Australians have the appetite for electric vehicles, what we need now is infrastructure and policy to make it accessible for all.

On the back of Britain’s announcement that they will ban new petrol, diesel or hybrid cars within 15 years, the Electric Vehicle Council has called for Australia to do the same. Their research shows the appetite in the Australian market is strong, with the sale of plug in electrics having tripled from 2,216 in 2018 to 6,718 in 2019. According to the council, if Australia had the same incentives and support as the EU and China, Australia would now have 50,000 of these vehicles on the road.

ClimateWorks CEO Anna Skarbek spoke to Triple J Hack to discuss how Australia could follow the UK’s lead.

“Britain has had a bipartisan position on climate goals for a long time now, and they have a national climate change act which sets overarching targets,” Skarbek explained. “That gives a framework where each sector of the economy is then required to respond and set targets to achieve those interim carbon goals. They’ve also mapped their goals to their industrial strategy.

“The government’s taking quite an active role in what they call the greener Great Britain Industrial Strategy and looking at supporting manufacturing of these new technologies, electric cars being one of them.”

Skarbek highlights the air quality in Europe as an important factor, something that Australia is only now experiencing in the wake of an unprecedented bushfire season. “I think air quality is a big driver as well, London is a big city, the air pollution has been a concern for a long time, and that’s why many European cities are in fact ahead of Australia in setting targets for vehicles and cars in particular.”

So could we have a climate change act here?

“Yes, Victoria already has one. I was involved in helping review it and it was updated just a couple of years ago. Victoria has a legislated target for net zero emissions the same as the UK and a process very similar. It sets out a transparent way of setting five-yearly targets that report to parliament and asks the government to create strategies across the economy for all of those targets.”

One of the core concerns in regards to purchasing electric vehicles has been what the industry calls “range anxiety”. But Skarbek explains this is being tackled across a range of programs.

“I know that the head of one of the major shopping centre developers can reassure everybody that you can drive electric cars now from Melbourne to Cairns all the way and recharge at a shopping centre.”

What we need now is national charging infrastructure, something Infrastructure Australia has called to be fast tracked. That and coordinated policy can help us pick up the pace in transitioning to electric vehicles.

Listen to the full episode (air date 6 February 2020) on Triple J Hack.