Charging ahead: The Mercedes-Benz EQC will launch in October as the brand’s first full-electric offering, while its future emissions-free products will also land Down Under despite a lack of vehicle incentives.
MERCEDES-BENZ Australia/Pacific (MBAP) will continue as planned with its electric vehicle (EV) product rollout, spearheaded by the full-electric EQC launching in October, despite the lack of leadership and incentives from the recently elected federal government.
Speaking to GoAuto last week, MBAP managing director and chief executive Horst von Sanden said consumer appetite for emissions-free models has reached a point where he is confident that EVs now make sense in Australia.
“I think there is no doubt that electric cars at the moment are the future, the question is how quickly can the volume grow?” he said.
“We’ve been overwhelmed by the interest of our EQC – early expressions of interest and commitments to buy – and we can’t wait to finally have the car here.
“We’ve had extremely good feedback from customers and interest shown. Unfortunately, our allocation for the first year and second year is quite moderate, so I’m pretty confident that demand will be greater than supply, but at least it’s a start into a new era.”
Though Mr von Sanden would not be drawn on the exact EQC allocation , volume is expected to be small given Australia’s current low interest in battery-electric vehicles.
Last year, just 1352 EVs (excluding hybrids) were sold, representing just 0.12 per cent of the overall 2018 new-vehicle market.
For the first five months of 2019, however, EV sales have nearly doubled year-on-year to 1075 units, from 543, thanks to new offerings in the market including the emissions-free Hyundai Ioniq small hatch and Kona Electric small SUV.
The second-generation Nissan Leaf will also launch this year, as well as the entry-level Tesla Model 3, however Audi’s e-tron SUV has been delayed until early 2020.
Mr von Sanden said government intervention or monetary incentives are not necessary for mass-market EV adoption and that the technology will drive interest.
“We believe the time is right for electric cars. Of course they need to be the right electric cars, they need to have the right range – that is still the biggest fear of people,” he said.
“The second question is how about charging infrastructure – the needs of our customers will be satisfied either at home or at your workplace or at a dealership, and then of course we joined with other manufacturers to develop infrastructure beyond the metropolitan areas.
“Do we wait for the government to put everything into place, or do we start to bring things in and the government and customers will follow?
“In the end, it’s all about the customer, it’s not about us, it’s not about the government, it’s about what the customers want.”
As reported, the EQC is underpinned by dual electric motors producing 300kW of power and 760Nm of torque.
With an 80kWh battery in tow, driving range is pegged around 450km when tested on the outdated New European Drive Cycle (NEDC), however fast-charging can top-up to 80 per cent of capacity in just 40 minutes.
Mr von Sanden said ultimately it would be customers that drive the changeover from internal-combustion engines to electric powertrains and that the signs in Australia are positive.
“I’m really encouraged by a lot of expressions of interest from customers saying, ‘Right, I know an electric car will be expensive, but I’m happy to invest that money to make my contribution to the environment, to be an early adopter, to be innovative, to be all those things’,” he said.
“I think in the end, it’s driven by the customer, and if we follow the customer’s desire and lead, the government will have to do the same thing.”