July 28th 2018

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY The Strange Case of the Vanishing Safe Schools Resources

EDITORIAL By-elections will test Shorten's 'politics of envy' strategy

ASIA-PACIFIC AFFAIRS A modest proposal for Australia's regional security

CANBERRA OBSERVED Odds are that Labor won't Albo Bill aside

TECHNOLOGY Wonder carbon material on cusp of commercialisation

ENVIRONMENT Electric vehicles still only for elitist planet savers

ENERGY SECURITY Steam rail backup could get us out of hot water

ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENT NEG papers over crisis behind energy price hikes

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Beijing goes 'boo', Qantas gets in a flap

EUTHANASIA Death with dignity, or putting Death to death?


MUSIC Aural wallpaper: The background hiss to our lives

CINEMA Ant-Man and the Wasp: Downsized superheroes

BOOK REVIEW Timely essays on religious freedom

BOOK REVIEW Fraudulent father of psychoanalysis



No question about it: the Don is in charge

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Electric vehicles still only for elitist planet savers

by Chris McCormack

News Weekly, July 28, 2018

Some emerging electric/hybrid vehicles are truly exciting; a world away from the likes of the original Toyota Prius. But why should taxpayers be asked to subsidise one type of vehicle over another in the belief that doing so will “save the planet”?

Industry is divided over whether taxpayer-funded subsidies should be implemented to encourage the take-up of electric cars. In January of this year Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) chief executive Tony Weber said that the organisation would not lobby for direct electric vehicle (EV) subsidies but would instead concentrate on reducing the maximum sulphur content of Australian petrol from the current 150 parts per million and moving towards Euro 6 emissions standards, which mandate reduced carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide and particulate matter emissions. He has, however, given mixed messages over support for a carbon-dioxide standard (legally enforceable limit on vehicle carbon-dioxide emissions) in the future.

Given that carbon dioxide is a harmless gas, a carbon-dioxide emissions cap would be merely an exercise in virtue signalling that would limit vehicle choice and increase costs to manufacturers and consumers, rather than reducing actual harmful pollutants.

The Federal Government is currently considering introducing a “carbon tax on cars”, whereby each vehicle manufacturer would need to comply with an emissions limit of 105 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometre, averaged across their entire fleet, potentially adding up to $5,000 to the price of a new car. Only two of Australia’s current top selling 20 vehicles fall under this limit, both petrol-electric hybrids.

Predictably, those manufacturers with vested interests – EV producers Nissan, BMW, Hyundai and Tesla, to name a few – and rent seekers like the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) have called for Australian taxpayers to foot the bill in subsidising EVs. However, Volkswagen Australia boss Michael Bartsch told GoAuto: “I think it’s fundamentally wrong. Why should the public first pay for something? Why distort the market with incentives? I’m really against it. I think what should be allowed to happen is let the entrepreneurs, the capitalists, work it out.”

Tesla Roadster: From zero to 100 kph in 2.1 seconds.

Given that the Coalition Government crows about not intervening in the market (despite $3.6 billion of taxpayers’ money used this year to fund renewable energy over cheaper and more reliable coal-fired power generation), one would hope that the words of Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison, who said, “electric vehicles need to stand on their own four wheels. They shouldn’t have to stand on the taxpayer”, will be reflected in Federal Government policy and that both federal and state governments resist calls for up to $7,000 in subsidies.

EV owners already enjoy a higher luxury car tax threshold, federally funded finance through the CEFC, and a stamp-duty exemption in the ACT. Federal Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg said he believed there would be one million EVs on Australian roads by 2030, up from the current 4,000. If that is the case, there should be no need to throw taxpayer money at a bourgeoning EV market.

The ALP National Platform Consultation Draft 2018 (p67) states that “Labor will … ensure all relevant policies (including industry support and tax policies) encourage as far as possible the transition to decarbonised transport”, as they “increase demand for zero or low-emission vehicles through supporting public and private fleets to transition to low or zero-emission vehicles”.

So, under an ALP government, we can certainly expect all taxpayers to pay for the push for EVs. Under this reverse Robin Hood scheme (as with the $1.3 billion of rooftop-solar subsidies handed out this year), the poorer pay for the more affluent to buy the latest EV (or solar panels).

Australia has a very low uptake of EVs: they comprised less than 0.1 per cent of new vehicle sales in 2017. Given our enormous travel distances and sparse population, that is not surprising. Limited vehicle range (which led to the coining of the term “range anxiety”), scanty charging centres and slow recharging times for EVs present an insurmoun­table obstacle for many.

According to Choice, only eight Tesla Supercharger stations exist in Australia. They can recharge a Tesla battery to 80 per cent in 40 minutes. The “destination chargers” scattered throughout most Australian states add only 40 kilometres of range to a Tesla after charging for one hour. The touring range of most EVs is between 120 and 170 kilometres, excepting the $170,000+ Tesla, which can travel up to 600 kilometres under ideal conditions.

The cost of replacement batteries is also a factor. While Toyota and Tesla guarantee their batteries for eight years, if it fails after that, the Tesla Model S 85’s battery could set you back $15,779, and the Prius battery will cost around $3000 to $4,000. Additionally, Canstar Blue calculates the cost of recharging an EV at around $5 per 100 kilometres travelled.

The newly announced Tesla Roadster (pictured), to be available by 2020, will reportedly accelerate from zero to 100 kilometres per hour in 2.1 seconds, have a top speed over 400km/h and a range of 1000 kilometres. But for the majority of Australians, this high-powered, high-priced EV future is out of reach.

ARENA and the CEFC are claiming that 90 per cent of all cars and light commercial vehicles on Australian roads will be electric by 2050 if we would just spend $1.7 billion incentivising the uptake of EVs and penalising combustion-engine vehicle emissions. The purchasing habits of Australians tells a different story, the current top three selling vehicles being large four-wheel-drive utilities.

Ultimately, consumer demand should dictate the vehicles Australians buy. Governments should not make taxpayers subsidise EVs, or legislate a “carbon tax” on vehicle emissions in order to promote them.

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April 4, 2018, 6:45 pm