Cur­rent non-event

For prag­matic Aus­tralian buy­ers, plug-in ve­hi­cles are a turn-off

Herald Sun - Motoring - - News - PAUL GOVER CHIEF RE­PORTER paul.gover@cars­guide.com.au

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.

Mit­subishi elec­tric i-MiEV: Some might call it a sales shocker

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