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Tim O'Brien | Sep, 13 2014 | 19 Comments

Nissan Australia Managing Director, Richard Emery, called on Australian Governments to do more to ensure electric cars are viable for Australian buyers.

He said that while manufacturers were “doing their bit” in developing and manufacturing low-emissions cars, Australian governments were not.

Nissan here offers the all-electric Leaf as well as the recently announced Pathfinder Hybrid.

Like other 'plug-in' vehicles in this market - the Tesla Model S, Mitsubishi's i-Miev and Outlander PHEV, Audi’s new A3 E-tron and the incoming BMW i3 and i8 - the Nissan Leaf occupies the tiniest market niche.

But, unlike Europe, the UK, and many states in the US, Australia has been slow to develop the partnerships between Government and industry to provide the charging infrastructure for users of these vehicles.

“It’s alright for Governments to throw comments around about CO2 levels and fuel efficiency and things like that, (but) they’ve also got to offer some infrastructure support and maybe some taxation advantages to allow electric cars to become viable in the Australian market,” Richard Emery said.

Mr Emery acknowledges that Australia’s geography and vast distances makes it difficult, but that Australia is also heavily urbanised.

“It’s not registration (incentives) that stops people from buying them, it’s the fact that if they’re travelling around and stopping at shopping centres, or stopping at airports, or stopping in the city, they can’t find anywhere to charge their cars."

“So it’s actually infrastructure,” he said.

He also said that while Governments have been quick to mandate about emissions - something, he says, that the industry has just “got on and been reducing for years” - they have been slow to do anything about it themselves.

“If our country wants to be serious about lowering CO2, and cars have a role to play in that, we’re actively doing our bit but the government needs to do more,” Mr Emery said.

He is not alone in this call.

Local supplier E-Station provides charge stations that can be used by the Nissan Leaf, Holden Volt, and Mitsubishi i-MiEV, among others.

It has called for Australian cities, local Governments and Councils to create designated EV parking bays with charge points in car parks and in on-street locations, as is widely practiced in Europe.

And Tesla, according to its Tesla Motors Club forum, proposes to build its own network of Supercharger high-speed chargers in Australia for Tesla owners to recharge their vehicles for free.

With the arrival of more of these vehicles, State and Federal Governments, and even local jurisdictions, will come under increasing pressure to get serious about electric vehicles and charge-point infrastructure.

In Australia, unfortunately, it’s a very patchy affair.

Better Place, and its local partner AGL, had grand plans before the Israeli company collapsed under nearly US$1billion of debt.

Leading global EV charging network supplier, ChargePoint, has partnered with Origin Energy in establishing charging stations in Australia - centred mostly on Melbourne, Sydney and the ACT.

But whereas the UK has more than 7000 charge stations (found via Zap Map), in Australia we can muster barely 100.

There are exciting new ‘rechargeable’ electric cars heading this way like the delectable Tesla Model S, BMW's i3 and stunning i8 and the recently announced Audi A3 E-tron.

And, waiting in the wings are cars like the E-Golf, not confirmed, but strongly tipped for this market, and the Ford Focus electric - buy this car in the US, and you can be eligible for a federal tax credit of up to US$7500.

How far behind is Australia?

California, with arguably similar geographic challenges and urban density as the Eastern seaboard of Australia, has now 102,440 electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles on its roads.

Californians buy nearly 40 percent of the plug-in electric vehicles sold in the US.

And, heavily supported with charging infrastructure - there are more than 3990 charging stations in that state - significant growth is expected there over the next ten years.

How important is infrastructure?

Norway, with the highest electric-vehicle ownership per capita, has more than 4000 charging points and 127 quick-charge stations.

No surprise then that the Leaf is among the top sellers there: in November last year, 716 Norwegians opted for the Leaf, compared to just 18 Australians in the same period.

As for Nissan Australia, “Full-electric vehicles are taking their time to get established in Australia for reasons of infrastructure, but we’ll hang in there,” Mr Emery told TMR.

MORE News & Reviews: Nissan | EVs & PHEVs | Green Cars
MORE: Australia Could Prove The Appeal Of EVs In Incentive-Free Markets

 
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