Australia adapts slowly to EV and hybrid technology
A hybrid vehicle topped Australia’s monthly new car sales chart for the very first time in August as the country moves towards a greener approach to motoring.
Australia has been slow to adopt electric vehicles compared to similar countries, due to model availability, consumer awareness, industry development, and the lack of government support, says the nation’s Electric Vehicle Council (EVC).
In August 2020, a total of 6,694 full electric, petrol-electric and plug-in hybrids were sold, an increase of 113.9% compared to the same month in 2019. Sales for the year to date now stand at 38,390 units, up 90.1% year on year and accounting for a 6.7% market share in a new car market that has fallen 20.4% on the same period of 2019.
The hybrid Toyota Rav4 was the best selling car last month, with 90% of buyers opting for the hybrid version of the SUV. Last year the Toyota Hilux pick-up truck was the best-selling vehicle in Australia, which indicates the significance of the Rav4’s winning performance in August.
Sean Hanley, Toyota Australia vice president sales and marketing said: "It took us more than 17 years to deliver the first 100,000 hybrids in Australia, but it has taken us just 16 months to sell more than half as many again with total hybrid sales now exceeding 155,000 vehicles.”
Toyota's range of hybrid vehicles on sale in Australia.
Majority of Australians considering an EV
The EVC’s new report, State of Electric Vehicles, says 56% of new car buyers in Australia would now consider purchasing an EV as their next vehicle, an encouraging increase from 53% in 2019 and 48% in 2018. However, high acquisition costs are overriding the main perceived benefits of EVs in terms of smaller environmental footprints, lower running costs and good performance, says the EVC.
Fleet EV programme
The EVC has set up a programme called Charge Together Fleets, bringing together a range of resources for fleet and sustainability managers as organisations transition to EVs.Corporate and government fleets account for about 52% of Australia’s new vehicle sales. Charge Together Fleets includes an information hub, cost calculator and a national procurement initiative to negotiate discounts on EVs by providing manufacturers with sales volume commitments.
Hybrids outstrip pure electric sales
The pure EV market remains tiny in Australia, accounting for only about 0.6% of sales in 2019, according to Shane Curran, fleet consultant with Connector. He said demandis being held back by perceptions that EVs are significantly more expensive than vehicles with internal combustion engines.
“Where an EV and an ICE have the same whole-of-life costs, the EV will have a much larger portion of those costs being paid upfront. This creates a perception that the EV is more expensive, even in circumstances where it may be cheaper overall,” said Curran. “Where Car A costs $50,000 and Car B costs $35,000, it takes quite some mental discipline to accept that the overall cost of the two might be the same.”
Curran also highlighted unsupportive government tax policy, with Australia’s ‘Luxury Car Tax’ (LCT) failing to support the uptake of EVs.
“The tax is payable on any vehicle costing more than a specified amount (currently $68,740),” he said. “There is a higher threshold for ‘Fuel Efficient Vehicles’ (with official fuel consumption of less than 7l per 100km) of $77,565. Even here there is considerable disadvantage for EV as the higher threshold was designed to allow benefit for small capacity and hybrid vehicles.”
The EVC reports that there are 28 electric vehicle models available in Australia, with only eight priced under $65,000.
The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI), the lead organisation for the automotive industry, wants to see government support in the form of financial incentives for the acquisition of EVs. It is also calling for a federal boost to the nation’s recharging infrastructure. Across the whole of Australia there are only 1,200 charging stations (slower than 50kW), up 16% on July 2019; and 150 fast and ultra-fast charging stations (50kW and over) although this figure is 42% up on July 2019.
State Government EV initiatives
Among Australia’s state governments there are plans to accelerate the adoption of EVs. The New South Wales Government, for example, has met its target that 10% of its own fleet should be electric of hybrid in 2020/21, and is now working towards a goal of 30% by 2023, with at least 10% of these new vehicles being all-electric. It is also co-investing in the installation of both public fast charging stations and charge points in commuter car parks.
Meanwhile, South Australia this week announced plans to invest $4.9 million to support an Electric Vehicle (EV) Action Plan that includes vehicle-to-grid technology.
Dan van Holst Pellekaan, South Australia Minister for Energy and Mining, said: "Our analysis shows that if we put the foot down on electric vehicles and do it smartly, we’ll deliver lower power bills for consumers, less air and noise pollution.
"By charging at low demand and at sunny or windy times, electric vehicles will allow us to drive down wholesale electricity prices, reducing the cost of a unit of power for all South Australians. A key action in the plan will be to support electric vehicles being used as mobile batteries which can be filled at low electricity demand times of the day and discharged at peak times.”