(Image: AAP/Private Media)

Car sales in Australia have suffered enormously in 2020 — unless you’re selling hybrid vehicles.

The hum of an electric motor is now a familiar one in Australian cities as hybrid engines spread from their incarnation in the Toyota Prius to be available in everything from a Camry to a Cayenne. Sales in the first nine months of the year have doubled, from 20,000 last year to 40,000 this year.

Hybrids still use petrol of course. They’re not a long-run solution for a clean energy future. Australia is unusual in the developed world for having no specific incentives to purchase zero-emissions vehicles.

That didn’t change in the federal budget and it means electric vehicle sales in this country are low and staying low, at about 1200 a year. That excludes Tesla, which reports no data but has limited sales.

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Australia’s low-EV sales reflect low global production capacity. Many are in the pipeline, but few are yet in mass production. Norway has achieved a 50% EV market share with huge purchase subsidies, but there is not yet sufficient supply for every country to follow their model.

That will change in the next decade. Leading the charge is Volkswagen with its ID range of vehicles — a hatch, a sedan, a Kombi van, and several more.