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UN climate call prompts Volkswagen, EV Council to push Australian government on EV policy

Electric vehicle policies in Australia differ between state and territory.

The Electric Vehicle Council, vehicle manufacturers and even government ministers are appealing to the federal as well as state and territory governments to introduce clear policies around EV incentives, emissions standards and fuel quality.

The federal government is under increasing pressure to hasten the transition to electric vehicles, following calls from the United Nations to dramatically cut greenhouse emissions by 2030.

While many countries have committed to net zero emissions by 2050, UN Secretary‑General António Guterres told a meeting of global finance ministers this week that the world must “swiftly close the emissions gap”.

“That means national pledges must collectively put us on track to reduce emissions by 45 per cent by 2030 compared to 2010 levels. And each country must be ready to update its climate commitments until we collectively get on track to reach the 1.5°C objective,” he said.

The federal government is yet to commit to a target of net zero emissions by 2050, but the Liberal and National party are currently in talks to reach an agreement ahead of the Glasgow Climate Summit later this month.

The EV Council has taken aim at the federal government on the back of the UN’s calls, asking it to urgently introduce policies to accelerate the transition to zero-emissions vehicles given transport is the third-largest source of carbon emissions in Australia.

EV chief executive Behyad Jafari said Australia should look to international markets that have successfully introduced EV policies, as well as introducing fuel-efficiency standards, to help ramp up EV adoption.

“The obvious place for Australia to start is to introduce long-overdue fuel-efficiency standards, like the ones the US and the EU have had for decades. As things stand global carmakers have little incentive to bring their most popular and affordable EV models to Australia, because it makes more sense to promote them in American and European markets,” he said.

“Australia is among the few developed countries on earth where it makes no difference to a carmakers whether they sell a dirty, high-emission car or a zero-exhaust alternative. As a result we're now a global dumping ground for high-exhaust vehicles that can't be shifted elsewhere.”

Mr Jafari also highlighted the economic benefits of Australia’s transition to EVs.

“If the federal government changes course and gets behind EVs now, we won't just drive down emissions, we'll encourage huge investment in our EV sector. There is no reason Australia cannot be an important part of the EV global supply chain, but we need a strong local market to spur that investment on.”

Volkswagen says inconsistent EV policies make it harder to introduce models like the ID.4 to the Australian market. Volkswagen says inconsistent EV policies make it harder to introduce models like the ID.4 to the Australian market.

Australia is one of few countries that does not have mandatory fuel efficiency or emissions standards. About 80 per cent of the global car market – including the United States, Europe, Japan, Korea, China, India, Canada and Mexico – have mandatory emissions standards.

The peak body representing Australia’s vehicle importers, the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI), introduced a voluntary emissions standard in 2020, but it is not mandatory.

Earlier this year the federal government announced a fuel security package that will see it spend about $300 million on infrastructure upgrades at refineries to bring forward the introduction of better fuels from 2027 to 2024.

In a recent submission to the Joint Select Committee on Road Safety, ACT transport minister Chris Steel called on the federal government to mandate “at least Euro VI standards for carbon dioxide emissions on new vehicles as soon as possible”. The European Commission will introduce even stricter Euro VII standards by 2025.

Mr Steel said in the submission that the government’s refusal to introduce Euro VI standards means Australia has limited access to more fuel-efficient internal combustion engine cars and zero emissions vehicles.

He also highlighted the thousands of deaths caused by transport pollution each year as a key reason Australia should adopt the Euro standards.

Volkswagen Group Australia has again called for a nationally consistent approach to zero and low emissions vehicle policy following the rollout of different legislation in some states and territories.

VGA managing director Michael Bartsch praised NSWs “world class” approach while criticising Victoria’s road user charge that passed parliament in May.

From July 1 this year, any Victorian who owns an EV or plug-in hybrid EV will be charged a fee to use the road. In contrast, NSW will waive stamp duty on some EVs and provide $3000 rebates on EVs under $68,750.

Mr Bartsch said the differing policies make it challenging for VGA to convince its German parent company to invest in bringing fully electric models to Australia.

“While the announcement of NSW's progressive policy has enabled our company to make representations to its factories for EV prioritisation, we are impeded by Victoria's ill-considered and haphazard approach,” he said.

"Victoria is taxing EVs while these comprise less than one per cent of new vehicle sales. It has ensured that cutting edge plug-in hybrid electric vehicles are doubly taxed by the road user charge and the fuel excise. Old tech hybrids that run on highly sulphurous 91 RON petrol escape this double levy.”

Volkswagen has ramped up its EV rollout overseas with the ID.3 hatch and ID.4 SUV already on sale in Europe, and plenty more on the horizon.