Labor’s Latest EV Policy Doesn’t Make Them Any More Affordable

Labor’s Latest EV Policy Doesn’t Make Them Any More Affordable
The Kia EV6 and the Tesla Model 3 at an NRMA EV charging station near Newcastle. Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

The Australian Labor Party has announced a new electric vehicle charging station policy in the lead-up to the 2022 Federal Election (three weeks from now, by the way).

Dubbed “Driving the Nation”, Labor’s pitch is to create a $500 million investment in a national EV charging network. This is twice the amount that the Coalition (Liberal and National Parties) have committed to a national EV charging network, with Labor arguing that only 10 per cent of the government’s commitment has been fulfilled. Labor says that this fund will allow for co-investment in additional EV chargers, along with hydrogen and biofuel infrastructure.

For electric vehicles, however, a more in-depth approach has been put forward by the opposition. The plan is to build charging stations at an interval of 150 kilometres on major roads across Australia. It’ll involve partnerships with state, territory and local governments, along with industry partners. Labor says it will commit $39.3 million to this plan, adding that this investment will be matched by the NRMA (who operate a charging network across Australia).

In particular, Labor wants to fill major gaps in Australia’s electric vehicle charging network, such as from Adelaide to Perth (across the Nullarbor), Darwin to Broome and then to Perth, Broken Hill to Adelaide, Port Augusta to Darwin and Brisbane to Mt. Isa and then to Tennant Creek.

Earlier this year, the New South Wales Government announced a massive fast-charging EV network plan for the state, and up until now, the states have been leading the charge on EV uptake.

“Labor will continue to deliver the Driving the Nation Fund through the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, and will coordinate public investment to ensure that it does not duplicate or crowd out private efforts,” said Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen.

“The future of road transport is hydrogen and electric. But to take advantage of the future, we have to prepare for it now,” added Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Catherine King, noting the plan is to work “collaboratively” with state and territory governments to “build a cleaner, cheaper road network”.

Interestingly, Labor has also put forward an $80 million fund for a national “Hydrogen Highways” refuelling network. Hydrogen-powered vehicles aren’t that popular internationally, as there’s only a few cars available in regions where it’s viable to own and fuel one.

The Coalition hasn’t crossed out the use of hydrogen vehicles, with the fuelling type mentioned in the Future Fuels Program, however, Labor says that the government hasn’t dedicated anything to hydrogen refuelling stations as of yet. If you’re curious, there are only three hydrogen fuelling stations in Australia available to the public at the moment, according to glpautogas.info.

Labor’s other electric vehicle policies

This isn’t the first electric vehicle policy that Labor has put forward, but it certainly is a welcome one. It matches and ups the game of the only electric vehicle-adjacent policy put forward by the Coalition, by creating a major recharging station fund.

Labor’s other electric vehicle policies are pretty lukewarm in terms of widespread uptake, relying on electric vehicles getting cheaper. For all electric cars that cost less than the luxury car tax, the opposition wants to remove the import tariff (a 5 per cent tax on top of imported vehicles). On top of this, Labor also wants to remove the fringe benefits tax on cars below the luxury car tax threshold (which would benefit employers looking to purchase electric vehicles).

At the moment that’s kind of it. As we pointed out during the first leader’s debate, removing the import tariff on the MG ZS EV (the cheapest EV in Australia at the moment) brings the cost down from $44,990 to $42,740, so while there are some additional state incentives you can claim, it’s still going to be pretty expensive to buy an electric car in Australia.

Fuel efficiency standards have been argued for by the Australian EV Council, and the biggest barrier to electric vehicle uptake continues to be price.