Tim O'Brien | Jan 8, 2016

Despite yet another record year of Australian vehicle sales, electric and hybrid vehicles barely bothered the scorer. And in fact, except for hybrid SUVs, were dramatically down on 2014 sales.

In a passenger car market (including SUVs, but excluding LCVs, twin-cab utes, etc.) of 752,406 sales, EV and hybrid sales totalled a dismal 13,246 units, most of which were hybrids, 12,138 units.

This is just 1.76 percent of the passenger car and SUV market, and a barely relevant 1.15 percent of the total market of 1,155,408 vehicle sales.

And of these sales, the lion’s share was in Government and business purchases - 8289 sales – or just 2.12 percent of total Government, business and rental sales of 390,540.

So what’s going wrong here? In fact, if there was any indicator of the lip-service of Government and industry to a commitment to CO2 reduction, these figures are that indicator.

Toyota Prius V
Toyota Prius V

It is also an indicator of the disinterest of consumers in adopting these technologies despite ready and available access to ‘green’ renewable energy for charging (via the connected grid operating across state jurisdictions) and despite the intensity of the community debate on global warming and climate change.

On this matter, the FCAI’s chief executive, Tony Weber, and Toyota executive director of sales and marketing, Tony Cramb (Toyota and Lexus totally dominate hybrid sales in Australia), are in agreement, that a “whole of Government approach” is needed, and that infrastructure is the key.

“Part of the issue with electric vehicles is infrastructure; it’s one thing to give support to the purchase of the vehicle, but there has got to be support to the development of infrastructure,” Tony Cramb told TMR.

“It’s the same with hydrogen vehicles; for hydrogen vehicle infrastructure to be put in place we’d be very supportive of that, very supportive of government making moves in this area,” he said.

It was not, Mr Cramb said, something a “single manufacturer can do”.

Tesla Superchargers - Gundagai
Tesla Superchargers - Gundagai

 

Infrastructure, for transport that works

FCAI chief executive Tony Weber points to the efforts and success of the automotive industry in reducing CO2 emissions from the Australian vehicle fleet, a reduction of 2.4 percent per annum for each year over the past decade, but said the industry “cannot continue to run faster and faster (on this rate of emissions performance)”.

“That’s why we say to the Government there needs to be a whole of Government approach that picks up vehicle technology, quality of the fuel, alternative fuel platforms, and energy platforms,” Mr Weber said.

“Infrastructure improvements are critical,” he said.

“You do not get the enormous gains that are potentially out there, unless there is a contribution from the government, and a change in the environment.

“That includes things like refuelling stations. You need to have transport that works for people and therefore you need the infrastructure in all its many guises in place to make it work,” Mr Webber said.

Toyota's hydrogen-powered Mirai
Toyota's hydrogen-powered Mirai

 

Buyer incentives part of the debate

He also called for support for buyers of low-emission vehicles through incentives, such as exists in many of Australia’s trading partners and in similar developed economies.

“Pricing is an issue. Other countries give advantage to those people who purchase environmentally friendly vehicles; we don’t have those initiatives here. If you want to make a big step forward, you need to consider that, and Government needs to put those in place,” he said.

“I think the debate hasn’t matured in this country as far as it has in some other countries. This is what we (FCAI) are going to go through in 2016, to have the entirety of the debate with Government, and also with the states and territories. And you need to put all of these elements on the table.

“But I do support some government assistance to encourage people into more environmentally friendly options,” Mr Weber said.

MORE: Tesla Sales Top 50,000 In 2015 - Model X Won’t Be Rushed
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Toyota | EV | Hybrid

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