05.08.2021Can Electric Vehicles help drive Australia towards a green energy gold rush?

Electric Vehicles (EVs) will likely hit Australian streets en masse this decade, potentially fast-tracking the country’s response to the climate emergency while catalysing the green energy transition.

This sense of optimism was prevalent at the Committee’s recent forum Preparing for the electric vehicle revolution, featuring CimateWorks’ Rupert Posner, Toyota’s Michael Elias and GHD’s Mike Erskine as panellists, and the Committee’s Leanne Edwards as moderator.

The forum sought to unpack the state of EV uptake in Australia, the policy framework required to nurture its development, as well as the impacts widespread electrification would have on Australia’s economy and its response to climate change.

Despite the policy ambiguity stretching across the continent, the panel collectively argued that EV technology has a bright future in Australia. Key takeaways included:

  • There is positive momentum in Australia regarding EV uptake, but more concerted policy action is needed to accelerate this momentum.
  • The Federal Government should encourage greater uptake of EVs. A coordinated policy framework with the states and territories would be welcome.
  • The Federal Government could set an end date for the purchase of internal combustion engine vehicles and prepare for the transition to EVs.
  • Failure to send clear signals to EV manufacturers that their investments will be supported by ambitious, coordinated EV policies, may see the Australian market miss opportunities for innovation, jobs and new superior products.
  • Monetary and non-monetary incentives are needed to encourage widespread uptake. Free charging points and free EV parking could be considered.
  • Significant investments in electricity and charging infrastructure are required, as will methods of measuring road usage for taxation purposes.
  • Governments could educate the community on the benefits of EVs. A consumer awareness campaign could dispel some of the negative myths.

Prospects for other zero emission vehicles (ZEVs) were discussed at the forum. Toyota has had great success with its hybrid models and sees enormous potential in hydrogen fuel cell technology.

The successful transition to EVs and ZEVs will also help Australia uphold its Paris Agreement commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

With an abundance of sun-drenched land, wind and water, Australia is uniquely positioned to produce renewable energy to power electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. The potential to produce and sell surplus renewable energy to global markets could usher in a new green energy gold rush.

Producing and consuming our own renewable energy would enhance national security. Less reliance on foreign fuel sources would help mitigate fluctuating prices and supply chain vulnerabilities.

This forum builds on work undertaken at the Committee. Our 2020 report Transporting Melbourne called for a comprehensive and publicly available integrated transport plan, which incorporates land-use and economic development planning. Such a plan would need to consider rising demand for EVs and ZEVs.

In its Draft 30-Year Infrastructure Strategy, Infrastructure Victoria recommended to accelerate the uptake of zero emission vehicles. The Committee endorsed this recommendation in its submission and emphasised the importance of having a comprehensive, nation-wide strategy detailing how a successful transition to EVs and other ZEVs will occur.

According to one panellist, approximately 100,000 charging points will be required across Australia by 2030. Such necessity will require coordinated planning across jurisdictions to ensure a smooth and successful transition to EVs.

While Victoria does not yet have a comprehensive integrated transport plan, the Victorian Government has announced a $19 million investment in new charging stations as part of a larger package to boost the number of EV sales by 2030. This is a positive development, but consideration of existing policies and initiatives across jurisdictions should be considered and integrated where possible.

The Committee thanks the panellists for participating in this fantastic event. We look forward to continuing our work with members and stakeholders on shaping Melbourne’s future.

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