Why one policy could drive electric cars to Australia

Does Australia need new rules to limit car pollution and deliver more electric vehicles?

It was the question at the heart of the federal government’s National Electric Vehicle Strategy consultation and the answer, according to 212 group submissions, was an overwhelming ‘yes’.

More than seven in 10 organisations supported a fuel-efficiency standard in Australia and none opposed it.

On Wednesday, the federal government committed to introducing the standard in Australia, with a draft prepared by the end of the year.

But what is this policy, what could it do, and what have similar rules achieved overseas?

Put simply, a fuel-efficiency standard sets a limit on the average pollution from a car maker’s fleet.

Under this policy, car brands would need to balance sales of high-polluting vehicles, like petrol and diesel utes and SUVs, with sales of low and zero-emission vehicles, like electric and hybrid cars.

Manufacturers that failed to meet their carbon emissions cap would face financial penalties.

While the standards are designed to encourage car makers to reduce pollution from all vehicles in their fleet, they also incentivise brands to bring more environmentally friendly cars into a country.

Electric Vehicle Council chief executive Behyad Jafari said Australia’s lack of a fuel-efficiency standard has meant buyers have missed out on electric cars sold in other countries that did have policies in place.

“The technology continues to improve and electric vehicles around the world are available in more segments, like utes and more SUVs or cheaper electric vehicles, but often they’re just not brought to Australia,” he told AAP.

“What we can see pretty clearly now is that all of the major markets (have a standard).”

Fuel-efficiency standards cover more than 80 per cent of vehicles sold worldwide, and Australia, Russia, Turkey and Indonesia are the only four wealthy countries without the policy in place.

New Zealand introduced its fuel-efficiency standard this year – a move that has seen electric vehicle sales in the country climb from four per cent in January 2022 to 22 per cent in March this year.

The introduction of an Australian fuel-efficiency standard is also supported by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, which represents 68 car brands in the country, though chief executive Tony Weber said pollution limits set by the government should be feasible.

“Australia needs an ambitious yet achievable fuel-efficiency standard,” he said.


Jennifer Dudley-Nicholson
(Australian Associated Press)


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