Transport emissions in Australia have risen steadily as a proportion over the past few years to over a quarter of emissions. National uptake of electric vehicles (EVs) has been slow because Australia, with large, sparsely populated areas, struggles more than other countries to provide enough charging stations to make travelling long distances as easy as possible. As a result, EV uptake has been largely limited to cities.
However, some of Australia’s more populous states, where most people live in cities and large towns, have taken the initiative to increase the number of electric vehicles (EVs). This includes New South Wales (NSW) which has been run by a Coalition Government of the centre-right Liberal and National parties for even longer than the federal government, since 2011. In 2021, New South Wales released its Electric Vehicles Strategy.
Electric Vehicle Strategy
NSW’s Electric Vehicle Strategy contains a number of policies to make buying electric vehicles cheaper:
Rebates of AUD$3000 for the first 25,000 electric vehicles sold for under AUD$68,750 (about £39,000)
A stamp duty waiver of either 3 or 5% depending on the value for electric vehicles purchased for under AUD$78,000 (about £44,000) and from all other EVs and plug-in hybrids from 2027
The strategy also contained measures to help improve EV charging infrastructure. This included Norwegian-style installation of charging points at set intervals along major highways in New South Wales and along major roads at 5km intervals in Sydney. This was accompanied by an AUD$171 million funding package to ensure that households with limited off-street parking are no more than 5km from a charger. The New South Wales Government also provided extra incentives for electric vehicle owners which weren’t available to other car owners, such as access to T2 and T3 transit lanes, similar to how in Norway EV users are able to use certain bus lanes.
One of the potential problems with a switch to electric vehicles is that even if EVs pay road tax (which EVs in NSW do), they still don’t pay fuel duty, which in Australia is 44.3 pence per litre. As EV uptake increases, so does the loss of funding from this fuel duty. As a result, an overwhelming majority of Australians want EV users to contribute financially to the upkeep of roads and highways in some other way. The EV Strategy therefore includes a distance-based road user charge (RUC) for EVs of 2.5 cents/km from 2027 or when EVs reach 30% of new vehicle sales, whichever comes first. By introducing a mechanism for road pricing before the funding gap from fuel duty grows too large, New South Wales is able to maintain the upkeep of roads and remain fiscally responsible. It also opens up the possibility of future road pricing models which take into congestion and so are much fairer for rural communities that don’t have a public transport alternative.