But all three brands are pushing their new electric products regardless, backed by a new charging network.
A trio of car manufacturers have put the call out for better buyer incentives on electric vehicles Down Under, citing nations like Norway as a guide for encouraging the technology’s rollout.
Jaguar, Audi and Hyundai all suggested perks for buyers of electric vehicles – things like free registration, lower tolls or priority lanes on busy roads, along with the oft-requested tax breaks – would encourage battery-electric uptake locally, where market share is currently around 0.2 per cent.
Speaking with CarAdvice at the opening of a new high-speed charging station in rural Victoria, new Jaguar Land Rover Australia managing director, Mark Cameron, said we’re “quite a way behind” the rest of the developed world on “infrastructure, and incentives, and the view of electric cars”.
Jaguar is one of four ‘foundation partners’ in the charge network rollout, arguing the ability to drive between Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney on fast-charging infrastructure is a key step to public acceptance.
According to Cameron, who’s aware his first statement mightn’t be particularly popular, part of the solution lies in making electric vehicle purchases more attractive to customers.
“Norway is often quoted as a very good example, where they put fiscal benefits – tax breaks for customers of electric cars. Now over half of the industry every year, new car sales, are electric,” he said, sitting behind the wheel of a new I-Pace.
“Governments that have said ‘right, we want to move to an electric, no-carbon future very quickly’ have put the right foundations in place.
“As well as the public charging… critically, for customers, it’s the fiscal incentives. Because then, the acceptance of this kind of technology happens much, much quicker,” he elaborated.
Jaguar will start delivering the I-Pace to customers in December, giving it a handy head-start on the Audi e-tron (mid-2019) and Mercedes-Benz EQC (late-2019). The company is blazing a bit of a trail, working out how to sell electric vehicles through a dealer network skewed to internal-combustion, but its rivals aren’t far behind.
Speaking at the same event, Audi Australia product planning and pricing director, Shawn Ticehurst, said the electric market will be “ignited” by the swathe of new models landing locally in 2019.
“Having said that we’re going from a market that’s at 0.2 per cent market share now, so even if we get to 2.0 per cent share that’s phenomenal growth, but it’s still a small share of the market,” he went on.
“I think growth will be inevitable. What would really set it off would be more incentives, government-wise, to really encourage people to take up this new technology as they’ve done in Europe, and California, and other places in the world.”
Those incentives could be subsidies, according to Ticehurst, but could also be smaller privileges like easier parking or dedicated lanes on the highway.
Hyundai operates at a different end of the market to the two brands we’ve mentioned in this story, but it’s also charging forward (heh) with an electric vehicle rollout.
Scott Nargar, Hyundai Australia manager of future mobility and government relations, speaking at (you guessed it) the charge station reveal in Euroa, said the burgeoning fast-charge network is “exactly what manufacturers with eco-cars need” to get people from state-to-state quickly.
Nargar, who’s clearly passionate about the rollout of electric vehicles and hydrogen power in Australia, said car manufacturers like Hyundai aren’t running to Canberra and crying poor, but stronger government “leadership” on infrastructure is required.
“We are a pretty big and diverse country,” he said, “I think some leadership from the government, and investment in these kind of charging networks are essential… if customers receive incentives that would be great, but as a manufacturer we haven’t got our hands out for incentives, no.”
As with the other companies present, Hyundai is “testing the water” on electric vehicles, but Nargar is confident the “time is right” to dive into a plug-in future thanks to forward-thinking moves from some “pockets” of government around the country – highlighting programs from the Queensland and ACT Governments.
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