SA road user charge ‘will impede take-up of electric vehicles’

Plans to introduce a road user charge for electric vehicles in South Australia have been criticised as likely to slow the take-up of EV technology nationally.

State Treasurer Rob Lucas said the Government’s proposed charge would include a fixed component and a variable charge based on distance travelled, and would raise about $1 million per year, starting in July 2021.

Mr Lucas argued that as fuel excise revenue became eroded over time by EVs replacing petrol and diesel vehicles, a road user charge on non-petrol vehicles was needed to replace it.

He said electric vehicle drivers had to pay to use the road network, just as other motorists and freight operators paid for roads through fuel excise duty.

Electric Vehicle Council chief executive Behyad Jafari has said the new tax will “actively discourage” people from buying electric cars and would send a message to the sector to “move away from South Australia and keep doing your business elsewhere”.

However, Infrastructure Partnerships Australia chief executive Adrian Dwyer defended the proposed road user charge.

“It is misleading to suggest this reform is a disincentive for EV uptake when the package that has been announced in SA is a net win for EV owners,” he said.

“The Government is investing $18.3 million over the next four years into a state-wide electric vehicle charging network, which will far outweigh any cost borne by owners of EVs through a road user charge.

“Making a fair contribution to the infrastructure we rely on should not be a novel concept,” he said.

Roads Australia also welcomed the SA Government’s decision, saying says it underscores the need to be focused on equity and the pursuit of a nationally consistent approach.

“Inequities in the current system, where vehicles with lower fuel efficiency effectively pay a higher distance-based road-user charge, need to be removed,” said RA President Michael Bushby.