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After Transport Minister Barnaby Joyce recently quashed plans for Australia to place bans on the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles, many questions remain in place regarding the nation’s commitment to an electric future.

This week, Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg again backed the future of electric vehicles despite inner rumblings from conservatives within the Coalition government.

“I think what is going to happen with electric vehicles in the transport sector is equivalent to what the iPhone did to the communications sector,” Frydenberg said.

“Those people today who ridicule electric vehicles will probably be the ones who are buying them in a decade’s time.”

Despite this optimism. conservative MPs Craig Kelly, Andrew Broad and John Williams among others have indicated that the party room would resist any new subsidies for electric cars.

The concerns come as part of a new report from the federal infrastructure department that suggested that electric vehicles could have a larger carbon footprint than petrol or diesel vehicles due to Australia’s reliance on coal to generate electricity.

“The risk here is you’ll have the rich person in Balmain buying a Tesla, subsidised by a bloke in Penrith who’s driving a Corolla and the Tesla will have more carbon emissions than the Corolla,” Kelly said.

The lack of cooperation from government level is a concern that won’t be solved overnight. More importantly, the lack of cohesion over a proposed strategy leaves Australia falling well beyond other countries globally.

As it sits currently there are only 4,000 electric vehicles on Australian roads, paltry numbers compared with international standards. And yet the December government’s climate policy boldly predicted that number to rise to 12,000 by 2020 and to one million by 2030.

So what is holding people back?

In his opinion piece earlier this week Frydenberg declared that consumer interest in electric was high, but that prices were too unrealistic for the average driver.

Current price data shows that 13 of the 16 electric vehicle models on sale in Australia are over $60,000, but the next generation Tesla is expected to retail for less than half of that.

Moreover, the flow-on effect from company and government fleets purchases is likely to open up a new second-hand market for everyday consumers as the average fleet vehicle is replaced every 3-5 years.

But perhaps a bigger issue than economics is convincing the general public that ‘range anxiety’ won’t be a problem. Can an electric vehicle get them between remote regional areas and will there be enough infrastructure in place to facilitate such journeys?

Already the Chevrolet and Renault models can travel 350km on a single charge, while it is hoped that 1000km will be the range benchmark by 2025.  The technology of batteries continues to improve, making them cheaper and more efficient to run.

A harder sell then might be the infrastructure. Australia is home to just 476 public charging stations, a fraction of the over 60,000 available across Europe. State level projects such as the Queensland ‘superhighway’,  the NRMA collaboration in NSW, and the Royal Automobile Club’s work in WA suggest that there is enough industry and government support to get over these hurdles.

Upwards and Onwards 

Frydenberg made it clear that collaboration is the key to making Australia’s electric vision a reality.

As a peak industry body AfMA is committed to advocating change within the industry to help realise these visions. We all have an environmental responsibility to reduce our CO2 emissions both as individuals and among the organisations that we work or associate ourselves with.

Setting up key targets, goals and visions for your team is a great way to play your part in a global shift towards more sustainable vehicles.

“Better coordination of existing and future activities around research and development, charging infrastructure planning, vehicle fleet targets and financial incentives, will bode well for the industry in the exciting decade ahead,” Frydenberg said.

“A global revolution in electric vehicles is under way and with the right preparation, planning and policies, Australian consumers are set to be the big beneficiaries.”