The future of cars is electric – but why is Australia so slow on the uptake?
Globally, electric car sales are expected to grow around 40 per cent year-on-year, hitting 1.5 million sales in 2018 alone.
Yet, Australia lags behind other nations, with only about 4000 electric cars currently on our roads. A small Australian company is now looking to change this, with an Australian-made electric vehicle.
The Aussie EV
There are currently no Australian-made battery-powered car makers manufacturing in Australia, but ACE Electric Vehicles plans to change that.
The company, which started as GetGreen – an energy management company – before evolving into solar farm development and branching out into electric cars, says it wants to bring manufacturing back to Australia, specifically regional Queensland.
“We are proud to be launching our first range of Australian electric vehicles,” ACE Electric Vehicles managing director Greg McGarvie said.
“This is now a realistic proposition since our agreements on a new patented manufacturing process for electric vehicles.”
The group is targeting the release of its first electric car by the third quarter of this year, with two more vehicles scheduled to be released in 2019.
There are currently two models, a ute, dubbed the Yewt, and a cargo van. Prices will be belowe $40,000.
Mr McGarvie said the vehicles had been built predominately for urban environments, “they have been designed for jobs like small trades or physiology labs, where they are going back and forth”.
The vehicles have a total range of 350 kilometres using a 40 kilowatt hour battery – the Tesla Model 3 has a 50 kilowatt hour battery – although 99 per cent of trial trips have been under 110 kilometres.
While the vehicles’ carbon fibre components are being built in China, they are assembled in Australia.
“They are shipped to Australia and put together like Ikea,” he said.
Mr McGarvie said once demand increases all manufacturing will shift to Australia.
“Once we hit around 10,000 units a year we can shift all building and manufacturing to Australia.”
Suffering from range anxiety
With the potential of creating a renewed, albeit smaller, Australian automotive manufacturing industry, many are asking why Australia remains reluctant to take up electric vehicles at the same pace as Europe, the US or China.
“The key reason for poor uptake is the cost of electric vehicles, range anxiety – the cars running out of charge – and poor access to charging stations and servicing facilities, as well as a lack of a range of models,” Mr McGarvie said.
“We just need an open door. The current energy policy confusion is also impacting the ability of business to make investment decisions based on market risk.”
This is supported, to a degree, by new research from Citi analysts.
They say the take-up rate is partially dependent on whether there are policy incentives put in place, however, even if there exists policies pushing the growth of electric cars the change-over from petrol-fuelled vehicles will take some time.
“Current new vehicle sales are around 1.2 million per annum versus a current fleet of 18.8 million cars, so even if 50 per cent of new vehicle sales were electric vehicles, the fleet would take around 30 years to replace,” the Citi analysts said.
Currently, the only national incentive is a $100 million asset finance program.
Federal Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg said: “By providing discounted finance through the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, it is hoped we can encourage a greater uptake of electric vehicles and reduce emissions.”
However, Canberra is going its own way, announcing on Friday plans to make at least half of all newly leased ACT government fleet vehicles either electric or hydrogen powered. The plans also include the establishment of EV-charging stations between Canberra and Sydney, a review of parking and traffic as well as permitting zero-emissions vehicles to drive in transit and bus lanes until 2023.