Australia's EV strategy misses the turnoff for faster climate action

The Australian Government has released its first National Electric Vehicle Strategy, a road map to tackle emissions in the transport sector by promoting a shift toward electric transport.

Bicycle Network believes this road map lacks a route with massive potential – the emissions reduction being carved out by our growing national contingent of e-bikes.

National e-bike sales ballooned from 9000 in 2017 to around 75,000 in 2021 as more Australians became acquainted with their benefits.

Owners enjoy not just a fun way of getting around town, but often a more efficient one, too. More than half the trips made by private vehicles are less than 5km, and e-bikes can cover these distances while avoiding traffic and saving a hunt for a car park. 

In 2022, the transport sector made up 19% of Australia's emissions and is projected to become our largest source of emissions by 2030 (it is currently third).

Electric vehicles powered by renewable energy will help reverse this trend, according to the strategy, and "contribute to achieving our economy-wide emissions reduction target of 43% below 2005 levels by 2030 – and net zero emissions by 2050".

The National Electric Vehicle Strategy looks to help these efforts along with new fuel efficiency standards, bringing Australia into line with much of the world. It also aims to increase the supply of affordable EVs, build the infrastructure to support their uptake and encourage an increase in their demand.

“The government has already cut taxes on EVs through the Electric Car Discount, saving up to $11,000 a year on a $50,000 electric vehicle," says Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen. "Thanks to the Albanese Government’s leadership, two and half times more EVs are being sold this year than they were at this time last year."

Similar federal incentives for e-bikes could make a difference to their uptake, where the initial cost continues to be a big barrier. And they could also be a sound investment in terms of emissions reduction.

A Tesla Model S electric vehicle, charged on the Victorian grid emits 209.1 grams of CO2 per kilometre travelled (PKT), whereas an e-bike emits only 6 grams of CO2 PKT.

For these reasons and more, Bicycle Network last year joined other organisations across Australia in calling for e-bikes to be included in the National Electric Vehicle Strategy.

Governments around the world are recognising their environmental potential and introducing financial incentives to encourage their uptake.

Subsidies, rebates, vouchers and loan programs have been introduced in some states and provinces across the US and Canada, while a bill to give Americans a $1500 e-bike credit was introduced in US congress earlier this year. 

In France, a scheme introduced last year offers up to €4,000 for people to swap their older cars for e-bikes if they meet a certain criteria.

Australia's National Electric Vehicle Strategy in its current form includes no explicit measures to promote e-bikes, but we see this as a detour rather than a missed opportunity. 

The strategy will undergo a major review in 2026 and there will be more opportunities for Australia to tap into the massive potential of e-bikes and expedite its shift to a cleaner transport system. The planet will thank us if we do. 

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