Australia’s upcoming national electric vehicle strategy must include mandatory fuel emissions standards, tax concessions and a focus on charging infrastructure if it is to successfully drive the uptake of low emissions vehicles.

According to UNSW School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences postdoctoral researcher Gail Broadbent, there are six key things that this strategy needs to include if it is to be successful.

The strategy must include mandatory fuel emissions standards, Broadbent said.

These standards are a set of efficiency requirements imposed on overseas car manufacturers relating to the emissions of imported vehicles, in terms of the fuel they burn and the carbon they emit. These manufacturers face large fines if they don’t meet these standards.

Broadbent’s comments follow the inaugural Australian National Electric Vehicle Summit which took place in Canberra last week, featuring the likes of Tesla chair Robyn Denholm, Volkswagen Australia CEO Paul Sansom, Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes and federal Minister for Energy Chris Bowen.

At the event, Bowen announced that a discussion paper on Australia’s first national electric vehicles strategy will be released next month.

Australia, the dumping ground

Despite the likes of the US, China, Japan and most of Europe having fuel emissions standards in place for several years, Australia does not.

This means that Australia has become a “dumping ground” for manufacturers to sell inefficient fossil fuel vehicles.

“Fuel standards won’t make EVs [electric vehicles] cheaper but it will widen our access to electric vehicles,’ Broadband said.

“Without mandatory standards, car manufacturers – such as those in Europe – will be hesitant to engage with us, given the potential fines.

“But by introducing a national standard in line with that of Europe and making them mandatory – and it must be mandatory – we could court European EV manufacturers, who without those guidelines would continue to sell only fossil fuel vehicles.”

This standard would have to be adapted and tightened regularly to ensure that the proportion of low emissions vehicles being sold each year increases.

The strategy should also improve the desirability for individuals to purchase EVs by introducing tax concessions, Broadbent said.

“There are already tax concessions on fossil fuel vehicles for business owners – but not EVs. It’s simply not fair,” she said.

Helping EVs go the distance

Currently in Australia there is a “range anxiety” relating to the fear of running out of energy while driving an EV, accompanied by a queue anxiety due to a lack of charging infrastructure.

This also needs to be addressed in the strategy, which should look at things like updating national building codes, she said.

“Initially, for the first few decades to supplement demand, the government would need to contribute to recharging infrastructure before gradually diminishing it,” Broadbent said.

“But in rural or remote areas, areas without the density of electric vehicles and requisite demand, the government will need to have a more ongoing and proactive hand in their installation and upkeep.”

Government also has a role to play in leading by example in procuring EVs, which would also help to normalise EVs in the community, Broadbent said.

There needs to be a focus on increasing the supply of renewable electricity to compensate for the increased uptick in EVs, she said.

“If you price electricity properly, a lot of people will recharge when it’s cheapest, overnight, for example - or it could be during the day if a lot of solar is being wasted,” Broadbent said.

“Recharging EVs can smooth out the demand curve.”

The final plank of the strategy should be centred on education and communication around EVs, Broadbent said.

Adequate training also needs to be offered to the workforce that is responsible for maintaining and developing the new infrastructure and vehicles.

The Labor government has already made moves to encourage the adoption of EVs, introducing legislation during the first sitting fortnight of Parliament to exempt them from the fringe benefits tax, meaning businesses and employers would get a discount on them.