Accelerating Australia’s electric vehicle uptake: Overcoming socio-technical inertia and bridging the gaps with public policy options designed to transform road transport for a decarbonised future

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Copyright: Broadbent, Gail
To obviate significant and growing road vehicle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions contributing to climate change, transitioning to battery electric vehicles (BEV) is urgently required to maximise fleet emissions reductions soonest, deploying the most suitable available technology. Many countries have implemented policies to incentivise electric vehicle (EV) uptake, which have been well studied. This thesis undertakes novel research by employing a case study of New Zealand to examine consumer responses to EV policies implemented in 2016, plus two mooted policies. Questionnaires and interviews surveyed private motorists from a demand perspective, capturing quantitative and qualitative data to assess attitudes, values, and perceptions of EVs, awareness of government policies, and to reveal those most popular. Employing a unique innovation, four motorist groups (segmented by attitude to EVs, which influences adoption rates) were compared. As additional novelty the role of communication channels, including print media, in influencing consumer behaviour was investigated. Results revealed New Zealand’s conventional motorists, in contrast with EV owners, had low policy awareness, confirming international findings. EV Positives, the next-most ‘EV ready’ segment, favoured policies designed to reduce EV purchase price and increase nationwide charger deployment. Concordant with social marketing research, governments should focus on such buyers’ preferences. Furthermore, to improve BEV readiness, disseminating updated information about EVs via multiple communication channels could shift perceptions of EVs from ‘expensive and inconvenient’ to ‘fun and economical’. Thus, two key concepts namely purchase price-parity and charging infrastructure availability, were incorporated into models specifically for Australia, where policies are limited, to investigate the feasibility of transitioning Australia’s road vehicle fleet to electromobility to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. A national scale, integrated, macro-economic, system dynamics model (iSDG Australia) was used innovatively to project Australia’s future road transport demand, vehicle mix, energy consumption and GHG emissions. Firstly, the model applied numerous ‘adoption target’ scenarios comparing them to Business-as-Usual; secondly, various combinations of policy options were modelled to project potential outcomes and implementation costs. Based on the assumptions, results suggest emissions reductions are maximised by the fastest passenger vehicle fleet transition to BEVs, entailing declining but ongoing transformational government policy support to achieve net-zero by 2050.
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PhD Doctorate
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