«Cleaner cars and transport aren’t just good for the environment – they are cheaper to run,» Labor said.
«But Australia lags behind our competitor countries, whether it’s in electric vehicle take-up, or vehicle fuel efficiency,» the statement said. «We’re at risk of being left behind.»
Behyad Jafari, chief executive of the Electric Vehicle Council which worked with Labor on the plan, said EV sales in Australia totalled 2216 last year, or about one in 500 cars sold. That proportion, about 0.2 per cent, was less than a 10th of the global average of 2.4 per cent -with Norway approaching half of all new sales.
Labor’s policy marks «the step-change Australia has long been waiting for,» Mr Jafari said.
«Without a hard target or an improvement in emissions standards, Australia is destined to become a dumping ground for dirty, petrol-thirsty vehicles that can’t be sold elsewhere,» he said.
According to the plan, Labor would consult before setting a timeline to phase-in standards of 105 grams of carbon-dioxide per kilometre for light vehicles, consistent with Climate Change Authority advice.
«These are sensible standards which will bring Australia’s cars into line with those in the US, which has a similar car fleet to ours, but won’t be as stringent as those operating in the European Union,» it said.
Nations such as Norway have given concessions to boost sales of EVs, such as waiving certain taxes or providing priority parking, to overcome the relatively high up-front costs.
While drivers prefer the more agile performance, such as near-instant response and the lack of noise or exhaust, some have held off purchases because of perceived «range anxiety» of existing batteries and a lack of charging options.
To help foster demand, Labor would allow businesses an upfront tax deduction to buy EVs for business purposes, as part of its Australian Investment Guarantee. That would permit firms to deduct one-fifth of depreciation for EVs valued at more than $20,000 in their private fleets.
Labor would also add EVs to the agenda of COAG to improve coordination with the states.
«Labor will also require all federally-funded road upgrades to incorporate electric vehicle charging infrastructure», and work to set national standards of those charging facilities, it said.
Peter Hannam writes on environment issues for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.