Labor leaves the way open for stricter vehicle efficiency standards to support the EV push
German Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen has left open the possibility that the Albanian government could introduce stricter vehicle performance standards as part of an effort to encourage the uptake of electric vehicles.
Speaking to the National Press Club this week, Bowen did not rule out the possibility of stricter vehicle performance standards – but said the new Albanian government will consider “all viable options” to expand support for electric vehicles.
“We have an electric vehicle strategy that we will now develop in office… and we will consider other policy options to complement and build on what we have already committed to.”
Asked specifically about vehicle emissions standards, Bowen said the new government will “consider all viable options to build on the policy announcements that we’ve already made and that we’ve already implemented.”
This appears to be a small but significant change of course from Bowen, who has previously dismissed calls for emissions standards. The previous coalition government toyed with the idea but was deterred by the Murdoch media headline “Carbon Tax on Wheels”.
Several major automakers have urged Australia to introduce stricter vehicle performance standards – like those already in place in the European Union – complaining that the current lack of meaningful standards has resulted in Australia becoming a dumping ground for cheaper and more polluting vehicles.
The introduction of emission standards for vehicles could help reverse the trend towards larger and more polluting vehicles in Australia and make EV models a more attractive alternative.
Volkswagen has specifically cited the lack of vehicle efficiency standards – with the German automaker describing the former coalition government’s attitude towards electric vehicles as “Third World” – as the reason for the company’s delay in rolling out its electric models to the Australian market.
Just this week – just a month after Albania’s new government was sworn in – Volkswagen announced plans to bring its electric vehicles to Australia by the end of next year.
As previously hinted at by The Driven, Bowen confirmed that a series of EV tax cuts would go into effect from July 1 – including exemptions from import duties and ancillary service taxes for some EV models.
Bowen said he would try to introduce new legislation that would implement the tax breaks retrospectively in the first week of the new parliament, which is scheduled for late July.
“The Treasurer and I will pass legislation implementing our EV tax cut.
We have pledged to reduce tariffs and eliminate the ancillary tax on affordable electric vehicles starting July 1 this year, and we will do just that,” Bowen said.
“Of course, Parliament will not meet until the end of July, so we will ask the tax office to apply the tax cut retrospectively according to the usual procedure.”
Bowen said the federal government will also deliver on its promises for additional funding for EV charging infrastructure and a commitment to transition the government’s vehicle fleet to electric models.
“We also pledged the Driving the Nation plan to provide a fast EV charger every 150 kilometers on the nation’s highways to transition the Commonwealth fleet to 75 percent zero-emission vehicles,” Bowen said.
“To create a national fueling network for Hydrogen Highways, to service stations on Australia’s busiest freight routes and to develop Australia’s first national EV strategy.”
“We have already worked on the implementation of each of these guidelines and have made good progress.”
The federal government’s fleet is estimated at 10,000 vehicles, with Bowen highlighting the potential benefits for the used car market.
“The Commonwealth hands over its cars every three years. That leads to the used market. You can’t buy a used electric car in Australia right now, and as we all know, if you really want an affordable car, it’s almost certainly a used car,” Bowen told the Press Club.
“So if you’re in the market, if you’re in the market’s place, like a lot of young people are buying their first car, for example, they’d love an electric vehicle, but you can’t get one second-hand.”
“When the Commonwealth fleet starts rolling and we get the Commonwealth to dispose of their electric vehicles within 3 years of purchase, you start to capture the used market. The same goes for private fleets, our FBT rebate and tariff rebate have the biggest impact, I’ll happily admit, on fleets.”
The legislative package will also enshrine the Labor Government’s new 43% emissions reduction target for 2030, a commitment to net-zero emissions by 2050 and a revitalization of the climate protection agency.
Labor has previously said its transport policy could see up to 89 per cent of new car sales being electric by 2030 – by which time around one in six vehicles on the road will be electric.
“By 2030 we will have caught up on our national EV strategy and affordable electric and hydrogen vehicles are a viable choice for Australian families,” added Bowen.
See also: EU ministers agree to ban sales of new fossil fuel cars from 2035
And: All sales of petrol cars must be phased out by 2038 for the transport sector to reach net zero
Michael Mazengarb is a Sydney-based reporter at RenewEconomy, writing on climate change, clean energy, electric vehicles and politics. Before joining RenewEconomy, Michael worked in climate and energy policy for more than a decade.