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Industry welcomes national EV report
Broad support for EV report but AADA defends dealers and others call for more action
1 Feb 2019
By TERRY MARTIN
AUSTRALIAN automotive industry representative bodies and lobby groups have broadly welcomed the recommendations handed down this week by the Senate Select Committee on Electric Vehicles.
The wide-ranging report has called for the federal government develop a national strategy to facilitate and accelerate sales of electric vehicles “and ensure Australia takes advantage of the opportunities, and manages the risks and challenges, of the transition to EVs”.
Critics, mainly independent and minor-party politicians, have lined up to argue that the report does not go far enough.
Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) chief executive Tony Weber said the recommendations “will provide a much-needed boost to ensure EVs increase on Australian roads and our country keeps up with the rest of the world in terms of environmentally innovative mobility”.
“Importantly, the report calls for the government to introduce a vehicle emissions standard in Australia,” he said.
“A credible yet realistic CO2 vehicle emissions reduction standard is critical to stimulate investment in lower-emission vehicle technologies for the Australian market.”
Mr Weber also emphasised that measures to support accelerated take-up of zero-emissions vehicles “should be part of a broader vehicle emissions package”.
“This will help reduce emissions across Australia’s new vehicle fleet and stimulate the transition towards lower emissions technologies such as battery electric and hydrogen electric fuel-cell vehicles,” he said.
The Australian Automotive Dealer Association (AADA) has likewise come out in support of the recommendations but CEO David Blackhall said the suggestion in the report that car dealers were not promoting the sale of EVs as much as traditional models was false.
Mr Blackhall said the AADA was supportive of a public education campaign, a co-ordinated approach to skills and training and an “achievable” and non-punitive CO2 standard, and was encouraged that the committee did not recommend a relaxation of used-car imports “as was suggested by certain groups”.
“However, it is very disappointing that this report has mentioned evidence claiming that car dealers are not interested in promoting and selling electric vehicles,” he said.
“This assertion, which was repeated by certain groups throughout the inquiry, is completely false. To resist selling EVs would reduce profits and put dealers in breach of their franchising agreements with vehicle manufacturers, potentially risking their businesses.
“In our numerous representations to this committee, we consistently made the point that new-car dealers are technology agnostic and will sell whatever vehicles our customers want.
“Unfortunately, the authors of this report have quoted the Tesla Owners Club and ignored the evidence of Australia’s 1500 franchised new-car dealers and the 70,000 people they employ.
“Electric vehicles are part of the future and dealers are determined to be part of a thriving industry which supplies them to the market – the primary reason that they are not yet selling well is related to supply, cost and range.”
In its submission, the Tesla Owners Club of Australia claimed that “traditional car dealerships have generally not been good at promoting electric vehicles, either due to lack of staff education or a conscious decision to not promote the new technology which needs less aftersales service support – which drives their profitability.”
Electric Vehicle Council (EVC) chief executive Behyad Jafari said he was pleased to see the committee embrace a range of the council’s recommendations, including a hard national EV target, an EV target for government fleet purchases and the introduction of more stringent vehicle emissions standards.
The EVC is calling for a target of at least 50 per cent of all new vehicle sales to be electric by 2030, helped along by short-term financial incentives via tax breaks on the sale of new EVs and in the matching of funding with the private sector to accelerate investment in ultra-fast charging infrastructure.
“The Australian Senate has helpfully slapped its big rubber stamp on the mountain of evidence in favour of a mass switch to electric vehicles,” Mr Jafari said.
“We should seize this momentum and push forward. With a federal election looming, both major parties have the opportunity to embrace these recommendations as part of their platform.
“The benefits of a mass switch to electric vehicles are broad and deep. Cost of living pressure would ease if we broke our dependence on the bowser. Carbon emissions would drop, and if the smoke and noise of combustion engines was phased out, our cities would become healthy and beautiful places to live.
“A switch to electric vehicles would also go a very long way toward ending our fuel security issues. We could break our dangerous dependence on imported oil.
“The benefits of electric vehicles are so obvious that all the Australian government needs to do is show that it’s backing the switch. Once momentum swings in behind electric vehicles, the shift will come quickly and investment will flow,” he said.
Similar sentiments were expressed by Hydrogen Mobility Australia CEO Claire Johnson, which represents the hydrogen industry including vehicle manufacturers of hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicles (FCEVs).
Toyota and Hyundai are currently members, but the organisation is also pushing for Australian-based EV/FCEV manufacturing and R&D.
“The findings of the Senate inquiry are consistent with industry’s calls for governments to take action on the green revolution taking place in the transport sector, and to facilitate the electric vehicle transition in a strategic and co-ordinated fashion,” Ms Johnson said.
“Measures such as a co-ordinated approach to national infrastructure deployment are very much welcome and can be strengthened through initiatives such as the removal of the luxury car tax and import tariffs to support the uptake of the range of zero emission technologies available in the marketplace today, that is hydrogen fuel-cell electric and battery electric vehicles.”
There were no official statements from the federal Coalition government or the Labor party opposition.
However, independent senator Tim Storer, who was chairman of the EV committee, made it clear that the report’s recommendations were “neither as effective nor as responsible as a package of measures I proposed”, while fellow South Australian independent and report committee member Rex Patrick called on the government “to bring Australia’s policy in line with other developed nations and prohibit the sale and import of new internal combustion engines in motor vehicles by 2035”.
The Greens also slammed the report, arguing that the recommendations “leave Australia in the slow lane” and fail to commit to various aspects of the party’s own plan, such as “setting a target of 100 per cent of new passenger vehicles being electric by 2030”.
Australian Greens transport spokesperson and committee member, senator Janet Rice said: “Australia is a global laggard when it comes to policy ambition and certainty. The government has a choice to get Australia in the fast lane, but that means hitting the accelerator with ambitious targets and incentives to drive the uptake of electric vehicles.”
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