As cars typically stay on the road 18 to 20 years, Australia would need to shift to 100 per cent electric or hybrid vehicles by 2030 if the country's transport fleet were to approach zer0-emissions by mid-century.
According to the Paris climate accord, developed nations including Australia will need to be carbon neutral by about 2050 to avoid dangerous climate change.
The Greens policy includes introducing emissions standards on light vehicles of 105 grams of carbon-dioxide per kilometre by 2022 – three years earlier than proposed by the Turnbull government – to encourage manufacturers to bring cleaner cars to market sooner.
Carmakers would also be forced to have an increasing proportion of their sales with electric, plug-in hybrid, fuel cell or other zero emission technology, much as Norway and China have already.
In Australia's case, the annual target share of such vehicles would rise from 2 per cent in 2020 to 10 per cent by 2022 to 100 per cent in 2030, with the Clean Energy Regulator overseeing the introduction, the Greens said.
To encourage the take-up of the new technology, the Greens would also seek the elimination of taxes, such as the GST and stamp duty on electric car sales. Owners of such vehicles would also get registration fees waived for the first three years.
Those costs would be covered by a proposed 17 per cent tax on fossil fuel cars costing more than $65,000.
In addition, the Greens would set up a $151 million fund to provide grants of as much as $45,000 each to support the installation of 3000 charging stations across the country.
Behyad Jafari, chief executive of industry lobby group the Electric Vehicle Council, said the Greens policy was "bold and ambitious", and provided "a bit of a benchmark for everybody else".
The take-up of electric vehicles in Australia would continue to lag other nations unless governments at federal and state level acted together. They needed to ensure the charging infrastructure is in place to give consumers confidence that issues such as vehicle range could be surmounted, he said.
Electric vehicles last year probably totalled about 1500-1600 in Australia, up from 1300 a year earlier, Mr Jafari said. At just 0.1 per cent of new car sales, however, the country was well short of the global average of 1.7 per cent.
According to a November 2016 report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, Australia will see electric vehicle sales rise from 18,500 by 2020 to 100,000 by 2025 and 425,000 by 2030 – or about 30 per cent of the new car market by then.
About 10.5 per cent of the cars on the road would be electric by 2030.
Falling costs for batteries as the technology improves, and supportive government policies including subsidies would accelerate that pace, Bloomberg said.
Josh Frydenberg, the environment and energy minister, flagged support for electric vehicles in an opinion piece published in Fairfax Media in January. The coming "revolution" would rival that of the introduction of the smartphone, he said.
Mr Frydenberg's comments, though, "were lovely rhetoric but it's not going happen without leadership", Senator Rice said.
Electric vehicles registered just three paragraphs in the federal government's 54-page climate policy review released at the end of 2017.
Peter Hannam is Environment Editor at The Sydney Morning Herald. He covers broad environmental issues ranging from climate change to renewable energy for Fairfax Media.
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