Electric vehicle: are they inevitable?


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Tesla Model X

Joshua Smith, Reporter

Electric vehicles have been a hot topic for discussion since the Labor party announced its goal to have half of all new car sales in Australia electric by 2030.

Despite this goal being criticised by the Coalition, it appears both major parties have similar ideas when it comes to the future of electric vehicles in Australia.

The Liberal Party’s own electric vehicles strategy is expected to reduce carbon emissions by up to 10 million tonnes by 2030 – a figure which suggests new car sales will be between 25-50% electric.

According to the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI), electric car sales made up a measly 0.3% of total car sales in 2018. As such, boosting new car sales to such a high percentage in just 11 years has been met with criticism.

However, according to Chris Jones from the Australian Electric Vehicle Association (AEVA), the target of 50% is not only entirely feasible, it’s inevitable.

“If the government did absolutely nothing, that will happen anyway. That’s how unambitious the target is,” he said.

Jones said that though sales are currently low, they are increasing dramatically each year.

“If you look at the trajectory and the rate of increase of sales year-by-year, it’s going to happen by then anyway.”

CEO of the Electric Vehicle Council Beyhad Jafari shared similar sentiments, calling Labor’s goal a “middle-of-the-road target”.

Jafari claims that if Australia reaches Labor’s target sales number, we will simply be playing catch-up with the rest of the world.

“We’re almost 10 years behind the rest of the world today,” Jafari said.

He added, however, that the policies suggested by Labor are long overdue. Jafari believes that until the government shows adequate support for the electric vehicle industry, Australia will always be behind the rest of the developed world.

“Without a target being in place … you’ll have other markets being at that level and Australia being left behind.”

Infrastructure is a major concern around a surge in electric car sales over the next decade.

Public charging stations are currently far-and-few between, but according to Jafari there has been an increase in private investment for necessary infrastructure in recent years. The Liberal government is also taking steps to get Australia’s infrastructure up to scratch, particularly in WA.

The Infrastructure Western Australia Bill 2019 was introduced in February this year to establish a statutory authority to provide advice and assistance to the government on Western Australia’s infrastructure needs and priorities.

Premier Mark McGowan told Parliament that Infrastructure Western Australia would be a good thing for the government to have at its disposal for examining issues “such as infrastructure for electric vehicles”.

AEVA told NewsVineWA that in the meantime, charging your electric vehicle once overnight – from a regular power socket – is a perfectly viable option for most people and will provide all the fuel necessary for a daily commute.

Jones said: “All you need is a power point in your car port and you’ve got enough to drive.”

However, dedicated charging stations are also readily available for installation for those who take longer daily journeys and need to charge their car fully in less time. These generally cost between $1000-$2000.

Electric vehicles currently cost roughly $25,000 more than petrol vehicles of the same model, and the AEVA estimates that as it stands, it will take around 10 years to earn back the extra money you spent in how much you save.

However, as the technology around electric vehicles increases, Jones says, they will naturally decrease in price.

Furthermore, Jafari claimed that improving technology will also increase the positive environmental impact of electric vehicles versus their petrol and diesel counterparts.

Though electric vehicles may not be fully optimised in their technology yet, Jafari said: “If you buy one today, next year it will be even better for the environment and the year after that even better again. Whereas if you buy a petrol car today, it’s always going to be just as bad as the day you bought it.”

Countries like Norway, the United Kingdom and Israel have already announced plans to phase-out the sale of fossil-fuel based cars entirely in the next two decades, and Jafari said because of such trends, a future full of electric vehicles is not for Australia to decide.

“Electric vehicles are happening with absolute certainty.”