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Canberra to lead EV infrastructure charge

Changing times: The battery of an electric Nissan Dualis is changed, rather than charged.

ACT set for EV charging network in 2012 as new survey shows huge consumer interest

27 Jul 2009

ELECTRIC vehicle (EV) infrastructure provider Better Place announced last week that it would use Canberra as the first point for its national rollout of an EV recharging network, which will come on line in 2012.

Better Place also released the results of a survey it commissioned which found 39 per cent of car buyers in eastern Australia were interested in an EV for their next vehicle purchase, with 45 per cent of those surveyed claiming they do not plan to consider a petrol-only vehicle for their next purchase.

Instead, the respondents said they would consider either a hybrid or an EV.

While the research reflects the growing interest in EVs among Australian consumers, the Canberra announcement is a concrete step towards creating an infrastructure for EVs now in either production or the final stages of development.

Better Place will work with electricity retailer ActewAGL on the ACT network, which will support “the first several hundred” EVs to hit the road in the national capital. These are understood to be vehicles from manufacturers, such as Renault, which are in partnership with Better Place, and which have removable, rather than permanently fixed, batteries.

 center imageBetter Place founder and global CEO Shai Agassi.

This could strike out a number of EVs available for sale, or close to being launched, around that time. These include mass-production vehicles from the likes of Holden, Ford, Toyota and Mitsubishi, and EVs from niche manufacturers now in operation such as Energetique in Armidale, NSW, and Blade Electric Vehicles in Castlemaine, Victoria.

The undisclosed investment between Better Place and ActewAGL will cover the installation of plug-in “charge spots” in homes, offices and shopping centres, as well as provision of the lithium-ion batteries that will power the vehicles.

According to Better Place, the batteries will be provided as part of the service to drivers, reducing the up-front costs of purchasing the EV.

“Battery swap stations” will also be provided, where motorists can exchange a depleted battery for a fully charged one.

“We aim to start construction of our charge spots and battery swap stations in 2011 and start supporting customers in 2012,” said Better Place Australia chief executive Evan Thornley. “From Canberra we will then begin to roll out across the whole country.”

Better Place founder and global CEO Shai Agassi, who was at the announcement last week, also said that Canberra had a mobile population that demanded a “viable alternative to allow for both short commutes and longer trips”.

“There’s proven demand for EVs in Australia and the people of Canberra are ready for a more sustainable future,” he said. “That future is electric.”

Mr Agassi used the results of research the company commissioned earlier this year to demonstrate this “proven demand”.

The study was done by global market research company Ipsos during March and April and, according to Better Place, included more than 1500 respondents from Sydney, the NSW central coast, Melbourne, Geelong, Brisbane and the Gold Coast.

Almost 6500 respondents from Canada, Denmark, Israel and the US were also interviewed.

There were few other EV-specific findings released other than those already mentioned. However, Better Place said the results showed that EVs are now considered a viable, mainstream alternative to conventional cars, that interest spanned all household income brackets, and that interest in purchasing an EV was not just confined to the inner suburbs.

It also said that 62 per cent of respondents were concerned about climate change, 65 per cent were concerned about air pollution and that 79 per cent wanted Australia to be a global leader in developing renewable energy.

The 39 per cent of Australians who said they were interest in purchasing an EV was lower than Israel (57 per cent) and Denmark (40 per cent), but higher than Canada (35 per cent) and the US (30 per cent).

“These research findings reflect the future of transportation, which is electric,” Mr Agassi said. “There’s a perfect storm of dynamics driving toward mainstream adoption of EVs, including consumer desire for a clean planet, global efforts to decrease oil consumption, transformation in the auto sector and significant investment in technology.

“The combination of these factors is propelling the dawn of a new automotive era.”

Mr Thornley added that that the mass adoption of EVs is Australia was “inevitable” because “consumers clearly want the superior environmental and economic benefits that EVs deliver”.

“There is a significant opportunity for car-makers, the energy sector and governments to harness this demand to fast-track solutions,” Mr Thornley said.

“It’s also a chance for smart companies in these industries to get a head start on competitors – the consumer demand is clearly there to support it.

“Australians are concerned about climate change and are seeking practical, viable solutions to address it. The demonstrated consumer demand for EVs, coupled with the fact that we have the technology to power an EV network with renewable energy, means that Australia is one step closer to significantly reducing its reliance on oil and achieving a more sustainable future.”

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