It’s full charge ahead
Power points for electric cars will be built around Australia, writes PAUL GOVER
THE missing ingredient for a workable electric car future in Australia has been promised within four years. A $1 billion network of plug-in charge points will be built around the country under a plan developed by American environmental pioneer Shai Agassi and backed by AGL Energy and the Macquarie Capital finance group.
More than 200,000 charging points will be installed at homes, offices and shopping centres in a local development of a program already started in Israel and Norway. There are also plans for quickchange sites where the next generation of electric cars can stop for a quick turnaround to a fully charged battery pack.
The move comes as Mitsubishi prepares for sales of Australia’s first plug-in electric car — its baby I-Miev — from next year, and Mercedes-Benz promises an electric Smart Fortwo in 2010 and a similar power pack in its A and B-Class cars just a year later.
Israel has signed an exclusive deal with the Renault-Nissan alliance, which is producing cars specifically for the country after Agassi’s development through his Better Place organisation.
‘‘Electric cars are going to be such a big part of the future of motoring,’’ the spokesman for Daimler in Australia, David McArthy, says.
Other carmakers are sure to follow, with BMW Group about to go public with its Mini E for the US next month, though others are not convinced.
Toyota is steering clear of pure electric vehicles in Australia because of its commitment to hybrids.
Honda, another fan of hybrids, says it does not have a plug-in electric car for Australia.
‘‘So far as we know, there is nothing under development in Japan,’’ says Honda Australia senior director Lindsay Smalley. ‘‘Something could be happening, but for the moment we have no plan to bring electric cars to Australia.’’
The electric car grid is likely to accelerate the acceptance of battery-powered cars, particularly as the Mini E is promised with a 200km-plus range.
The early focus in Agassi’s plan is Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. Adelaide and Perth will follow after 2012.
‘‘We call it a ubiquitous charging network across the cities. It’s a massive infrastructure project . . . and that means new jobs for Australians,’’ Agassi says.
Payment for the system would be similar to a mobile-phone contract, though some European cities are experimenting with a parking-meter style plan for their electric power points.
The Better Place program will emphasise the use of renewable power, a link pushed by AGL.
Full details of the plan are still being finalised.
But it is backed by the Victorian Government and the Federal Government is helping with a national agreement on the system.
Power pact: Renault-Nissan is producing electric cars specifically for Israel, including this Megane.