Not even Tesla can overcome Australia’s hostility to electric cars

That risks leaving Australia with the dregs of global EV production and a charging network struggling for investment.

“The government appears to be at best indifferent, at worst opposed, to zero-emission vehicles,” Volkswagen said in a statement. Australian regulation is “in some respects comparable to that of a third-world country.”

While EV sales in Australia may pick up when they cost the same as traditional cars, demand is still projected to be slow.

VW’s electric ID.3 hatchback, released in Europe last year, and the ID.4 crossover, probably won’t land in Australia until 2023 at the earliest, according to the company, which aims to be the global EV market leader by 2025.

Some Nissan EVs are also skipping Australia. In a statement, the Japanese company blamed “the lack of consistent and cohesive national targets and supporting policies.”

A Volkswagen ID.4 electric Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) inside the VW Autostadt automobile delivery towers in Wolfsburg, Germany.

Without subsidies, price has become a major obstacle to uptake. Greg Caleo, the Sydney-based head of marketing agency Blue Hat Green, said he’d love an EV – partly to set an example to his daughters – but can’t bring himself to spend almost $80,000 on one. So he’s sticking to his eight-year-old Mercedes. “I’ll drive it into the ground,” Caleo said.


At the end of last year, there were about 50 EV models on the Australian market, though only a handful cost less than their comparable fuel-powered models, government data show. Teslas start at $66,900 for a Model 3 and stretched to $189,990 for a high-end Model S. In the US, a Model 3 goes for $US38,490 ($50,320), while it costs 249,900 yuan ($49,930) in China.

Even Nissan’s little Leaf hatchbacks cost $50,000 in Australia. That’s as much as $16,000 more than the base models of Australia’s top-selling vehicles, the rugged Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger.

While EV sales in Australia may pick up when they cost the same as traditional cars, demand is still projected to be slow. EVs will account for only 18 per cent of new cars in Australia in 2030, though the figure will reach 64 per cent in 2040, BloombergNEF said last year.

Fossil fuels and EVs have served as political tools for Mr Morrison, who has become increasingly isolated internationally for refusing to commit to a net-zero target. In 2017, he brandished a fist-sized lump of coal in parliament. “Don’t be scared, it won’t hurt you,” he told the Labor opposition. “It’s coal.”


On the campaign trail two years later, Mr Morrison warned EVs couldn’t tow trailers and boats. Electric cars, Morrison said, would “end the weekend.” 

With little policy certainty and so few EVs on the roads, Australian owners are left with comparatively few places to power up beyond the heavily populated eastern seaboard. Tasmania and the vast Northern Territory, home to Darwin and Alice Springs, have only a few dozen charging stations in total, the Electric Vehicle Council said in its annual report last year.

“The lack of policy is the catalyst that causes all the other issues,” said Jafari, the council’s CEO.


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