Global automaker says Australia fails to attract importers of electric vehicles

A global auto giant says Australia is “missing out” on newer and cheaper electric vehicle models in favor of countries that offer better incentives to motorists, pushing the country further behind the international market.

Nissan Australia is one of the largest players in the Australian electric vehicle (EV) industry, selling several variations of its compact LEAF model.

But the company’s national electrification director Ben Warren admits that Nissan’s best models don’t come to Australia.

“When you can only make a limited number of cars, you have to prioritize where you send them,” Mr. Warren said.

Does this mean Australian drivers are missing out?

“We absolutely are,” Warren said.

An example of this is Nissan’s 500km all-wheel drive Ariya, which is slated for worldwide release from late 2021.

A Nissan spokeswoman said locally “at that time [the Ariya] is not confirmed for Australia. “

Mixed government political messages

Nissan’s Ben Warren says the Australian auto market is “missing out” on the newest and cheapest electric vehicles.(

ABC News: Craig Allen

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Nissan’s comments echo long-standing criticism from electric vehicle advocates: This state, this territory, and the federal governments were sending mixed messages to manufacturers.

EV policy expert Dr Bjorn Sturmberg said clearer government leadership is needed.

“The fact that Australia has a small number of people in a global market – that hasn’t stopped us from being the world leader in adopting solar power.

“We’re one of the world leaders in the adoption of home batteries – there’s no reason we can’t get the latest and greatest EVs, either.”

Nissan’s Ben Warren said Australia only needed to follow the instructions of European countries, which had significantly higher adoption of EV technology.

The side of an electric vehicle indicates: "zero emissions".
Norway aims for all new cars sold by 2025 to be zero emissions.(

ABC News: Matt Roberts

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“When we look at the markets that have made the biggest leaps in recent years, it’s on the backs of pretty consistent policies and regulatory settings and government direction,” Warren said.

“At the end of the day, the opportunity for Australia requires the government… to provide guidance to the industry, guidance to the consumers.

Some experts have suggested that banning gasoline cars would force the industry to change, but countries like Norway, which is the world leader in electric vehicle adoption, have taken more subtle measures.

Norwegian Ambassador to Australia Paul Larsen said his government had offered both carrots and sticks to drive change.

“Last year, 60 percent of new cars sold were electric in Norway – around 60,000 new cars,” Larsen said.

“The reason is obviously incentives and disincentives – we have very high taxes on petroleum-fueled cars.”

The Norwegian parliament has set a target that all new cars sold by 2025 will be zero emissions, offering significant tax breaks, reduced parking and tolls for drivers of green vehicles.

ACT offers top-notch incentives to make the switch

A close-up of a license plate on an electric vehicle reads: EV 101.
There are currently around 950 electric vehicles registered in ACT, of which 52 are part of the government fleet.(

ABC News: Matt Roberts

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As demand for electric cars soars in Europe, ACT Climate Change Minister Shane Rattenbury said he understands why automakers are unwilling to kick the growing Australian market slow.

“And, of course, in Australia we haven’t seen the incentives offered by other countries, which is why our market has been so slow to take off.”

ACT Greens Leader Shane Rattenbury
ACT Climate Change Minister Shane Rattenbury says he understands why automakers are unwilling to kick Australia’s slow growing market.(

ABC News: Mark Moore

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ACT recently announced leading incentives for drivers to make the switch, including interest-free loans of up to $ 15,000 to purchase an electric vehicle.

There were also stamp duty exemptions, two years of free registration, and a program to build more charging stations around ACT.

Mr Rattenbury said he hoped the incentives would spur consumer demand, which automakers could not ignore.

There are currently around 950 electric vehicles registered in ACT, of which 52 are part of the government fleet.

‘Gray imports’ undercut Australian dealers

A car drives along a country road surrounded by grass and trees with autumn leaves
Shane Maher imported his Nissan Leaf from Japan to save money.(

ABC News: Greg Nelson

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When Canberra bus driver Shane Maher started pricing Australian electric vehicles, he found the initial cost prohibitive and therefore decided to think outside the box.

Working through a broker, he ended up buying a nearly new car at auction in Japan and had it shipped to his home in Canberra.

He said the savings were significant.

“If you were to buy this ‘e + LEAF’ from a local Nissan dealership, I think the on-road costs would be between $ 62,000 and $ 63,000,” Maher said.

“We imported it a year ago for about $ 49,000.”

Shane sitting in the driver's seat of his car holding the steering wheel
Shane Maher bought a nearly new electric vehicle at auction in Japan and had it shipped to his home in Canberra.(

ABC News: Greg Nelson

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Mr Maher said the model he imported was not available in Australia and the model he chose gave him much more range on a single charge.

“In real life, we could probably stretch this car about 360 miles … but we go 300 to 330 miles and then charge it up quickly, just to be safe, just to give ourselves a bit of a buffer.”

Nissan’s Ben Warren said he understood the temptation of buyers to look overseas.

“Watching these alternative channels obviously comes with risks and rewards. So as a consumer you need to have a balanced view of what you’re getting yourself into.”

Mr Warren said the main risk was the lack of a manufacturer’s warranty when a car was imported from a foreign country.

Turning classics into battery-powered sports cars

Conrad stands in front of his blue VW Beetle in a park.
Conrad Gibb with his converted electric VW Beetle.(

ABC News: Greg Nelson

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Despite the incentives to encourage people to choose electric cars, the high upfront costs mean that electric vehicles are still out of reach for many people.

In the Snowy Mountains district of New South Wales, mechanical engineer Conrad Gibb has lost his footing, responding to demand from motorists eager to break into the electric vehicle market.

But its electric cars were nothing like the modern models offered by the big manufacturers.

Mr. Gibb specializes in upgrading classic vehicles with supercharged battery power, delivering performance beyond their original specifications.

He said the costs were relatively high, ranging from $ 30,000 for a DIY battery conversion to $ 50,000 for a fully installed service.

But he said the price didn’t deter drivers from replacing the gas-hungry engines in their classic Jaguars or VW Kombis with zero-emission technology.

He said there were several reasons people were looking to convert their old clunkers into electricity, including environmental benefits and lower running costs.

“It’s just an engine with maybe half a dozen moving parts and two bearings. There’s not much really,” Gibb said.

“And maintenance free and cheap to run – our Beetle costs about $ 3.80 per 100 kilometers to run on electricity. It’s cheap.”

Mr Gibb admitted that purists would never accept it, but most people who drove his converted classics appreciated their vastly improved acceleration.

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