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Fleets switch on to EV benefits

Powering on: Tokyo taxis are trialling Nissan Dualis electric vehicles using Better Place's battery-swap system.

Better Place says support is growing across the board for its EV infrastructure

General News logo25 May 2010

FLEET as well as private buyers are set to reap the benefits of lower running costs and more convenience as a result of EV electric vehicle infrastructure being readied for a national rollout in 2013.

Better Place’s Australian CEO, Evan Thornley, told GoAuto that fleet managers were already excited and eager to go forward with zero-emissions vehicles.

And, far from appealing to the inner-urban dwelling minority who are more ready to accept the conventional idea of a tiny and expensive EV, Mr Thornley said the big opportunity was ‘Middle Australia’, in the outer suburbs where car use was frequent, big mileages were commonplace and hefty fuel bills were a fact of life.

Using an example of a $35,000 sedan accumulating an average annual mileage of about 21,000km and at petrol prices about $1.30 a litre, Mr Thornley said a conventional vehicle might accumulate a liability of up to $60,000 over the user’s driving lifetime, compared with half that figure for an equivalently sized and used EV.

“I’ve been out talking with the big fleet owners in this country over the last few weeks, and all are very, very interested, and obviously very open to the proposition that has a lower cost of ownership over the lifetime of a vehicle – that’s how they always assess their decisions.

“And obviously they have environmental mandates, and though in most cases those mandates do not override economics, they have to deliver the mandate more strenuously these days right across their organisations. And zero emissions EVs fall into that in spades.

“We have also done quite a bit of consumer research – and the interesting thing is that while the fleet buyers and managers are increasingly informed of what is going on with EVs since most of the car manufacturers have already approached these people themselves, it is not top-of-mind with most motorists and consumers.

 center imageLeft: Evan Thornley.

“But the moment you start that discussion, it sparks very quickly, and people get very interested very quickly, and a lot of people get very enthusiastic … asking lots of questions, and when you can give them answers to those questions – and they’re usually very favourable answers – they then get very excited. So Australians are very interested in this as an outcome.

“The second thing that I would say is that the underlying economics are very attractive.

“There are a significant proportion of Australian drivers that have very large petrol bills, and for those people this is a very exciting solution.

“The third thing I would say for Australia is that we have a wealth of renewable electricity available, and a bunch of renewable energy generators that are very keen to expand their capacity, and to find a new ideal customer base like an EV fleet operator.

“The response of governments, too, has been very strong throughout the country – whether that be at a local, state or federal level.

“There’s a rapid appreciation of what an opportunity EVs can provide across a number of different policy portfolios – environmental, economic, energy security, and grid management (for starters), as well as the state health consequence just talk to the relevant government department about particulate emissions, and it is a very serious issue.”

Mr Thornley concedes that more governmental support would be appreciated, but believes that the time will come when that will happen for Better Place Australia.

“I think governments around the world are at various stages of understanding what a positive transformation this is across those policy portfolios areas, and I think that has happened more rapidly in the northern hemisphere than it has in Australia.

“But I think that is just a product of awareness. If you look at the media coverage of EVs in the northern hemisphere it is front-page news while it has largely not been so in Australia to date.

“That’s starting to change, but I think that process is still beginning in Australia, and I think that governments inevitably reflect the broader community as it moves through that education process, so that’s happening. But it is still probably six to 12 months behind the other parts of the world.

“Obviously in Australia we still have a domestic car industry and so obviously that is an important factor in the portfolio of policy responses, and as we have said, I think there is a particularly good opportunity for Australian car manufacturers with EV just because of the types of cars that we make are going to be the types of cars that are going to be most economically attractive (as EVs).”

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