Morrison unveils EV policy: What’s in it for startups and SMEs?

electric vehicle

Source: Unsplach/Andrew Roberts.

The government has rolled out its plans for electric vehicle adoption, with a focus on private sector partnerships to fund 50,000 charging stations.

The plan pledges $178 million to the government’s future fuels fund, bringing it to a total of $250 million.

That fund focuses on four key areas of investment: public electric vehicle charging and hydrogen refuelling infrastructure; heavy and long-distance vehicle technologies; commercial fleets; and household smart charging.

It does not, however, include subsidies, tax incentives, sales targets or any fuel emissions targets.

The strategy mirrors the broader climate change plan, focusing on driving down the cost of low- or zero-emission vehicles to the point they become the natural economic choice.

This will be done by “creating the right environment for industry co-investment”, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

Does the EV policy work for SMEs and startups?

Gail Broadbent, a PhD candidate at the University of New South Wales specialising in social attitudes to electric vehicles, tells SmartCompany today’s announcement does mark a backtrack on Morrison’s 2019 comments that electric vehicles would “end the weekend”.

That was a powerful message that resonated with people, she explains.

However that’s about where the positives end.

“There is no way that that kind of paltry investment is enough,” Broadbent says.

The policy also fails to address the sheer urgency of the situation. With the average car lasting about 20 years, “we have to start right now”, she says.

But for startups working in the EV space already, the commitment is a good starting point.

Mark Avery, founder of Bell Resources, which supplies sustainable energy and resources to the EV market, says having any policy at all is better than none.

There has been some hesitancy in the capital markets for backing this tech, he notes, something he puts down to a lack of policy frameworks.

This marks a “fundamental shift” in the funding opportunities available in the sector, which will only drive new tech and infrastructure.

He admits he was looking for more in the announcement around tax exemptions, for example, he says this is a step in the right direction, and paves the way for more changes to come.

Doug McNamee, founder of Jolt, a startup rolling out EV charging networks, also welcomes the announcement. Jolt is working on making EVs more accessible he says — a mission he believes Morrison shares.

Any encouragement for further investment can only be a good thing, he says.

“This combined with individual programs such as NSW and Victorian subsidies are helping make EVs more affordable and increasing the availability of charging infrastructure.”

Helping SMEs do the right thing

But it’s not only startups that will play a role in the shift to EVs. Many small business owners are actively trying to reduce their emissions, and Broadbent says they would likely embrace electric vans, for example, if they were more accessible.

Incentivising small business owners to use EVs would move the needle, she explains. But to do that, the government needs to incentivise manufacturers to send them here.

In Europe, manufacturers face fines if they don’t sell enough EVs. Faced with a choice of where to send their fleets, why would a manufacturer choose Australia?

“If you don’t have fuel emission standards, then the vehicle manufacturers won’t bring electric vehicles here, because there’s no disincentive to not bring them.”


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