Industry Issues, Transport Features

Whats next for the Australian EV industry following High Court case?

ATN investigates the implications of what the High Court’s electric vehicle tax ruling are on Australia’s transport sector

Electric vehicle uptake is on the up in Australia. It could’ve been different though had Victoria’s zero and low-emission vehicles (ZLEV) tax not been dismissed by the High Court of Australia. But that wasn’t to be.

It’s been just over a fortnight since a historic case came to an end between electric vehicles drivers Chris Vanderstock and Kathleen Davies and the Victorian government that lasted over two years. Despite the end result of the High Court dismissing the proposed Victorian government electric vehicle road user charge tax, it could still have implications on electric vehicle uptake in Australia.

“There is a long way to go if we are looking forward for electric vehicle operators and the overall industry,” Dr. Syed Nawazish Ali from RMIT University’s EV Living Lab told ATN.

“For the heavy vehicle industry, Australia will still take around five to 10 years to flourish to a prominent scale because of various barriers.”

The biggest and most important barrier of them all, according to Ali, is the lack of knowledge of electric vehicles in the country, with most either being used overseas or having only been introduced in recent years.

While there are courses across the country for electric vehicles, the majority of these degrees are either Master’s degrees or certificates. Ali says that lessons on how to use electric vehicles should be implemented in primary schools as well as in university courses.

“Whenever I tell someone I did a PHD in electric vehicles controls, the very first question for me is do you think they are reliable? Should I invest in it?” Ali says.

“We need to address these questions, we have to change people’s minds, that should be the first step and then things flow over.”

Despite most of Australia not knowing much about these vehicles, operators’ and states knowledge has increased. Currently, trials and electric vehicle access establishments are taking place not just in Europe and the United States, but in Australia as well.

Victoria has recently established a zero-emission heavy vehicle freight network with Volvo which will reduce the need for structural assessments on a permit-by-permit basis. NSW, Queensland and South Australia have also announced trials on axle weight limits to allow more zero-emission truck technology on the road.

 Governments and companies knowledge on EVs continues to improve

Companies such as Grace Removals have recently received their first Australian fully electric trucks into their fleets. EV charging specialist Kempower has also introduced a new megawatt charging system, while Isuzu’s latest generation of trucks heading to Australia includes one Isuzu N Series EV truck model.

Another of these barriers limiting EV uptake is how far these electric vehicles, particularly heavy vehicles, will be able to travel. Despite companies overseas such as Scania having battery electric vehicles (BEVs) of their own, there’s still an unknown factor for the length of their life.

There’s also a lack of any charging infrastructure for electric vehicles. While the federal government has committed to putting in 117 new charging stations on key highways, Ali says there still isn’t enough. Battery and general cost is also a factor too, with a CarExpert article from December last year reporting that battery prices had increased to $226 per kilowatt-hour.

Ali says that with a lack of incentives, there could be more done to motivate Australia to make the move from diesel and to electric.

“There should be many incentives at the start in order to motivate the Australians to move towards this electrification,” Dr. Ali says.

“Then they will see that they can take a risk, that it’s not too costly, and that they can sacrifice some of their savings. Then, they realise what they are investing in won’t be wasted, it’s a big and good cause.

“It’s not only for yourself or your country, it’s something that’s going to impact on a global level.”

One area it could have an impact on is the ability of governments in the future to implement these taxes. In the High Court case, all state and territory governments backed Victoria’s move to introduce a separate road user charge on electric vehicles.

With this ruling deeming it unconstitutional, governments across Australia may consider the consequences of the case if they were to implement such a tax again in years to come.

While a tax may be in the works, Ali says that now is not the time to reduce enthusiasm around EVs and limit incentives, as he says taxes shouldn’t be imposed on these vehicles given that there isn’t even a 40 to 50 per cent uptake on these electric vehicles currently.

“People have started understanding some of the terms about the chargers, about this technology, and if any government imposes taxes at this stage, those who are somewhat inclined towards electrification may lose the idea,” Ali says.

“We do not want this, we want Australia to compete with the other developed countries in such technologies in order to contribute to the betterment of our environment.”

With the need for zero-emissions heavy vehicles rising amid the uptake of electric vehicles Ali says Australians should be considering this race as a tournament.

“Why don’t we take this climate challenge as a tournament in which the Aussies have to win and once again make history?” Ali says.

“This is important, and I would say let EVs breathe and hence let this planet breathe.”

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