The Abbott and Turnbull governments began considering fuel standards in 2015 but struggled with the debate over the cost to households and shelved most of the plans.
Bowen announced the government would release a discussion paper next month on a national electric vehicle policy and invited industry submissions.
Behyad Jafari, chief executive of the Electric Vehicle Council, one of the conference’s host organisations, welcomed Bowen’s assertion that standards needed to meet those already embraced around the world.
“It sets the parameters of the conversation. We need a standard of 70 grams [per kilometre] by 2030. That puts us on the right trajectory,” he said.
Atlassian founder Mike Cannon-Brookes, whose climate-focused not-for-profit foundation Boundless backs electric car expansion, told the conference the Australian industry’s voluntary standard was like allowing a child to mark their own homework or skip it entirely.
The chamber’s chief executive, Tony Weber, rejected the criticism, saying the industry had been forced to act on its own because there was no compulsory standard. He said the group welcomed Bowen’s announcement and noted the voluntary standard was under review.
Volkswagen Australia chief executive Paul Samson said one in two customers approaching the company’s dealerships around the country were asking for electric vehicles but could not get them.
He said the range of vehicles demanded by Australian consumers was already under development.
“I’ve got absolutely no doubt that somewhere sitting in a confidential office in Wolfsburg in Germany, someone’s designing an electric ute,” he said. “It will be made available in right-hand drive. There will be electric utes in our market if we set ambitious goals.”
Currently, 88 per cent of new passenger vehicles sold in Australia are powered by internal combustion engines, while 10 per cent are hybrids and just 2 per cent have battery-powered electric engines.
The NRMA’s head of policy, Rob Giltinan, said public sentiment towards electric vehicles had rapidly shifted over the past five years from being largely negative to 60 per cent positive.
He said while state governments had introduced policies to back electric vehicles in Australia, emissions standards had been the “missing link”.
Addressing the conference remotely, New Zealand Transport Minister Michael Wood said by introducing policy to support electric vehicles, NZ had seen monthly sales leap from around 3 per cent in 2020 to 20 per cent over recent months.
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