• Australia’s EV imports rocket in February, up 500 per cent year on year
  • ‘Australian drivers are ready to join the exciting global electric car transition, but our politicians are yanking the handbrake’
  • Victoria to introduce EV tax in July, first Australian state to do so

Just three months out from Victoria becoming the first of several states in Australia to introduce a road tax on EVs, a dry press release from the Australian Bureau of Statistics has delivered proof of their rising popularity of electric vehicles in the country.

Imports of Teslas and other EVs soared nearly 500 per cent year on year in February to almost $125m.

EVs and hybrid electric-petrol vehicles drove a massive 24 per cent increase in road vehicle imports in February, with the value of all vehicle imports in February rising $705m to $3.7bn.

“Electric vehicle imports grew $104 million to the largest value on record, while hybrid vehicle imports grew $95 million,” said ABS head of international statistics, Andrew Tomadini.

The value of EVs imported into Australia was $104m in January and $125m in February, worth a combined $229m, and representing month-on-month growth of 20 per cent.

Imports of hybrid electric vehicles into Australia rose 101 per cent on-month in February from $95m in January.


Government policy holds back EV growth

The EV industry in Australia has cheered the sales trend, but pointed to greater progress made by other countries in Western Europe or Scandinavia.

EV promoters also cited the unattractive policy environment for emission-free vehicles in Australia at both state and federal levels.

“Australian drivers are ready to join the exciting global electric car transition, but our politicians are yanking the handbrake,” Electric Vehicle Council chief executive, Behyad Jafari, said.

Victoria will become the first Australian state to bring in a new tax on EVs.

From July 1, EV owners in Victoria will be charged 2.5 cents for each kilometre they drive, and hybrid vehicle owners will pay the state government 2 cents per kilometre driven.

The managing director of Volkswagen (VW) in Australia, Michael Bartsch, said he was struggling to convince the Germany-based company’s head office to ship more EVs to Australia.

“Every six months we do an update with a board meeting on the EV environment in Australia,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald.

“They are sitting and waiting for something to change, but nothing ever changes,” said Bartsch.

VW, at its inaugural Power Day event last week, mapped out its massive investment in factories to produce batteries for EVs and to build a Europe-wide charging network for EVs.


Changes in fossil fuel supply chain may favour EVs

Gear shifts in Australian buying patterns toward EVs may also be driven by the increasingly fragile supply chain for fossil fuels-based transportation.

Western Australia is at the forefront of rapid change in the traditional petrol and diesel vehicle market as its only oil refinery is due to close at the end of March.

Kwinana oil refinery is being converted into an import terminal for oil products refined in distant overseas locations where refining costs are lower.

On the other hand, Australia has a plethora of ASX companies that are developing resource projects for battery metals including some home-grown battery manufacturing plants.

Australia has demonstrated it has the capability and know-how to produce key components for EVs, and the ASX battery materials sector is a beacon of innovation.

Norway and European Union overtake Australia in EV sales

EVs accounted for only 0.7 per cent of total car sales in Australia last year at 6,900, up only 2.7 per cent on year from 6,718 in 2019, said the Electric Vehicle Council.

In November last year, the RAC of WA told Stockhead there were 1,100 EVs registered in Western Australia or about 7.5 per cent of the Australian total of around 15,000 EVs.

“There is an appetite for EVs in Western Australia, with a recent RAC survey revealing that nearly one in two respondents would consider purchasing an electric or hybrid vehicle as their next car,” RAC WA vehicles and fuels manager, Alex Forrest, said at the time.

In contrast, EV sales in the European Union area hit a market share of 10.2 per cent in 2020, up from 3.8 per cent in 2019.

Norway is the world leader for EV sales, which made up 75 per cent of all vehicles sold in the Scandinavian country, up from 56 per cent in 2019.

Jafari suggests that Australian governments have put too many obstacles in the path toward greater EV ownership, such as taxes.

“We have no targets, no significant incentives, no fuel efficiency standards and in Victoria we even have a new tax on non-emitting vehicles,” he said.

“There is simply no sugarcoating it at this point — Australia has marked itself out as a uniquely hostile market to electric vehicles,” added Jafari.