It’s full charge ahead

Power points for elec­tric cars will be built around Aus­tralia, writes PAUL GOVER

Herald Sun - Motoring - - News -

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.

Shai Agassi

Power pact: Re­nault-Nis­san is pro­duc­ing elec­tric cars specif­i­cally for Is­rael, in­clud­ing this Me­gane.

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