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EVs need to be $25,000 – Ateco

Bit RIICH: Chinese car-maker Chery showed this electric version of its RIICH luxury car at Beijing.

Ateco’s Crichton on the prowl for an electric vehicle from China by 2011

Chery logo23 Apr 2010

By JOHN MELLOR

ELECTRIC cars will not sell in any volume in Australia until they are priced around $25,000, Ateco Group governing director Neville Crichton said in Beijing on the eve of the Beijing motor show.

Mr Crichton said EV sales would remain marginal for as long as they were sold at premium prices over conventionally-fuelled cars.

Nevertheless, he repeated that Ateco wanted to begin selling an electric car in Australia as soon as next year.

Asked if he was confident of getting an EV for Australia by 2011 he said: “I believe so, yes.” Clearly the canny importer is hinting that if he can sign a deal to import an EV from a high-volume Chinese car-maker, the scale of the EV sales in the Chinese market might more quickly achieve the target of selling EVs in Australia at $25,000 each.

This would throw into disarray the plans of other car makers to sell EVs in Australia because they are all talking about hefty price premiums.

If Mr Crichton can use Chinese economies of scale to leverage super-competitive prices in Australia, he has a chance of becoming the volume EV seller in Australia.

 center imageLeft: BYD's F3 EV at Geneva last year. Below: Ateco's Neville Crichton.

However, Mr Crichton would not say where the car would come from.

Asked if he would discuss a deal with BYD (China’s acknowledged leader in EV technology) while he was at the Beijing motor show, Mr Crichton side-stepped the question by saying: “There are several suppliers of electric cars. We talk to everyone.” BYD is China’s biggest maker of batteries and has powerful friends. The company has been chosen by Daimler to partner in its Chinese-made EV, and leading US investor, Warren Buffett, owns 10 per cent of the company. It has ambitions of becoming the world’s biggest car maker by 2020 and already builds China’s top-selling model – the F3.

Ateco Automotive managers who have been hosting Australian journalists at Chery and Great Wall headquarters this week, have also consistently sidestepped any discussion of a potential link with BYD by saying they talk to many Chinese car-makers and that they “keep in touch” with BYD.

But Chery, Mr Crichton’s new Chinese partner, may have the electric car he needs for 2011.

Chery and the electric car battery and electrical power supply network company, Better Place, have announced a memorandum of understanding to share technical development of switchable battery electric cars.

Better Place shared space on the Chery stand at the Beijing motor show with a display of one of Chery’s large luxury cars, the RIICH (which has a logo with an uncanny resemblance to that of Bentley) - a five-passenger family car about the size of a Camry.

The car was a full electric vehicle with recharge point as well as battery exchange function and a range said to be 160 km.

Officials said it was still under development.

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