Cost savings on petrol could propel EVs in Australia

There recently have been reports in the Australian media about a report from the Australian Institute that the country is internationally lagging in the sale of electric vehicles (EVs). Only 0.1% of all cars sold in Australia were electric in 2015 (just over 1100 new EVs were bought here), compared with 23% of all new vehicles in Norway, 1.4% in France and 0.7% in the USA).

The main reason for this is that in most other developed economies the use of EVs is promoted by their governments through a range of incentives, varying from subsidised car prices to no-cost parking facilities, road tax exemptions and so on.

Because of the lack of government support and the lack of market scale EVs in Australia can easily cost $10,000 more compared with the price of similar cars in Europe or the USA.

Following the negative report on the EV situation in Australia expert comments have largely been concentrating on how the Australian government should incentivise the use of such vehicles in our country, with a focus on the ecological benefits of EVs.

‘Fat chance’ of that happening under the current government!

Matters such as emission reduction, carbon pollution and other environment-related arguments will fall on deaf ears in Canberra. So pursuing such strategies in this country will be an uphill battle. Not that these arguments are not valid – on the contrary they are extremely valid – but they won’t sway the opinion of the ultra-conservatives who currently dominate Australian energy policies.

My solution would be rather different. As reported in a previous analysis, around 1.5 million Australian households now have solar panels on their roofs. Most of these households have seen their surplus feed-in tariffs dramatically reduced since renewable energy incentives for households have evaporated. This hasn’t stopped a continuation of the spectacular growth in solar panel installation which is still taking place.

With this massive installed base in place, it starts making sense to look at other potential uses of domestic solar systems and one of these possibilities would be to use solar power to ‘fuel’ car batteries from electric vehicles. This would save Australian households thousands of dollars in petrol costs. Now that would be a massive incentive to switch over to EVs!

The question is whether the manufacturers of EVs are willing to home in on this. Currently they are concentrating their activities on markets where governments have positive EV policies in place. In Australia they are, in that respect, on their own and will have to persuade potential customers with commercial arguments. The massive savings on petrol, linked with solutions on how to use solar energy to power these vehicles, could make Australia a pioneer of this market, with significant export opportunities for innovative products and services,

Paul Budde

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