Welcome to the Electric Vehicle Summit – Behyad Jafari

Welcome to the Electric Vehicle Summit – Behyad Jafari

by Katie

I just want to very quickly repeat Wayne’s very big thank you to our partners for holding this event together. Smart Energy Council, Australia Institute, Boundless, but mostly for me, I want to thank all of you from the electric vehicle industry. We’ve been working on these issues over many years, and it’s wonderful to look around today and see just how far we’ve come as an industry. But of course, we’re here to talk about how far we still have left to go. Very precisely about 98% of the market’s worth left in front of us. So quite a lot of great opportunity for us to talk about.

But really importantly, it’s worth us considering why the work that we do here is so important. We know that especially today, Australian families are struggling more than ever before with the rising cost of petrol bills. According to the AAA, petrol bills for families have reached on average, over a hundred dollars for the first time ever. And there’s only really one sustainable and consistent way for us to help reduce families petrol bills. That’s by helping them use less of it in the first place, or in the case of electric vehicles, use none of it at all.

And the good news in that is that we know that Australians are ready. Every year, we work with others and we survey Australian consumers about their vehicle purchasing habits, how they feel about new technology and every year, somewhere over half, around 55 to 60% of them, tell us that they would like their next car, particularly to be electric. Companies purchasing fleets would tell us that they would like their entire fleets to be electric. Those working in bus fleets and truck fleets see the value in reduced operating costs and would similarly like those to be able to turn electric. But for far too many Australians, the opportunity to make that switch is far too limited. The vehicles just aren’t available for them today, and there is work that we can do to help fix that right away.

Quite often when I advise car companies around the country who are looking to introduce a new electric vehicle to the market, I advise them to prepare two statements. The first statement is to say that we’re bringing a new electric car to the market. Great news. The second statement is to say that it’s sold out. It is funny. It’s also a little bit sad. Those two things follow each other far too closely. That’s wonderful news if you’re a local auto executive who sold out all of their stock and met all of their targets or executives who paid my salary, by the way. So I thank you very much for that. But it’s terrible news for Australians and the Australian people.

We have one example and I won’t name exactly which vehicle, but a very popular electric SUV that came to the market in Australia recently. We saw 500 units of that vehicle bought to Australia for Australian customers, and to the car companies’ delight, sold out in just over one hour. It’s no surprise that it sold out so quickly because the company found that they had 16,000 customers lined up waiting to buy that car. 16,000 for 500 vehicles. Buying an electric car in the Australia market today is far too akin to winning the lottery and we need to fix that.

So importantly, we know why that’s happening. The rest of the developed world has introduced for quite some time now very strict fuel efficiency standards or vehicle emission standards that encourage car makers to take their latest and best technologies to their markets first and deprioritize Australia. We’ve calculated the value of these standards in a market like the European Union. Selling an electric vehicle in that market helps a car company avoid penalties to the tune of about $15,000 in Australian dollars. So there’s a very clear economic incentive for car companies to sell their electric vehicles to those markets. Whereas our wonderful local order of executives are run with nothing but their charm to convince their head officers to bring cars here instead, and good on them for doing that work and somewhat setting our market up to 2%, but let’s go and get their backs and let’s make sure that more are available to them.

Of course, we’re in a supply constrained environment, but even within that environment, we see that markets with good policies, incentives, work for charging infrastructure and standards like the United Kingdom, which is another influential right hand drive market, last year saw 305,000 electric vehicles sold to their customers, accounting for almost 20% of their market. In the same year last year, we sold 20,660. Of course to say it’s depressing that I can remember that number so precisely. One day, I’d like not to. Accounting for only 2% of our market. So very clearly the opportunity to make far greater shifts in the immediate term is also available to us as well as the opportunity to fix this issue in 5 and 10 years for the years to come.

The big benefit there for us is ensuring that the vehicles that are already available start coming to Australia and the vehicles that are made available in future years continue to come to our country. We know that the market today already consists of electric vehicles that are cheaper than those available to Australian consumers. So addressing the affordability is an immediate and urgent issue for us, but so is addressing the attractiveness of the market. We also have in markets like the United States, New Zealand across the world, cars like electric utes. There’s no market I can think of better than Australia’s to attract customers to electric vehicles than by offering them utes. But right now, it is a nice to have for global car companies and it’s up to us to turn that into a need to have for our market.

Now in this journey as we develop electric vehicle policies and as we develop standards, of course, you’ll hear quite a lot that Australia is unique. The same is true for every market around the world, every country, and every market has their own unique attributes. But with those unique attributes already today, some 80% of the world’s new car sales market has very stringent fuel efficiency standards in place, standards that are in line with achieving net zero by 2050 and standards that have already encouraged further investment in electric vehicles, in charging infrastructure and other supported investments. We’ve already started to hear voices say that the unique attributes for Australia make us an unimportant and a small market. And as a result, our ambitions in this space should also remain small.

That’s why I’m very happy to be here today opening this summit and welcoming a group of leaders from across business, politics, community groups, trade unions who have come together to say exactly the opposite. We have in this room today people who have built companies or are building companies, developing new ideas to return electric vehicle manufacturing through electric utes to Australia. People who are leading the world in the manufacturer and deployment of charging infrastructure. People who are building Australian businesses and employing Australians enrolling out that charging infrastructure across the country. The opportunity and the ambition and the entrepreneurialism of Australians is fantastic. This today is about coming together on the solutions in order to enable them to do the things to help Australians make the switch to electric vehicles.

Now, in order to start that conversation, I have the very great privilege of welcoming our first keynote speaker for the day. I should say I am additionally privileged because I’m a kid who grew up in Western Sydney, so much like a hipster, I knew Chris Bowen was a great guy before it was cool. But from a more professional perspective, I have to say for our whole industry, it has been an absolute breath of fresh air to be able to deal with a government and a minister that is enthusiastic to engage with forward thinking industries that will listen to their evidence and will challenge them sometimes. As annoying as that may be at the time, it’s wonderful to be challenged sometimes. Deliberate on those issues, all with a view towards actually developing solutions to the benefit of the Australian people.

So everyone, please join me in welcoming our speaker, Minister for Energy and Climate Change, Chris Bowen. Thank you.

Related Stories