Auto industry puts brakes on EVs amid out-of-stock and sku debate

Despite Australia’s growing appetite for electric cars, the auto industry has warned customers to expect extended delays for high-tech vehicles – and highlighted other better low-emission options. adapted to local conditions.

Australia’s auto industry says it is grappling with unprecedented demand for electric cars and is urging customers to be patient as these vehicles require three times more semiconductors than conventional cars.

In the same breath, industry leaders last week doubled down on their stance that electric cars are not necessarily the environmental savior in Australia that they are made out to be.

Speaking at the Australian Automotive Dealers Association conference in Brisbane last week, industry veteran and AADA President David Blackhall said: “Not everyone understands that electric vehicles with battery is not necessarily the answer (to emission reductions), depending on how you measure it.

“If you take all the carbon that an electric car generates in manufacturing, in batteries and in electricity use, then clearly the winner (in this comparison over the 180,000 km lifespan of a car) is not a pure battery electric vehicle, not for our country.

“The winner is actually a hybrid vehicle,” Mr. Blackhall said.

He noted that, given the combination of Australia’s predominantly coal- and gas-powered electricity grid, “hybrids make sense” and have so far proven to be the most effective in reducing vehicle emissions on local roads.

Japanese automotive giant Toyota has sold more than 250,000 hybrids in Australia over the past 20 years, halving those vehicles’ emissions in the process.

“I’m not saying electric vehicles are bad,” Mr Blackhall said. “I’m just saying we’re hurtling down a rabbit hole here without stopping to think about where this might take us.

“Electric cars need massive cooperation and investment from government and others to even start attacking the (energy) grid in any meaningful way.”

Sales of electric cars in Australia are already growing at a record pace, but demand is expected to increase further following the announcement of proposals to provide new tax exemptions or rebates.

In a separate speech, James Voortman, the head of the Australian Automotive Dealers Association (AADA) told the conference: “While we dealers would like to sell every Australian a new electric vehicle, we have to be realistic about the challenges involved.

“The supply chain issues we are currently experiencing with cars apply equally – if not more so – to electric vehicles, which require even more semiconductors than traditional vehicles (petrol or diesel).

“Electric cars also require a range of critical minerals, which will require accelerated mining activity.

“Now this is great news…for Australia, which is a mining superpower.

“However,” Voortman said, customers and policymakers “need to be realistic about when battery-electric vehicles will become affordable — and more widely adopted.”

In a reference to hybrid vehicles, Mr Voortman also said it was important for customers and policy makers to note “what other technologies, which are not purely battery electric, can help us (reduce) emissions” .

Amid all the hype and fascination with electric vehicles, the automotive industry is now scrambling to stress to policy makers the importance of giving Australian car buyers a choice of low-emission or zero-emission vehicles.

“The federal election result has brought climate change to the forefront like never before in this country,” Voortman said. “And our industry, frankly, will be asked to do more on reducing emissions.”

An automotive expert from research firm Deloitte, Lee Peters, told the conference: “At the moment, (electric vehicles) represent about 2% of (total new car sales). All reports say it will be around 40% by 2030.

“For all the hype and all the media (watch out), 40% seems like a lot,” Mr Peters said.

“What does this mean? By around 2030, there will be around three million (electric vehicles) on the road and 15 million vehicles (petrol or diesel).

“So we’re still going to be a predominantly (petrol or diesel) vehicle company for the next five, 10 or 20 years, but we’re going to make sure that we integrate (electric vehicles) into everything we do.”

Mr Lee said the auto industry and new car showrooms “have to become the educators to make sure the market is in the know”.

“(Concessionaires) could become charging stations,” Peters said. “We want to make sure the dealer plays a critical role in this transition to electrification.”

Joshua Dowling has been a motoring journalist for over 20 years, spending most of his time working for the Sydney Morning Herald (as motoring editor and an early member of the Drive team) and News Corp Australia. He joined CarAdvice/Drive in late 2018 and was a World Car of the Year judge for 10 years.

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