You can flick the switch soon
Conversions mean you’ll elect to go electric, writes Mark Hinchliffe
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.