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A national EV network a good start, but more action is needed

electric cars charging station

A national electric vehicle fast-charging network, flagged as a “high priority initiative” by Infrastructure Australia for the first time last week, will help drivers overcome distance anxiety and accelerate EV take up in Australia according to ClimateWorks Australia project manager Sarah Fumei.

Ms Fumei, who was involved in research released last year by ClimateWorks Australia and the Electric Vehicle Council on the state of EVs in Australia, told The Fifth Estate that motorists worry about the availability of charging infrastructure when making long distance trips.

She said a national EV charging network will provide certainty to people that they can make long trips and reduce range anxiety.

Ms Fumei added that for the daily trips and commutes most people make every day, there are already cars on the market that will do this on a single charge.

“You should be able to plug it into a wall socket overnight, drive to work and back and be fine.”

But this doesn’t mean that there aren’t questions to ask about charging infrastructure in cities, she said, because many people live in apartments and don’t have access to chargers.

The ClimateWorks Australia and EVC report found that although EV sales are increasing – by 67 per cent in 2017 compared to the previous year – Australia still trails behind the global leaders in EV uptake. EVs make up only 0.2 per cent of new car sales in the Australian market.

As well as consumer concerns around charging infrastructure, cost and model availability are also holding back widespread EV take up. Ms Fumei said EVs still cost more than their petrol and diesel counterparts.

“There were more than 20 EV models available in Australia last year but just a few of these were priced at below $60,000 dollars. That’s a real barrier.”

She said there’s a number of options for government to address this issue, including tightening vehicle emissions standards. This will incentivise manufacturers to sell more EVs because they produce zero emissions.

“We’ve been talking to these companies and they say this would be a real incentive to make EVs. 

“We think this is a real priority policy.”

There are also financial incentives for the government consider, such as discounts on stamp duty, registration and tax. Adopting EV targets for fleets in public and private organisations are other options.

Some think the government needs to do more

Electric Vehicle Council chief executive Behyad Jafari welcomed the news that IA, an independent statutory body, had nominated “a network of fast-charging stations on the national highway network to provide national connectivity” as a high priority. He also said Australia’s EV infrastructure is lagging behind other nations and there was an urgent need for government action.

“As Infrastructure Australia correctly points out, the price of EVs is dropping and range is rising. But our leaders are pumping the brakes by not adequately supporting new charging infrastructure,” he said.

“Australians can and should be able to drive all over this massive nation with complete confidence in a zero-emission vehicle. The technology exists. We just need the political will to make it happen.

The Greens party also said the Morrison government is not doing enough to encourage take up of EVs in Australia.

“The Morrison government is sitting by while other countries zip past us when it comes to encouraging EV uptake,” Australian Greens transport spokesperson Senator Janet Rice said.

“It’s ludicrous that don’t already have a national charging network nor any plans for one.”

She said that the Greens’ policy is to put $150 million towards a national fast-charging network and install “ambitious targets and incentives” to drive the uptake of electric vehicles.

The Greens also support IA prioritising large investments in rail network upgrades in Melbourne and preserving a high-speed rail corridor between Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.

“The Greens would give priority to funding public transport and fast tracking high-speed rail. In contrast, Liberal and Labor are prioritising spending billions on polluting tollways, leaving people packed like sardines on trains, trams and buses.”

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