Features Australia

Electric cars crash

30 November 2019

9:00 AM

30 November 2019

9:00 AM

As a senior investigative reporter, I can handle a notebook, a pen and my spaniel Natasha’s leash in each hand. She towed me, thus equipped, up and down Ascot Vale while I counted sports utility vehicles (SUVs) versus common low-slung cars. SUVs are big and boxy with high rooflines and heaps of ground clearance and seating. Their doors swing and ding cars parked alongside. They guzzle gas and spew emissions. Their owners look down on us, like mounted knights among peasantry.

I live in Bill Shorten’s left-green (61 per cent) Victorian electorate of Maribyrnong. Surely here they drive greenie cars? Nope. Parked along my next-door Warrick Street last Sunday eve: SUVs, 31. Cars, 30. Utes, vans, etc., 4.

Bill has bought a $3m abode in the big end of the Travancore pocket next door. Natasha and I surveyed Travancore’s Baroda, Cashmere, Mangalore and Madura streets. We found less SUV penetration there, 31 SUVs vs 58 cars. Still, that’s 35 per cent SUVs. And all up, we found but one hybrid. SUVs are the wave of the future. Electrics suck.

Safeways and the school carpark are the SUV’s native habitat. Gravel? What gravel? To show off you can now buy a Rolls Royce Cullinan SUV, about $600,000. Or a 650HP Lamborghini Urus SUV – but mind the lambswool carpet.

Bill Shorten in April campaigned for 50 per cent of new car sales to be electric by 2030, a promising candidate’s car too far. Bill is doubtless driving an electric himself. It must be awkward as the only public charging station for miles is in the bowels of an Aldi car park across car-clogged Moonee Ponds Junction. I checked it: 14 Tesla-only chargers, and two for all other makes. The place was bright but sterile, like an unused operating theatre. Are there even 14 Teslas in this neck of the woods?

Tony Abbott’s climate-friendly nemesis Zali Steggall still circles Warringah in her hulking SUV, a 4WD Nissan PathFinder Ti. During the election the barrister vowed to trade it for a clean electric. But as an Independent struggling on $200,000+, she wants a government subsidy first, saying, ‘I, like every other Australian, have budget pressures, mortgage pressures.’

The big picture is that our car market is plunging, down 7 per cent in September year on year. Car sales dropped 18 per cent while SUVs rose 1 per cent. Fancy that. SUVs outsold cars 42,000 to 25,000 and outsold hybrids and electrics by seventeen to one. Even top-end Toyota Land Cruiser SUVs were snapped up at 32 per day, price $88-136,000.

Globally, SUVs are likewise swamping car sales and here’s the point: as fast as governments bribe or wrangle people into low-emission electrics, the popular shift to SUVs more than cancels the emissions cuts. In the forced march of folly towards net zero emissions, electrics are as much a lost cause as windmills.

Electrics and hybrid sales worldwide are collapsing, led by a 34 per cent year on year downturn in September in their biggest market, China. Plug-in hybrid sales there were also smashed by 27 per cent for the quarter. Buyers are spooked by official cuts in subsidies and concerned about the cheap popular models’ short range per charge. A Macquarie market note suggests only 8 per cent global growth of electrics this year after three years of 50 per cent increases. The demand for electrics is ‘no longer bullet-proof’, it said. PriceWaterhouseCoopers, quoted in German reports, put global electrics sales in the September quarter at only 322,000, down 3 per cent year on year, and plug-in hybrids down 24 per cent. The costly electrics quest defies sense. The International Energy Agency projects that SUVs by 2040 will be canceling out the fossil-fuel savings from 150 million electric cars. This is despite all the enforced use of electrics, subsidies and grid disruption.

Petrol/diesel car sales globally have fallen slightly for two years, as if the car craze has peaked. Greenies love that because cars consume a quarter of world oil output. But within this vast auto market, fuel-hungry SUVs are displacing cars – SUV numbers have jumped from 35m to 200m in a decade. Market share doubled from 20 to 40 per cent. Of the decade’s increase in world car sales, SUVs have grabbed 60 per cent of it. Half of US car sales are SUVs, and a third of Europe’s. SUV sales are thriving in China, India and even Africa. The CO2 emissions impact from these SUVs is startling. They’re the second-largest contributor to emissions growth since 2010, behind power generation but ahead of heavy industry (iron and steel, cement, aluminium, etc.), trucks and aviation.

Oh-so-woke California illustrates the greenies’ predicament. It was supposed to cut emissions 40 per cent by 2030 on 1990 levels. Thanks largely to SUV growth, the target won’t be met till 2061, three decades late. To meet the zero-net emission target by 2050, overall annual emission cuts would have to be quadrupled, not easy when their cars are emitting more CO2 than all the state’s power generators, livestock and oil refineries combined. Potential electrics buyers also twig that the grid blackouts during fire weather could leave them and their clean green car smouldering with frustration, or literally.

Norway is touted as the electric car’s success story: 60 per cent of new car sales. Sure, citizens can be persuaded by a government with a truncheon in one hand and a bag of bribes in the other. For example, I’ve bought a little Hyundai i30 (Australia’s most popular car) for $23,000. Price in Norway, after special surcharges, at least $A54,000. Petrol cars there face a multitude of tolls and bans while electrics get the green carpet. Moreover, Norwegian electricity is about the world’s cheapest (unlike South Australia’s, about the world’s dearest). A raft of other governments in Europe is also crippling the use of petrol/diesel cars to force buyers to electrics.

Locally, the NRMA which is funded by petrol-diesel car owners wants these very cars green-banned in NSW as early as 2025. With friends like these… Local auto consultants ABMARC have actually calculated that because so much Australian electricity is coal-generated, electric cars (unlike hybrids) in most states emit more CO2 than your petrol model.

Greenies have a solution to the SUV’s popularity – ban them or make them all-electric. ‘It’s time to do it,’ says US green group Green & Growing. But the greens’ yarns are unravelling. This year has also seen a collapse globally in onshore wind turbine installations and solar. A few federal ministers are starting to call out the madness. Will Mr Morrison listen? Or at least, do some arithmetic?

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