Australia struggles to ditch SUV habit even as electric vehicle sales hit record

SYDNEY, Jan 4 (Reuters) – Electric vehicle (EV) sales in Australia hit an all-time high in 2023, according to the country’s automotive association, however light vehicle sales stayed dominated by emissions-intensive trucks and sports utility vehicles (SUVs).

Battery-electric vehicles were 7.2% of all vehicles sold last year, more than double the 3.1% recorded in 2022, according to figures from the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) on Thursday.

The sales share for 2023 rises to 16.2% of all new car sales once hybrids and plug-in hybrids are included, almost one in every five vehicles.

After a decade under conservative governments that opposed EV adoption, the current centre-left Labor government, which won power in 2022, has started a national EV strategy and provided hundreds of millions for clean transport.

Transport is one of Australia’s largest sources of emissions and the rising adoption of electric vehicles bolsters the government’s pledge to cut emissions by 43% by 2030.

However, Australian’s continue to prefer SUVs or light commercial cars, models which usually come with higher emissions when fossil fuelled. The two categories made for 78.4% of all new vehicle sales last year.

The Ford Ranger and Toyota Hi-Lux, the two most popular vehicles and a tenth of all those sold in 2023, tend to emit more carbon dioxide than usual.

Efforts to increase the takeup of electric cars have long been plagued by shortages, a limited number of models and sparse and sometimes faulty charging equipment.

As a result usage for many years lagged countries like the US or Britain, where sales of EVs and plug-in hybrids hit 7.7% and 23%, respectively in 2022, according to the International Energy Agency.

Energy Minister Chris Bowen said in November the government would soon release details of its long-awaited fuel economy standards, a policy that advocates say will spur manufacturers to send more EV

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