5 steps towards an EV future

Wednesday, 12 June, 2024

5 steps towards an EV future

Australia’s EV landscape is set to change, with the federal government recently passing the New Vehicle Efficiency Standard (NVES), which requires car makers to reduce carbon emissions for new vehicles from January 2025.

University of Queensland (UQ) researchers Dr Kai Li Lim, Dr Dia Adhikari Smith and Associate Professor Archie Chapman praised the legislation as an important step towards sustainable transport, incentivising car manufacturers to export their most fuel-efficient vehicles to Australia.

With this prospect in mind, the experts said that five important steps must be taken to prepare the country for the smooth adoption of EVs:

1. Improve charging infrastructure

“We advocate for the continued implementation of the National EV Strategy, focusing on EV charging infrastructure to ensure comprehensive coverage across urban, regional and remote areas,” Adhikari Smith said.

“This includes accelerating the building of heavy EV charging infrastructure like fast-charging stations for trucks and buses.”

Lim said public charging infrastructure for passenger EVs needed to be more reliable and built with longevity in mind. “Chargers also need to be as accessible as possible, including retrofitting existing commercial and residential buildings,” he added.

2. Enable EVs to supply energy back to the grid

Chapman said EVs could act as mobile energy storage units, giving owners the opportunity to monetise their vehicles through demand response programs.

“Light and heavy EVs should be enabled and encouraged to supply energy back to the grid, lowering energy costs for consumers and reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” he said.

3. Create local supply chains for EV batteries and parts

Adhikari Smith said establishing local battery and part manufacturing and recycling would leverage Australia’s mineral resources.

“Local supply chains, including for imports, would stimulate the electrification of commercial vehicles and heavy machineries.”

4. Upskill an EV sector workforce

“There will be high demand for a workforce in all parts of the EV sector, including maintaining vehicles and chargers, building chargers and charging sites, and developing software,” Lim said.

“This will require setting up specialised courses to satisfy skill demands and presents opportunity for Australia in the automotive value chain.”

Lim recommended that workers in the internal combustion engine vehicle sector be supported through transition programs, and ideally be provided with pathways towards EV manufacturing and services.

5. Replace fuel excise revenue

Lim said a fair road user charge for EVs would eventually be needed to replace the loss of fuel excise revenue in Australia, and to continue recouping road costs equitably.

“This could be a phased approach, with no road charges for EVs initially to encourage adoption before a user-pays system is introduced, based on the distance driven,” he said.

Charging ahead

The researchers are hopeful that announcements in the recent federal Budget — including the NVES, investment in integrating EVs with the grid and local battery manufacturing — will facilitate Australia’s transition to an EV future.

“We can also expect an influx of EVs into the country thanks in part to policies overseas, so it’s imperative Australia — and our infrastructure — is ready,” Lim said.

“The transition to EVs will require both strategic investment and careful thinking, as charging technology and charging behaviour continue to evolve.”

“This is challenging but vital work that requires a collaborative effort across technology adoption, policy formulation, financial mechanisms and workforce development,” Adhikari Smith said.

“Australia has a unique opportunity to devise a framework to support the uptake of EVs that will benefit consumers, maintain our transport capabilities and reach environmental goals.”

The five recommendations formed part of a larger submission by UQ researchers responding to an inquiry into the transition to EVs by the Federal Parliament House Standing Committee on Climate Change, Energy, Environment and Water in early 2024.

Image credit: iStock.com/Philip Thurston

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