Uber sees potential for electric vehicles in Australia, but says proposed taxes are a ‘challenging barrier’

An electric car charging. Image: Getty
  • Uber sees the potential for electric vehicles in Australia but raised concerns about the potential EV tax being proposed.
  • Uber’s APAC mobility chief Pradeep Parameswaran told Business Australia the tax could be a “challenging barrier” for EVs.
  • Uber has a goal to have all its vehicles be electric by 2040.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

Uber sees the potential for electric vehicles (EVs) in Australia but proposed taxes could stand in the way.

Uber’s APAC mobility chief Pradeep Parameswaran believes Australia is able to capitalise on EVs.

“For the amount of love for nature that we have in Australia, it’s actually surprising to see that we haven’t done more on an option of electric vehicles,” he told Business Insider Australia.

According to the Electric Vehicle Council, 6,718 electric vehicle were sold in Australia in 2019, triple the amount from the year before. However, this only represented 0.6% of all new car sales, with Australia still trailing behind other developed countries in the EV trend.

What was particularly of concern for Parameswaran was proposed taxes on EVs being considered in Australia. New South Wales and Victoria have been tossing up a tax on EVs in their states after South Australia introduced the scheme.

“I’m a little bit nervous about some of the policy thinking that we are hearing in terms of the EV tax that has been proposed,” he said. “I do think where we’ve had success is where governments have really incentivised ownership with substantial subsidies early on. And overtime once you get critical mass you can always pull back on subsidies. But taxing to me is actually quite a challenging barrier.”

And Parameswaran isn’t the only one concerned about these taxes. In November, Electric Vehicle Council chief executive Behyad Jafari, described the proposed tax as “pure poison”.

“When you whack a big new tax on something you discourage its use,” he said. “That’s exactly what would happen here to the determent of every citizen in New South Wales – and to the detriment of the planet.”

What Parameswaran believes should be done instead, is to make EVs more affordable and then build more infrastructure to support them, such as charging stations.

“Australia is blessed with natural resources and while we have privileged access to fossil fuels – and it’s an advantage for the economy – we are also blessed with sunshine, wind and an incredible ability to generate the electric power in a clean way,” he said. “That part of the equation seems like something Australia can solve well.”

The other part of the equation is making it easier and more affordable for Australians to snap up an EV.

Uber has been working on its broader sustainability goals and wants Australia to be a part of them. The rideshare giant pledged to have all its rides across the US, Canada and Europe happen in EVs by 2030 and globally by 2040. “I would love for some of the Australian cities to be in that 2030 list or the 2040 list,” Parameswaran said. “But that does require more work from the government.”

Working to address rider deaths

In November, the Transport Workers Union called for the government to intervene after the death of a fifth food delivery rider in Australia in the space of two months. Three of those riders had been working for Uber Eats.

“It’s quite sad to see still incidents like these happening,” Parameswaran said. While Uber has a range of safety measures like safety training, annual safety tests and safety features for riders and drivers Parameswaran said its is working with governments to determine what more can be done.

“The reality is that we are talking to governments every day to figure out what else we could be doing,” he said. “I know the latest set of incidents have triggered further sets of discussions around what we could be doing to tighten safety standards further, not just for Uber, but for the whole industry.”

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