Governments playing part in rising electric and hybrid car sales, analysis shows

By Shannon Jenkins

Friday August 13, 2021

Sales of hybrid and electric vehicles are on the rise
Sales of hybrid and electric vehicles are on the rise. (lightpoet/Adobe)

A new report from the National Transport Commission has found that sales of hybrid and electric vehicles are on the rise, with 58,595 hybrid and 6,900 battery or plug-in hybrid electric vehicles sold in 2020.

That’s almost double the number of sales of hybrid cars in 2019, and a 17% rise for battery and plug-in hybrid vehicles.

The report, released on Friday, has shown that last year almost all governments purchased at least 10% of their car fleet as either electric or hybrid vehicles, with most being the latter category.

Of all the state, territory, federal and local governments in Australia, the ACT government had by far the highest shares of battery electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles as a proportion of total sales. However, the total number of vehicles the ACT purchased in 2020 was relatively small at 216 vehicles.

The report also found that nine out of 10 new taxis and commercial passenger vehicles purchased in Australia last year were electric or hybrid.

However, despite the growth in electric vehicles in the past two years, they still only represent an estimated 0.12% of Australia’s 18.1 million cars and light commercial vehicles.

Read more: Australia’s EV policy miles behind Nordic nations, researcher says

Commission spokesperson Mandi Mees said governments, businesses and consumers can reduce emissions with their vehicle purchases.

“Our analysis shows that if people who bought new vehicles in 2020 had chosen the best-in-class for emissions performance, Australia’s average carbon emissions intensity would have dropped by 93% for new passenger cars and light SUVs, and by 50% for new heavy SUVs and light commercial vehicles,” she said.

“As manufacturers continue to produce new and improved models of hybrid and electric vehicles, there is a clear trend in growth. We hope this report helps inform governments, fleet managers and consumers to be conscious of the collective impacts on CO2 levels of our buying choices.”

The commission has conducted its analysis using data from the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI). It has found that less than half of Australian new passenger car sales had an emissions intensity of 160g/km or less, whereas more than 90% of new European passenger car registrations were below 160g/km.

This is partly explained by consumer preferences, and fewer government incentives for lower emissions vehicles, the report noted. Australians’ consumer preferences over the past decade have shifted towards heavier vehicles with larger and more powerful engines, while European and Asian markets trend towards smaller vehicles with lower emissions.

The analysis found that the average emissions intensity for passenger cars and light SUVs was lowest for government car fleets (134g/km), followed by private buyers (155g/km) and business buyers (158g/km).

For heavy SUVs and light commercial vehicles, the emissions intensity was relatively similar for all buyer types, with private buyers having the lowest (216g/km) and business buyers having the highest (220g/km).

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