Australia bumps up investment in EV chargers, shuns sales targets

The Australian government offered A$178 million ($132 million) on Tuesday to speed up the installation of hydrogen refueling stations and charging stations for electric vehicles, but no EV rebates or deadlines to phase out gasoline cars were announced.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the expanded Future Fuels Fund provides “an Australian way” to reduce transportation emissions, repeating a slogan he used lately to represent the country’s climate change policy middle ground.

“We will not force Australians to drive the automobile they desire or penalize those who can least afford it with restrictions or tariffs,” Morrison said in a statement.

“The federal government purports to support choice for Australian motorists, but in fact, its strategy stifles choice by making it very challenging for Australia to attract a wide selection of battery electric vehicles to the market,” Clean Energy Council Chief Executive Kane Thornton said.

The federal funding is only slightly more than a separate commitment by New South Wales, the country’s most populous state, to spend A$171 million on EV chargers over the next four years. Victoria, the second-most populous state, is planning to spend A$29 million on charging infrastructure in regional areas and replacing government cars by 2023.

The federal government said its plan should lower carbon emissions by more than 8 million tonnes by 2035, based on its own projection that battery-electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles will make up 30% of annual new car and light truck sales by 2030.

Morrison in 2019 slammed a proposal by the opposition Labor Party to target half of all new car sales to be electric by 2030, saying the policy would “end the weekend” for Australians who want to tow their trailers and boats to go camping.

However, a recent survey by The Australia Institute thinks tank found 64% of Australians favored requiring all new car sales in the country to be zero-emission vehicles by 2035 and 71% supported government subsidies for electric cars.

Battery electric and plug-in hybrid vehicle sales in Australia hit a record 8,688 in the first half of 2021 but made up just 1.6% of total light-vehicle sales. In Norway, the global leader in EV uptake, battery electric vehicle sales made up nearly 80% of new car sales in September.

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