Electric vehicle sales rise, but tough fuel standards are needed

A crackdown on petrol-guzzling cars risks becoming a failure unless the Albanese government backs tough rules, a leading advocate has warned.

Figures published by the Electric Vehicle Council on Monday revealed a 120 per cent increase in the number of electric vehicles (EVs) sold in the 12 months to June, as the number of models available to households skyrocketed by about 50 per cent.

But there are still too few EVs available in Australia to supply low-emissions vehicles to everyone who wants one, EV council chief Behyad Jafari said, with demand still far outstripping supply in the absence of fuel-efficiency rules to motivate manufacturers to export.

It comes as advocates fear aggressive lobbying from industrial interests could derail a federal government pledge to introduce local fuel efficiency rules.

“There’s a real threat here,” Mr Jafari said.

“We’ve spent decades not having fuel efficiency standards at all, and there are now [lobbyists] trying to make sure that when we finally get them, they’re weak ones.”

Industry consultation led by Transport Minister Catherine King has already been delayed six months longer than advocates had intended, though Mr Jafari said he was optimistic legislators understood the urgency of decarbonising the transport sector.

A landmark report from the Grattan Institute in 2021 found Australia must stop selling petrol cars by 2035 to have any hope of meeting wider emissions reduction targets by 2050.

EV hurdles

The latest figures show about 8.4 per cent of all new cars sold in 2023 were EVs, which is a record high as the industry eyes wider adoption amid the entrance of cheaper models.

There are now 91 electric car, van and ute models available across Australia, though the vast majority of sales are spread across three – the Tesla model Y, Tesla Model 3 and BYD Auto 3.


The EV council report also noted that most models are only available in small numbers locally because Australia still lacks national fuel efficiency rules to incentivise manufacturers.

Mr Jafari said the proportion of electric vehicles as new car sales could easily rise to more than 15 per cent within 12 months if competitive fuel standards pushed manufacturers to send cheaper EVs here.

“Our biggest challenge is selling people the EVs they already want,” he said.

“The demand has been there for several years already.”

Australia lags on EVs

While the rise in EV sales is encouraging, only 46,624 were sold across the nation over the 12 months to June.

That figure will need to increase several times over to push petrol cars out of the market entirely over the next decade.

In order for Australia to achieve its climate targets, it is expected that more than 50 per cent of all new cars sold in 2030 will need to be EVs,” the EV council said in its report.

“This means Australia will need to aim for around one million EVs on our roads by the end of 2027.”

Australia continues to lag behind other nations when it comes to EV adoption, with Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands in north-western Europe having more than half of their new sales as electric vehicles.

In fact, Norway has reached more than 80 per cent of new car sales as EVs.

Australia still sits below the global average of around 18 per cent and is notably behind New Zealand, which introduced tougher fuel efficiency standards several years ago.

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