Critics say the tax will stall the state’s electric vehicle take up, but Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas says he wants to establish a “user-pays” structure to avoid the situation of electric vehicles dominating new car purchases but owners obliged to pay little or no tax.
This scenario is still some way off: electric vehicles comprised just 0.6 per cent of new vehicle sales in Australia last year.
South Australia also plans to adopt a tax, but NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean has said he believes a road user charge should not be introduced until electric vehicles make up a substantial proportion of the national fleet.
An analysis by ClimateWorks Australia estimated that Australia needs between 50 per cent and 76 per cent of all new car sales to be electric by 2030 to ensure the country is on a net zero pathway by 2050.
Infrastructure Victoria’s Mr Spear said participants in the authority’s discussions were aware of the proposed electric vehicle user charge and this fed into one of their recommendations to “provide financial incentives to individuals to support the initial transition to low or zero emissions vehicles”.
The 210 participants were selected based on their age, gender, location, employment status and socioeconomic backgrounds to represent the diversity of Victorians. Over five weeks they participated in webinars and workshops to increase their knowledge of electric vehicles and share ideas.
Participants had to apply through an expression of interest process, meaning there may have been a higher representation of people who already drive electric vehicles or are committed to reducing the impacts of climate change.
Laura, who lives in north-east Victoria and did not want her surname to be used, said she took part because she wanted carbon emission to fall but didn’t know if electric vehicles would suit a regional area.
“It made me realise that driving and travel is an intrinsic part of what we do but has remained unchanged for such a long time,” she said.
The transport sector is the second largest and fastest-growing source of emissions in Vitoria. Nationally, transport emissions in the final three months of 2020 were almost back to pre-pandemic levels.
Victorian laws require the state set climate emissions reduction targets for 2025 and 2030, but these have been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic and are likely to be announced soon.
The electric vehicle recommendations will inform Infrastructure Victoria’s 30-year infrastructure strategy, which will be released in mid-2021.
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Miki Perkins is a senior journalist and Environment Reporter at The Age.