Clash over electric vehicle 'misinformation' in awkward TV moment

Reports of slowing EV growth in Australia have sparked debate about their inevitable rise on our roads.

Electric vehicles charging at Tesla bays.
Electric vehicles have been a surprisingly controversial topic of late. Do you think you're properly informed? Source: AAP

With new federal laws around fuel efficiency requirements and a more environmentally conscious Australian population, electric vehicles have been a hot topic of debate recently. And drivers around the country appear surprisingly divided about their takeover of our roads.

Regardless of whether you own an EV and love it, are EV-curious or for some reason can't stand the idea of them, it's clear the dominance of the internal combustion engine will soon be in the rearview mirror.

Yet not everyone's convinced by the transition unfolding in the auto industry, with debate on Channel 10's The Project on Tuesday night between cohosts Waleed Aly and Kate Langbroek highlighting the divide.

Responding to widespread reports that EV sales were down slightly year on year in Australia, the pair clashed over if EVs made sense for consumers, with one host disputing the claim that "misinformation" was driving down sales.

The Project cohosts Waleed Aly and Kate Langbroek.
The Project cohosts Waleed Aly and Kate Langbroek disagreed about electric vehicles in Tuesday night's episode. Source: The Project

The on-air exchange came after it emerged thousands of Teslas are now sitting idle at Australian ports waiting for buyers, with the Elon Musk-owned manufacturer struggling in the face of increased competition.

The segment cited former UK Top Gear host turned EV lobbyist, Quentin Wilson, who made formal comments in May admonishing misinformation in the portrayal of electric vehicles, their requirements and their durability. "They read this torrent of stuff from right-wing and vested interests," he said, citing caution expressed by some consumers.

However The Project host Kate Langbroek too umbrage with such an assertion.

“Isn’t it funny that when we don’t want something that we’re supposed to want it’s called misinformation?” she argued.

“The reason I don’t have one is because of information. I don’t want to go on holidays and have to wait four hours to charge my car ... I don’t have a garage. I don’t have off-street parking. How am I going to charge my car?”

Appearing somewhat befuddled by the argument, Aly suggested the headlines were simply a media "beat up", with the long-time host saying the small dip in sales was more likely due to cost of living pressures, rather than a lack of enthusiasm for the product.

“This is a beat up isn’t it? All you’re doing is comparing last year to this year and then saying they’re down five per cent … at a time of a cost of living crisis," he said.

To which Langbroek responded with: "Well why did we run the story then?"

“Well... I don’t know,” Aly responded.

Triggering the segment was aerial photos of a port in Melbourne which highlighted the dramatic shift in demand for the country's most popular EV, with Teslas that once rolled off the assembly line to buyers now waiting to find a home in Australia.

Thousands of Teslas sitting idle at Port Melbourne, amid reports of dipping sales.
In Victoria alone, 2000 Teslas arrive in Port Melbourne every month, and while road authorities say they used to be shipped "pre-bought", that's now no longer the case. Source: 7News

Industry experts have since warned that the slowing rise in sales is the result of a lack of proper infrastructure coupled with the fact that people are becoming more price conscious, particularly as more options hit the market.

The price of some electric vehicles in Australia have plunged by as much as $20,000 this year as increased competition sees manufacturers fight for every buyer.

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