Sunday, November 21, 2010

2012



Floods.

Explosions.

Hell freezing over.

And, apparently electric cars in Australia.

Last week I rang Nissan Australia and spoke to one of their reps about when I could buy a Nissan Leaf EV. After all its prominently advertised on their Australian website, and nowhere there does it say that there are any delays in supplying the vehicle.

The context for this is that under the heading "Our Plan for Australia" BetterPlace, the demand side electricity-for-EV's technology supplier says they are "working with the Renault-Nissan Alliance, which will be among the first to introduce EVs". Of course to supply electricity for EV's to help us clean the air, and reduce dependence on foreign oil, Better Place actually needs the actual EV's that people will be driving. So when they say they are working with Renault-Nissan, you could be forgiven for thinking that when they "introduce EV's" that we will actually be able to drive them.

"Sorry", I was told by the Nissan rep, "not until 2012".

I also contacted Mitsubishi Motors Australia. Surely their iMiev, which is being trumpeted as the first EV in Australia is available? I personally think the iMiev is likely to be less car than the Leaf, but without the choice, I was willing to compromise. Here we are in 2010, the battle has been won, EV's are here right? Well, EV singular - the iMiev is here, at least, eveb if the Nissan Leaf is not.

As you would expect, there is enormous global demand for this vehicle, and consequently, availability of the i-MiEV will be somewhat restricted for a time. In response to strong demand from the local market however, Mitsubishi Motors Australia Limited (MMAL) has negotiated to secure a limited number of i-MiEV vehicles for Australian release.


Mitsubishi's rep went on to say that these cars are only being released to fleet buyers, and in 2011 they plan to release cars to the public. I will believe it when I see it.

Why?

Think about where are the cars that are being produced to satisfy this "global" demand going: Japan.

There is much evidence that the profits to be had in their home markets for Japanese EV makers are much greater counting in all factors including government incentives for clean vehicles that don't burn foreign oil.

Japanese auto consumers are also more tech-savvy, and more open to compact cars with advanced features. Why take the risk on markets like Australia, and the USA who are too dumb to even understand an electronic accelerator pedal. Hint: its not cosmic rays interacting with your pedal, its your foot.

However even tho' the manufacturers don't want to ship their cars here, they are not afraid of using their vapourware vehicles to hype their clean car image on their websites. All the while continuing to sell the gas guzzling, road hoggers that we follow the Americans in buying up by the ton.

A footnote about the Nissan Leaf promotional machine - I was contacted by phone by Nissan in October, and offered a chance to test drive the Nissan Leaf at the All-Energy Conference in Melbourne. Unfortunately I was just about to fly internationally for work, and could not take them up on their generous offer to pay all my own costs to appear in Melbourne with 2 days notice.

Had it not been for the international travel I would probably have taken them up on their offer - but it smacked to me of a failed PR effort, since I was aware that they had been running a competition on their website with very similar prospects. It made me wonder if perhaps they had not gotten a lot of entries.

Nissan, Mitsubishi, and others - wake up and smell the profits. People don't want flash websites and broken promises - we want the actual cars. We want clean air and better tomorrows.

And we don't want to have to wait until 2012.