Tesla has its "iPhone moment", but Australia left in slow lane for EVs

Tesla has its “iPhone moment”, but Australia left in slow lane for EVs

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Australia is in danger of missing the iPhone moment in electric vehicles. The country known as land of burning climate and energy policies has left a market hungry for EVs without any affordable products.

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News that deliveries to Australia of the Tesla Model 3 – the company’s first sub $60,000 electric vehicle – will not begin until 2019, nearly 3 years after enthusiasts put down a refundable deposit, shows just how far Australia has slipped in the race to vehicle electrification.

The rollout of the Model 3 is being described as the electric vehicle equivalent of the iPhone moment. If Tesla gets this right, and manages to master the challenges of mass-market production, that moment will have arrived. If it doesn’t, it is likely to be merely delayed and taken by another company or companies.

But consider the irony: In four months time, Australia will be home to the biggest lithium ion battery installation in the world, but it will also be among the last developed countries to take delivery of the world’s first mass-market electric vehicle made by the same company.

Australia is the only country in the world that actually has all the resources within its boundaries to create a battery storage industry – the minerals, cobalt and graphite and lithium, as well as the infrastructure and the manufacturing know-how.

So much so, that Australia could have one, or even two battery manufacturing plants (gigafactories) in place before an EV market takes off.

And while Queensland is building the world’s longest electric super-highway, and WA is also investing in a major charging network, they may seem like roads to nowhere given the small number of vehicles likely to use it.

Here’s the depressing news about the Australia EV market, and one that is only likely to get worse before it improves.

Screen Shot 2017-07-31 at 12.48.21 PM

EV and PHEV sales in Australia actually fell in 2016, by nearly 25 per cent, and the early indications are for a similar fall in 2017. In Europe, it is estimated that 133,000 EVs and PHEVs were sold in the first half of the year.

Across the world, it is expected that one million EVs and PHEVs will be sold in 2017. Australia’s share should be around 15,000 if it was pulling its weight, according to Behyad Jafari, the head of the newly formed Electric Vehicle Council.

But in Australia in 2016 there were just three models available for less than $60,000: the Nissan Leaf, the plug-in hybrid SUV, Mitsubishi Outlander, along with the Renault Kangoo ZE commercial vehicle.

However, both the Leaf and the Outlander sold out their Australian stocks by mid-year (see below) and the Renault Kangoo ZE is a van that is only available through special arrangement with Renault.

nissan leaf

Right now, there are 16 EVs available in Australia, and none of these are below $60,000. Indeed, most are well above $100,000 – they include 5 BMWs, 4 Mercedes, two Porsches, an Audi, a Volvo and the two Teslas (Model S and X).

The new model Nissan Leaf and the new model Hyundai Ioniq will address this shortage some time in 2018, with the Model S coming the following year the only other new car that will fit in below the $60,000 range.

It doesn’t bode well for Australia to keep up with other major developed economies, or even India and China, the two biggest markets for electric vehicles. India has discussed banning petrol and diesel car sales by 2030, China wants 35 million electric vehicles by 2020.

Norway and the Netherlands, as we discussed on Friday, have banned such sales from 2025, England by 2040, France by 2045.

Some – like Beyond Zero Emissions – suggest that Australia could make a transition as quick as Norway, but it would need action to begin now.

Not just electric highways and charging stations, but incentives to encourage the big manufacturers to bring their new models to Australia. Without a good market, there is zero chance of costs falling to the levels where they could be a mass market offering and compete with petrol cars.

“What we require is some short term incentives,” says Jafari, of the EVC. “We haven’t seen them in Australia.”

Screen Shot 2017-07-31 at 12.53.22 PM

These would include exemptions to taxes , such as the FBT, as well as reductions in stamp duty and registration costs. Local councils could help with parking. “Without this support, it is a big risk for the manufacturers to bring mass market car to Australia,” Jafari says.

Jafari says that to reach “critical” mass Australia will need to reach 5,000 sales a year, and measures to incentivise car fleets would be the most likely avenue.

What it would need most is some sort of target, such as vehicle emissions standards – but the response in conservative media and politicians when a government thought bubble was branded a “carbon tax” on cars, illustrates the barriers, despite the overwhelming public support for EVs.

Indeed, it seems that the incumbent motor industry, just like the electricity sector, is focused on protecting its own – the massive supply chain, the dealerships, the spare parts and maintenance business.

Australia has become the land of burning policy ideas. At federal level, there are no long term emissions targets, no carbon price, no long term renewables targets, and efforts to introduce energy efficiency, housing standards and cleaner cars have been rejected – despite the overwhelming calls of any number of studies.

So, if you are one of the many who has resolved to make their current car the last internal combustion engine vehicle before the switch to EVs, better check it in for some more maintenance. That will make at least one industry sector happy.



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  1. eman 3 years ago

    It’s no wonder that new sales have dropped given the manufacturer’s lack of interest in selling here.

    I put in an order for the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV back in April. 3 months later and I’m still waiting for the vehicle to arrive and it could be anywhere until late September.

    The best options for affordable EVs at the moment are older second hand vehicles. You can get a Nissan Leaf (2012) from $20k, BMW i3 (2014) from $42k, Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (2014) from $26k.

    • Malcolm Scott 3 years ago

      Add in also a pre-loved Volt – a really effective full performance electric car ~$22-30k

    • Goldie444 3 years ago

      Hang in there eman for your Outlander PHEV. This should be the newer model (external mirrors turn in). I have had my PHEV for 3 years now and still love it.

  2. Charles 3 years ago

    Question – does the comment that “EV sales have dropped between 2015 and 2016” take into account the fact that Tesla does not report their sales figures, and in fact they make up close to 60-80% of all new EV sales?

    I know News Limited’s Joshua Dowling published such a figure (omitting Tesla sales) some time ago, and despite being informed of the error, never published a correction. I’ve seen several other articles repeat the same inaccurate statistic.

    • Goldie444 3 years ago

      Find a better source for News.

  3. Chris Schneider 3 years ago

    There are multiple issues and throwing money at it won’t fix it. Unfortunately Australia is unimportant when it comes to cars. We drive on the wrong side of the road and we have our very own safety body. both of those things means it’s expensive to sell into Australia. It’s much easier to simply go with countries that drive on the same side of the road first. I think we will start getting cars before 2018 and really it’s a year and a half away! It’s not that long to wait. We’ll be waiting a bit longer for GM or Ford to take it serious. BMW and a like have started to because Tesla are hurting their bottom line already. In many European Countries Electric Cars are booming. It will take the Model 3 kicking butt in the US to give us more options.

    • Alex Shoolman 3 years ago

      Not to mention we’re a population of 23 million! That’s essentially “zip” when you compare it to the other markets like USA, Europe, China, India. Why focus on bringing a RHD “unique” car to Australia’s 23 million people when you can focus on bringing a normal LHD car to say, China’s 1 BILLION+??

      I agree with you Giles that Australia is highly ignorant of EV’s… but the whole reason we don’t have access to the Model 3 right now is because we’re RHD only and thus will have to wait until “Early 2019” unfortunately.

      • Chris Schneider 3 years ago

        We are “ignorant” because there are no real options. The cars around are compliance cars. They aren’t produced at a level that would allow benefits of scale and normally have a take it or leave it option. The Holden Volt was very expensive but had none of the options for a very expensive car not even electric seats! Something thew base model Holden Commodore had! They sat in a market that didn’t exist.

      • Coley 3 years ago

        It’s got nowt to do with Rhd, it’s all about how many cars TESLA can produce, Europe is having to wait until 2018 supposedly! I won’t be surprised if that slips to 2019.

        • Gyrogordini 3 years ago

          It’s ALL about RHD. As stated above, there is a clear rollout plan, with RHD coming along, after Europe. It’s no problem – longer to save, as they get any bugs out. Meantime we will have LEAF2, Renault Zoe and Kangoo, Hyundai Ioniq, and a heap of increasingly electrified plug in and hybrid Euro and Toyota cars, as well as, of course existing Teslas.

          • aggri1 3 years ago

            Hi Gyro’. Are you suggesting that Renault will bring the Zoe and Kangoo to Australia finally? The Renault web site just lists these as possible “future vehicles”; if you’ve more information which you can share, please do.

            Also the Ioniq, I can’t find any local info about this. Is it called something else here, or do we not get it for a few years yet?

          • Gyrogordini 3 years ago

            I understand from the AEVA fb site that Renault has received regulatory approval to sell the Zoe in Oz. There are apparently encouraging noises from it that it may be “soon”ish.
            The Ioniq is still a bit new. Apparently the petrol and maybe hybrid versions are imminent, and the full BEV “maybe next” year.

          • aggri1 3 years ago

            I’ll believe that they’re* serious it when their vehicles are actually available here…
            (* Renault & Hyundai)

    • George Darroch 3 years ago

      Right hand drive countries include; Japan, Britain, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Australia, and New Zealand. So, not entire inconsequential for large manufacturers.

      Smaller ones with less experience, such as Tesla, are going to take their time.

      • Chris Schneider 3 years ago

        That is correct but when you think of the market for LHD it’s massive in comparison. Also if you look at the Model 3 it’s really more about constraining markets IT’s wildly successful even before it is actually sold mass market. This gives them a way to limit the market in the short term. The Telsa 3 is designed to easily be converted to RHD, literally a software change and two plastics! (from the information we have so far)but it allows them to limit the market.

        • George Darroch 3 years ago

          Absolutely agree that they’re trying to constrain their sales – but for entirely different reason than the compliance cars being made by GM etc.

          Of those countries, about 200m live in rich countries, 60m in middle income, and 1500m poor countries (which still have very substantial middle and upper classes). It’s a wonder that traditional manufacturers have not made vehicles which are easier to release in all markets.

  4. Brunel 3 years ago

    You failed to mention that AUS has free trade agreements with so many nations – thus a gigafactory in AUS can export batteries too many markets without paying import tax:

    China, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, NZ and hopefully post-Brexit Britain.

    • JeffJL 3 years ago

      “Free trade agreements” in name only. They should be called preferential trade agreements. There are still trade restrictions with all those countries.

    • Michael James 3 years ago

      Hah! As JeffJL says, these are highly restrictive agreements. Try exporting batteries or cars to China. That is why the world’s big manufacturers have set up inside China. Most manufactures and technology is specifically excluded in those agreements Andrew Robb rushed to sign. And only 18 years before Korea “may” allow our beef imported without huge tariffs or quotas.

  5. Roger Franklin 3 years ago

    Out governments (all levels) are flat out looking after themselves and large businesses. The now ex minster Canavan confirmed that with is Facebook note to the world.

    So it takes 5000 people to start a trend – Well the car manufacturers need to get innovative and targeted in their selling approach. As for our Safety Body, pretty easy to put it in the same bucket as “Standards Australia” who independently seem to back exactly what big businesses want. Interesting!

    Come on Australia – or should that be Audi, BMW, Nissan etc – discount your vehicles and get them out on the road.

  6. Eb 3 years ago

    I’d like to see some Australians get together to build an EV work vehicle with a power point, something like this:
    I’d even consider buying an on-road version of a Tomcar rather than wait for Tesla!

    • Grace McCaughey 3 years ago

      Yes, great day and idea. What is needed by the vast majority is a small car, 100 on range, easy parking, for the many millions of retirees. Cost, $25,000. Thanks.

      • Charles 3 years ago

        There are second hand Leafs with this sort of spec and price going up on carsales all the time.
        The problem is they also get snapped up quickly as well!

        • Gyrogordini 3 years ago

          The other problem is their apparent limited battery life, with reducing range as the battery ages. There is no liquid cooling in the first gen LEAF, which seems to be a problem.

          • Charles 3 years ago

            The example Grace gave was for people who just want a car to go to the shops and back. Leafs will be fine for a while yet. Ours is the same age/range as the example given and it handles 90% of our driving requirements.

  7. Alex Shoolman 3 years ago

    Using all the information that’s been officially revealed and a lot of other sources I’ve compiled a highly detailed look at what the Model 3 should cost in Australia if people are interested.

    Tesla Model 3 Australian Prices

    There’s also a great overview of it all here too 🙂

    Also thanks for that link to the list of all electric cars in Aus Giles!

  8. George Darroch 3 years ago

    The manufacturers are letting us down.

  9. howardpatr 3 years ago

    The LNP and Turnbull just don’t fit with innovation.

  10. Michael Dufty 3 years ago

    Was anyone expecting it to be sooner? They said all along that people closer to the factory would be getting them first, then other states of America. Getting them in a small overseas RHD market in just over a year will be pretty good going if it happens. For comparison I think it was at least a year between the outlander PHEV coming out and when it arrived here, and those were built in a RHD country.

  11. Chris Fraser 3 years ago

    If there is a financial case for building PHEV / EVs from scratch within Australia, rather than simply import them, I imagine EVC is the group that would make that case. Then we hope RE would keep its ear close to the ground and update often.Why could a domestic EV industry not be expected to provide the same nation building benefits as the old car industry did, or transport infrastructure, or the Snowy Scheme ? Perhaps neoliberalism now sees nation building merit through a different lens. Maybe the project has to be funded entirely by private equity rather than government help.As usual with disruptive industries, we have to be careful of political power being wielded by incumbents. It may be simple things like ensuring border tariffs or tax incentives are equal among all types of vehicles – to ensure incumbents can’t go on another tirade against new technologies accusing them as being subsidised at the cost of old tech.

  12. Joe 3 years ago

    Just gotta luv Australia. In our domestic market we buy over 1 million new ICE vehicles each year and we are struggling to buy more than 2,000 Electrics. There is something seriously wrong in this country…..dumbass Government that is in the pockets of the vested interests. If anyone can help rattle the cage then it is The Elon. Premier Jay may like to invite The Elon to build in SA.,,,,cars and batteries!

    • solarguy 3 years ago

      As long as we tax his profits! That way we might have a chance to at least make our own batteries and sell them to the world, as well as the domestic market.

  13. Rob 3 years ago

    The more public fast-chargers there are, the more viable EV ownership will be for prospective EV owners in Australia. Once EV ownership is a viable proposition then you would decide which EV to buy. But I think the viability needs to come first for any significant ramp-up in demand for EVs. At the moment, if you can’t recharge at home it’s not viable. Sadly. Have a look at the high density eastern suburbs in Sydney and you will see how many potential EV owners there might who won’t be able to charge at home because they don’t have off-street parking. A decent charging network needs to come first. This infrastructure should be a priority for energy and environment ministers, both state and federal. Glad to see some states have started to roll them out.

    • Pedro 3 years ago

      Bit like the chicken and egg argument. Wont buy EV’s until a significant amount of charging stations. Would be good to see shopping centers put in 5-10 charging bays in a desirable spot to park. I would also assume that an EV driver may be happy to pay a premium electricity cost to charge EV while they shop.

      • Rob 3 years ago

        I agree Pedro.There are plenty of locations that are a logical spot for fast chargers. And I think people would be prepared to pay to recharge. I’m sure the people with the locations could come to an arrangement with the people who have the fast chargers and they could split the costs and profits.

  14. Ian 3 years ago

    I wonder is it feasible to set up an ev conversion industry? I’d say there would be millions of vehicles suited to conversion.
    Sort of like LPgas conversions but a deeper and more effective retrofit.

    I’d like to convert an ex- delivery van with a clapped out drivetrain – into an electric campervan …anyone interested in such a project?

    • Pedro 3 years ago

      I know of 2 EV conversion businesses in Perth. I think the cost is around $20-30K excluding the car to be converted. My information is old though. It could be cheaper now.

      • Ian 3 years ago

        Yea thanks, but am around Sydney, and am impatient for an ev- and want to use one to travel around au in a couple of years. – one with onboared lightweight PV.

        • Gyrogordini 3 years ago

          On board PV will keep the TV going, and the 12 V standard systems alive, but you’ll need a more serious approach to motive charging – see PlugShare.

        • Pedro 3 years ago

          Hi Ian, check the link below. NSW based perhaps not what you are looking for but may be able to point you in the right direction.

        • Miles Harding 3 years ago

          Also keep an eye on the University of Eindhoven EV project:

          and the USW Sunswift project is of interest.

          Eve now has license plates!

          There was at least one PV car concept showing at the Beijing motor show recently, so there’s some hope that it’ll be possible to buy an off the floor product sometime. (probably not soon, though)

      • Miles Harding 3 years ago

        It’s not chaged a lot.
        It you’re looking for a cheap car, the bomb pages in gumtree are still the place to look.

        Converting an old car should be based on sentiment – A car you grew up with or particularly like is a good candidate, especially if it’s in good condition and was also reasonably economical to operate on petrol. Complicated car electronics are an impediment, because many of the components have to be fooled into thinking that the ICE is still there and running, as well as the problem of re-purposing the instruments to an EV-relevant function.

        The conversion will probably perform better than the original and do about 100km on a charge. (If you’re after tesla range and performance, it’s better to start with a Tesla)

        What we should see change as EVs number more than a handful will be drive components being wrecked and the capacity to re-use them in conversions. In the USA, wrecked Tesla drives are finding their way into conversions now.

    • Gyrogordini 3 years ago

      It is very possible to be done in Sydney – the AEVA NSW fb site will give you a lead. You need at least $20k…

  15. Radbug 3 years ago

    A recent Duke University study found that particulates from car ICE engines, particularly in the rush hour, the concentration INSIDE the cars was found to be DOUBLE the levels measured by roadside detectors. These oxidative stress causing particulates have been linked to a number of mental conditions eg., Autism Spectrum, ADHD, Parkinsons, plus cancer & depression.

  16. john 3 years ago

    Considering that a company is going to build battery packs in Townsville in North Queensland I can see no reason why a factory to build an EV can not be done here in Australia.
    Mind that needs a factory which is possibly not available except in Victoria or South Australia perhaps in South Australia considering it is close to the largest Lithium mine in Australia that would be appropriate ; so lets move on use the facility in SA to build the vehicle and have a battery manufacturing factory next door.
    Any problems with this?????

    • solarguy 3 years ago

      Not at all. It’s what I suggested very recently.

    • Peter 3 years ago

      I want a Gigafactory here, but first we have give tesla enough incentives and a desirable ev market.

  17. Robin_Harrison 3 years ago

    The obstruction of the fossil fool owned political puppets has had a very positive effect on the RE rollout. Maybe the same will apply to EVs.
    I wouldn’t be surprised if China cornered the lower price market and maybe before our Model 3s arrive. I can understand why the legacy makers have been unwilling to share the supercharger network but the Chinese may not be so reluctant.

  18. Ian 3 years ago

    Patience, people. Rome wasn’t built in a day. We are not designated as a manufacturing country, so we will just have to wait at the back of the line for our EV’s. We can, in the mean time help our manufacturing mates build up their industries by ramping up extraction of lithium and other needful metals for export.

  19. Sustainabilitynow 3 years ago

    Question: Am I missing something here? Spotted in inner Melbourne, a Tesla S ($110K+) connected to a free municipal electricity supply that is powered by brown coal generated electricity. How is this something that is worthy of support on either an environmental or equity basis? I would support EVs if they are using renewable sources of energy, but fail to see the benefits of EVs while the overwhelming majority of our electricity in Vic is generated by filthy brown coal. Again am I missing some obvious point other than: its about creating a network for the future, which I understand, but can’t see a large scale take up in this poorer municipality for many, many years. In the meantime its a case of poor ratepayers subsidizing someone wealthy enough to afford a trophy machine.

    • Peter 3 years ago

      I agree with you about renewable energy but it doesn’t mean we should not talk about EVs, to push the idea of EV to the public and creat tax benifits and incentives to renewable energy can happen at the same time. EV and renewable energy is a great combination and that’s what we have to let everyone know.

    • Just_Chris 3 years ago

      There are a couple points to take into account other than CO2 emissions (which are important). Across the whole of Australia about 1200 people per year are killed in car accidents. Estimates vary, but generally it is considered that more than double the number of people die from air born pollution in Australia’s cities – if we could get to a high % of EV’s on our roads that could make a massive difference to the quality of life of many Australians – mostly asthmatic children under the age of 5. Secondly with the shutting of a lot of Australia’s oil refineries more refined oil products are being imported. This means we are sending a whole heap of money abroad when there is an obvious alternative. Australia also has one of the lowest strategic petroleum reserves in the OECD which means if there is a disruption in the global oil market we’ll be first to run out. We have 20 days the US has 90 days. If we had more EV’s we could last longer during a disruption. Australia is also the largest exporter of lithium ores, 5th largest exporter of cobalt, 4th largest exported of Nickel and 3rd largest exporter of manganese, which are the high value materials in the battery. In short I completely agree we need to clean up our power industry but we shouldn’t wait for that to be finished before starting on our automotive sector.

      • Just_Chris 3 years ago

        3 other things.

        CO2 emissions from an EV (even in the dirty coal states) are comparable with regular cars because and EV is 4 to 5 times more efficient than a regular car.

        The best selling EV globally is the Nissan Leaf who’s aluminum castings are made in Melbourne.

        It is worth reminding people commenting in less progressive web pages that an emissions standard is not a “carbon tax”. It is not a tax and even if it was it would be a tax on foreign imported refined oil products.

  20. Ben Dixon 3 years ago

    It is so sad

  21. Sustainabilitynow 3 years ago

    I suspect the airborne pollution levels in the Latrobe Valley are much worse than the emission levels in the city. We are just pumping out the pollution at its source, again an equity and health issue for poorer citizens by and large, not mentioned by early adopter EV supporters. Its not an either or situation with EV uptake and getting coal out of electricity production. Maybe we need to sell EVs and PVs in tandem as a complete package (offsets where PV installation isn’t possible), and the same with air conditoners. As to oil self sufficiency I’m thinking >1300 EVs pa. is not going to make a big difference ( at least for a decade or more).

  22. Francesca 3 years ago

    The fact that Aussies have to wait until 2019 for the Tesla Model 3 frustrates me no end. I have been waiting for a smaller model Tesla for years. Proof yet again that the Australian market – despite being lucrative – is treated as second best. Not happy, Tesla!!

  23. manicdee 3 years ago

    Why subsidies? Why not simply a requirement that 5% of all vehicles sold by a brand in 2019 must be ZEV, then crank that up to 95% by 2038?

    No subsidy required. No need to pay rich people to buy nice cars.

  24. Greg Hudson 3 years ago

    ”better check it in for some more maintenance. ”
    Oops. Too late for me. I’ve already sold my MB C Class, and put my money down for a Tesla Model 3 (so have 7000+ others) so when they arrive, there will be a big spike in sales.

  25. EdBCN 3 years ago

    Luckily for Australia the cost of EVs in Australia will depend more on the costs being driven down in large markets than on anything that happens in Australia. Still, if only for the air quality and health benefits you’d think a good government would want to support the acceleration of this technology.

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