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“What matters is perception and even if the tax is only a few hundred dollars per year, the perception is that it will cost thousands over a car’s lifetime and that government does not support the technology,” said Dr Whitehead, a lead author on transport for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Electric Vehicle Council chief executive Behyad Jafari said there was “nothing to justify the projections that the electric vehicle market is going to grow like that in Australia”.

He said the 2019 estimate was replaced by different projections that were consistent with modelling by the Commonwealth Bureau of Infrastructure and Transport Research Economics (BITRE).

“The BITRE numbers which say electric vehicles will be 26 per cent of new car sales by 2030 also assumed they would be 1.4 per cent by 2020, but currently we are at just 0.7 per cent,” he said. “It shows the government is just finding numbers to make the projections work for them.”

Dr Whitehead said electric vehicle sales could remain low unless manufacturers brought a wider range of cheaper models to Australia.

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He warned car makers may run out their end-of-line petrol models in Australia while they ramp up sales of electric vehicles in more attractive markets.

Many major manufacturers plan to phase out petrol and diesel engines, and major markets including the UK, Japan, France and Germany will ban their sale between 2025 and 2030, while the US offers a $7500 tax rebate for electric vehicles.

Falling transport sector emissions are a significant element of Australia’s efforts to satisfy its global climate commitments under the Paris Agreement.

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The federal government is working on an electric cars policy that will focus on infrastructure such as charging stations and support for research and development into new technology.

Energy Minister Angus Taylor’s office was contacted for comment. He announced the latest electric vehicle projections last month, when he said Australia was almost on track to hit its Paris Agreement target.

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