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GOOD NEWS IN TRANSPORT 2 - Canada, USA and Australia


The SUV lovers in the US and beyond will be relieved to hear that Ford has launched an electric version of its powerful F-150 SUV, the most popular car in the US since the 1980s. The F-150 Lightning has a 360 km range, 3.5 tonnes of towing capacity, 11 charging ports for power tools, three days worth of backup power and can be charged at home. Even Aussie tradies ought to be happy with that (see below). [Yes, I know Tesla came out with a ute 2 years earlier, but maybe that was a bit futuristic for our lads].



 In the more spacious frontier lands of Canada, the USA and Australia which have grown up around car culture and personal mobility, things are moving much more slowly. However, the Canadian Province of British Columbia has announced that it will be phasing out fossil fuel powered vehicles by 2040. To this end it will legislate sales targets of 10% by 2025, 30% by 2030 and 100% by 2040, roll out its charging network and spend C$20 ($US 15) billion on incentives for consumers. The latter range from C$5000 for electric and hybrid cars and C$6000 for hydrogen fuel cell cars. Quebec passed legislation in 2016 aiming for 15.5% of its fleet being zero emission by 2020. Many US states have similar legislation, especially California which has had more and more stringent vehicle emissions targets since 1972.


The USA is the third biggest vehicle market after China and Europe. With transport being the main source of emissions (29%) and most of those (90%) coming from fossil fuels, 47 states and the District of Columbia have incentives such as tax credits, rebates, fleet acquisitions, exemption from emissions testing, free parking and concession rates for charging to encourage the switch. Legislative measures are also contributing along with support for conversion of conventional vehicles. Michigan has replaced its diesel school bus fleet with EVs and alternative fuels vehicles. The Los Angeles Transport Authority has ordered 155 electric buses and is installing microsolar on its bus terminal and bus canopies to power them. 

Despite this, market penetration in the USA was under 2% in 2019 which is rather ironic given that it’s the home of Tesla, the market leader in Europe and Australia.

In August, President Biden issued an executive order requiring 50% of cars sold to be EVs. He also called for stronger emission standards to hasten the change. From 2023 onwards, cars will be required to emit 10% less CO2 each year, a ruling previously weakened by  the Trump Administration. By March 2021 100,000 public chargers had been installed as part of a plan to have 500,000 chargers installed throughout the country at private apartments, public parking, in communities and along the nation's roads so that people can confidently invest in EVs.

On October 28th 2021, Biden also announced that under the new Build Back Better Infrastructure Bill still stalled in the senate, there would be a point -of -sale credit of up to $12,500 for a range of electric vehicles in the USA. This replaces a proposed tax rebate announced in April which tends to favour high income earners rather than ordinary voters.

Biden expects that by 2030, half the cars in the US will be electric. Even car makers such as Ford, GM and Stellantis have come on board, agreeing to have 40 -50% of sales to be electric by that time.  [Stellantis is an international consortium of several brands including Chrysler, Jeep, Fiat, Alpha Romeo, Peugot and Renault, making it the sixth largest carmaker in the world].  

The move is expected to save 2 billion tons of CO2 and 200 billion gallons of fuel, and according to a study by researchers from several US universities, the improvements in air quality alone would save $US 1.13 trillion in health costs and an estimated 317,500 lives by 2040.  


NEWSFLASH:29/11/2021 The Prime Minister of Australia has discovered EVs!

In 2019, just before the election, Scott Morrison claimed that the Opposition’s plan to promote EVs was an attack on the Aussie weekend and the Australian way of life, because EVs wouldn’t be able to tow your trailer or your boat. Now he has offered some very limited support for the rollout of charging stations, for research and to beef up power supplies to meet the challenge. Apart from a slight increase in the threshold for the luxury car tax under which many EVs fall, there will be no other federal incentives such as emissions standards, targets or the subsidies which have driven uptake in Europe and California and which would make EVs more affordable which is the still the biggest barrier to ownership. Uptake in 2020 was just under 1% compared to say, 32% in Sweden or 18% in Finland.

Transport is Australia's second highest source of emissions after coal fired power generation and accounts for 18% of its CO2 output, putting it behind Russia, Mexico and Indonesia. It is also expected to rise from 102 million tons in 2018 to 111 million tons by 2030. Other reasons for this include high car usage, lack of emission standards, low spending on and use of public transport and long distances travelled per person. 

A potpourri of state initiatives

Nevertheless all states now have some kind of EV policy, though this has resulted in a patchwork of different incentives. Western Australia was the first and began rolling out charging stations. Victoria has dropped stamp duty and offers a subsidy of $3000 on new vehicle purchases. It has also dropped the luxury car tax on cars over $68,740 and allows $100 off registration charges. As of July it has also instituted a road mileage tax. 

Late starter NSW has just announced the most comprehensive program with both a rebate for EVs as well as dropping stamp duty which together bring the price down by about $AU 5000. It will also start charging a mileage tax in 2027 when the loss of revenue from petrol taxes starts to bite. Queensland allows EVs to use its High Occupancy Vehicle lanes and pay less stamp duty. The ACT has zero stamp duty for both new and used EVs, two years of free registration and interest free loans to $15,000. Tasmania has waived stamp duty on new and used models which amounts to around $2,000 on a new one. South Australia has announced no incentives, but is rolling out charging stations and will charge a mileage tax from 2022.

Most of these policies are fairly recent, so it will be interesting to see what impact they will have over time. Higher wages and more secure jobs would make a difference as well. However, the infrastructure does have to be there too. It was a very good idea of Elon Musk’s not to release his Tesla here unless the prospective owner had solar panels on their roof.

Ready, Set, Go!

Charging stations are now popping up all over the place. I saw my first at Mt. Field in May and looking at the map, I was very surprised to see the coverage which had been achieved already. Now there are even more on the way. With support from the federal government there will be another 430 dual charging stations  scattered around Australia. Ampol is providing chargers along the main highways. Engie is rolling out chargers in 30 shopping centres owned by Vicinity. Evie Networks and Partners are building another 158 across 8 regions and major cities. US Company BlackRock is investing in 5,000 free charging stations through charging company JOLT which is using existing infrastructure and has just opened in its first one in Sydney.

Free charging stations are beginning to open in Sydney

Unfortunately there are as yet only two hydrogen filling stations in Australia, making that a less attractive option as well as a more expensive one than others. This is perhaps not a bad thing given that hydrogen is still made using gas or coal generated power, but this could change once ‘green hydrogen’ made from renewable energy becomes available.

Room for improvement? 

I don’t want to make excuses for Australia which is right there at the back of the class, but having a very large landmass with a small scattered population will make it dependent on private transport for a very long time. Even in its sprawling cities, public transport is poor and rarely pays for itself (there’s no excuse in the densely populated cities of Europe or Asia) and there is very little connectivity between places. This may change with more enlightened planning but will take time. Australia doesn’t even have an efficient rail connection between its major cities and you do need rugged transport to go anywhere beyond them.

The train between Canberra and Melbourne for example, takes 4 hours and 37 minutes but has a three-and-a-half-hour bus ride in between.The Melbourne to Perth trip takes two days and four hours plus a 15-hour layover, two bus trips of 11 hours and 45 minutes, and produces 217 Kg of CO2. It also costs between $AU 660 and $AU 1,459, around three times as much as flying, which takes 3 h-4 hours and produces 191 Kg of CO2

Australia's one and only highway between Melbourne and Perth was only sealed in the 1970’s, the one between Darwin and Adelaide not until the 1980s. Furthermore, its economy relies heavily on resource extraction and agriculture which are conducted far from the city fringes and require transport for produce as well as workers. Workers mostly fly in and out too.

The same would apply to some extent to Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and other primary producers. At this stage shipping is not counted, but it should be, and attributed to the countries which import or consume those resources.

However, that does not mean that Australia shouldn’t be trying harder. Look what Norway, with an even smaller population of only around five and a half million or so has managed to achieve. That’s at least partly because it has invested the proceeds of its mineral wealth for the benefit of its people rather than sending the bulk of its profits to shareholders or corporations overseas. As Ketan Joshi remarked recently," we hear a lot about what individuals can do to reduce emissions -like recycling and eating less meat, but not much about the companies which produce 70% of those emissions." There are also fears that without effective vehicle emissions standards which have been adopted by 80% of the market and which have been very effective at bringing down CO2 emissions and particulates, Australia will become a dumping ground for polluting, substandard cars.

Instead of subsidising fossil fuel companies to the tune of $AU 10.3 billion  Australia could for instance, ensure that governments at all levels – state, federal and local, use electric vehicles both to set an example and to bring down prices, as should all large companies. A discount on bulk purchases and leases should also be considered along with conversion and expansion of all public transport, trucks and trains. People in urban areas shouldn't need SUVs to pick up their children from school. What's wrong with bringing back school buses -electric please or better still, electric mini cabs, or having 'walking buses' like they do in Canada, where new subdivisions have internal lanes so children don't have to risk health and safety on public roads? 

Next: India, China and beyond 

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