Half a trillion dollars can be saved by 2035 if we transition to 100% electric vehicles and better public transport. This potential is huge. Here’s how it works.

There is potential for huge savings and community benefits by taking polluting vehicles off the road and replacing them with electric vehicles as well as increasing public transport. 

ACF worked with accounting firm Deloitte to research the economic opportunities that come hand-in-hand with clean transport. 

We learned that, right now, the approach to road transport will cost Australia $865 billion between 2022 and 2050.

But a staggering $492 billion can be saved if there’s a complete transition to electric vehicles and increased use of public buses by 2035. 

These are big savings while also dramatically improving the world we live in.  

We can save $492 billion if there’s a complete transition to electric vehicles and increased use of public buses by 2035. 

Our road transport today

Maintaining our current approach to road transport could cost Australia $865 billion between 2022–2050.

This is made up of the following costs to the community:

  • Air pollution: $488 billion (56%)
  • GHG emissions: $205 billion (24%)
  • Noise: $95 billion (11%)
  • Water pollution: $76 billion (9%).

Traffic_net_zero_emissions_ACF.jpgPulluting transport. Photo: Shutterstock

What our transport could look like

Adopting more ambitious zero emission road transport scenarios has the potential to result in significant reduction in these costs.

We researched three scenarios that can take us towards a clean transport future: 

  • Scenario one: a gradual ZEV uptake: $233 billion (NPV 2021) in avoided costs to the community.
  • Scenario two: a ZEV driven transition to net zero: $335 billion (NPV 2021) in avoided costs.
  • Scenario three: a swift transition to net zero and increased share of public transport: $492 billion (NPV 2021) in avoided costs.

EV_sign_ACF_net_zero_emissions_.jpgA clean transport future Photo: Eakasit/Shutterstock

The potential is huge

If Australian leaders are looking for ways to cut emissions this decade and are serious about reaching net zero by 2050 then setting strong policy on electric vehicles is a vital and practical solution.

But Australia is getting left behind when it comes to electric vehicles and it makes no sense when there are obvious savings to be made.

Australia is getting left behind when it comes to electric vehicles.

“Transport is a significant contributor to Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, and we’re now at a real inflection point where we can realistically look at the benefits from a fast and complete transition to EVs in this country,” says Dr Eamon McGinn, Partner at Deloitte Access Economics, and principal author of the research and report: Local Community Benefits of Zero Emission Vehicles in Australia.

“The potential benefits for our economy of the market-led EV solution, in terms of less greenhouse gas emissions, less air and water pollution, and less vehicle noise are truly staggering — almost $500 billion over the next 30 years.” 

Electric_car_ACF_net_zero_emissions.jpgElectric cars. Photo: Elke Kerr

Three ways we can get to 100% electric vehicles as modelled in other countries

The research also looks at the way other cities, like San Francisco, have implemented strong policies including sufficient charging points as they work towards a goal of 100% electric vehicles by 2030.  

With the right policies, as set out below, we could be well on our way to a zero emission vehicle future. 


More people on public transport will also save dollars and our climate

A case study has shown that if people in the electorate of North Sydney, for example, opted to take the bus as opposed to their private vehicles, community would avoid environmental costs of over $58 million across 30 years under Scenario One, as well as saving $2.3 billion if they reached net zero. 


Read the full report for more case studies and an in-depth analysis of our zero emission vehicle future. 


Header image: Elke Kerr

Australian Conservation Foundation