Herald Sun - Motoring - - CARS GUIDE CONFIDENTIAL - Twit­ter @PaulWard­Gover

THE in­crease in fuel tax has sparked pre­dictable ra­dio chat­ter this week about the cost of mo­tor­ing. Apart from or­di­nary fam­i­lies fac­ing another belt in the bud­get, ex­perts from all points of the com­pass talked about the fu­ture of fos­sil fuel and the hy­brid and plug-in elec­tric cars al­ready on the road.

One spoke of fuel cell cars that gen­er­ate on-board elec­tric­ity (but not of the hy­dro­gen sta­tions needed to keep them go­ing).

The re­al­ity is that elec­tric cars, de­spite big talk by ev­ery­one up to global head of Nis­san-Re­nault Car­los Ghosn, are strug­gling for trac­tion across the world.

So far this year, only 200 Aus­tralians have bought a bat­tery car. We don’t know how many are with or­di­nary mo­torists or gov­ern­ment de­part­ments and coun­cils.

The big prob­lems for bat­tery cars are ob­vi­ous: cost and “range anx­i­ety”. The price prob­lem will never go away un­til gov­ern­ments are pre­pared to pro­vide the sort of sub­si­dies that have boosted sales in Europe and the US go­ing back to the orig­i­nal Toy­ota Prius. The Aus­tralian list price for a Leaf is $39,990 — it’s sim­i­lar in size to the Pul­sar you can buy for less than $20,000. The Volt is $59,990.

Range anx­i­ety is the fear of run­ning short of charge, even though Aus­tralians typ­i­cally com­mute less than 100km daily.

Both chal­lenges came into sharp re­lief this week as I slid into the lat­est elec­tric con­tender, the BMW i3. It’s a bril­liant car, de­spite four safety stars, trendy, ef­fi­cient and drives well.

BMW has an op­tional range-extender en­gine that lifts the dis­tance be­tween charges to 300km but there is still the prob­lem of price — are peo­ple pre­pared to pay at least $63,900 for a fu­ture car that’s here and now?

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