You can flick the switch soon

Con­ver­sions mean you’ll elect to go elec­tric, writes Mark Hinch­liffe

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Onroad -

CARS con­verted from petrol to elec­tric power will be the first pop­u­lar elec­tric ve­hi­cles (EVs) on our roads, not pur­pose­built EVs.

More than 200 peo­ple at the sec­ond na­tional Elec­tric Ve­hi­cle and Smart Grid Con­fer­ence in Bris­bane heard views from busi­ness­men, govern­ment of­fi­cials and aca­demics about the fu­ture of EVs in Aus­tralia.

Con­fer­ence di­rec­tor Philippe Re­boul says he can­not pre­dict when we will see af­ford­able EVs.

‘‘If we knew when it would hap­pen, we’d be rich,’’ he say. ‘‘Peo­ple aren’t go­ing to throw away their cars to buy an EV, but they might pay for a con­ver­sion.

‘‘A few small con­ver­sion com­pa­nies in Aus­tralia are mak­ing EVs out of cur­rent cars. Con­vert­ing cars to EV could be the way for­ward.’’

The only elec­tric cars avail­able in Aus­tralia are a small num­ber of Mit­subishi i-MiEV cars, which can be leased, and the Nis­san Leaf, which will ar­rive next year with sim­i­lar limited num­bers and leas­ing ar­range­ments.

Re­boul says con­ver­sions cost about $20,000 but the price is ex­pected to fall.

‘‘I can see op­por­tu­ni­ties for con­ver­sion com- pa­nies but there are a lot of bar­ri­ers with Aus­tralian De­sign Rules,’’ he says.

‘‘For ex­am­ple, some com­pa­nies have made small EVs that can go about 80km/h, but the ADRs say it has to do 90km/h to get on the road. A bit more flex­i­bil­ity in the rules is needed.’’

Re­boul says that for the EV mar­ket to grow, govern­ment pol­icy has to change.

‘‘EVs are be­com­ing pop­u­lar in coun­tries where there are the best govern­ment sub­si­dies,’’ he says. ‘‘ We’re not nec­es­sar­ily want­ing cash hand­outs, but in­cen­tives such as cheaper im­port tax, reg­is­tra­tion and park­ing would be easy.

‘‘They don’t cost the govern­ment money like a di­rect sub­sidy and it makes peo­ple feel good.’’

The con­fer­ence at­tracted 220 del­e­gates. A third was from in­ter­state and a hand­ful came from Canada, Ja­pan, China and Tai­wan.

‘‘We’ve held the con­fer­ence in Bris­bane again be­cause quite a few good tech­ni­cal com­pa­nies are based here, such as the charg­ing in­fra­struc­ture sup­plier ECO­tal­ity,’’ Re­boul says.

ECO­tal­ity boss Peter Nimmo says the com­pany’s ‘‘Blink’’ sys­tem costs $3500 and can be placed in homes, pub­lic car parks, at air­ports, shops and com­muter cen­tres.

‘‘We’re in dis­cus­sion with a lot of builders, coun­cils and early adopters,’’ he says.

Townsville City Coun­cil is plan­ning with en­ergy com­pa­nies and in­fra­struc­ture com­pa­nies for the evo­lu­tion of EVs. Coun­cil ex­ec­u­tive Greg Bruce told the con­fer­ence the coun­cil will be­gin rolling out in­fra­struc­ture in the next year.

Pi­o­neers: (left) Townsville Coun­cil’s Greg Bruce with ECO­tal­ity chief Peter Nimmo and (above) con­verted EVs may be the first pop­u­lar elec­tric cars on the road.

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