New South Wales transport minister, Andrew Constance, has urged the Morrison government to accelerate the uptake of electric vehicles in Australia by using them for federal government fleets.
Speaking at a Smart Energy Council summit, Constance said state and federal governments should “drive the second-hand market” by buying up electric vehicles in order to lower the price.
“The best way to drive the second-hand market is for government fleets to move entirely to electric vehicles,” he said.
“[In NSW], we’ve set in place a very clear interim target of 50% in the initial stages of government procurement to drive the second hand car market. That will also ensure it drives down the price point in terms of the EV market.”
Asked specifically about what more the federal government could do in this space, Constance said he was disappointed by comments from federal counterparts that suggested EVs were only for the wealthy.
“I was a bit disheartened to hear the federal minister [Angus Taylor] say that EVs are luxury cars,” Constance said. “That’s just untrue.”
He said the country needed “to do everything we can” to encourage fleet managers to move to EVs. “There’s fringe benefit tax arrangements that can assist with that, there’s other incentives that can assist with that at the national level,” he said.
“Anything that can be done to ensure the commonwealth can assist with procurements, I think that’s really important.”
Taylor, the federal minister for energy and emissions reduction, told the ABC in an interview about EVs in June that he did not want to subsidise “luxury cars”.
“That’s just not something we’re going to do as a government,” he said. “People who have the money to buy the luxury car are welcome to go out and do that, and good on them.”
Constance also criticised Victoria and South Australia for introducing road user charges on electric vehicles, saying it was the wrong starting point for states looking to make the transition. The NSW government has also considered a road user tax for zero and low-emissions cars, but announced in June it would be delayed for six years or until electric models made up 30% of sales.
Constance said he had “a very strong view” that charging EV drivers when they were needed to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions was “absolutely crazy and ridiculous”.
Behyad Jafari, chair of the Electric Vehicle Council, told the summit 8,688 EVs had been sold in Australia so far this year. It is an increase on last year, when EVs made up 0.75% of new car sales, a lower rate than in comparable countries.
“More affordable models are being made available to our market,” Jafari said. “We have seen some really great things in not just the last six months, if not the last 12 months.”
“We’re now on track to more than double the electric vehicles we sold last year.”