States should follow ACT's lead on electric cars, report finds
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States should follow ACT's lead on electric cars, report finds

States and territories should follow the ACT's lead when it comes to policies surrounding electric cars, a recent Senate report has recommended.

The report into electric vehicle use in Australia praised the ACT government's current policy of aiming for 100 per cent of government fleet vehicles be electric by 2020-21.

Denby Angus with his electric car, the Nissan Leaf, which was imported from overseas.

Denby Angus with his electric car, the Nissan Leaf, which was imported from overseas.Credit:Sitthixay Ditthavong

The Senate committee recommended that the federal government take up a similar target.

"The committee is encouraged by the ACT government's action in mandating 50 per cent zero-emission vehicles by 2019-20 and 100 per cent by 2020-21," the report said.

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"The committee recognises that a higher portion of electric vehicles in government fleets would help stimulate growth in the sector and encourage manufacturers to bring a greater range of electric vehicle models to Australia."

The ACT's current initiative of funding dozens of electric vehicle charging stations was also noted in the report, along with similar plans in Queensland, WA and NSW.

It was recommended public charging systems be made readily available in Australia to make electric cars more accessible.

Denby Angus says that once you've tried driving an electric car, you wouldn't want to own a car with an internal combustion engine.

Denby Angus says that once you've tried driving an electric car, you wouldn't want to own a car with an internal combustion engine.Credit:Sitthixay Ditthavong

The territory government last year announced 50 new charging stations in Canberra, tripling the amount available to motorists.

Currently, there are 300 electric vehicles registered in the ACT.

One of the cars registered belongs to Denby Angus, who owns a second-hand Nissan Leaf, imported from overseas.

He said Canberra was a city tailor made for electric vehicles.

"With the ACT being a small jurisdiction, people with electric vehicles are able to move about fairly easily," Mr Angus said.

"Electric vehicle use is finding its way, and Canberra has a real opportunity to set a standard that the other states will follow."

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The Canberra resident has owned his electric car for the past six months. It can travel 100 kilometres on a single charge.

While driving with the electric car is mostly limited to Canberra streets due to the battery life, Mr Angus said the technology would only improve.

"I've been very excited to own a car that has low emissions and has all of the technology improvements as well," he said.

"It's easier to drive, cheaper to maintain and it feels like a step in the future."

The report said further infrastructure in capital cities and along major highways was needed in Australia to boost electric car take-up rates.

The federal government was urged in the report to exempt electric vehicles from fringe benefits taxes between 2019 and 2026, following on from a similar strategy in the ACT.

An exemption on stamp duty for electric vehicles is already in place in the ACT, along with a reduction in registration fees.

ACT Climate Change Minister Shane Rattenbury said the decision to make all government fleet vehicles electric by 2021 would make electric cars more accessible to the public in coming years.

"By making the commitment to fleet targets, it creates certainty to bringing vehicles into Australia, which will make them more available to private consumers," Mr Rattenbury said.

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"It would transform the market by having a greater range available and when the government lease of the vehicles runs out, they'll enter the second-hand vehicle market."

Mr Rattenbury said increasing electric vehicle use was a way to counteract the city's low public transport use.

He said further steps such as building charging stations in apartment complexes and other locations would also be a step forward.

"We need charging stations not just in Canberra but in and out of the city, so if drivers want to go to Sydney or the snow or the coast they have charging points they can access," he said.

While the Senate report praised the ACT's policies, Warwick Cathro, the convener of a working group on electric vehicle policy, said Canberra could go even further with rebates for owners to boost usage.

"Temporary rebates would be an option that would only be in use for a few years to help kick start the market," Mr Cathro said.

"Electric car use is going to increase significantly, but from a low base."

The report warned Australia would be left behind the rest of the world if it did not keep up with an uptake of electric cars, and said a national strategy was needed.

"Slow uptake will continue to result in EV manufacturers not prioritising the Australian market and fewer EV models being available to Australian motorists," the report said.

Andrew Brown is a journalist at the Sunday Canberra Times. Andrew has worked at the Canberra Times since 2016.

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