Australians want a rapid shift to EVs – and a fuel efficiency standard to drive it

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Kona EVs and a Tesla Model 3. Image: Riz Akhtar

The Australia Institute’s 2022 Climate of the Nation report has found strong public support for a transition to zero-carbon transport options, including training to support the automotive workforce in the transition to EVs, fuel efficiency standards, and policies to make public transport more attractive.

The report, now in its fifteenth year running, was launched at an event this morning in Sydney with former PM Malcolm Turnbull.

It marks the first time the Climate of the Nation report has included a dedicated section on Australians’ view on the transport sector.

The report gathers data polled from about 2600 adults over 12 days in August this year, and it involved both quantitative surveys and qualitative focus group discussions.

Australians want a swift transition to EVs

A crucial finding was that a wide majority (79%) of those surveyed support a long-term strategy to provide vocational training to ensure a skilled workforce for the manufacture of EVs, seen as a potential goldmine future industry here in resource-rich Australia.

78% support a government-funded network of fast charging stations for EVs, and 76% support a law requiring new apartment blocks to include charging stations for EVs.

65% of those surveyed believe Australia should speed up its EV uptake to reduce reliance on imported oil, and 64% support requiring all new car sales in Australia to be zero-emissions vehicles by 2035.

Public support for national transport decarbonisation policies high

The report found that 75% of Australians think the Government should introduce industry-specific emissions reduction targets for the transport sector. 69% of those surveyed support the introduction of a national transport decarbonisation strategy that would guide the industry towards net-zero.

68% of those surveyed support the introduction of national fuel efficiency standards in line with those in Europe – In fact, Australia is the only country in the OECD (excluding Russia) that does not have such standards.

It’s a hot-button topic, and something successive Australian governments have failed to implement – though change may be coming, with the consultation period on the Labor Government’s new National Electric Vehicle strategy closing this past Monday.

High support for shift to public transport – and public transport electrification

The report found that 75% of those surveyed support electrifying state bus fleets by 2030, and 79% support Federal Government funding to help train bus drivers and mechanics to deal with the shift to electric buses.

82% of those surveyed support connecting major capital cities in Australia via a high-speed rail network, and 62% believe that governments should introduce policies to encourage mode change from cars to active and public transport.

Support for shift towards ‘active’ transport

The survey found high support for government incentives to encourage the shift towards ‘active’ transport, i.e. walking and cycling.

62% of those surveyed support a national subsidy scheme for bikes, e-bikes and cargo-bikes, and 61% support making current EV subsidies and tax incentives available for e-bikes. Of those surveyed, the majority believed 20% of government transport spending should go towards active transport, which matches the minimum spend recommended by the UN.

“The Australian Government has a clear mandate to do more when it comes to climate, in particular, clean transport,” said Australia Institute Director of Climate and Energy Richie Merzian. “The upcoming electric vehicle strategy is an opportunity to get moving on fuel efficiency standards, targeted electric vehicles subsidies, and a phase out of fossil fuelled vehicles – all of which have strong public support.

“Australians want more than just the replacement of fossil fuelled cars with electric vehicles,” Merzian said. “They believe the government should help shift away from car use towards public transportation, cycling and walking. They want better infrastructure for active transport, subsidies for e-bikes and cargo bikes, and an all-electric Australian bus fleet.”

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