We can all have great sport on the back of Bill Shorten’s inability to differentiate between 8 minutes and 8 hours when it comes to the charge rate for electric batteries. But we should not delude ourselves that the Coalition is markedly different. The ALP policy has two strands – first the 50 per cent of new cars to be electric by 2030 and secondly requiring vehicle emissions to be 105 grams of CO2 per kilometre by 2025.
The former recommendation also involved a roll-out of charging facilities across the nation. Angus Taylor for the government has, rightly, excoriated this proposal. But not so long ago he too was extolling a roll out by ARENA costed at $15 million for, “The ultra-rapid charge will provide a range of up to 400 kilometres in just fifteen minutes, compared to a current charging time of several hours”.
The 105 grams of CO2 per km recommendation was made by the government’s own hand-picked Climate Change Authority and was a policy approach Malcolm Turnbull almost got through the Liberal Party Room. Requiring all car sellers to average a level of emissions, which none of the March 2019 top 20 selling vehicles achieve, would require sharp price premiums on all other vehicles – and all vehicles outside of the electric models that start in price at $50k – in order to make the average. It is unlikely that this could be possible without upping prices of low cost models by 50 per cent and doubling the price of petrol. Norway, is the poster child of the electric car strategy but has a far less population dispersion than Australia and has petrol prices double our own, as well as tax and other incentives for electric vehicles.
The process would also be achieved by car sellers in Australia sharply discounting prices of the high end electric and hybrid vehicles. The favoured vehicles, much beloved by the affluent greens would be subsidised by those models, with the (hidden) cost paid by other buyers. If anyone thinks that is redolent of the policy approach both major parties have used to get renewables into the electricity mix, they would not be wrong!. Nor would they be wrong in seeing the same supportive policy mechanisms used by the Coalition government to foster renewable electricity supplies. As part of its “fully costed” Climate Solutions Package, the government even has a fund to subsidise the loans to people buying electric cars. Not many working class people are in this favoured group.
Among the ill-thought through elements of the policy forcing along electric vehicles is how then do we finance roads. At present, this is though fuel taxes but with no tax on electricity there is a huge and growing hole. And, if electric vehicles were to face the same tax as petrol and diesel cars, this would reduce their attraction and require even higher penalties on conventional vehicles.
More significant still is how do we fuel the electric cars. Graham Young at the Institute for Progress has estimated that if half of the vehicle fleet comprised electric vehicles this would require a two-thirds increase in the 927 petajoules of electricity presently generated. If this were to be done by a mix of wind and solar, he puts the capital costs at over $600 billion. But it would not in fact be possible to use these intermittent sources as the vehicles would be overwhelmingly charged overnight (when there is no solar anyway) and therefore by coal based electricity. Such an increased load would wreck the other strand of the virtue-signallers’ policy: the reduction in emissions from electricity generation.
It is little wonder that Bill Shorten’s handlers released the ALP climate change policy on the eve of the federal budget, hoping that considered analysis would be truncated and all that would be left was the feel-good factor they hope will sail them into office. But the Liberals with their imitation me-too policy are not well placed to capitalise on the ALP idiocy.