A fuel efficiency standard will be introduced in Australia by the federal government to accelerate the uptake of electric vehicles, with the exact details of the policy to be ironed out over the course of the year.

Minister for Climate Change and Energy, Chris Bowen, and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government, Catherine King, unveiled Australia’s first National Electric Vehicle Strategy on Wednesday morning in Canberra.

The strategy collates a number of already-announced policies from the government aimed at increasing the uptake of electric vehicles in Australia, along with a handful of new initiatives.

The centrepiece of the strategy is the introduction of a fuel efficiency strategy, which will set a limit on the total average emissions allowable across all cars sold by each manufacturer in the country.

Such a policy aims to incentivise the development and sale of electric vehicles.

Australia is currently one of only two developed countries in the world to have not introduced such a standard, leading to concerns that the country is a “dumping ground” for less efficient vehicles.

The details of the fuel efficiency standard have not been included in the strategy, with the federal government to undertake another round of consultation before unveiling the exact standard by the end of the year.

Send better cars elsewhere

“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 ministers said.

Bowen told the media on Wednesday that about 85 per cent of people buying cars around the world are covered by existing fuel efficiency standards.

“We want people of all walks of life, regardless of where they live, regardless of their income, to have the chance to consider buying an electric vehicle, to weigh it up for their own purposes and best interests, and fuel efficiency standards will play a big role in doing that,” Bowen said.

“It’s overdue for Australia. We’ve wasted a decade. We have not a moment to waste, and so we’re getting on with the job.”

A lack of fuel efficiency standards has meant Australia is far behind most of the rest of the world in terms of electric vehicle uptake, Electric Vehicle Council CEO Behyad Jafari said.

“The situation that we’re in today is that there are hundreds of thousands of Australians who are trying to buy electric vehicles but the supply isn’t there, and that’s because car companies…choose to sell those vehicles in other markets because they have those standards in place,” Jafari told ABC RN Breakfast.

“We are way behind the eight ball on this issue so it’s important that we put the standards into place early.”

The government’s strategy is based on three objectives: to increase the supply of affordable and accessible electric vehicles; to establish the resources, systems and infrastructure needed to enable rapid uptake; and to encourage increased demand for electric vehicles.

Other new initiatives in the strategy include support for battery recycling, infrastructure planning, apartment building design and training for emergency services workers. The strategy will be reviewed in 2026.

“This strategy offers an historic opportunity to develop fuel efficiency standards that learn from international best practice, while recognising the unique needs of Australians,” King said.

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

Late last year, the federal government passed legislation making electric vehicles valued below the luxury car tax threshold exempt from the fringe benefits tax. This will initially also apply to plug-in hybrids, but only until 2025.

It comes after the previous Coalition government’s Future Fuels and Vehicles Strategy of 2021 was labelled a “fizzer” as it was seen to ignore meaningful changes in favour of tokenistic initiatives.