Australia has recorded the largest bump ever in electric vehicle imports over the first two months of the year but industry figures say the result is still not good enough.
Import figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) on Wednesday show the dollar value of electric vehicle (EV) imports has grown $104m to $125m in the first two months of 2021, representing an increase of 485% on figures recorded at the same time last year.
Hybrid-vehicle sales were up $95m to $190m, growing 101%.
The ABS says this represents a four-fold increase on electric vehicle imports into Australia, “the highest month on record for electric vehicle imports”.
“These increases align with media reports of a shift in demand for electric vehicles in early 2021 as a greater range is made available in Australia,” the release said.
These numbers were bundled into a $705m growth in overall vehicle sales, seeing the total value of the industry climb 24% to $3.72bn.
Vehicle import numbers are typically weak in January and February, but the growth in figures is in keeping with an economy rebounding from the worst effects of the pandemic.
While the EV results have been welcomed as a signal of growing demand and a recovering economy, the growth was achieved off a very low base.
Behyad Jafari, chair of the Electric Vehicles Council said 558 electric cars had sold in the first two months of 2021, including plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, but not counting cars sold by Tesla as the company does not publicly release its numbers.
Last year just 272 EVs sold in the same period.
“There are not enough zeros on the ABS numbers,” Jafari said. “It’s great that the numbers have gone up but it’s still low. If we were a comparable nation to other developed countries around the world, we’d be talking about 10,000 to 20,000 cars sold in the first two months of this year.”
Jafari said the lack of federal government policy and initiatives, like that from the Victorian state government to “tax” EV owners and require them to keep a paper logbook of their vehicle use, will only dampen demand in the sector.
This is in stark contrast to the policies being proposed elsewhere, including a plan by UK Labour’s shadow business secretary, Ed Milliband, to rapidly drive up electric vehicle sales with no-interest loans.
“It’s pretty clear that in a massively lagging nation the number has gone up relatively but still far too low overall,” Jafarai said.
“What we’ve seen is government going in the wrong direction by introducing a very harmful and premature new tax in Victoria. The most meaningful action in this area has been a detrimental move.”
“We don’t need to guess why when car companies have told us very clearly it’s not that the consumers don’t want to buy them, it’s because we can’t bring them in. Other countries have policies, and you don’t.”