Electric cars averaged more travel than petrol vehicles in Australia in past year

Expert says claims that EVs will ‘end the weekend can be put to bed’ by new figures

Australian electric vehicle drivers are on average driving further than people with petrol vehicles as infrastructure improves, new statistics show.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics for the first time looked at how electric vehicle drivers use their cars and found that in the 12 months to 30 June 2020 they had travelled 69 million km.

Electric vehicles travelled 11.1 thousand km on average, which was 600km more than drivers of petrol vehicles for the year.

In New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia and the ACT, EV owners travelled further than petrol vehicle owners, with Queensland not far behind. But electric vehicles lagged behind in South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory.

On the whole electric vehicles were still mostly confined to the cities and urban areas, with nearly three-quarters of all travel – 72.5% – taking place within capital cities. While EVs only recorded 5 million km of travel outside urban areas, or 7.2% of the total, they still recorded 2 million km of travel interstate.

Dr Jake Whitehead, the Electric Vehicle Council’s head of policy, said these early results were promising as they showed people were beginning to leave urban environments as infrastructure improves.

“The claim that EVs will end the weekend can be put to bed,” Whitehead said. “We are seeing them used for those longer-distance trips interstate.

“Overall this is very encouraging and demonstrates that Australians are adopting electric vehicles, and that having freedom to travel across the country is being helped by the increase infrastructure.”

Whitehead also said that the data comes with some caveats as it relied on a small sample size and different states and territories do not always clearly sort whether a car is an electric vehicle, a plug-in hybrid or another kind.

“We should be very clear about what an electric vehicle is: it’s been established internationally that an EV is one you plug in and power using electricity,” Whitehead said.

“Hybrids and these mythical hydrogen cars – which there are very few of – unless they can be plugged in and powered they are not EVs. And we should treat them separately, especially as they have different infrastructure requirements.”

The results come as the Australian government faces criticism for not doing enough to support the transition to electric with its new electric vehicle strategy.

While the strategy was presented as a “reboot” for the Coalition, it offered little to help encourage the uptake of electric vehicles and instead focused on the rollout of charging infrastructure.

This lack of clarity has continued with Nationals whip Damian Drum calling for the introduction of an EV road user charge, saying that as uptake increases revenue from the fuel excise will decrease, forcing governments to “find those monies from somewhere”.

“You look at a future in Australia where if we move to more EVs, which undoubtedly we will, people that are driving EVs will have to be paying some sort of road tax,” Drum said.


Royce Kurmelovs

The GuardianTramp

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