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Power lobby moots petrol kick for electric cars

Kick start: The Energy Supply Association of Australia has released a discussion paper looking at ways to promote the uptake of electric cars.

Call for debate on EV support includes radical bowser-based fundraising bid

General News logo25 Nov 2013

A NATIONAL electricity lobby group has suggested government increase the price of petrol to help pay for incentives to get more electric vehicles on Australian roadsThe Energy Supply Association of Australia today released a discussion paper it hopes will spark debate over the role of electric cars here, calling on government to help create a “critical mass” of battery-powered vehicles to help justify the roll-out of recharging infrastructure.

One of the options available to government, it suggests, is the concept of “freebates”, where incentives for high-priced electric cars are paid for at the bowser by motorists.

"We can make it hard for electric cars, or we can make it easier," ESAA chief executive Matthew Warren said.

"International markets have shown that the fundamental enabler for electric cars is critical mass.

"Once you have enough electric cars in a market, they create their own infrastructure, their own after-sales support and their own resale market"But if we don't find a way of enabling this initial critical mass, then in a small market like Australia we will just discourage car makers from bringing electric cars here, and we may be waiting a long time to unlock the benefits they can deliver."Short of telling the government what it should do, the ESAA suggests government should consider additional measures such as direct subsidies for EV buyers, discounts and rebates on registration and taxes including the luxury car tax, and granting access to restricted traffic lanes.

The report says electric vehicle hot-spots could be set up in suburbs including Sydney’s Baulkham Hills, Frenchs Forest, Kellyville, Menai and Terrey Hills, Melbourne’s Balwyn North, Derrimut, Greensborough, Ivanhoe East and Point Cook, and places such as Brisbane’s Bridgeman Downs, The Gap, North Lakes, Carindale and Upper Brookfield, and even Canberra’s Greenleigh, O’Malley, Fadden, Macarthur and Giralang.

Surprisingly, the report ruled out the roll-out of EV hotspots to some high-income Australian suburbs because of the lack of off-street parking – a necessary criteria to make at-home charging possible.

Of course, the ESAA’s members have a vested interest in electric vehicle roll-outs, a point that the report acknowledged.

“Electric vehicles create new opportunities for electricity retailers. The uptake of EVs is likely to encourage and depend upon tariff reform, smart grid development and invite more dynamic billing and charging arrangements to ensure EVs help improve and optimise use of the energy network,” the report says.

“Network companies will have a clear stake in this as providers of the network to coordinate and manage new customers and recharge facilities, as well as exploring how to best utilise more advanced vehicle to grid technology as it becomes available.

“It is feasible that the value of vehicle to grid for electricity networks and retailers could eventually offset the up-front cost of EVs.”

As of the end of October, 259 electric vehicles had been sold in Australia so far this year, but only 77 of them to private buyers. This compares with 82 sales last year of which only 31 went into private hands.

The cheapest – and currently the only – EV on sale in Australia is Nissan’s Leaf, priced from $51,490, which has accounted for 161 of battery-powered car sales so far this year.

Nissan Australia general manager of corporate communications Peter Fadeyev said the Japanese car-maker believed much could be done to boost sales of electric vehicles.

“All levels of government should encourage new-car buyers to choose a zero-emission electric vehicle such as the Nissan LEAF,” he said.

“Tax credits for EV buyers such as those offered in the USA would be a good start. Removing the various taxes and duties applied to new-vehicle purchases would also assist.” Mr Fadeyev said making publicly available recharging stations widespread in every Australian capital city would also be beneficial.

“Every Australian local government could make parking free of charge for all electric vehicles and even offer EV owners reductions in their annual rates,” he said.

“They should also encourage the use of EVs in car-sharing systems to improve inner-city mobility.

“Nissan believes tactics such as these would certainly encourage more Australians to consider purchasing a new electric car.”

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