Monday, June 27, 2011

EV's for the rest of Us

Never having to visit a gas station ever again? I'd pay for that.

Dealerships in Australia have begun notifying their customers that the all-electric Mitsubish i-Miev will be available for purchase "soon after" fleet orders are filled starting in August this year.

Mitsubishi made the i-Miev available to selected "early-adopter" fleets late last year, and this roll-out finally extends the battery powered electric vehicle - the first mass market EV to be offered in Australia - to the rest of us.

EV's of course - unlike hybrids such as Toyota's Prius - require no petrol or oil. At home or at work, plug into a 3-pin wall outlet and when you jump in you're good to go. Imagine that - every day you travel to work, the shops or to collect the kids, never having that sinking feeling that you'll have to detour to the servo, and dig into your wallet for fuel.

Nissan, not to be outdone, is hawking its new Leaf EV to car buyers at the Motor Show in Melbourne from this Friday (the 1st of July) through the 10th of July. Apparently fans of the Leaf will be able to drive it - obviously not very fast or far - around inside the Motor Show venue.

Arguably the Leaf is the better car, performance-wise, and in some other areas - but both have their advantages, and Mitsubishi looks to beat Nissan in the race to get their cars into the hands of the motoring public.

Australia is still lagging very far behind in incentives for the battery powered electric vehicle, and both Nissan and Mitsubishi are taking a big gamble bringing these technologically advanced vehicles here to the wide brown land.

Will the Australian motoring public "get it" when it comes to EV's?

EV's are not new - hobbyists and small entrepreneurs have been building EV's in their back yards and workshops for a couple of decades. Groups like the AEVA have been waiting for this moment when EV's begin to go mainstream - so that plugging in becomes de rigeur and EV charge points start to spring up in cafe's and supermarkets.

If you want to find out about the history, the future and the technology of EV's the AEVA is a good place to start - in October you'll be able to to to their EV festival, right here in Brisbane.

Of course the big drawcard for EV's is the massive savings in the cost of driving - cents per day instead of dollars.

But both companies will be hoping that early-adopting Aussie drivers will discover the other benefits - such as clean air, low noise, and the convenience of never having to go to the gas station ever again - and word of mouth will spread the EV bug.

Tech savvy city dwellers are likely to be the first to grab an i-Miev or Leaf: already au fait with cellphones, laptops and other cool gadgets, the ready-anytime EV is likely to a hit with them. But another risk is that buyers will be caught out by the leap in technology and fail to plan their charging habits, or otherwise fail to abide by the EV playbook.

Both Mitsubishi and Nissan will be taking extra care to groom their customers and only let the cars out once new owners are schooled in "plugging-in".

Its a great thing to see - the beginnings of roads that are free from pollution, so kids on their way to school, in the future will not have to breath the pollution from those countless tail-pipes. The start of quieter streets, and the beginning of an end to the strong dependence on foreign oil.

For me personally - it will have to be a case of "wait and see". Right now $50k-plus is too rich for me to drop on my daily ride. I would love to buy one of the two offerings as soon as they're available, but the price tag will have to be right. I'll be pulling out my calculator to see how those fuel savings stack up.