Australia may be a world leader in many fields, but it trails the world in electric vehicle (EV) uptake. According to the Electric Vehicle Council, 6,900 electric cars were sold in Australia in 2020, a meagre 2.7 per cent increase from the 6,718 sold in 2019. EVs account for just 0.7 per cent of total Australian car sales.
This compares to global sales, which increased by 43 per cent in 2020. The largest EV market is China, which saw EV sales rise 8 per cent in 2020 to 1.3 million.
Alexandra Kelly, a policy manager at the EV Council, says corporate and government fleets are leading the transition to EVs in Australia. However, several barriers are impeding rapid EV uptake in fleets, such as limited model availability, high purchase price, a lack of understanding about battery electric vehicle (BEV) technology, poor access to charging infrastructure and concerns about in-house servicing and maintenance.
Speaking at the first session of IPWEA Fleet’s Winter Webinar Series, Kelly says fleet electrification could provide “a bulk procurement opportunity” to bolster the number of EVs in Australia. “Where we can demonstrate demand, we’re asking manufacturers to bring us the supply,” she says.
The impact of national electric vehicles strategies
Australia lacks national incentive schemes that have proved effective in promoting EV uptake in other countries. This has led to limited model availability in the Australian market.
“It’s not because the car manufacturers don’t want to bring them here,” says Kelly. “Global offices are restricting the number of units brought to market because there are markets elsewhere that are incentivising electric vehicle sales.”
Kelly says international examples show that strategies led by national governments can drive EV uptake. In Norway, policies such as generous fee, tax and toll exemptions for plug-in electric vehicles have resulted in electric vehicles reaching a 75 per cent market share in 2020, up from 6.1 per cent in 2013.
In 2019, the UK brought forward its phase-out of internal combustion engine vehicles from 2040 to 2030. It also introduced a £3,000 green car subsidy for electric vehicles up to £50,000 in value (since reduced to £2,500 grants up to a value of £35,000). In 2020, the new policy saw the market share of plug-in electric vehicles increase from 3 per cent to 10.7 per cent, and registrations of EVs in the UK increased by 125 per cent.
“Where government wants electric vehicles to work and people to buy them, they’re demonstrating their support through a number of different policy areas, and this is really what is accelerating uptake in those markets,” Kelly says.
Federal Government support in Australia has focused on investment in charging infrastructure. The Future Fuels Fund’s first round of funding allocated $24.55 million to five applicants to build 400 public fast-charging stations for electric vehicles across the country.
One of the successful applicants was petroleum company Ampol, reflecting petrol providers’ interest in EV investment seen in places like Europe, where oil and gas companies Shell and BP own much of the region’s charging infrastructure. “In the Australian market, there’ll be a shift over the next 12 months of petrol station providers looking to support electric vehicles as well as internal combustion engine vehicles,” Kelly says.
Other government support
More support for EV uptake can be found in state and local governments. All states have EV strategies except Queensland and Tasmania, which are in the process of reviewing or developing new strategies.
In 2021, the NSW Government announced a $500 million Electric Vehicle Strategy, which includes a $3000 rebate for 25,000 EVs, stamp duty exemptions, $171 million for charging infrastructure, 100 per cent targets for fleet and buses by 2030 and a fleet incentive program.
The NSW Electric Vehicle Strategy, which will see the roll out of one fast charger per five kilometres, serves as a baseline for other states, says Kelly. “That’s the visionary piece we’re hoping to get from other governments.”
Kelly advises fleet managers and the public to regularly check the EV Council website to stay abreast of the various schemes on offer in different states and territories.
Electric vehicle transition success stories
Many council fleets in Australia already feature electric passenger vehicles, tipper trucks, cherry pickers and garbage trucks. “Where councils have chosen to embark on their electric vehicle journey, they’ve often opted to look at how they can electrify the pool vehicles first,” says Kelly.
In 2019, the City of Casey in Melbourne launched the first fully electric garbage truck designed and made in Australia. Developed by waste collection equipment maker SuperiorPak in collaboration with SEA Electric, the truck has a 250-kilometre range and saves an estimated 180kg in carbon dioxide emissions per load of waste collected compared to an equivalent diesel truck.
Organisational sustainability mandates often drive EV transition in commercial fleets. In 2021, a Volvo FL electric truck operated by Linfox began transporting Victoria Bitter beer from Asahi Beverages’ distribution centre in Melbourne’s west. Robert Iervasi, Group CEO of Asahi Beverages, said at the time that fleet electrification was a critical feature of the company’s goal to reduce its net carbon emissions across its supply chain by 30 per cent by 2030 and to zero by 2050.
Kelly says these success stories show that fleet electrification is feasible despite the barriers to EV uptake. “One of the benefits to being behind the rest of the world is that we can learn from their mistakes,” she says. “You’ll see now there are fleets across Australia that have upwards of 30 electric vehicles, so it’s definitely possible.”
IPWEA Fleet’s Winter Webinar Series continues in September, with session three covering the supplier side (September 2) and session four covering the fleet manager’s perspective (September 16). IPWEA members and Fleet subscribers (and those who aren’t) can find more information about the webinars here.