Why electric cars should be powering Aussie roads

The uptake of electric vehicles in Australia has been slow. There are a number of reasons for this, including purchase price, lack of available models, range anxiety and an absence of government support.

There is also little enthusiasm among car dealers who derive much of their income from the after-sales service required of internal combustion engines. Overseas, it’s different. Norway will ban internal combustion engines within a decade, all major car makers are investing heavily in low emission vehicles and China is becoming the biggest EV market and manufacturer.

A major driver in the transition to EVs is air pollution. About half of the 3000 premature deaths due to air pollution in Australia come from transport. Localised pockets of poor air can occur even in small towns, contributing to respiratory and cardiovascular disease. Children are especially vulnerable, with higher rates of asthma when air pollution and weather conditions combine.

Transport is also contributing to rising greenhouse gas emissions. Rural and regional Australians are already experiencing climate change impacts including more extreme weather and more intense bushfires. Low emissions vehicles have the potential to dramatically reduce emissions, especially when charged from renewable energy.

EV owners can expect low cost mileage – possibly free fuel if you have solar panels on your roof – and cheaper, less frequent servicing. And range anxiety is more about perception. Some models slated for 2019- 20 have ranges over 300km and charging infrastructure is popping up across Australia.

But don’t hold your breath. Lack of government support, combined with the lowest fuel emission standards in the developed world, mean Australia will continue to be a dumping ground for high polluting vehicles. We deserve better.

Dr Graeme McLeay is a member of Doctors for the Environment Australia.