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Most advanced economies are now rapidly making the change to electric vehicles. For instance, the EU has just announced what is effectively a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars as soon as 2035.

Why is Australia’ slowness important? Well, transport is our third-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions: the National Transport Commission says it is around 20%. So this is a further example of where we can be accused of falling short of global expectations.

So why hasn’t the government encouraged more electric vehicles – EVs? Distance is no longer an excuse – some models can travel around 500kms between charges.

Peter Khoury, the well-known face of The NRMA, is an authority on this. In this episode of Quick Take, Peter Wilkinson (co-host Liam Cox is in Tokyo working with the Olympics) discusses Khoury’s electric vehicle scorecard, acknowledging that Australia has made some progress but we must do more.

#crisiscommunications #leadership #corporateaffairs #publicrelations #ceos
(QuickTake is a niche publication that analyses communications issues for CEOs, directors, corporate affairs professionals and journalists.)

Video Transcript

Peter Wilkinson: 

Peter, is the EU going to meet the 2035 commitments? 

Peter Khoury: 

Well, I’m not a gambling man, but if I was, I certainly wouldn’t be betting against them. And that’s just based off the progress that we’ve seen in the EU over the last five to 10 years. So we are already seeing a significant shift in the EU away from petrol and diesel engines. There’s been significant investment in infrastructure, new car sales. We’ve seen significant growth in the EV market, in some countries as high as 40%. 

Peter Khoury: 

So if you look at, say, for example, Norway, their new car sales are as high as 40%. The UK is certainly doing a lot better than we are. And a lot of those countries have already seen significant uptake. There are benefits to buying them. There’s a raft of different incentives and subsidies. 

Peter Wilkinson: 

So why are we laggards? 

Peter Khoury: 

Look, there’s a number of factors here that have played a role here in Australia. And I think it’s easy to look to excuses and point the finger. It’s not that simplistic. We are a very different market. We’re a very unique market. Our driving history is quite unique. It’s more like what you see in the United States compared to other parts of the world. Part of it has been a lack of initiative, but not exclusively. We haven’t built the charging infrastructure in Australia that other parts of the world have done. We don’t have the makes and models that are readily available to our market that you see in other parts of the world. And our driving is different. We drive further distances. We do need to catch up, if for no other reason than the fact that the places we buy our cars from are changing and we need to change with it.  

Peter Wilkinson: 

If Europe, and Japan I think is very much in the same place, if they’re going to be essentially not making diesel or fuel cars for their own markets, are they going to be making a special batch of petrol and diesel cars for us? 

Peter Khoury: 

No, it’s unlikely. Our market’s not big enough, but also Toyota is the number one selling make/model here in Australia and Toyota have made its commitments. And so we need to be prepared for the fact that the companies that do make these cars want to sell certain types of cars to their own populations. They are inevitably going to sell them for the export market. We are part of that export market. We don’t want to be a dumping ground for what the rest of the world doesn’t want to drive or isn’t interested in driving anymore. Again, we’re talking, the deadlines that some of these countries are talking about are 15 years away. So we don’t want to panic here in Australia. We don’t want Australians to panic. This is not about taking away your favourite car. It’s about making sure Australia is well-placed to have access to the choice and the choices that will come online. 

Peter Wilkinson: 

Well, let’s talk about what the federal government is saying for a minute. So two facts that seem really important is that current EVs, electric vehicles, can travel about 500kms between a charge. And people can charge at home overnight. And the second figure is that 20% of our carbon emissions are automotive. The coal lobby can’t object to it because it’s going to involve the consumption of more electricity. So I can’t see where the roadblock is to the feds not encouraging EVs to be in sync with what’s happening with the car manufacturers overseas. 

Peter Khoury: 

In my view, the partisan political focus has shifted somewhat in this area. Certainly, since the 2019 election, the federal government have already announced a range of initiatives and incentives to encourage the uptake of EVs, to encourage infrastructure of charging. We have a lot of lithium in this country, so there are genuine opportunities, commercial opportunities with the uptake of electric vehicles, for batteries.  

Peter Wilkinson: 

So then just in practical terms now, I’m in Sydney. Can I drive to Canberra and get a charge and come home again in an EV? And the same with Melbourne? 

Peter Khoury: 

Just off the network that the NRMA has built alone, you can get to Canberra, you can get to the Hunter Valley and come back. We’ve got charging stations along the journey to the Hunter and beyond all the way up to Tamworth. And that’s just the NRMA. And we know that there are other players out there as well. So you can get to Canberra. There is a charging network that we’ve begun to construct off the Hume Highway, off the main highways that head in so you can pull into regional towns and tourism locations and charge there. Same heading towards South Australia. So just within the New South Wales boundaries alone, the work that the NMRA has been doing building its fast-charging network since, well we were doing for about four years now – that has opened up those journeys. 

Peter Wilkinson: 

So let’s talk about prices at the moment. So electric cars are cheaper to run because there are less complicated parts. And I understand that charging an electric car is cheaper than the equivalent kilometres per tank if you like, but what about the price point of the cost of purchase? 

Peter Khoury: 

Yeah, well, there’s the sticking point. And this is the reality that we face. Until you get price parity between electric vehicles and petrol and diesel cars for like-for-like type models, until you start to see those ticket prices come down, and the choices available to Australia increase in terms of the types of cars they can drive, we will continue to struggle. They are cheaper to drive. If you’re driving your typical family mid-range SUV, you’re probably paying upwards of a hundred bucks to fill up. You’re not going to pay anything like that when you’re charging an electric vehicle. At most, you’re probably talking about 20 bucks. And so the savings are significant. But until we get those ticket prices come down in this country, and until we see the choice, the range of vehicles available to Australians, increase, we will continue to have these difficulties. To give you an example, a Tesla 3 in Australia is about $20,000 more expensive than the exact same car in the United States, taking into consideration the exchange rate. 

Peter Wilkinson: 

We’re being ripped off, are we, by the car manufacturers who are able to charge more here? 

Peter Khoury: 

They’re able to charge more here because of the market. There aren’t the incentives that some of those countries offer. These guys, if they sell their cars in some countries, the EU, and you get carbon credits, those carbon credits help go towards building other vehicles. We don’t have the emissions standards that those countries have so that there isn’t the need to bring down the tailpipe emissions. So we need to catch up in some of those critical areas. 

Peter Wilkinson: 

Well, certainly we don’t have the carbon credit market. And as you know, that’s been furiously debated in Canberra, but also the emissions standards in Australia are so much different. So it’s quite a complex model you’re looking at. It’s not just a matter of simply, let’s go out and buy – or the government simply changing one policy. They’ve got to juggle a number of policies for this to work. 

Peter Khoury: 

Yeah. And look again, to be fair to the federal government, we’ve since seen progress in this area made this year, some progress. We’d like to see more. So one positive is that the government is now ensuring that if you are going to build new apartment blocks, that they have to be compatible with this new technology. That will go a long way to helping. And then looking at what you can do to retrospectively put in charging hubs in those local communities so that people can charge if they don’t have access to available on-street parking, or you don’t have your own standalone garage, which is outside of those inner-city areas, more and more families do. 

Peter Wilkinson: 

Peter Khoury, great information, nicely told. Thank you very much, indeed. 

Peter Khoury: 

Thanks for having me. 

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