Australian Government Releases National Electric Vehicle Strategy

The federal government has released Australia’s first National Electric Vehicle Strategy, which it describes as a comprehensive roadmap to ensure Australians have a better choice of EVs that will encourage greater use of “cleaner, cheaper-to-run vehicles”.

As part of the strategy, the government will introduce a fuel efficiency standard for new cars, working with industry and the community to finalise details in the coming months.

“The absence of a standard has meant Australian households and businesses are missing out on greater choice of car models and paying more in fuel costs to run their cars because manufacturers prioritise sending more efficient vehicles to countries with standards in place,” the government said.

“On average, new cars in Australia use 40 per cent more fuel than the European Union, 20 per cent more than the United States, and 15 per cent more than New Zealand.”

According to the government, the introduction of a fuel efficiency standard could save motorists $519 per year in fuel costs. The strategy also looks at reducing barriers to EV sales, which the government said is around four times lower than the global average.

Chris Bowen, Minister for Climate Change and Energy, said Australian governments, car manufacturers, motoring clubs, climate groups, businesses, and unions were “all on board with getting cleaner and cheaper cars to Australia”.

“This strategy provides the coordination and leadership to drive down costs and improve infrastructure so that we get more affordable and accessible electric vehicles on the market,” said Bowen.

Catherine King, Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government, said the strategy offers “an historic opportunity” to develop fuel efficiency standards that learn from international best practice, while recognising the unique needs of Australians.

“It will send a strong message to the global car industry, that when it comes to transport technology, Australia will no longer settle for less,” said King.

“More than 85 percent of all cars sold in the world are subject to fuel efficiency standards. It’s time Australians were offered the same choice.”

The Motor Trades Association of Australia (MTAA) and the Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association (AAAA) welcomed the release of the strategy, but said EV servicing, repair and technical training also needs to be addressed.

“The federal government has announced it will work with industry and the community to finalise details for the fuel efficiency standard. MTAA and its state and territory members stand ready to consult on this issue,” said Geoff Gwilym, interim CEO of the MTAA.

However, the association cautioned that the fuel efficiency standard must be calibrated to Australian market conditions, and not be overly aggressive in its initial design and introduction as it could undermine vehicle affordability and choice for consumers.

“There is much to do – decreasing barriers to purchasing EVs, vastly increasing the availability of charging stations and networks, and tightening fuel efficiency thresholds for new vehicles,” added Gwilym.

“Industry also requires robust training for technicians and first responders to ensure safety and quality repairs and maintenance.

“Government should not underestimate the importance of a well-planned and supported transition for employees across the automotive industry to ensure they can adapt and re-skill. If this doesn’t happen, we could lose up to 20 per cent of small and medium enterprises,” warned Gwilym.

“All of this can be done and, when it is, Australia will be a better place.”

The AAAA said the automotive service and repair industry will be an important part of ensuring the EV strategy succeeds and looks forward to constructive consultations on key elements of the strategy.

“The automotive aftermarket is a vital component of the EV ecosystem, and we would like to see more detail in the future on how we are to meet the demand for EV service, repair, maintenance, and training in the strategy,” said Stuart Charity, CEO of the AAAA. “Ensuring the availability of cost-effective spare parts, skills, and equipment to support the maintenance and efficient running of EVs is critical to the systems and infrastructure required to enable rapid EV uptake.”

“AAAA also welcomes the inclusion of funding to support new energy apprenticeships. However, as demand for EV courses and trainers is now outstripping supply, we need more trainers and flexible training options for our existing 360,000 automotive professionals, particularly the automotive light vehicle technicians located in rural and regional Australia. We would value an opportunity to be involved in planning for a clear national EV training roadmap to support this transition because right now, the EV upskilling effort is a highly fragmented and confusing landscape.

“We believe the transition to zero and low emission passenger cars can provide major benefits for the community, but we must work together to develop the systems and infrastructure needed to support this transition. We look forward to working with the federal government to ensure that we have a network of trained professionals ready when the market gears up,” added Charity.