Australia risks becoming a dumping ground for old internal combustion vehicles if it doesn’t move faster on electric versions, warns an energy information service.

Australia remains a laggard in the uptake of electric vehicles (EVs) compared to many of its peers. Despite a record year of sales, EVs still only represented 0.7 per cent of new cars purchased in 2019,” said Bloomberg New Energy Finance (Bloomberg NEF) analyst Will Edmonds.

“The market is held back by a lack of sales incentives, poor model availability and a mismatch between consumer preferences and the EV models on offer.”

Globally EV sales are set to drop by a fifth this year, but Bloomberg NEF’s Long-Term Electric Vehicle Outlook estimates electric models will make up 7 per cent of global car sales by 2023, up from 3 per cent this year.


Liberals don’t like EVs

EV sales have long been expected to start moving from 2022-23 as the industry begins making models that have price parity with internal combustion engines.

But the Coalition government has resisted all calls to support an EV industry, with some Liberal MPs going so far in the last election to claim proponents were “coming for your utes”.

A Senate committee launched in 2018 issued a report, after two delays, in January 2019 recommending the federal government develop an EV strategy, introduce stricter vehicle emission standards, and look into developing a vertical EV manufacturing industry in Australia.

The federal government is still working on a long-promised EV strategy.

In its latest effort, the Technology Investment Roadmap released this week, it classed EV tech as being “on track” globally and agreed by 2030 EVs “would provide emissions reduction and cost savings” but did not seriously consider it as a cleantech strategy requiring government input.


It’s starting to get risky not to do it

Edmonds says that without sales incentives or more rigorous emissions standards Australia risks becoming a dumping ground for heavy emitting models.

“At the best of times, manufacturers prioritise larger markets with strict emissions standards, or supportive policies, in their EV sales strategies,” he said.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is placing even more pressure on manufacturers’ supply chains, resulting in a bleak outlook for Australia’s already low number of available EV models.

“If manufacturers push the heavy emitting models they are unable, or unwilling, to sell in other markets into the garages of Australian consumers, it will take longer, and more effort, to bring down Australia’s rising transport sector emissions.”

Without policies, emissions standards or regulations, Bloomberg NEF predicts EV sales will continue to grow slowly in Australia; COVID-19 means fewer people will be buying cars over the next few years.

EV sales are expected to rise to over 30,000 units in 2023 and make up 3.2 per cent of new cars sold, driven by model availability, declining costs, and corporate and government fleet electrification targets.

However, the report does expect Australia to catch up in the 2030s but still make up less than a quarter of total cars on the road by 2040.