Of the 1,145,024 new cars sold in Australia last year, a mere 219 were electric and 12,625 hybrid. Yet all cars sold in Australia are likely to be purely electric far sooner than such starkly contrasting numbers might suggest. The issue is not whether the internal combustion engine, one of the most transformative technologies in history, is set for extinction, but how fast and how well the transition to electricity happens.
The Australian government is looking far from agile so far in this global public policy conundrum. It is crucial businesses be given certainty so that they can have the confidence to make the necessary investments in design and in the national installation of recharging infrastructure. Failure by the Coalition government to provide such certainty through policy stability has been the biggest brake on investment in the renewable energy that, combined with electric cars, will be fundamental to the commitment Australia has made internally and internationally to reduce carbon emissions.
The government might do well to plug into policies driving the demise of the fossil-fuelled car, for they are being welcomed by manufacturers, designers and software engineers the world over. Key among such strategies is committing to a date after which all cars sold must be electric. France and Britain, for example, have nominated 2040. Other incentives to smooth the transition might include bonus payments or exemption from luxury taxes. Such incentives have been introduced in all the nations of Western Europe.
Rapid advances in battery technology and falls in the price of electric cars and of renewable energy are speeding the end of the internal combustion engine’s era.
The environmental, economic and health rewards of this inevitable change are massive and evident. There might well also be profound social benefits. The switch is coinciding with the popular embrace of ride-sharing and the imminent advent of self-driving cars. Currently, most cars spend 95 per cent of the time parked, and most commuters are alone in their vehicles. It is not hard to envisage freeways that actually flow with cars with multiple passengers.
There are about 1 billion cars in the world, of which 2 million are electric. More than a third of those electric cars were sold in 2016. The rate of growth of such cars is poised to accelerate sharply.
Smart phones have been around for only a decade but are ubiquitous and have revolutionised the way people live. The change to electric cars is likely to be similarly momentous and rapidly integrated into our routines.
Source: The Age