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Electric vehicles in Australia; the purchase and running costs, government’s influence, and how sustainable the electric grid system is for EVs

Australia is lagging in its embrace of electric cars. In 2020, the land down under saw only a 1 percent EV sales. This value is low compared to other economies such as the US, China, and the EU. The developed economies have ramped up their EV car sales through strategies and financial plans. This has immensely reduced carbon emissions by these countries. EVs have also reduced operational costs for consumers. In Australia, an EV is charged using the regular electricity grid system. According to recent research, EVs release fewer emissions than internal combustion engine (ICE) cars. Australia will have a hard time meeting a net-zero emissions target by 2050 unless the country adopts a 90% lightweight fleet on its roads.

Contrary to the belief that EVs generate more emissions than petrol or diesel cars during the battery manufacturing and electricity generation stage, a recent study showed they don’t. The study, carried out at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, found that EV emissions are canceled out after six to eight months. The canceling out is highly dependent on how much fossil fuels were used to power the grid used for charging. If renewable energy such as solar and wind powers the grid, the emissions are almost zero.

The Australian government has not put any policies in place to encourage consumers to shift to EVs. Unlike in other economies where government incentives and targets push users into the EV sector, the Australian administration is silent on the matter. Nevertheless, the federal Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport, and Regional Economics predicts a 60% rise in EV sales by 2046.

Currently, the only laid out plans by the government are building charging stations and supporting research geared towards developing new EV technology. Some countries have issued deadlines for the manufacture and sale of ICE vehicles. For instance, the UK, France, Germany, and Japan have given car makers 2025-2030 to clear any ICE vehicle. Norway is the largest consumer of electric cars. In 2020, the EV sales outdid the ICE car sales. A total of 140,000 EVs were sold in Norway. This is about 54% of the total car sales in 2020. The Norwegian government has been very supportive of car users to meet the country’s zero-emission target. It waived all import tariffs, registration fees, and the sales tax on EVs.

In China, the government has imposed a mandatory sales target on carmakers. By 2030, the carmakers are supposed to hit the 40% mark for EV sales. With the increasing number of EVs on roads, concerns about the efficiency of the grid system have arisen. Agencies think the high demand for electric energy could drain the grid. Bruce Mountain, director of Victoria Energy Policy Centre, explained that this is not going to be a bother. “It is amazing how much energy we use to heat our homes and hot water systems. The energy for motor cars is much smaller and can be accommodated by the grid quite simply,” said Mountain.

Electric vehicles are expensive in Australia compared to other markets such as the US and the UK. An EV going for $ 30,000 in the US or UK costs approximately $44,000-$64,000 in Australia. The import taxes and high costs have caused carmakers to shy away from the Australian market. The costs of running an EV are less than the cost of running an ICE vehicle. According to the Australian Electric Vehicle Council, “an EV engine has far fewer moving parts than internal combustion engines, so most wear and tear on the vehicles is in the tires and brakes.”

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