Hackett wants tax breaks for electric cars



blog Internode founder, NBN Co board director and all-round superhuman Simon Hackett is well-known as being one of Australia’s main electric car evangelists. The entrepreneur imported Australia’s first Tesla Roadster and recently teamed up with another former senior Internode executive and two early executives from electric car pioneer Tesla to found a new startup focused on building a new type of electric car specifically designed for high-speed performance racing. With the news that Australia may shortly see its first Tesla Model S units shipping locally, Hackett has been investigating the regulatory settings for the emerging industry and found them wanting. He posted on his blog on Friday:

“Most first-world countries have a variety of incentives designed to encourage the purchase and use of Electric Vehicles (EVs) on public roads. Unfortunately, Australia is conspicuous by its absence from that list of enlightened countries. There are no meaningful incentives from the federal or state government in Australia to help to drive the adoption of zero emission vehicles.

… As a result, we are living in a country where consumers are being punitively taxed for choosing a zero emission vehicle. A great stretch goal would be for Australia to catch up with is international peer nations and install some positive consumer incentives to promote the adoption of EV’s.”

I’d say that I’d have to agree with Hackett here. The Federal Government should certainly be delivering tax incentives for Australians to upgrade to all-electric vehicles, with the much better environmental and noise footprint that they deliver, or at a minimum, at least treating purchasers of such vehicles fairly and recognising that they don’t deserve to be paying the same luxury car taxes based on fuel efficiency ratings — fuel which electric cars just don’t use.

Of course, the new Coalition Government hasn’t precisely signalled that it is open to supporting positive environmental management. It took just weeks after the September election for the Abbott administration to dump the Government’s Climate Commission, and just last week Treasurer Joe Hockey labelled wind farms “utterly offensive”. I can’t see tax incentives for electric cars as being something that the Coalition would see as sensible.

Image credit: Internode


  1. TBH there would be structural tax breaks for EVs if there was a price on carbon. #justsaying

    Could there be the potential under the Australian Government’s “Direct Action Plan” to sign up for offset based deliverables of carbon reduction? Given that is the key driver in Hackett’s commentary, that’s what will have to be where any funding should be discovered.

    Of course, the notion that they are “zero emission vehicles” relies completely on the electricity contracts held by the owners (and charge stations) to be 100% Greenpower (or similar).

    • Was about to write somethign like this.

      The high-efficiency-vehicle (as opposed to EV) sector is one which could easily fall *appropriately* under Direct Action.

      It is one of the few products on the market that could (should?) be encouraged by a Direct Action method.

      Now; I don’t single out EV’s because they still produce quite significant Carbon Emissions (the electricity didn’t come from nowhere!) and have often thought that the simplest way to encourage adoption, is to offer a “rebate” that constitutes an amount that is similar to the import tarrif that imported vehicles are subjected to in australia.

      Why a rebate and not an exemption? – to encourage local manufacturers and start-ups to try to compete.

      Why “High efficiency” and not EV specifically? – Because it is about the carbon produced per car-kilometer, not about the type of fuel you feed into it.

      If you have a petrol driven ICE that generates the same carbon emissions as a Tesla Model S, then that car should be worthy of the same rebate scheme. Likewise, if you have an EV that generates the same carbon emissions as that of a Hummer, then you should NOT be getting any encouragement.

      A rebate for super-high-efficiency is also a way of not restricting which technologies get developed. EV is nice, but a combo EV with super high efficiency ICE running some kind of low carbon fuel is the sweet spot IMO.

      • The biggest problem with ICE is that always required fuel and will always emit pollution.

        While right now an electric car may produce a similar amount of pollution renewables are making up more and more of the total electricity generation in this country which means over the life of the car the amount of pollution produced will decrease. For an ICE car the opposite tends to happen as parts wear they become less efficient and so use more fuel.

        Switching to EV for the whole market would drive investment in new cleaner power production as the need for power increases. In theory EV cars charging overnight could provide power to the grid for short periods in the event of a black or brown out.

        • True, but again limiting any subsidies to EV misses the point, which is to drastically increase the efficiency of all future vehicles. (and to allow for the best technology to flourish, rather than just the most subsidised).

          I think the most efficient vehicles are the ones that mix both ICE and EV technologies. Full EV is nice; and should replace the vast majority of all commute traffic (don’t misunderstand me!), but fully (or even significantly increased proportion) renewable (or “low carbon”) electricity generation in Australia is a very long way away. Well beyond the average life expectancy of a car.

          I am not even aware of any projects to seriously replace, or even significantly augment, our largest coal-based power plants in Australia. (but I admit I am not invested in this sector as I am with IT, thus am not seeking this information)

          • I would push strongly for diesel electric hybrids as diesel can be generated from algae or plants.

      • Uh… The efficiency of a centralized power plant is much greater than the local combustion of an ICE vehicle. You’ll put out much less carbon generating your power at a major plant and transferring it to a battery than if you burn fuel in a car. And as someone else pointed out, over the next few decades that EVs are rolled out into the mainstream remewables will become an increasingly large % of primary power generation.

  2. What’s the point of encouraging EVs when the majority of our energy is coal generated?

    • Coal plants aren’t usually located in the middle of cities whereas that’s where most cars get driven. If nothing else it shifts a large amount of pollution away from the population.

      We’ve also got stacks of coal, and not much petroleum.

    • One point is noise. Electric cars just don’t make it to anywhere near the same extent … and there is also city pollution; even if you assume the coal plants are still causing a massive problem, at least you can breathe better living in a major city.

      Of course, there are a billion other reasons, but these are two that a lot of people are quick to understand.

      • Keep an eye on the Smart Grid, Smart City program’s final report (when it’s released) for network impacts of electric and plugin hybrids (and thus costs associated with infrastructure).

        It’ll be interesting and doesn’t get a look in when it comes to the comments from Simon Hackett above.

    • Because having the emissions coming from a single location(the powerplant) allows you target said emissions more effectively than say when they are spread across millions of individual vehicles.

      • I haven’t noticed Australian cities having a particular problem with polution from cars.

        With coal generated power an electric car produces 200-300g of CO2 per km.
        A modern petrol powered car produces 150g of CO2.

        For the electric car to produce less net CO2 we would have to move to natural gas (50% CO2 of coal) or better.

          • How about looking a bit further than a manufacturers website?


            Australian power produces 5 times the CO2 per kW than US power generation.

            With the planned reductions in CO2 emission they don’t expect Australian EVs to be more efficient than petrol engines until 2020 and after. That was while the government was interested in renewable energy, who knows now.

          • That’s generally true (and good, sourced evidence) however in Tesla’s defence they build a supercharger network that is completely powered by renewable energy, everywhere they are located. With their investment in the power infrastructure they are able to meet their stated emissions targets regardless of the local power generation.

            BTW – am I the only one who thinks windmills are actually a really attractive piece of engineering?
            I mean compared with a coal fired power station they’re a work of art.

          • I am sure there is a lot of ways to generate energy to make EVs good for the country. I was simply pointing out that you cannot ignore power generation, especially in Australia. Australia is one of, if not THE country that produces the most carbon per kW of power produced. Invariably wind and solar are fully allocated, ie, you don’t dim the sun or stop the wind, they produce what they produce. Extra capacity is made up, in Australia, by burning more coal. To look at gaining benefits from EVs, and reduce green house gases in general, Australia has to update it’s power plants. Coll can be better than it is now, and we should improve it. I don’t know what has happened with the plans to slowly improve power in Australia with the Coalition closing every agency that had anything to do with reducing green house gas immisions.
            I’d like to see incentives for green vehicles, hybrid, EV, even super low emision deseil and petrol. Maybe there is already, isn’t the thousands saved a year in fuel a compensation already?

    • in the first, most direct instance, efficiencies – “electric cars are significantly more efficient in converting their energy into mechanical power” http://www.electric-cars-are-for-girls.com/electric-powered-cars.html . also the mini example in the link at bottom – effective 98mpg plays 28 mpg, in best conditions for petrol.

      but in a less direct sense – externalities – the leftovers from that inefficient combustion come out of those exhausts into the local area. with remotely generated coal power – or even better tipping the household solar storage into your vehicle – you either remove the pollution away to a point source – a lot easier to deal with than thousands of tailpipes… or place the pollution in the build cycle of the vehicle+solar kit instead of the operation of the vehicle. moving away from coal power to LNG or other plants will reduce outputs also, even if fossil fuels are still in use.

      also here: http://content.sierraclub.org/EVguide/myths-vs-reality
      and here: http://www.hybridcars.com/can-coal-powered-cars-be-clean-26233/

      that said i think this is definitely something that should be looked at – it really makes sense to me, although expecting a given govt to show good sense is another story altogether. one lives in hope, i suppose….

        • Has anyone conducted a lifecycle analysis of EV vs normal vehicles? I know hybrids are often worse off than petrol engines (small car vs small car) but not much about totally electric vehicles.

          • Hybrid cars are not worse that is a myth created by oil companies it is much like anything the terms of reference for the study are biased to achieve the desired outcome


    The tax breaks in the US for Tesla’s make them much more affordable, might be worth Telsla making a move over if they existed here. I don’t see it happen though, we are on our way back to gas lanterns.

    I yearn for a Model S :s

  4. Yes I agree, electric cars are very expensive at the moment and it would takes years and years to recover that cost by not buying petrol, and some places can’t do maintenance or repair work on eletric cars and the places that can are bloody expensive!

  5. Won’t they already be eligible for a discounted luxury car tax rate, just like a hybrid? They will also qualify for lower rates for registration in at least Tasmania and Victoria and probably other states.

    And shouldn’t someone be doing something about the NBN as opposed to lobbying for foreign car makers? (said very quietly for fear of riling the mob)

  6. Yes the cars are a bit exxy as they come and some government relief would be nice. But I think that might actually stifle innovation around the cost to build them. Yes, a market for the technology has to be proven before people will go for it and I think we have reached that point. The next step is to compete with ICE vehicles at a purchase price level. The problem of the cost of private ‘refueling’ infrastructure is secondary to the purchase price of the car.

  7. Even with free electricity using your own solar, that Tesla’s fuel requirements are still likely to start from close to $40/ week just sitting in the garage.
    The batteries don’t like temperatures over 30’C so are likely to need replacing by the 5 year mark here in OZ at a replacement cost of $10G.
    Guess I won’t be switching from my diesel Astra for a while yet.



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