Self-styled "modern Liberals" have ridiculed Labor's electric vehicle target as a Soviet-style engineering program that will become "pink batts all over again", joining the government's aggressive campaign despite serious concerns about climate change in their own seats.
Labor used a Senate estimates session on Monday to retaliate, pointing to millions of dollars the government had spent encouraging Australians to use electric vehicles, and highlighting instances of Coalition MPs routinely spruiking the technology.
Liberals Jason Falinksi, Tim Wilson and Dave Sharma joined the condemnation of Labor's electric car target.
That included $6 million Energy Minister Angus Taylor awarded in October for ultra-rapid charging stations that would in 15 minutes provide enough power for vehicles to travel 400km.
As the government attempts to keep up the heat on Labor over climate and energy, several Liberals associated with the party's moderate wing joined the fray, including Sydney's Jason Falinski, Melbourne's Tim Wilson and Wentworth candidate Dave Sharma.
Mr Falinski said Labor's target for electric cars to account for 50 per cent of vehicle sales by 2030 was "pink batts all over again" - a reference to the Rudd government's home insulation scheme which was implicated in the deaths of four workers.
"We're just making a political point. We're not saying people are going to die," Mr Falinski told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
"Electric cars and hydrogen cars are going to happen faster than everyone thinks and they are going to happen without Bill Shorten's intervention."
"All this is going to do is make it inefficient, expensive and people getting a product that's going to be forced upon them rather than something they were willing to buy.
"Under the Gillard government, that's where we ended up with the NBN. That's where we ended up with pink batts. That's where we ended up with school halls."
Liberal MP Tim Wilson said electric cars were "awesome" but "people will buy electric cars when they're competitive and cost effective [and Mr] Shorten is just trying to make himself look cool in a discussion he's largely irrelevant in".
Mr Sharma - who narrowly lost Wentworth to independent MP Kerryn Phelps last year in a byelection where climate change was a major issue - warned Labor's electric car target had Communist undertones.
"I don't want to see it become like the Soviet Union where we all have to buy a Trabant," he said, referring to the disastrous motor vehicle produced in East Germany until 1990.
"I support seeing more electric cars on the road [but] I would not be going round setting targets. Electric cars might be made obsolete by autonomous vehicles."
The Labor plan seeks to require federally-funded road upgrades to include charging stations.
Mr Shorten described the 50 per cent target as a "goal" based on leading research. "That doesn't mean we will confiscate someone's ute in 2030," he said.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, previously the environment minister, has spruiked electric cars in the past and likened the scale of the "exciting technological disruption" to the introduction of the iPhone.
The National Roads and Motorists' Association also dismissed claims drivers of large vehicles will be left stranded by Labor's target, which is 11 years away, pointing out electric buses exist now and other vehicles are in development.