Tipping point for EV sales rise reached

·3-min read

For Australia's vehicle industry and motorists across the country, 2035 is looming large as a key date in the push towards an electric-powered future.

It's widely considered the last year any petrol-powered cars should be produced if the sector is to achieve a stated goal of being emissions-free by 2050.

That's on the basis that most vehicles have a lifespan of about 15 years.

But heading into World EV Day on Friday, just when and how emissions-free motoring in Australia can best be achieved remains the subject of some debate, even as previously sluggish sales of electric cars show promising signs of growth.

According to figures released this week, demand for electric vehicles rose to record levels last month.

Some 4235 were sold in August, compared to just 370 in the same month last year, and demand so far in 2022 has risen by 368 per cent to 14,524.

But while the August result was the best ever for battery-powered vehicles, it only accounts for 4.4 per cent of total demand in a market likely to top one million this year.

Sustainability expert Anthony Broese van Groenou believes the global "tipping point" for a big acceleration in sales of electric cars has already been reached.

But he concedes Australia lags behind after "nine years of inaction" and issues with being a small country at the end of the global supply chain.

"We are going to be very low on the priority list for the allocation of stock for quite a while to come," he said.

"We're going to have to think on our feet to try to generate more supply here."

One idea is boosting imports of secondhand electric vehicles.

Mr Broese van Groenou is a co-founder of the Good Car company which imports used vehicles, from Japan and the UK, often selling for less than half the price of new vehicles available locally.

It's a movement that is gathering pace, particularly after the recent lifting of restrictions on the number than can be brought into the country and the dropping of import tariffs.

For its part, the federal government has vowed to improve the variety of vehicles on offer by encouraging the release of more low-emitting cars

And it has also pledged to introduce national fuel standards for manufacturers after a consultation period, something strongly supported by EV proponents, including Australia's Electric Vehicle Council.

The council also backs increased incentives for buyers to go electric and has suggested states consider imposing sales targets on manufacturers, with penalties if they fall short.

In a briefing paper last month, the council said potential targets could be 10 per cent of all sales by 2025, rising to 55 per cent in 2030 and then 100 per cent in 2035.

Ultimately, Mr Broese van Groenou sees a time in the not-too-distant future when the switch to electric cars is so strong the demand and value of petrol-powered models will plummet.

"It's going to be a sudden thing," he said.

"You won't be able to sell a petrol-diesel car at any reasonable rate."