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Zoe still not off Renault’s agenda

No incentive: A lack of government incentives for EVs in Australia has pushed back the arrival of the Zoe hatch.

Renault says government incentives needed to make Zoe EV competitive

Renault logo17 Jul 2013

RENAULT’S tiny Zoe electric vehicle is still on the cards for Australia, but a lack of federal government incentives for EVs is making the case hard according to the head of Renault Australia.

While many other global markets have introduced financial incentives for buying and owning plug-in electric vehicles, including grants, discounts and tax breaks, Australia is yet to commit to any such scheme.

Asked if there was any update to the Zoe’s local business case, Renault Australia managing director Justin Hocevar expressed frustration at the Australian government’s slow response to the issue.

“I wish I could tell you that there was an update on Zoe brought on because one of the more proactive political parties in Australia has decided to follow the rest of the developed and developing world to provide incentives for EVs, which at the moment, there is just nothing in Australia” he said.

“We are spending all this time debating carbon tax and emissions trading schemes and nobody has come forth and said, ‘we are going to support one per cent of the Australian automotive market, a tiny amount, to be zero emission’.”“There is good interest from fleet and early adopters, but quite rightly they shouldn’t need to make the leap right now and pay the premium. Finding the right solution financially is still the trick.”

Mr Hocevar said Renault would continue the push to bring Zoe Down Under, and said he believed the car would be mostly driven on city roads, thereby avoiding the so-called range anxiety.

“We don’t have approval for (Zoe) yet but we are going to keep pushing for it because we believe that the majority of Australians drive around large urban centres.

“Range is simply not an issue. There is plenty of infrastructure. There are power points all around us, everywhere we go.

“Obviously there is access at homes for overnight charging just like we would do for our mobile phones, but if we were to see some more public infrastructure that would give people greater piece of mind.

“I think there are some players ready to do that, but it is the chicken or the egg.”

Renault late last year cancelled plans to launch the Fluence ZE electric sedan in Australia, shortly before battery swap and charging infrastructure provider Better Place cutting its Australian investment to focus on established markets in Denmark and Israel.

Israel-based Better Place filed for liquidation in May this year, leaving Australia without a battery swap provider for the foreseeable future.

While Mr Hocevar was unable to confirm timing for Zoe in Australia, he said Renault was looking at ways to make the business case work without the support of government incentives.

“We are thinking of other creative ways to help close that cost of ownership gap, through battery leasing and those types of things.

“But high-output, low-emission petrol and diesel motors are becoming more prominent and cheaper and fuel prices, whilst we have had a little bit of an increase lately, really haven’t reached those high points they have in many other markets in the world where it helps justify an EV,” he said.

The price for Zoe could start at around $30,000, according to Mr Hocevar, but it could be priced even more competitively if the federal government introduced incentives.

“I think once it’s on the road, maybe even low 30s. If there were equivalent incentives in Australia like there are even in China, we might see those vehicles being in the mid-to-high 20s.

“That’s a game changer because I think a great example is if you look at B-segment, light-car diesel, which just hasn’t taken off in Australia like it has in Europe. That hasn’t taken place here because why would people pay a premium for diesel technology and no different at the pump?“From an emissions and fuel consumption point of view, there is still an advantage to the diesel, but they are quite close.”

The Zoe is powered by a 65kW/220Nm electric motor and features a 22kWh lithium-ion battery hidden under the floor. It can run for 210km before requiring a charge, although a real-world range estimate pulls that back to about 120-150km.

Recharging the Zoe from a 16-amp single-phase wall box can take nine hours, but plugged into a 63-amp three-phase system takes just 30 minutes.

Mr Hocevar confirmed Renault would introduce a trial for its Kangoo ZE electric light commercial vehicle in the near future to assess the vehicle’s viability in Australia.

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