A long-awaited federal electric vehicles policy will invest in building charging facilities and commercial fleets, but not include subsidies or tax incentives to make the vehicles cheaper.
The federal government will invest $250 million through its Future Fuels Strategy to partner with the private sector to fund charging stations in homes and businesses, among other initiatives.
The strategy, set out by prime minister Scott Morrison on Tuesday, aims to fund 50,000 charging stations in homes, 1000 for public use, and 400 in businesses.
The strategy estimates it will help guide a pathway to an estimated 1.7 million electric vehicles on Australian roads by 2030.
Morrison said the government wanted its emissions reduction plan driven by competition.
“Our plans aren’t about sending lots of taxpayers’ money off to big multinationals to get costs down, they’ll do that themselves; they have got a keen interest in doing that … to ensure the product they are offering on the market for electric vehicles is competitive,” he told reporters.
However, think tanks and industry groups have already criticised the strategy as doing little to drive up electric vehicle sales, despite Morrison rebutting with claims the costs would come down “as happens with all technology”.
Electric Vehicles Council chief executive Behyad Jafari told the ABC the policy addressed 5% of what was needed. He said fuel efficiency standards and rebates would increase choice for Australians, but were not included in the strategy.
Richie Merzian, the Australia Institute’s climate and energy program director, pointed to international examples of policies driving a transition to cleaner vehicles in Europe.
“On Wednesday in Glasgow, the UK is preparing to announce a commitment to end the sale of new polluting cars by 2035 for wealthy countries and 2040 for developing countries,” Merzian said.
“Prime minister Morrison, back home, has returned to the same damaging rhetoric around not ‘forcing’ Australians to save money and emissions by opting for electric vehicles.”
The Grattan Institute last month released a report proposing an emissions ceiling that would curb the sale of high-emitting petrol and diesel vehicles by 2035.
The institute recommended that any government funding of charging infrastructure should be limited to investments that filled gaps in the network.
A federal discussion paper on the strategy from earlier this year argued that government subsidies for ownership of electric vehicles did not give value for money.
“Analysis shows that this would be expected to cost the taxpayer $195-$747 per tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent, depending on the vehicle type and usage,” the report said.
The report pointed out this was “high” compared to the federal government’s Emissions Reduction Fund, which had a price of $16 per tonne of carbon emitted.