Slow burn to Australia’s regional electric future

While the lightbulb is going on for electric vehicles around the world, are regional Australians really keen on going electric?

Electric vehicle (EV) sales almost doubled across the country in 2022, with 83,000 EVs now on Australian roads, according to the Electric Vehicle Council’s Australian Electric Vehicle Industry Recap 2022.

But at only 3.8% of the new car market – a long way behind the estimated global average of 12-14% – Australia is still looking a bit squeamish.

The Electric Vehicle Council puts this down to the low supply of EVs on the Australian market, with only a small range of models available here.

“Australia is not receiving more EVs mainly because we do not have a regulation called a Fuel Efficiency Standard,” the Industry Recap says.

“We support the Australian Government introducing a Fuel Efficiency Standard as soon as possible so many more EVs and fuel-efficient vehicles are brought to our country for all Australians to benefit from.”

The electric future. Who is buying evs? Not northern territorians or south australians according to this graphic from the australian electric vehicle industry recap 2022.
Who is buying EVs? Not Northern Territorians or South Australians according to this graphic from the Australian Electric Vehicle Industry Recap 2022.

But how many Australians – particularly those in regional areas – actually want to buy an EV?

The Electric Vehicle Council report shows the state with the lowest enthusiasm for buying new electric vehicles was the Northern Territory at less than 1% of sales in 2022, followed by South Australia at about 2.5%.

The council’s Consumer Attitudes Survey in 2021 shows a fraction more than half of the respondents would “consider” an electric vehicle as their next car purchase and 49% saw themselves driving an electric car in 2030.

Two-thirds of Australians supported all new car sales in Australia to be zero emissions vehicles by 2035, according to the Australia Institute’s Climate of the Nation 2022 report.

But the same report found regional Australians were more cautious about making 2035 an electric-vehicle-only zone.

Also in Cosmos: Electric future: The drive to bring electric vehicles to regional Australia revs up

“Some questioned whether the 2035 goal is realistic, saying the transition to electric vehicles will take more time,” the report says.

“Others believed such policies take away the individual’s ability to decide if and when to adopt electric technology.

“Regional groups would like governments to take initiative and convert all official government vehicles into electric cars first, as a means of ‘leading by example’. It was also suggested that when the government is ‘finished’ with their electric cars, they should sell them to the public, which ‘sort of puts these cars into the system and people start learning more about them (male, 49, regional VIC).”

Survey results released in February by the Australia Institute South Australia show the hesitancy to embrace an electric future could be changing in at least one state.

The survey of 616 South Australians found a majority (56%) were considering buying an EV as their next vehicle – 14% higher than in August 2021. That included one in four respondents who said their next car would definitely be an EV.

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Their main motivations? Climate change, closely followed by the price of petrol.

The Federal Government last year got the ball rolling on a National Electric Vehicle Strategy, with a consultation paper released in September. The paper noted that rural and regional Australia faced the challenges of distance and limited access to EV charging.

“However, rural and regional Australians could benefit from greater access to EVs given the longer travel distances and higher fuel costs,” the paper noted.

“Investments in EV charging and hydrogen refuelling infrastructure networks are essential.”

This, the paper says, would mean more rural and regional Australians could go down the road towards making an electric vehicle their car of choice.

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