Australian Labor Party to fund EV chargers every 150km, but does the budget match the promise?

    Today, the Australian Labor Party held their official election campaign launch (despite being weeks into the campaign). During the speeches from Labor’s key personnel, the opposition made a number of policy announcements.

    It is clear that Labor believes Australians want action on climate change and are making this a key differentiator between the two major parties.

    Labor announced a new electric charging policy, great for those who already own an EV, and those who will purchase EVs in the years ahead (virtually everyone).

    The policy includes further co-investment in electric vehicle charging stations across Australia. This includes a $39.3 million investment, matched by the NRMA for a total cost of close to A$80M.

    The charging networks we have to date, including Chargefox, Evie Networks, Engie, Ampol etc have been funded through the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) where the Future Fuels Fund provided funding for up to 400 public fast-charging stations.

    To date, this co-investment has been made through the application, and they successful provided awarded funding to complete their expansions. This announcement that NRMA are already selected is a little strange, particularly given they only supply services into NSW and ACT.

    Labor says there will be up to an additional co-investment of $500 million, from the Government’s Driving the Nation Fund. This will fund additional EV chargers, as well as hydrogen and biofuels refuelling infrastructure. Unfortunately, there’s no detail on the split between these or if ARENA will continue to be the distribution channel for these funds.

    As we know, the up-front cost of electric vehicles remains high and the available selection of EVs remains limited in Australia, compared to other similar markets.

    Electric cars in Australia start at close to A$50,000, and just 5 are available under $60,000, with the vast majority landing at A$80k and above.

    Labor says that by comparison, more than 24 EVs in the UK cost less than the converted A$60,000, with 8 cheaper than our entry price.

    To help address these issues, Labor’s new policy will make exempt many electric vehicles from import tariffs and fringe benefits tax.

    Labor will exempt many electric cars from:

    • Import tariffs – a 5 per cent tax on some imported electric cars; and
    • Fringe benefits tax – a 47 per cent tax on electric cars that are provided through work for private use.

    These exemptions will be available to all electric cars below A$77,565 in 2020-21.

    FBT changes are likely to benefit businesses and encourage further fleet purchases, however, given the higher starting price of EVs, I am surprised we’re not hearing about discounts or the removal of the luxury car tax up to a threshold.

    Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy, Chris Bowen also shared some further details on the plan. Bowen writes ‘Under the Driving the nation policy, there will be an EV charger on average every 150kms across the country.

    Given Australia’s large continent, we face one of the largest geographical challenges in terms of creating a true EV fast-charging network that would allow you to drive wherever you want without planning.

    The populated east coast is already off to a great start, but there are definitely locations that make long trips challenging or impossible right now. Travelling From Adelaide to Perth for example has almost no fast charging infrastructure and would result in an overnight stay to achieve today.

    While the range of many EVs now around 400-500kms, having multiple charging options along the way, particularly high-traffic routes, enables you to have choices about where to stop, rather than plan trips around sparse charging options.

    A great example of this is travelling from Wodonga to Melbourne, with no fast charging offerings in Seymour, many will need to charge at Euroa to comfortably make the trip to Melbourne with range to spare. This is particularly important for those who select lower-cost EVs with smaller batteries and lower ranges between 200-300kms.

    So what kind of investment is needed to make this 150km between chargers a reality? Electric vehicle charging locations are actually really expensive, with prices climbing the faster you climb up the charging rate, with 50kW, 150kW, and 350kW fast chargers commonly offered.

    The most recent ARENA funding, an investment of $25 Million, is funding just 400 chargers. These range in charging speed considerably, so our best option is to play with averages. This means each electric charger costs on average $62,500 with the costs including the charger itself (often supplied by Tritum or ABB), planning permits, capital works and supporting electrical infrastructure.

    If we take that $62,500 and divide it by the ~$80M co-investment from Labor’s new policy and NRMA, you get 1,250 chargers. If you do the same division by the full $500M (remember some of this will be carved out for hydrogen and biofuels), you’d have another 8,000 chargers for a total of 9,280 chargers. Now we’re talking.

    Clearly, Labor would need thousands of chargers and locations to meet their objective and remember there is no word on how many chargers per 150km location. Often chargers are grouped in 2s, 4s, 6s or more, to accommodate the growing uptake of EVs in Australia, expected to continue to rise from the current ~2% of new car sales, rapidly through 2030 and to make up most of the fleet by 2035.

    The opposition leader, Anthony Albanese also shared the policy through his social channels.
    Jason Cartwright
    Jason Cartwright
    Creator of techAU, Jason has spent the dozen+ years covering technology in Australia and around the world. Bringing a background in multimedia and passion for technology to the job, Cartwright delivers detailed product reviews, event coverage and industry news on a daily basis. Disclaimer: Tesla Shareholder from 20/01/2021

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