Significant improvements to charging infrastructure and the swift introduction of further planning controls will be required if the new and ambitious electric vehicle sales targets of the NSW Government are to be achieved.
On 18 June 2021, the NSW Government released its forward-thinking Electric Vehicle Strategy (EV Strategy) to support the uptake of electric vehicles (EVs) throughout the State. In 2020, EVs made up less than one per cent of new car sales in NSW. By comparison, in Norway, the international market leader, EVs made up 55 per cent of new vehicle sales in 2020.
The NSW EV Strategy contemplates that by 2030, EVs will make up more than half of new car sales. Achieving this ambitious goal will require not just economic and other incentives, but also appropriately directive planning controls to support the delivery of charging infrastructure for EVs.
To date, the NSW planning system has largely relegated the provision of EV charging infrastructure to the public domain, along highways and within carparks. At the present time, it lacks the appropriate incentives to encourage the installation of charging facilities in residential and commercial settings.
The EV Strategy
The EV Strategy has identified five areas of action required to accelerate the use of EVs in NSW.
Helping drivers buy an electric vehicle
From 1 September 2021:
- $3,000 rebates will be given for the first 25,000 EVs sold for under $68,750; and
- stamp duty will be removed for EVs under $78,000.
From 1 July 2027 stamp duty will be removed for all EVs and plug-in hybrids.
Building a world-class electric vehicle charging network
- $171 million will be invested over the next four years to improve charging coverage for EVs;
- EV chargers will be located within 5 km of all households with limited off-street parking; and
- ultra-fast chargers will be located at 100 km intervals along all major highways in NSW.
Making it easy to drive an electric vehicle
- EV drivers will be permitted to use transit lanes to incentivise EV use; and
- priority parking will be provided for EVs to recharge.
Creating jobs and growing the economy
- NSW Government to promote investment in the minerals required to manufacture EV batteries; and
- $20 million in grants will be provided to regional businesses such as motels, wineries and restaurants to install EV charging points.
Keeping road funding fair and sustainable
- From 1 July 2027, or when EVs make up 30 per cent of new car sales, a distance-based road user charge for EVs will be introduced.
Use of EVs is expected to deliver considerable economic and environmental benefits, particularly electric public transport vehicles. On average, an EV owner is likely to save around $1,000 in running costs per year compared to traditional petrol/diesel vehicles.
Moreover, by switching to an all-electric bus fleet, the NSW Government can expect between $1.1 and $1.9 billion in environmental cost savings.
However, as pointed out by Sydney University Associate Professor Kurt Iveson in his recent article in The Conversation, while EVs will have a positive impact on carbon emissions, the story is not all positive.
The use of private EV’s does not address the social problems associated with space consumed by parking, the cost of traffic congestion and lack of access to EVs by the disadvantaged. Furthermore, they bring their own environmental impacts, generating emissions from mining of minerals such as copper, lithium, cobalt and nickel, not to mention ongoing emissions from construction and maintenance of roads.
Before the benefits of EVs can be realised, the planning implications must also be closely considered to ensure that NSW is prepared for the future infrastructure challenges posed by EV chargers.
According to the Electric Vehicle Council, NSW has approximately 1,000 EV charging stations across 212 sites. This amounts to 0.17 charging stations per EV. Since July 2019, the number of charging stations has grown by 40 per cent, demonstrating the rapidity with which the infrastructure is evolving.
As the EV Strategy says, the proliferation of EVs is contingent upon the provision of an adequate number of charging points across the State. In 2018, the State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) Infrastructure 2007 (Infrastructure SEPP) was amended to make the installation of EV charging stations ‘exempt development’ in existing car parks, bus and road maintenance depots, service stations, highway service centres and car washing facilities.
The NSW Apartment Design Guide also encourages charging facilities ‘where desirable’.
Overcoming the current shortfalls in charging stations requires the NSW planning system to expand the current exempt and complying development regime.
For example, in the ACT, changes were recently made to the Planning and Development Regulation 2008 (ACT) to enable charging points to be exempt development where they are less than 2.5 metres in height and not more than 2 m2 in plan area. Importantly, these specifications were developed in consultation with the electric vehicle industry to ensure the exemption would extend to the majority of EV chargers available on the Australian market.
Requiring all new residential and commercial construction to include EV charging facilities would also make sense at this time.
While the EV Strategy states the “NSW Government will update relevant regulations to make sure all new buildings and precincts are constructed and wired to be ‘EV ready’”, no announcement has yet been made about the relevant mechanism.
Across the Pacific, in the US state of Illinois, the Chicago City Council has passed an ordinance requiring that 20 per cent of supplied parking spaces in new residential and commercial properties are ready for EV charging stations to be installed. The rule applies to all new residential buildings with five or more units and onsite parking, and commercial properties with 30 or more parking spaces.
As the proposed Design and Place State Environmental Planning Policy intends to revise the Apartment Design Guide, more persuasive language might be included to better encourage the installation of EV charging infrastructure in residential apartment developments.
For other types of development, local councils could be encouraged to include a requirement for EV charging stations in their development control plans, particularly those that relate to car parking provision.
Although regulatory change would be required, adding an additional standard development consent condition to Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000 could capture all types of development where vehicle parking is provided and mandate the installation of EV charging facilities.
Our other ideas for planning authorities are set out in our Insight, Is Australia ready for electric vehicles?
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