Explainer – Electric Vehicles in Queensland

Benjamin Ruge

Just two of Queensland’s major political parties – Labor and Greens – go to the election with an electric vehicle strategy.

They share the ambition to increase the number of battery charging stations throughout the state.

The LNP offers no policy on electric vehicles, referring only to the Federal Government’s 2019 unfulfilled election promise to develop a strategy.

 

What is an electric vehicle?

Electric Vehicles – often referred to as ‘EVs’ – are the focus of almost every motoring company, with most brands hosting some form of electric or hybrid fleet on top of their original combustion engine (petrol/diesel) vehicles.

They’re seen as the future for motoring companies, and a steppingstone to help reverse the effects of climate change and in particular, global warming.

According to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, there are four main types of EVs: battery electric vehicles (BEVs), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs), and a non-plug-in hybrid EV (HEVs) – which use a regenerative braking system to recharge the battery.

 

PHOTO: a diagram of a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV). Source: Matt Howard, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

 

Most commonly powered by multiple batteries, EVs are generally sought for their environmentally friendly nature.

 

Benefits of owning an EV

While the biggest benefit is producing zero exhaust emissions, EVs hold many other advantages over petrol or diesel cars, including being built with more eco-friendly materials than regular combustion engine vehicles.

According to Ergon Energy, the electricity needed to charge an EV works out around a third as much per kilometre as buying petrol, and with the correct wall charger, an EV can easily be charged overnight at home for daily use.

 

PHOTO: EV charging station. Source: (Flickr: Grand Canyon National Park)

 

EVs are also significantly cheaper to maintain as time passes due to having fewer moving parts than a combustion engine vehicle.

 

‘Best Practice’ around the world

In 2018, Norway held the badge of the most EVs per inhabitant, with 30.2 electric vehicles per one thousand of the population.

This number can be attributed to many provided benefits for EV owners from the government.

 

PHOTO: registrations of light-duty plug-in EVs in Norway (2004-2019). Source: Mariordo (Mario Roberto Durán Ortiz) – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

 

Electric vehicles are exempt from the country’s import taxes and value-added tax (VAT) which are usually very high, tolls and parking are free, and the country’s many ferry boats have special offers for owners of EVs, who can also use certain bus lanes.

Norway also intends to prohibit the sale of fossil fuel vehicles by 2025.

On a global scale, China hosts the most electric cars at nearly 1.8 million, but this doesn’t scale with population in comparison with Norway.

Japan, a pioneer of hybrid technology industrialization, had 7.5 million hybrid vehicles on the road in 2018, which works out to be almost one in five cars.

In stark comparison, sales of electric vehicles in Australia – which include plug-in hybrids – went from 2,216 in 2018 to 6,718 in 2019, a report from Electric Vehicle Council – the peak body for the industry – said. About 80% of those sales were all-electric vehicles.

There have been 3,226 electric vehicles sold in 2020, the report said, despite an overall drop of 20% in vehicle sales due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

 

What Australia needs to do to advance in this industry

To achieve higher numbers in Australia we need a number of changes, starting with the manufacturing of EVs in Australia to avoid high import taxes, a larger array of charging networks for our vast country, government incentives provided similar to those in Norway, as well as, like the US, guaranteed money back (discount or total refund???) when choosing to buy an EV.

Many of these necessities to spark mass buyer shipment of EVs would need to be implemented by Australia’s federal government before State premiers could make any significant change.

In an interview with Guardian Australian, the chief executive of the Electric Vehicle Council, Behyad Jafari said “a big challenge for Australia is that every other developed country has vehicle standards and EV policies in place”.

“We have repeatedly heard from car companies that they were planning to bring vehicles here, but Australia doesn’t have that policy support,” he said.

“There is no controversy that the future of the industry is electric, but at the moment the industry is looking at different markets. We want policies that show [Australia] is going on this journey.”

A national electric vehicle strategy was promised to be finalised by mid-2020 from the Morrison government, however this has been delayed.

Established in 2012, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) is an independent agency of the Commonwealth Government that manages Australia’s renewable energy programs – including the necessary advancement of electric vehicles in the nation.

To introduce EVs into Australia economically, ARENA faces the challenge of creating a sustainable business model and system for integrating EVs with the electricity grid in a way that benefits electricity users generally.

According to ARENA,“working out how to manage EV charging to best complement an electricity system increasingly powered by renewables will require testing new technologies and business models, as well as coordination between the EV industry, electricity sector – including retailers, networks and market bodies – and government”.

 

Queensland Parties and Electric Vehicles

Labor

In 2017, under the Palaszczuk Government, Queensland launched The Future is Electric: Queensland’s Electric Vehicle Strategy – a strategy to help Queensland shift to a cleaner, greener electric vehicle fleet.

The strategy outlines 16 initiatives that will: empower the community to make informed choices, enable the transition to EVs through charging infrastructure, explore cost-effective programs to support uptake of EVs, envisage what future actions may be required.

A focus of the strategy is the Queensland Electric Super Highway, a network of fast charging stations allowing EVs to travel from Coolangatta to Cairns and Brisbane to Toowoomba.

The network boasts the title of the world’s longest electric super highway in a single state and currently hosts 31 fast-charging sites.

Hybrid, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and battery electric vehicles attract the lowest vehicle registration duty and battery electric vehicles attract the lowest registration costs for any vehicle registered in Queensland.

If re-elected, the Palaszczuk Government promises to install a further 13 fast-charging sites to the electric super highway, to be completed by the end of 2020.

 

Liberal National Party

The Queensland LNP did not respond to our enquiry and do not appear to even have an electric vehicle policy or strategy in place, with the only mention of electric vehicles on the party’s website being a reference to the National Electric Vehicle Strategy, announced by the Morrison government more than a year ago, but which has yet to be delivered.

Instead, the LNP promises to cut fuel prices and make it mandatory for petrol retailers to provide accurate information on current prices in Queensland if elected.

Critics say this will only encourage growth within the fossil fuels industry. 

The Greens

The Greens propose aiming for 100% clean energy by 2030, and strongly support decarbonising society by 2035 if possible.

A spokesperson for Michael Berkman, Greens MP for Maiwar, said the Greens strongly support better vehicle fuel efficiency standards.

“This should include public investment in infrastructure like charging stations and State Government leadership in transitioning its fleet to electric vehicles as soon as possible,” he said.

Michael Berkman’s spokesperson also said the Greens support a rapid rollout of electric and zero-emissions vehicles.

“At a federal level, the Greens support a policy requiring 100% of new vehicle sales to be electric or zero emissions by 2030, and I support similar measures at a State level where this is possible and appropriate,” he said.

 

 

 

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