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Australia set for surge in electric vehicles and infrastructure in just four years: new modelling

21 June 2018

Electric vehicles could represent 90 percent of all cars and light commercial vehicles on Australian roads by 2050, supported by $1.7 billion in private investment in new charging infrastructure, according to new modelling produced for the CEFC and ARENA.

The modelling forecasts a surge in electric vehicle (EV) sales from as early as 2021, based on the right combination of incentives, models and infrastructure. It also finds that, on current trends, EVs could have the same driving range capabilities as diesel or petrol-fuelled cars by 2024, addressing one of the biggest consumer concerns about EVs.

CEFC CEO Ian Learmonth said: “Australians have traditionally been early adopters of new technology, but we’re lagging when it comes to EVs. This research shows that we can increase the uptake of EVs in a way that benefits drivers as well as the environment. It’s about lowering prices, supporting more models and creating a charging network.

“The reality is that the transition to EVs is inevitable. We’re already seeing vehicle makers confirm they will stop producing pure internal combustion engines over the coming years. At the same time, we’re seeing dramatic improvements in vehicle charging networks, creating the essential infrastructure to support electric vehicles. These measures can deliver a material improvement to our greenhouse gas emissions as our vehicle fleet evolves over the coming decades.”

Mr Learmonth added: “Right across the clean energy economy, we are seeing dramatic falls in prices as the use of new technologies becomes more widespread and as the private sector responds to new investment opportunities. We can expect to see the same trends in the EV market, with increased sales driving down vehicle purchase costs and private investors financing new charging infrastructure to service this new market opportunity.”

The CEFC and ARENA commissioned energy specialist Energeia to assess Australia’s EV market, and to examine measures to accelerate the uptake of EVs, and the associated requirements for vehicle charging infrastructure.

Click here for the full Energeia report

Click here for an CEFC Clean Energy Snapshot on EVs.

Energeia modelled three scenarios: no intervention, with EV uptake driven entirely by the economics of imported EVs; moderate intervention, showing the impact of a range of potential measures to lower purchase, registration and toll costs, alongside access to transit lanes and new public-access charging infrastructure; and accelerated intervention, with these measures applied more quickly as more models become available.

Under the moderate intervention scenario, EVs would reach 100 per cent of new car sales in 2040, when more than half of all vehicles on Australian roads would be electric. This represents almost 1.9 million new EV sales a year.

Energeia found that Australia has very low EV penetration compared with other advanced economies. Only 0.1 per cent of new car sales in Australia are EVs, behind the United States at 0.9 per cent, the United Kingdom at 1.4 per cent and well behind global leaders such as California at three per cent, the Netherlands at 6.4 per cent and Norway at 29 per cent.

Energeia considered the impact of so-called range anxiety, where drivers are concerned they will run out of power, and perceived long recharge times. It reported that more than 99 per cent of Australian car trips are under 50 kilometres, so a round trip is already well within the range of current EV models.

By 2024, EVs owners could expect to charge their 100 kWh battery at a public access fast charging network in about five minutes or less, at a cost of just $11. While the same charge at a dedicated charger at home or work would take four hours, the estimated cost of $17-19 was substantially better than fuel costs.

Energeia identified a combination of incentives, models and infrastructure in forecasting Australian EV sales, including:

  • High impact policy incentives such as upfront financial incentives, government fleet purchases, and changes to the regulation of vehicle emissions, fuel efficiency and vehicle import regulations. Among these interventions, upfront cost savings have the largest direct impact on sales. The tipping point for mass market EV uptake is a two-year payback, where owners recover the EV purchase cost premium in fuel savings. Measures to reduce the upfront cost of EVs in Australia include lower stamp duty, exemption from registration fees, and lower fringe benefits or luxury car taxes.
  • Increasing model availability allows consumers to find vehicles within their budget that offer features they want. There are currently five EV models available in Australia, and information from vehicle manufacturers indicates there could be seven models on the market by the end of 2018 and up to 20 by 2020. Energeia finds evidence from overseas markets that indicates that policy incentives drive higher model availability as manufacturers anticipate higher vehicle sales.
  • Public-access charging infrastructure is another key enabler for EV sales. Drivers with home charging need public access charging for long-haul trips and occasional top-ups, and drivers without access to home charging rely entirely on public access charging. Energeia estimates that supporting a market where EVs represent all new vehicles sales will require a network of around 28,500 public access fast charging points across the country. Building that network would require around $1.7 billion of investment.

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said: “Electric vehicles represent a great opportunity for Australia. They can offer a better and more efficient driving experience, with lower emissions while reducing Australia’s dependence on fuel imports. As far as ARENA is concerned, they also offer a great opportunity for renewable energy technologies that can be used to charge them. Also, being a battery with wheels, EVs offer tremendous to support the grid through smart charging.

“This report illustrates methods that have been used elsewhere around the globe to encourage people to buy electric vehicles. It examines charging infrastructure in some detail and also models what future EV uptake trends in Australia might be.”

The CEFC has already invested in a number of projects to encourage the adoption of electric vehicles, including the provision of discounted finance options for individual and fleet buyers. Through the Clean Energy Innovation Fund, the CEFC is also financing start-up companies targeting the EV market.