Politics

ScoMo Apparently Forgot His Government Already Funds Electric Car Fast-Chargers

The Liberals keep saying that the fast charging tech Labor's proposing doesn't exist. They already fund it.

Josh Frydenberg electric cars

Scott Morrison has yet to even call an election, but that apparently hasn’t stopped him from deciding that the policy hill he’ll die on this year is…electric cars.

You might have noticed the Coalition’s increased fixation on electric vehicles in the past week. The panic started when Labor announced its climate policy last Monday, which includes a target aiming to have electric vehicles making up 50 percent of new car sales by 2030.

Things really ramped up, though, when Bill Shorten was asked how long it takes to charge an electric car. In a radio interview last week, he estimated that “it can take eight to ten minutes, depending on your charge. It depends how flat your battery is.”

That’s all it took for the government to absolutely go off. Right away, the Liberal Party started putting out ads rubbishing Shorten’s claim. “Fact: electric cars ‘will tend to charge between eight and nine hours overnight'”, one such ad reads, citing motoring expert Trent Nikolic, quoted in the Daily Telegraph. Scott Morrison went a step further, telling media that Bill Shorten is trying to “end the weekend” by denying Australians access to cars that can pull caravans, or reach their favourite camping spots.

“I don’t have a problem with electric cars — in fact, I’m happy for people to go and buy electric cars,” Morrison said on 2GB radio on Sunday. “My problem is with the leader of the Labor Party, who wants to be the Prime Minister in a couple of months, who doesn’t understand his own policy.”

Problem is, Scott Morrison doesn’t seem to understand his own policies very well either. If he did, he might realise that they’re very, very similar to Labor’s. He might also realise that technology that comes pretty close to Shorten’s “eight to ten minute” charge claim exists — because his government funds it.

Let’s take that attack ad, for example, which cites motoring expert Trent Nikolic. What Nikolic actually said, in the interview the ad references, is this: “if you spend two and a half to three thousand dollars, and you get your wall box set up at home…the car will tend to charge between 8 and 9 hours overnight”.

That’s totally right — at this stage, if you’re charging your electric car at home, it’ll take about that long. But when Bill Shorten mentioned an “eight to ten minute” charge, he was talking about “a network, on the national highway, of charging stations” (here’s the full clip, if you’d like to hear it for yourself). While eight to ten minutes was perhaps a bit optimistic, charging stations already exist where you can charge a car in 15 minutes. They exist because Morrison’s government funded them.

The founders of the companies behind those charging stations have taken to Twitter to gently remind the government of that fact, which isn’t the only one it seems to have forgotten. There are entire Twitter threads collecting all the times the Coalition has funded electric cars, posed with electric cars to look hip ‘n environmentally friendly, and otherwise fallen over themselves to spruik electric cars as a Great Idea.

In fact, less than six months ago energy minister Angus Taylor put out a press release announcing funding for a network of ultra-rapid charging stations from Brisbane to Adelaide via Sydney and Melbourne. In that very press release, he specified that charge times would be around 15 minutes, and added that “electric vehicles have the potential to lower transport costs, enhance fuel security, and increasingly create more sustainable cities with less pollution and better health outcomes for our communities”. He’s not alone, either — just last week Josh Frydenberg was busy mailing his electorate about how great the Coalition government’s investment in electric vehicles is.

Cut to this week, though, and Scott Morrison seems to have completely forgotten about this. “That’s new technology, not existing technology,” he said yesterday, when he was asked about Taylor’s claim that government-funded charging stations could charge a vehicle in just 15 minutes.

In short, Bill Shorten’s not that wrong: while charging stations are just beginning to roll out, it will increasingly be possible to charge an electric car in under 15 minutes. What’s more, as recently as last week, the Morrison government was all for the idea. Its own forecasting assumes that electric vehicles will make up between 25 and 50 percent of new car sales by 2030 — almost the same as the target Labor’s proposing.

Basically, Scott Morrison and co seem to have forgotten that the policies they’re criticising are pretty much their own policies: until this week, they were pretty keen on electric vehicles. Oops?