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Australia Plans Electric Car Boost With 50,000 New Home Charging Stations

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Aug. 17, 2021.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Aug. 17, 2021.

Australia's electric car industry has criticized the government's new policy to build thousands of charging stations as "far too little, too late." The Australian government Tuesday pledged $132 million to speed up the rollout of hydrogen refueling and electric charging stations.

The Electric Vehicles Council says an Australian government plan to build electric vehicle charging stations and hydrogen-powered vehicle fueling stations doesn't include subsidies, tax incentives or minimum fuel standards, and leaves Australia lagging the rest of the world.

Transport accounts for one-fifth of Australia's emissions. Prime Minister Scott Morrison says electric- and hydrogen-powered vehicles are key in efforts to decarbonize the economy. There's a plan to build 50,000 home charging stations and increase the government's fleet of electric vehicles.

Morrison says it's a bold strategy.

"Our plan, which is another key part of the overall national plan to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 — this is one of the key building blocks, the future fuels and the take-up of electric vehicles driven by Australians' choices," Morrison said.

The government has forecast that electric and hybrid electric vehicles will make up about a third of annual new car and light truck sales by 2030. Sales hit a record 8,688 in the first half of this year but made up a fraction — about 1.5% — of total sales.

During the 2019 election campaign, Morrison derided electric cars, insisting they would "end the weekend" because they wouldn't be able to tow trailers or boats to go camping.

His stance has changed as environmental pressures grow on governments around the world.

But critics say the Australian strategy lacks ambition and does nothing to improve affordability of electric cars, which are more expensive than gasoline or diesel models. Morrison insists that costs will come down as technologies improve.

Opposition Labor leader Anthony Albanese says other countries are leaving Australia behind.

"There is this massive shift around the world to electric vehicles. Australia's uptake last year was under 2%. In Norway, it was 70%. In the United Kingdom, it was 15% and rising. We are falling way behind," Albanese said.

Australia has some of the world's highest emissions per person and is a huge exporter of fossil fuels. Despite a pledge to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, the Morrison government said its coal and gas industries would not be phased out.