Nissan Leaf Is Norway?s Top Seller For October, EVs Still Struggling In Oz Photo:
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Trevor Collett | Nov, 06 2013 | 2 Comments

Nissan’s Leaf hatch has topped the sales charts in Norway, becoming the first electric vehicle (EV) to do so. The EV managed 716 sales in Norway last month, giving it a 5.6 percent market share.

In October, the Leaf bettered the Toyota Auris (Corolla), Volkswagen's Golf, the Skoda Octavia and Toyota's Yaris, which rounded out the top-five.

In Australia, the Leaf managed 18 sales in September, thanks in part to its special price of $39,990 drive-away.

How did a quirky electric car beat out some of the market's most popular offerings, cars it could never surpass in Australia?

We've tested the Leaf, it's a good car. But in some countries, it also comes with advantages you won't see here.

Nissan's Norwegian outpost says increasing demand from rural areas has helped the Leaf top the sales charts for October, with the EV currently fourth in overall sales for 2013.

But, in Norway, the Leaf also enjoys significant financial incentives from a government ‘Clean Air’ program, which sees Value Added Tax (similar to GST) and road tax for EVs reduced to zero.

Could high fuel prices have helped the Leaf's rise? Possibly: a Bloomberg survey of current fuel prices from around the world sees Norway ranked as the most expensive.

However, the country only ranks 52nd for "percentage of daily wage required to purchase a gallon of fuel" and 53rd for "annual income spent on fuel", with a score of just 0.84 percent making it the eighth best in the world.

Australia in comparison ranks 41, 55 and 33 for the same three categories respectively, while residents from both India and Pakistan need more than an entire days average wage to buy just one gallon of fuel.

As for incentives, how do EVs fare in Australia? Not well. Here, imported EVs get no financial assistance at a federal government level and none are currently manufactured locally on a large scale.

At a state level, the few existing financial incentives for drivers to purchase an EV vary significantly.

The most generous schemes exist in Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory, which can offer $100 and 20 percent discounts on registration fees respectively. However, no discounts are available on compulsory third party insurance premiums.

New South Wales declared some EVs and hybrid vehicles exempt from a registration fee hike in 2010, saving them between $5 and $30 depending on the vehicle’s weight.

Queensland offers cheaper stamp duty rates, set at two percent and payable upon the purchase of an EV when the registration is transferred but no concession on the registration fee itself.

South Australia, Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Tasmania offer no discernible concession schemes for EVs.

In 2009, TMR surveyed just over 1000 people, with 44 percent saying they were prepared to buy a competitively-priced electric vehicle.

That enthusiasm has not materialised into sales in the last 4-5 years. Whether that is due to purchase prices, a lack of choice or other factors is unclear.

Just 22 EVs found new homes in Australia during September for both private and non-private buyers, made up of sales for the Nissan Leaf and Holden's Volt.

There's a (slightly dim) bright side to these numbers: 22 sales is a considerable improvement over the the eight EVs that were sold locally in the same month last year.

Some of the buyer support for EVs in Australia has come from local councils, with City of Sydney council in particular taking delivery of ten Nissan Leafs in February this year; roughly 8.5 percent of the 118 total sales for the Leaf this year to the end of September.

The Leaf and Holden's Volt continue to be available locally, priced at $51,490 and $59,990 respectively plus on-roads.

Unlike the all-electric Leaf, the range-extended Volt is fitted with a 1.4 litre four-cylinder petrol engine which acts as a generator when the batteries run low.

A report in September suggested Nissan was looking to expand its EV range to five models, but the Japanese carmaker has remained tight-lipped on the details.

BMW will soon join the EV list in Australia when the highly anticipated i3 electric hatch arrives early next year. The i3 will offer the choice of an all-electric model or a range-extended model, equipped with a two-cylinder petrol engine.

Can the i3 kick-start the EV market in Australia? TMR will be watching with interest.

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