For pragmatic Australian buyers, plug-in vehicles are a turn-off
THEworld is plugging in and turning on to electric cars. But do we really care more about volts and hertz than kilowatts and Newton-metres? And would you really put a green dream ahead of a showroom sticker or the boot in the back?
Let’s not get started on the range between charges, or the cost of a lithium-ion battery pack, because that’s just plain draining. European makers chasing their green dream have convinced a healthy chunk of the motoring media to drink the cordial but real-world buyers are not remotely interested in a plug-in reality in 2013.
As for the Japanese brands, which have been hitting us hard with hybrids, Nissan is buying into the European experience because of its owners at Renault. Mitsubishi is dancing around the edges with the remarkably unremarkable— and overpriced— i-MiEV.
Sales of cars like the iMiEV and Nissan Leaf, and even the Holden Volt, are absolutely tiny and showing no sign of lifting in Australia. Renault is bringing its plug-in Zoe in 2014 and, even though it looks good, it’s not going to be The Answer.
Yet car companies continue to answer barrages of questions about electric motoring with big promises and talk about the electrification of motoring.
Push them on the detail, then mention Australia, and the reception gets a bit fuzzy. Remind them that Better Place, which planned an Australiawide network of battery-swap stations andwall-to-wall plugin points but failed on all fronts, and there is silence.
A plug-in car might look good in Europe, and particularly Germany where wind and solar power are big, but Australia is vast and most of our electricity comes from burning coal. And that’s not remotely green.
We’ve driven the BMWi 3 and it’s very good. We’ve also had fun in a battery-powered Smart ForTwo and e-Up but things just don’t add up.
Yet the Frankfurt motor show is filled with electric dreams and plug-in promises, and some of them look pretty nice. The Benz SLSAMG Electric Drive is even faster than the regular petrolpowered gull-wing supercar— just don’t ask about the range if you have your foot to the floor.
But the Cars guide crew is more focused on the likes of Ford’s Eco Boost family, which use tiny turbo engines to hit the green bullseye, and the move by other brands including Volkswagen into miserly threecylinder motors. They are the realistic future, never mind the spin doctors’ work at Frankfurt.
Even Nissan-Renault boss Carlos Ghosn, who is leading the electric charge, admits that amajor shift is needed before real-world shoppers accept plug-in power. He predicts the change will come when China starts large-scale production, and use, of electric cars.
As for Australia, despite the hopes and dreams, buyers are far more likely tomake a pragmatic decision and put a deposit on a Mazda3, Toyota Corolla or even a Holden Commodore with an ecofriendly engine. There is no compelling need for plug-in power while you can still pump unleaded or diesel into the tank.
So, do you know someone who drives an electric car? No? I thought not.
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