Hundreds of people attended a showcase of zero emissions transport technology in the Adelaide Park Lands in early November 2021.
A year earlier, when the South Australian Government announced a plan to charge electric vehicles to use public roads in its 2020 budget, the backlash was immediate.
Dubbed a “tax on not polluting” that would scare away prospective electric vehicle converts, South Australian Treasurer Rob Lucas was banking on the levy being collecting $1 million per year, starting from July 2021.
But in the face of vocal opposition from an unlikely alliance of environmental groups, car manufacturers and renewable energy advocates, the government conceded and launched a consultation on their proposed changes.
Nearly one year on, Treasurer Lucas came back with a revised plan. Instead of introducing the tax immediately, the commencement date would be delayed until 2027 - or when EVs make up 30% of new cars sold. And 6000 $3000 rebates would be up for grabs, to encourage people to buy electric.
While an improvement on the original proposal, the plan still left EV buyers far worse off than they would be in New South Wales or the ACT, where motorists are encouraged to switch to zero emissions vehicles with generous financial incentives.
Making the case
With a state election due within six months, the alliance of EV advocates welcomed the government’s concessions but urged greater ambition.
To keep the issue on the political radar, The Australia Institute and Solar Citizens rallied supporters to come along to a showcase of electric vehicle technology at the Adelaide Parklands late on a Sunday morning in early November.
The venue provided the essential amenities - including a cafe - surrounded by a large open space where cars could be parked.
Politicians from all parties were invited to speak, with SA Labor leader Peter Malinauskas, Greens MP Robert Simms and SA Best’s Frank Pangallo taking up the offer.
At the event, opposition leader Peter Malinauskas used his speech to announce that the Marshall Government’s EV-specific road user charge would be repealed if Labor wins the March 2022 election.
With minimal promotion, 1000 people had taken up the offer of a free ticket several days before the event. Crowds of more than 1000 were not permitted under the covid-19 restrictions in place, so ticketing was closed.
The numbers were achieved through organic promotion to co-hosts The Australia Institute and Solar Citizens’ supporters, along with invitations extended to South Australian members of the Australian Electric Vehicle Association and Tesla Owners Club.
Approximately 50 exhibitors took up the offer to show off their vehicles, with a healthy mix of electric cars and bikes. This included large vehicle manufacturers, electric car owners, local small volume EV conversion companies, and a mix of electric bicycle and motorcycle riders.
Approaches to manufacturers and EV companies were largely made through cold calls, which were broadly welcomed. The biggest challenge was finding manufacturers that had EV models in stock.
The central location of the Adelaide Park Lands helped to attract supporters from across Adelaide, including foot traffic from passers by.
The high profile speakers also helped to attract some media coverage, with news networks attending the event to hear from the politicians and some radio coverage beforehand.
How did it go?
The strong turnout and opposition’s commitment to repeal the EV tax made the event successful.
The fact the government’s bill to tax EVs passed parliament the week before the event was disappointing, as the initial plan was to use the rally to oppose the passage of the legislation through the upper house.
However, the timing of the debate was outside organisers’ control and did little to dampen the enthusiasm of supporters. The high profile of the issue also likely helped to attract people, with electric vehicles in the news a number of times in the weeks preceding the event.
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