News - Nissan
Nissan lobbies for Australian electric car grid
Electric car infrastructure talks kick off between government and Nissan Australia
21 Nov 2008
By MARTON PETTENDY in LOS ANGELES
NISSAN Australia has confirmed it has held preliminary discussions with both federal and state governments about the creation of an electric vehicle (EV) recharging grid ahead of the release of the company’s first electric car here in 2012.
The news follows last month’s announcement by California-based company Better Place, which has committed to establishing a subscription-based EV infrastructure system along Australia’s east coast within the same timeframe.
Nissan Australia CEO and managing director Dan Thompson told GoAuto that his company held its first meetings with various levels of government in Sydney as part of the Japanese car-maker’s 2012 EV announcement at the Australian International Motor Show in October.
“In Sydney, in addition to the EV press event, we had a separate business leader and government discussion. In Sydney we just started the dialogue with the governments,” he said.
“For us in Australia it’s just the beginning of the discussion. We realise the next two to three months is a critical time for us to make progress with federal, state and local governments.
“We really haven’t started any deep dialogue so far. It was basically an introduction to our plans to give them a bit of timing, a bit of product information to start to engage interest.
“There is representation from South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and at federal level. We’re just about at the stage where it will start happening for us,” he said.
Nissan used last month’s Sydney motor show to announce it would bring a mass-production zero-emission plug-in EV to Australian new-car showrooms in 2012 – the same year Holden plans to sell General Motors' range-extending plug-in hybrid, the Chevrolet Volt.
Left: Nissan CEO and managing director Dan Thompson.
At the time, Mr Thompson said Australia would be among the “first wave” of export markets to receive the Nissan EV, following the release of the ground-breaking vehicle in the US and Japan in 2010.
Mr Thompson confirmed Nissan Australia has now dedicated a member of its team to oversee its local EV project.
“We’ve got someone in-house now that is starting the project for Nissan in Australia,” he said.
It is understood Nissan’s general manager of global exploratory and advanced product, Fancois Bancon, who helped make the announcement in Sydney last month, also took part in the meeting with federal and state governments, utility companies and other stakeholders about infrastructure requirements for such a vehicle.
Nissan’s first EV will be a four or five-seater based on a B-segment platform vehicle. The company says it will weigh less than 1000kg, have a range of more than 160km and accelerate to 100km/h in less than nine seconds.
Mr Thompson said Nissan Australia is yet to have detailed discussions with Better Place, which has the backing of local power supplier AGL Energy, investment bank Macquarie Capital Group, the Victorian government and, in some countries, Renault-Nissan, which has also agreed to supply vehicles to Better Place globally.
Macquarie has committed to help raise $1 billion to begin deploying Australia’s EV infrastructure, which will include more than 200,000 charging stations in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne - located at homes, businesses, car parks and shopping centres – plus about 150 battery exchange stations at 40km intervals on major freeways.
“We’ve yet to have any deep discussions with Better Place,” said Mr Thompson. “We had known they were coming down to make an announcement. We were not involved prior to their announcement.
“Since the announcement, we have coordinated meetings with them to get a better understanding of what exactly their plans are to see whether they will work for us or not.
“When it works for both parties we will pursue a collective partnership, but we’re not at the level where we’ve built a joint plan with them or had discussions to go any further.
“Even though we have an alliance (with Better Place) in Israel, every market is a different case and we’re both going our own separate ways to study what’s in the best interests for each of our companies.” Mr Thompson admitted Nissan’s initial talks with government had received a “mixed” response, but he said the company would continue discussions relating to both infrastructure and tax incentives.
“The feedback has been mixed, I’ll be honest. I think there’s still a bit of scepticism - whether Australia is ready, whether there is enough true commitment to infrastructure and tax incentives to get it off the ground.
“But at the same time we have enough momentum for it to be further explored so that’s what we have to tap into. Only after that point will we see whether we kick off in Victoria, NSW… “Unless we have government infrastructure support, we can’t do it alone.” Mr Thompson said the precise roll-out of its EV availability in 2012 would depend on where infrastructure was available, but that initial sales could be on a limited basis in the shape of fleet deals with businesses or universities, or via a trial basis similar to the one in which BMW has released 500 examples of its new MiniE EV in California.
“I’m quite confident we’ll get enough government support – it’s just (a matter of) what scale (it will be at).
“We hope there’s good support at federal level to progress things along at very local level – it just may not be at the same time or scope.
“At this stage I can’t comment, but there are still discussions (to be had) about what’s required for home-charging from a quick-charge perspective.
“Better Place has talked about battery swapping and we’re also looking at feasibility and technical requirements.
“That will drive where we launch and, if it becomes an issue in rural areas, I promise you we won’t be there from day one. We’ll be focussed on where it works and where it is technically feasible and, as the technology evolves, we’ll then roll it out.
“We’re still committed to 2012. We’re still very confident 2012 will be the year we see electric cars on sale in Australia – even if it is just business and academia at first.” Mr Thompson said Nissan was unlikely to receive federal government funding for its first EV under the new industry car plan, but that Better Place could potentially attract government assistance to help establish its EV infrastructure.
Asked if Nissan’s EV project would benefit from the Green Car Innovation Fund, Mr Thompson said: “We don’t believe so at this time.
“If anything, the green funding will go towards the local industry, supporting local jobs, possibly infrastructure, but we’re not sure whether any discussions have taken place between Better Place and the government on that topic or not.”
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