FCAI automotive industry | New

THE Australian Capital Territory (ACT) has declared its intention to become the first Australian state or territory to ban the sale of internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles.

The ban is signaled for 2035 by Greens MP Shane Rattenbury, the territory’s energy and emissions reduction minister.

Mr Rattenbury said the ACT Government’s ambitions were for 80-90% of new light-duty vehicles sold by 2030 to be zero-emission models, with a stricter ban due to come into force five years later.

To underscore their commitment, the ACT government also announced updated electric vehicle (EV) sales targets and planned new charging stations.

Mr Rattenbury said: “The phasing out of cars with internal combustion engines would first apply to new light-duty vehicles, including passenger cars, motorcycles and small trucks.

The ACT’s transportation decarbonization strategy will be a key part of the territory’s goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2045.

However, legislation on how the proposed ban will come into effect has yet to be drafted.

There are finer details on the application of such a ban, including whether it will apply to cars purchased interstate (just across the border in Queanbeyan, NSW) and domiciled in the ACT.

Mr Rattenbury cited similar plans in the UK which wants to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles from 2030 and hybrids five years later.

The ACT government is in the process of launching a tender for 50 government-funded electric vehicle charging points, but estimates of up to 1,000 will be needed.

Electric vehicle sales in Canberra, one of Australia’s most socio-economically advantaged areas, are supported by limited free registration and interest-free loans of up to $15,000 towards the purchase of an electric vehicle.

The federal government made a $200 million campaign pledge to exempt electric vehicles from import duties and employee benefit taxes to make them more affordable.

However, according to Tony Weber, CEO of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI), the ACT’s plans do not take into account the availability of vehicles, especially the one-ton utility vehicles which represent a major proportion of sales of new vehicles in Australia.

“These vehicles come largely from Thailand and the manufacturers are not in a position to produce one-tonne electric vans nor will they be in 2035. They just don’t have the technology to build them, nor resources and capacity,” Weber said.

“Thailand makes the bulk of the barrels for the Australian market and they represent a small percentage of the total volume produced. Vans and SUVs built in Thailand are sold by the millions domestically and across the region each year and there is little appetite for change.

“FCAI fully supports Australia’s transition to electric vehicles and wants the government to adopt a zero CO2 target which would be more achievable.

“You also have to consider that all of those jobs and families there (in Australia) may not be able to afford electric vehicles even until 2035. The research we commissioned from S&P Global tells us indicate that there will still be an affordability gap of between $8,500 and $17,000 between an ICE-powered vehicle and an electric vehicle in 2033,” he concluded.

Speaking on behalf of new car dealers, Australian Automotive Dealer Association (AADA) CEO James Voortman said: “We have serious concerns that this policy will have adverse consequences for the automotive industry, people who she employs and consumers of the ACT.

“This is another example of why the transition to low-emission vehicles should be led by the federal government, which controls the importation of new vehicles into the Australian market.”

For its part, the Electric Vehicle Council (EVC), which represents the electric vehicle industry in Australia, says: “The ACT Government’s new zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) strategy gives automakers and charging station companies to invest in and will provide cleaner and cheaper roads in Canberrans.

Behyad Jafari, chief executive of EVC, said ACT is leading the country in a smooth and affordable transition to zero emissions.

“The ACT government is now making the tough reform decisions to facilitate an inevitable transition that is only a decade away,” Mr Jafari said.

“By setting long-term goals in line with climate science, Canberrans will benefit from cheaper electric vehicles that cost a fraction to operate.

“Nearly a majority (42%) of the global car market has banned mild combustion engines, while 16 automakers are phasing out petrol and diesel cars. Five years ago, both figures were zero.

“We need the federal government to adopt energy efficiency standards in line with those in Europe, the United States and New Zealand. As a country coming from behind, we now urgently need it.

“By taking steps to register prices based on emissions, there is a clear expectation that low- and zero-emission vehicles will be better off than more polluting vehicles under any future reform.”