the maximum you can drive on one charge being just 837km in a top-of-the-range Tesla.
Professor Guoxiu Wang, the director of the Centre for Clean Energy Technology at the University of Technology in Sydney, admitted the country will need a massive overhaul to its current infrastructure to successfully electrify its roads.
‘Australia is lagging behind the rest of the world in terms of developed countries. Progress is very slow and dependent on government policy,’ Professor Wang told Daily Mail Australia.
Australia needs a complete overhaul to its current system and billions of dollars invested in electric infrastructure if its to ban petrol-fuelled cars
There are barely 3,000 public electric vehicle charging stations in Australia, with 1,017 of those in New South Wales
TRADITIONAL VS ELECTRIC CARS
Cheapest new car: Kia Picanto S manual – $18,490 drive-away
Cheapest electric car: MG ZS EV – $46,990 drive-away
Cheapest new ute: Mitsubishi Triton GLX – $23,740
Cheapest new electric ute: None available
Longest range for an electric car: Tesla Model S Plaid+ – 837km
Longest range for a normal car: Toyota Land Crusier Prado – 1,875km
‘Fortunately the government, particularly our new Prime Minister, he’s really concerned about climate change and the environment. Depending on his policy and if they can give incentives to buy electric cars, I think people will buy them.’
However, One Nation’s NSW leader Mark Latham said the emphasis was part of a ‘police state madness of controlling what cars people can own and drive.’
‘This is forcing working people under enormous cost of living pressures to buy $60,000 cars, mostly imported from China, with zero impact on global surface temperatures,’ he said.
‘Plus hitting taxpayers to pay for charging stations, subsidising the wealthy who own these things.’
There are 3,000 public electric vehicle charging stations in Australia, with 1,017 of those in New South Wales.
Professor Wang said this is the most critical part to electrifying Australia’s roads, and that until there is significant work done on building charging stations and extending the range for EVs, there won’t be any meaningful change.
‘My biggest concern is infrastructure. In major capital cities we don’t have infrastructure to accommodate totally replacing internal combustion engine cars,’ he said.
‘We need more charging stations – not only at home but at institutions, government buildings, office buildings and petrol stations. If there’s huge infrastructure development, people will 100 per cent adopt them.’
NSW Treasurer and Minister for Energy Matt Kean explained the state government was investing $633million in its EV Strategy and is committing to a ‘vast majority’ of new cars being electric by 2035.
‘Our nation-leading NSW Electric Vehicle Strategy, along with international trends, will help the NSW vehicle fleet transition to electric in line with our 2050 net zero target,’ he said.
‘Under the EV Strategy released in 2021, the NSW Government will drive sales of electric vehicles to more than 50 percent of new passenger vehicles by 2030-31 and expects the vast majority of new vehicles to be EVs by 2035.’
Professor Levinson estimated the current infrastructure should be able to handle a market share above 20 per cent, given most cars will be charged at home.
‘This is not going to be a sudden crisis,’ he said.
Professor Wang said while the ACT’s action was promising, it would be serving a significantly smaller fleet than that of a major city like Sydney or Melbourne, and NSW and Victorian policymakers would have to adopt an ‘aggressive’ stance.
‘We need 100 times [as many charging stations]. Maybe more. The current battery technology is quite good, but we need the infrastructure around the country,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.
‘In Germany they’ve developed another scheme to solve this problem called battery swap. If you run out of battery you go to a petrol station and put a new battery in. You don’t need to wait for half hour or an hour to charge.
‘This is a very good scheme, but each car manufacturer uses different shaped batteries. We need one standard for all car manufacturers.’
Anthony Albanese’s Labor has promised to exempt electric vehicles priced under $79,659 from the import tariff (a 5 per cent tax on some imported EVs) and the fringe benefits tax (a 47 per cent take on EVs provided through employment for private use).
It’s estimated that it will save EV buyers $2,000 before they drive the car away from the shop, while employers could save as much as $9,000 per year.
Labor has pledged $250million in promoting the electric vehicle market, with the legislation to come into play in July including a series of incentives and rebates.
The country saw 20,665 EV sales in 2021, a significant increase of more than 300 per cent from 2020 (not including Tesla) which saw barely 6,900 sales. It still only amounts for two per cent of the market.
In contrast, 54 per cent of vehicles in Norway are electric after its progressive government introduced taxes on petrol and diesel cars.
Transport amounts for about 20 per cent of Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions, which has been rising steadily over the past few decades. More than half of those emissions come from cars.
Professor David Levinson, an American civil engineer and transportation analyst at the University of Sydney, said the federal government’s lack of commitment to the electric vehicle market was ‘disappointing’.
‘Given the potential abundance of renewables in Australia, this is disappointing, but the government has made few efforts to accelerate EV uptake with tax breaks or higher fuel or petrol car purchase taxes, and the previous government was talking down EVs as recently as the 2019 campaign,’ he said of Mr Morrison’s tenure.
The Zero Emissions Vehicle Strategy will see no fuel-powered cars available for purchase beyond 2035 in landmark news for the country as it looks to address climate change
The Toyota HiLux was Australia’s top-selling car of the sixth-straight year in 2021 with more than 52,000 new purchases.
Comparatively, the best-selling electric car in Australia last year was the Tesla Model 3 with 12,094 models sold, while the second place MG ZS EV saw just 1,388 sales.
Professor Wang said the prices of electric cars were a result of the high cost of manufacturing the batteries.
‘Battery technology needs expensive materials to produce. The battery price will go down however, as there is new chemistry coming to the market,’ he said.
Professor Levinson said he expects lower cost EVs to enter the Australian market in the coming years.
‘As the price of batteries drop, we would expect lower cost car-sized EVs to enter the market in Australia as they have in other countries. That will naturally increase market uptake,’ he said.
‘Inflation will raise the cost of everything, but the relative higher price of EVs should diminish, and Bloomberg expects a crossover point in a few years when EVs are less expensive that petrol cars.’
The alternative to electric-powered cars is hydrogen vehicles, which see hydrogen converted by a fuel cell to create electricity and charge the onboard motor.
The upside to hydrogen cars is that they can be refuelled in five minutes and can travel distances around 600km without stopping – similar to current petrol models.
The downside – the cars are extremely expensive. They are yet to be industrialised, meaning the specialist vehicles come at a premium, starting at prices closer to $100,000.
They also require a lot of gas to fuel, which can be costly and there are question marks over whether the process of extracting more hydrogen from the planet will offset its environmental advantages.
The lack of infrastructure in Australia, even compared to EV charging stations, makes hyodrogen cars a long term project.
‘I think hydrogen passenger cars are still far, far away from reality,’ Professor Wang told Daily Mail Australia.
‘There are a lot of problems with hydrogen cars. The concept is perfect, zero emissions, the emission is water. But we don’t have a stable green hydrogen supply at this moment.
‘The most important thing is the car uses a power source called fuel cell. They use platinum as the catalyst. It’s extremely expensive, its more expensive than the battery-powered car.’
The production costs of electric car batteries is currently very expensive – resulting in high prices for customers
Professor Wang added his voice to a chorus suggesting Australia could become the world’s ‘green superpower’, saying it has endless potential to supply energy to the world with an improved commitment to clean power.
He also suggested there is a unique space for Australia to electrify the world’s roads, given it is rich in the minerals needed to create EV batteries.
‘We can achieve it, our people are clever. We have the technology and the capital to do it,’ the Director of the Centre for Clean Energy Technology insisted.
‘We’re currently working with CRC Industries, Future Battery, Curtin University and the WA Government to implement our own new industry.
‘We have all the mineral resources to create a battery industry for the world. We have lithium, cobalt, magnese, all the elements critical to powering electric cars. We hope to build up our own battery industry and also supply chain to the world.’
The nation’s Climate Commission recommended electric cars make up half of its registration by 2029, and have helped achieve that goal by offering subsidies of $7,817 for new EVs and $3,127 for used cars.
Car emissions currently make up for about 40 per cent of Australia’s carbon footprint, with Professor Wang believing the elimination of petrol-fuelled cars could have an immediate and widespread impact on the environment.
‘This is a wordlwide trend. We need to fight against climate change, we need to save the earth. There is huge opportunities for green energy,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.
‘Andrew Forrest met with us, he wants to implement zero emission mining in Australia. They will change their policy. They have huge capital to power Australia for a green future.
‘Australia can be a green energy superpower if you consider we have massive, new industry resources. We can supply green energy, hydrogen energy, battery materials to the world.’
The UK and France have outlined their pathway to stopping the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2040, while Germany and China have hinted at similar plans.
Germany introduced a subsidy for new electric vehicles in 2016 worth $5,916, while the UK offers a $4,388 subsidy for EVs.
New Zealand, one of the world’s rising contributors to carbon emissions, are countering that by moving to ban imports of petrol and diesel cars by 2032.
Professor Levinson believes Australia need to do more to combat the country’s ‘large share of carbon emissions’ and commit to electrifying its roads.
‘Converting new cars purchases to electric takes out tailpipe emissions. But old cars will remain on the road for years,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.
‘It will take about 20 years to turn over nearly the entire fleet from the point that almost all new cars are EVs (around 2030), without government incentives or mandates.’