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Disappointed Nissan gives up on EV lobbying

Unplugged: Nissan Australia has given up on getting direct Government incentives for its EV leaf.

Nissan now banking on incentives for zero-emissions cars in proposed carbon cap

17 Mar 2011

NISSAN Australia has given up pleading for Australian governments to introduce direct incentives to encourage the introduction of electric vehicles such as its Leaf, instead hoping for some sort of “carrot” for environmentally friendly vehicles when proposed compulsory carbon-dioxide emissions limits are introduced.

The company has been one of the most outspoken critics of Australian government inaction on zero-emissions vehicles to date, saying last year that the unwillingness of all levels of government in Australia to offer subsidies would limit Nissan’s ability to roll-out the all-electric Leaf in a timely manner.

Nissan Motor Co has given priority to markets actively encouraging EVs, such as Europe, Japan, China and the United States. In the latter, buyers can apply for EV incentives of up to $7500 – equivalent to 20 per cent of the cost of the Leaf.

With the Leaf now just a year away from Australian launch, Nissan Australia CEO Dan Thompson has told GoAuto that his company has discontinued direct lobbying on the issue in Canberra because it was getting nowhere.

“Of course, we are very disappointed,” he said.

12 center imageFrom top: Nissan Australia CEO Dan Thompson, Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Nissan Leaf underpinnings, Nissan Leaf on-road.

Mr Thompson said the Australian motor industry’s umbrella organisation, the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) – of which Nissan is a member – had also “pulled back” on its calls for such incentives, instead taking a different tack by addressing the issue in the current round of negotiations with the federal government on mandatory CO2 limits.

The federal government is said to be preparing a discussion paper for a new mandatory C02 target, with Prime Minister Julia Gillard last year proposing a 190 grams per kilometre limit from 2015, with a further tightening to 155g/km by 2024.

The FCAI’s own National Average Carbon Emissions (NACE) figures released last month show the industry-wide average for light vehicle carbon emissions last year was 213g/km – down 2.5 per cent on 2009.

Under the proposed compulsory scheme, each motor company would have to achieve the CO2 limit on average across its range – known in the US and elsewhere as Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) – or face financial penalties – effectively a gas guzzler tax.

Mr Thompson said he hoped the government would take a “carrot and stick” approach, with incentives as well as penalties to encourage change.

“It is our position that the government has to take some form of incentive into that change,” he said.

“Without it, technology such as we see in the Leaf will only drift down slowly from the luxury end of the market, as we see with other technologies now.”

Mr Thompson said Nissan also wanted the government to make its position clear on the new direction so that motor companies could start planning for the future.

“We just wish they would put a stake in the ground so we know where we are,” he said.

Mr Thompson said the latest word from Canberra was that the government would make an announcement on the issue in the second half of 2011.

While the motor industry appears to have pulled back on the issue of direct incentives, the burgeoning EV infrastructure industry, with companies such as Better Place, ChargePoint and Ecotality, is believed to be still lobbying governments for help to roll out the public EV changing network that will be necessary for electric cars to really take off.

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