Australia Slumbers While Norway And UAE Race Toward A Sustainable Future.

“All politics is local,” said former US Speaker of the House, TIP O’Neill. Nothing could illustrate the difference politics can make than the contrast between policies that promote EV use in Norway and the United Arab Emirates versus the lack of such policies in Australia. Politicians in Norway and the UAE hav e their eyes firmly fixed on a sustainable future. Politicians in Australia? Not so much.

BMW i3 part of a sustainable future

Norway Leads The Way

EV sales in Norway now account for one third of the new car market in Bergen, one of the country’s major cities. Marius Krogseth a salesman at the Kia dealership in Ensjø tells Bergens Tidende, while standing next to a row of EVs  in the store’s ‘green corner,’ “We’ve seen a big change in the past two years. Battery electric vehicles are being sold almost before we get them in.”

At his store, virtually all the cars sold so far in 2017 have been either plug-in hybrids or electric cars. “In January last year, we sold 31 cars. 15 of them were either electric vehicle or hybrid. In the first month this year. 28 of the 31 sold have been such cars.” The best selling electric car in Norway last month was the BMW i3 with its new larger battery and longer range, according to Electric Cars Report.

Norway strongly supports EV sales with greatly reduced taxes and perquisites like access to commuter lanes. It also offers reduced or lowered tolls on Norway’s many bridges, tunnels, and ferries. The cost to the government is high and there have been some calls to cut back on subsidies, but the overall commitment to a sustainable future has never wavered.

In contrast to booming EV sales, diesel powered cars — which used to be the vehicles of choice for Norwegian consumers — are plummeting. In Oslo last year, market share for diesels was 36%. This year it is 19%.

United Arab Emirates Welcomes EVs

Meanwhile, Elon Musk is in Dubai today, February 13, to officially unveil Tesla’s newest sales outlet. Tesla is partnering with a number of luxury hotels to create a charging network for Tesla automobiles in the area. Some may think it surprising that the UAE would be interested in a sustainable future. They sit on top of some of the world’s largest petroleum reserves. Yet government leaders are aware of global warming, particularly as it relates to rising sea levels. The Emirates are situated on land that is scarcely above sea level.

More than Tesla is involved. A few weeks ago, a group of 11 electric vehicles completed a 450 mile long road trip across the Emirates to highlight the regions new electric charging stations. “The UAE has already come a long way in moving towards taking a more environmentally friendly stance when it comes to vehicles, and we hope that this event showed people how much of a difference it can make,.says Ben Pullen, founder of the Global Electric Vehicle Road Trip which brought the event to the UAE.

Australia Lags Dangerously Behind

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, Australia is one of the few civilized countries that has virtually no incentives to encourage people to purchase an EV. It also has a schizophrenic vision of what an sustainable future might look like. As one Aussie commented on a recent story about cars in Australia, his country has a luxury car tax that adds 33% to the price of any car that sells for more than $62,000. Originally intended to protect the domestic car industry, this wrongheaded policy has actually led to GM, Ford, Toyota, and Nissan to shutting down operations in Australia and shifting operations to other countries, mostly Thailand. In the aftermath, tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs have been lost.

It also makes EVs more expensive to buy. They tend to have a higher starting price to begin with because the technology costs more than conventional internal combustion powertrains. Then the LCT kicks in to raise the price even more. On a recent three week long sojourn to Sydney, I spotted exactly one Toyota Camry Hybrid and 2 Teslas. The Model X I saw at the showroom on Martin Place in Sydney was priced at a whopping AUS $230,000.  Yikes!

This week, BMW has called out Australia’s political leaders for not having policies in place that encourage people to buy an EV. At a press event centered on BMW’s latest offerings, including several plug-in hybrid cars, BMW Group Australia managing director Marc Werner had some very pointed remarks aimed directly at the Prime Minister.

“It’s clear from a global perspective that low emission vehicle technology is the way of the future,” he said. “Billions of dollars have been invested and are still being invested to bring this tech to the general public. Across the world we can see the change in consumer behavior working towards a cleaner future and it’s not just BMW that is saying this. The vast majority of automotive brands are engaged in this pursuit and it’s time for the Australian government to act.

“No more discussions. I call on Mr Malcolm Turnbull and the federal government to finally action a robust policy to support the introduction of low-emission vehicles to the Australian market. We all know how it could be dome. We all know it is possible. And the time has certainly come. What a great start to the year that would be. We continue to live in hope that this well be the year where we see some progress from the government.”

Werner went on to call for an end to the LTC and the creation of government incentives, including charging infrastructure, that would allow more Australians to consider a “green” car. There has been no official response from the Australian government as of yet.

The Take Away

No one denies that EV incentives cost money — money that must ultimately come from taxpayers. But the climate emergency won’t wait. Pretending climate change is not the dominant concern of mankind today — as the Trumpies want to do — puts all humanity at risk. Government’s primary role is to protect its citizens from circumstances that threaten their way of life. Having one’s home inundated by sea water is one such risk. Australia has been focused for too long on protecting its coal industry. It’s now time for it to join the developed world, put on its big boy pants, and do what is necessary to promote a sustainable future.

Source:  Hat tip to Leif Hansen of Bergen, Norway



Steve Hanley

Closely following the transition from internal combustion to electricity. Whether it's cars, trucks, ships, or airplanes, sustainability is the key. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.