Australia is lagging the rest of the world in adopting electric vehicles, but it’s not for want of demand. Governments need to step up. Co-CEO Benjamin Haslem reports on how Nissan Australia is trying to make that happen.

Australians love to brag about their adoptions of new technologies.

Whether it was wearable technologies on their wrists; mobile phones or VCR’s, it seems many Aussies love to purchase new things.

According to Roy Morgan Research, 3.7 million (or 19 per cent) of Australians can be defined as technology early adopters.

Deloitte’s 2018 report, Technology, Media and Telecommunications Predictions, says Australia will exceed global trends for smartphone penetration, surpassing 90 per cent by the end of this year, while the rest of the world will take until 2023.

Nevertheless, there is one technology adoption that Australia lags in, and it is one that can deliver a great benefit to the community and the planet: electric vehicles (EVs).

The scarcity of EVs on our roads is not for want of consumer demand.

According to Roy Morgan, half of 37,000 Australians surveyed said they would consider purchasing a hybrid or fully electric vehicle.

Unfortunately, a distinct lack of infrastructure and inaction by governments act as a disincentive.

Analysis by UK firm GoCompare found Australia is the poorest-equipped country for EVs.

Australia has just 476 public charging stations – one of the lowest totals in the world – and 14.3 petrol stations to every publicly accessible charging point.

Out of the 30 nations that are members of the International Energy Agency, Australia has the highest ratio of EVs per charging point – at just over 15.

Norway is the stand-out performer for EV penetration, with electric cars accounting for one-fifth of all new sales.

The global average is about two per cent. In Australia it is just 0.2 per cent.

Nevertheless, Australian sales are on the rise. There were 2,284 EVs sold in Australia in 2017, representing a 67 per cent increase from the previous year. In 2017, global sales were up 56 per cent.

But more needs to be done to lift Australia in the global EV league tables.

Nissan Motor Co. (Australia), with the help of Wells Haslem Mayhew and one of our Melbourne affiliates, RMK & Associates, is encouraging governments to implement a range of measures to drive EV sales.

The Japanese automotive giant is the global leader in zero-emissions vehicles, selling more than 300,000 of its LEAF electric vehicle, the world’s first mass-produced electric car that is also the best-selling EV in history.

According to a Nissan-commissioned study by KANTAR TNS, 63 per cent of Australians feel the move to EVs is inevitable, with 29 per cent of consumers considering purchasing an EV.

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Nissan Australia Managing Director, Stephen Lester, says the research confirms Australians are “overwhelmingly positive toward electric vehicle ownership”.

In a recent submission to the Victorian Parliament’s Standing Committee on Economic and Infrastructure Inquiry into Electric Vehicles, Nissan wrote:

“The success of the Nissan LEAF electric car in regions such as North America, Europe, Japan and China is underpinned by the same two factors driving the wider consumer uptake of EVs overseas:

Government-led purchase incentives for new-car consumers to select an electric car, and;

Widespread publicly available electric vehicle recharging infrastructure, with full or partial funding from US and EU governments.

“The local introduction of these two essential factors is certain to increase Australian consumer uptake of electric vehicles with zero emissions from the tailpipe in a manner similar to the countries mentioned.  

“Nissan Australia encourages all Government to incorporate supply-side initiatives into any policy.

“These Government-led initiatives encourage manufacturers to bring the latest-technology low emission vehicles to the Australian market, as the technologies they often contain typically have high market introduction costs.”

Nissan argues that all three levels of government – Local, State and Federal should consider the following incentives:

Financial Incentives

  • Import Duty and LCT Removal linked to CO2 output (Federal Government)

  • GST Discount linked to CO2 output (Federal Government)

  • Income Tax Rebates linked to CO2 output (Federal Government)

  • Stamp Duty Discount/removal linked to CO2 output (State Government)

  • Registration cost Discount linked to CO2 output (State Government)

Non-Financial Incentives

  • Government Fleet Purchasing Policies linked to CO2 output, including a minimum percentage of fleet being Zero-Emission (Federal, State and Local Government)

  • Access to Transit Lanes for Plug-in vehicles (State and Local Government)

  • Exemption from Motorway Tolls for Plug-in vehicles (State and Local Government)

  • Free Dedicated Parking (street and multi-story) reserved for Plug-in vehicles (Local Government)

  • Updated Building Standards/Codes requiring mandatory Plug-In vehicle charging infrastructure and charging in new Apartments and Multi-dwelling buildings (State Government)

“It is important that Government-led demand and supply side initiatives, to encourage greater consumer use of zero- and low-emission vehicles, are implemented and maintained for a period of time,” Nissan argues.

“There is evidence in Canada and the Netherlands of the significant decline in the sale of zero- and low-emission vehicles when incentives/initiatives are removed.”

Nissan believes the growth of EVs in Australia will drive new local industries. While the LEAF is built in Japan several key components used in the EVs are manufactured at Nissan’s Casting Plant in Dandenong in Melbourne’s outer south-eastern suburbs.

Employing nearly 150 people, the plant produces six key components for Nissan EV and hybrid vehicles sold globally.

Nissan’s case is backed by a PwC report commissioned by the Electronic Vehicle Council (EVC) - the national body representing the electric vehicle industry in Australia. The report concludes a 2030 target of 50 per cent electric vehicles for new car sales would increase real GDP by almost $3b and net employment by 13,400 jobs.

The EVC has called on the Australian Government to set a national target for EV adoption, supported by a nationally-coordinated range of policies and regulations to transition the road fleet from fossil fuels to electric.

“Australia is unique among global developed nations in its absence of national electric vehicle policy, with many countries having set targets and dates for the total ban of internal combustion engine sales,” the EVC argues.