Practical plans, or pie-in-the-sky policy games?
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The Greens have proposed aggressive measures to encourage electric vehicle adoption, including a heavier Luxury Car Tax on internal-combustion vehicles and free registration for battery-powered buyers, ahead of a total ban on petrol and diesel cars by 2030.

The policy proposal has five main elements:

  • Harmonise emissions standards with Europe and the USA
  • Set binding targets for electric vehicle sales
  • Kill stamp duty, GST and import tariffs for new electric vehicle sales, and offer free registration
  • Bump the luxury car tax from 33 to 50 per cent on internal-combustion vehicles over $100,000
  • Provide $151 million in funding to expand charging infrastructure

Some of these measures have already been proposed by the South Australian Government, as a part of a pre-election pledge to encourage electric uptake. Although battery-powered vehicle buyers would still be forced to pay some on-roads, the plan waives stamp duty and five years worth of registration fees.

"It's setting an ambitious but achievable target of 100 per cent of new car sales in 2030 having to be electric vehicles," Senator Janet Rice, transport head for The Greens, told CarAdvice today.

The cuts in stamp duty and GST are reliant on the states getting on board, which the party hopes to achieve by having the Federal Government pay back some of the lost revenue.

The rebates would be funded by a proposed increase in the Luxury Car Tax on internal combustion vehicles from 33 to 50 per cent, which Senator Rice said would "probably... likely... bring in around half a billion dollars a year," based on preliminary costings by the senator's office.

This is, of course, dependent on the Luxury Car Tax sticking around – which is no certainty.

As for the proposed ban on selling internal-combustion vehicles?

Similar proposals have been floated by European nations including Norway, France and Great Britain, while China has been vocal in its support for an EV-only marketplace.

Tony Weber, chief executive of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI), described the plan as "incredibly ambitious".

He also suggested a higher LCT could drive people to hold onto their cars longer, keeping them out of newer, more efficient vehicles.

"If people have to pay 50 per cent Luxury Car Tax, it may push new technologies – which will improve emissions – out of the range of many Australians, and therefore those latest technologies will not come to this market," Weber said.

"Zero-emissions vehicles currently have some limitations, especially pure-electric vehicles. There's issues around range, there's issue about both public and private infrastructure, and there's a price premium on these vehicles – all of which are extremely unlikely to be overcome by 2022," Weber said, referencing the proposed five per cent targets.

In the lead up to that cutoff date, the Greens want manufacturers to meet two per cent electric sales targets by 2020, five per cent by 2021 and 10 per cent by 2022. Those unable or unwilling to meet the targets could trade 'credits' with more pro-electric brands.

The Australian car market is, obviously, different to those overseas. Last year, the two top-selling vehicles were diesel dual-cab utes, and we have a large fleet of vehicles covering large distances in remote areas.

Senator Rice suggested hydrogen power could provide an alternative to current diesel or petrol power for rural buyers, but didn't provide concrete plans for funding the rollout of the requisite infrastructure. She also has faith in the technological development set to take place in the next 12 years.

"Even though we're saying its 100 per cent of new electric vehicles by 2030, that would still mean at 2030 that's around-about a third of the total fleet," Rice said.

"Vehicles like the dual-cab utes are not ones that people would be immediately moving [away from] because, as you say, there isn't an obvious, readily available electric alternative."

"I think in the 12 years between now and 2030 we're going to see a lot further development of a whole range of vehicles to meet all needs," she continued.

"I would expect that you would end up seeing vehicles, hydrogen vehicles, to meet the people who've got... long distances in remote areas... who knows what's going to happen in the next 12 years!"

Above: The HiLux and Ranger are the top-two cars in the country at the moment, with no view on what will fill their load-lugging role in an all-electric world.

Although there's talk about funding electric infrastructure, the proposal includes no word about where the hydrogen-fuelling infrastructure will come from or who will pay for it.

"You would need a range of initiatives as well to make sure that hydrogen fuelling infrastructure is rolled out, if that's the direction the transport system heads," Rice said, arguing the "market will deal with it" once demand crops up.

To help with the push towards electric vehicles, the party wants to see a 105g/km CO2 emissions standard adopted by 2022, instead of the 2025 marker laid down by the Ministerial Forum on Vehicle Emissions.

Car manufacturers argue fuel standards are central to lowering emissions, and are currently pushing for stringent rules around quality – but no decision on standards has been made.

Asked if it was reasonable to accelerate the emissions timeline without concrete word on when stricter fuel standards will come into force, the senator said "my understanding is that fuel standards are an issue, but they're not the game breaker".

Weber strongly disagrees, telling CarAdvice it was "completely unrealistic" to pull that target forward.

"Model cycles alone... the quickest model cycle is five years, so by 2022 there's not even a complete model cycle for passenger motor vehicles... We need to improve fuel quality in this country."

UPDATE, 15/03/2018: Costings by the Parliamentary Budget Office has been replaced in the copy with "costings from the senator's office" after clarification from Senator Rice.