A global auto giant says Australia is “missing out” on newer, cheaper electric vehicle models in favor of countries that offer better incentives to motorists and put the country further behind the international market.
- Lawyers have accused the Australian government of sending mixed messages to manufacturers
- ACT introduced leading national incentives for Canberrans to buy electric vehicles
- The high upfront cost of electric vehicles has led some people to get creative to bring the price down
Nissan Australia is one of the largest suppliers in the Australian electric vehicle industry and sells several variants of its compact LEAF model.
However, the company’s national electrification manager Ben Warren admits that Nissan’s best models don’t come to Australia.
“When you can only build that many cars, you have to prioritize where to send them,” Warren said.
So does that mean Australian drivers are missing?
“We absolutely are,” said Warren.
An example of this is Nissan’s Ariya with all-wheel drive and a range of 500 km, which should be available worldwide from the end of 2021.
A local Nissan spokeswoman said “at this point [the Ariya] is unconfirmed for Australia. “
Mixed government EV policy messages
Nissan’s comments echo long-standing criticism from EV proponents: the state, territory, and federal government have sent conflicting messages to manufacturers.
EV policy expert Dr. BjÃ¶rn Sturmberg said there had to be clearer governance.
“The fact that Australia has a small number of people in a global market – that hasn’t stopped us from leading the world in adopting solar.
“We’re one of the world’s leading suppliers of home batteries. There’s no reason we can’t get the latest and greatest of all electric vehicles.”
Nissan’s Ben Warren said Australia just had to go in the direction of European nations that had dramatically higher adoption of EV technology.
“If we look at the markets that have made the biggest leaps in recent years, it is because of fairly consistent policies and regulatory frameworks and directions from the government,” said Warren.
“Ultimately, the chance for Australia requires the government to … give the industry the guidelines, the consumers the guidelines.
Some experts have suggested that banning gasoline cars would force change in the industry, but countries like Norway, which is the world leader in adopting electric vehicles, have taken more subtle measures.
Norwegian Ambassador to Australia Paul Larsen said his government had offered both carrots and whips to help drive change.
“Last year, 60 percent of new cars sold in Norway were electric – about 60,000 new cars,” said Larsen.
“The reason is obviously incentives and disincentives – we have very high taxes on cars with combustible petroleum engines.”
The Norwegian Parliament has set itself the goal of ensuring that all new cars sold by 2025 are emission-free and offer drivers of environmentally friendly vehicles significant tax breaks, reduced parking fees and tolls.
ACT offers leading incentives for the move nationwide
With demand for electric cars high in Europe, ACT Climate Change Secretary Shane Rattenbury said he understands why auto companies are unwilling to enter the slow-growing Australian market.
“And of course in Australia we haven’t seen the incentives that other countries offer. That is why our market has developed so slowly.”
The ACT recently announced nationwide leading incentives for drivers to make the switch, including interest-free loans of up to $ 15,000 to purchase an electric vehicle.
There were also stamp tax exemptions, two years of free registration and a program to build additional charging stations around the ACT.
Mr Rattenbury said he hoped the incentives would fuel consumer demand that automakers could not ignore.
There are currently around 950 electric vehicles registered with the ACT, 52 of which are part of the government’s own fleet.
Australian dealers undercut “gray imports”
When Canberra bus driver Shane Maher started evaluating Australian electric vehicles, he found the upfront cost prohibitive and decided to think outside the box.
Working through a broker, he ended up buying a nearly new car at auction in Japan and having it delivered to his home in Canberra.
He said the savings are substantial.
“If you were to buy this ‘e + LEAF’ from a local Nissan dealer, I think the road cost would be between $ 62,000 and $ 63,000,” Maher said.
“We imported that a year ago for around $ 49,000.”
Mr Maher said the model he imported was not available in Australia and the model he chose gave him a much greater range on a single charge.
“In real life, we could probably expand this car to about 360 kilometers … but we drive about 300 to 330 kilometers and then quickly charge it just to be safe, just to give us a bit of a buffer.”
Nissan’s Ben Warren said he understood the temptation for buyers to look overseas.
“Looking at these alternative channels is obviously associated with risk and reward. So as a consumer you need to have a balanced view of what you are getting into.”
Mr Warren said the main risk is the lack of a manufacturer‘s warranty when a car is imported from a foreign country.
Turn classic cars into battery-powered sports cars
Despite the incentives to encourage people to choose electric cars, electric vehicles are still inaccessible to many people due to the high upfront cost.
In the Snowy Mountains neighborhood of New South Wales, mechanical engineer Conrad Gibb was torn from his feet to keep up with demand for motorists looking to crack the EV market.
But his electric cars didn’t look like the modern models made by the major manufacturers.
Mr. Gibb specializes in retrofitting classic vehicles with charged battery power and delivers power that is above the original specifications.
He said the cost was relatively high, ranging from $ 30,000 for a DIY battery upgrade to $ 50,000 for a fully installed service.
But he said the price didn’t deter drivers from swapping out gas-guzzling engines from their classic Jaguars or VW station wagons for zero-emission technology.
He said there are several reasons people wanted to switch their old clunkers to electricity, including environmental benefits and lower operating costs.
“It’s just an engine with maybe half a dozen moving parts and two bearings. There’s not much to it,” said Gibb.
“And no maintenance and cheap running – our Beetle costs about $ 3.80 per 100 kilometers to run on electricity. It’s cheap.”
Mr. Gibb admitted the purists would never go for it, but most of the people who drove his converted classics appreciated their vastly improved acceleration.