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Senate wants race cars to kickstart EV revolution

By Tony O’Kane, 01 Feb 2019 Car News

Senate wants race cars to kickstart EV revolution

The government needs to take serious action to prepare Australia for the rise of the electric car, according to a senate committee

The Senate Select Committee Inquiry into Electric Vehicles has released its report to the Australian government, listing 17 recommendations on how the country should best prepare itself for – and help to encourage – the adoption of electric vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf, Renault Zoe, BMW i3 and Hyundai Ioniq.

Key among the committee’s recommendations were calls to introduce EV quotas for government vehicle fleets to help introduce a steady inflow of battery-electric cars to the used car market, along with national EV targets for importers selling passenger cars, light commercial vehicles and buses.

One of the more interesting recommendations was for state and territory governments to court the Formula E Championship, to bring a round of the race to Australia and, presumably, whip up some enthusiasm for battery-powered vehicles in the process. It’s known that South Australia’s government is particularly interested in bringing Formula E to Adelaide’s street course.

The rest of the committee’s findings are primarily concerned with laying the groundwork for an EV-heavy future, with the report recommending closer government cooperation with companies in the energy industry as well as charging station providers.

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In its current state, Australia’s energy distribution infrastructure would be hard-pressed to deliver enough power to charge a meaningful number of EVs during peak periods, and the senate report says a ten-year plan detailing what network upgrades will be needed should be a priority for the government.

It also advocates the development of a local EV industry – not necessarily one that builds electric cars outright, but one that’s capable of building the high-voltage components that will power them. With Australia currently in possession of roughly half of the world’s global supply of lithium, a key component in EV batteries, developing a high-tech industry around that resource seems like a no-brainer.

Beyond that, the report also advocated the introduction of vehicle emissions standards, with incentives through tax or duty reductions to stimulate the adoption of zero-emission vehicles.

The release of the committee’s report was welcomed by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, with CEO Tony Weber saying the Federal Government would be wise to take on the report’s various recommendations.

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“Awareness of EV technology in Australia is low and it has been proven that, without clear policy or support from the government, sales of the vehicles will be slow in the initial stages,” Weber said.

“The recommendations made by the Senate Select Committee 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. A credible yet realistic CO2 vehicle emissions reduction standard is critical to stimulate investment in lower-emission vehicle technologies for the Australian market.”

However, the report’s reception wasn’t entirely rosy. The Greens described the committee’s recommendations as “weak”, saying they didn’t go far enough to kick-start EV adoption in a meaningful way and risked Australia being “left behind” as the rest of the world moved toward electrification.

“The weak recommendations of this report demonstrate just how feeble Labor and Liberal are when it comes to electric vehicle policy,” said senator Janet Rice, the Australian Greens’ transport spokesperson and member of the senate committee.

“The window of opportunity for Australia to be a global electric vehicle powerhouse is closing as other countries speed past us. Countries like Norway, the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark are already miles ahead in the race to transition to electric vehicles,” she continued.

“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.”