I understand you put EV on the agenda for the Capital City Lord Mayors council meeting. What was the motivation?
Adelaide is running quite a strong smart city agenda. When we look at transport, we are very cognisant of pairing the city of Adelaide with appropriate infrastructure, such as EV charging points. We have a council initiative to put in 40 of these in our city streets and city owned carparks by the 30th of June 2018. We also provide financial grants to commercial and residential ratepayers in the city of Adelaide to put EV charging infrastructure into their home or commercial premises.
So we’ve got some form, and some results in this area and we are quite passionate about preparing cities that are sustainable. At the Council of Capital City Lord Mayors, we had a discussion with regards to charging infrastructure. What resonated with the lord mayors of the nation was the wider narrative about the nexus between environmental sustainability and technological opportunity. We’ve noted that when it comes to EV sales, only 0.1 of 1 percent of all new vehicles sales in Australia are electric and hybrid — some 1300 odd vehicles out of 2 million. We are hardly leading the world, we are following. We’d like to change that. We’d like to be advocating directly to the federal government. What we do note is that those countries around the world that do have a high takeup rate have invariably got national government support in some capacity.
Did you agree on any collective action?
We discussed some examples of what the federal government could do, but we haven’t locked in our precise advocacy strategy; that’s something we will do in October, but it’s such things as fringe benefits tax exemption for fleets. There’s also things state governments can do in terms of registration fees. What I did achieve today was to build consensus among the nation’s lord mayors that this is something that we do need to be looking at. We represent Adelaide, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Hobart, Perth, Darwin and Canberra. That collective voice, I would hope, has some gravitas. Step one was to build some consensus among the lord mayors. That’s been done. Step two will be to build a detailed advocacy program. We will be looking to get all levels of government working in unison to stimulate the market for EVs and, ultimately, I think it’s just inevitable it will happen because of the economic benefits for people who buy them; they are just cheaper to run.
What role do local councils have to play, as distinct from state and federal governments?
We are the owners and custodians of the public realm of city streets. Our role is to work with everyone from property owners to state governments to federal governments to electric vehicle associations and everyone in between to articulate what infrastructure we need.
Are there any other relevant incentives that could be applied by local governments?
I know that free parking for EV vehicles has been done by other cities around the world. Local government has a leadership role in this space — for our own fleet requirements, in public education, and in infrastructure. We think there’s a narrative whereby governments can stimulate the growth. We want to stimulate demand from consumers, we want to help facilitate that demand, we want to enable more manufacturers to come into the market and offer the motor vehicle purchasing consumer a greater choice, and, ultimately, we’d like to see showroom prices of electric vehicles come down, which will stimulate further demand.
In your view, what role do EVs play in Australia in the future, say a decade from now?
I’m hoping significant. The benefits are fourfold, one is a reduction of noise in our cities — a huge benefit and one not talked about enough. Second, environmental carbon reduction in our cities, and third, what I would call an integrated ecosystem, so when your vehicle is connected to your home eco system it can at various times during the day be relied upon as a source of power. Then, fourth, there’s the nexus between transport and technology. Vehicles are becoming so technology laden, it becomes a part of the technology suite of tools that you have got at your disposal. I think there’s a real paradigm shift coming our way and it is not a stretch at all to say that that paradigm shift will be with us in 10 years.
What would you like to see happen as quickly as possible to advance the rollout of EVs in Australia?
Given there are various initiatives that national governments around the world have already taken in this space, ideally, our federal government would do some kind of case study analysis of other jurisdictions, so we have a deep appreciation of the suite of levers they have at their disposal. From everything I’ve read, the average sales rate vascillates from 1-2 percent; we are 0.1 of 1 percent; Norway is 20 percent plus of vehicle sales that are electric. In every country or every city that is showing above average EV adoption the federal government is involved in incentivising.
Why has Adelaide city council taken such a passionate approach to EV adoption?
Our overarching policy is that the city of Adelaide has a goal for carbon neutrality by 2025. We have got a suite of initiatives and strategies in place and partnerships to achieve that. We want Adelaide to be a technology leading city and we see EVs as part of that. There are environmental, technological and economic benefits, but, I must say there are brand and reputational benefits as well if we lead this.