Little more than a month before the Australian launch of its Leaf EV, Nissan has rebuked the federal government for the lack of support it’s showing for EV makers. And now it has Norway to hold up as an example of how things could be with the right policies and infrastructure in place.
Over there, the Leaf has chalked up 1000 sales in just six months – in a passenger vehicle market about one seventh the size of Australia’s. With European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) records showing that country’s total car sales of 138,345 for 2011, the Leaf accounted for around two per cent of the total car market, making it the ninth best-selling passenger car overall in February. It’s now also the company’s second best-selling model there.
Nissan credits Norway’s matrix of government support and infrastructure, saying the Leaf’s success demonstrates ‘the impact of comprehensive incentives and developed charging infrastructure’.
In this respect, the country leads Europe, tempting buyers with no VAT (their GST) or new car tax, exemptions from parking and road tolls and access to bus lanes in Oslo. EV drivers have access to around 3500 public charging points in Oslo alone, many of them free of charge.
At the handover of the 1000th Leaf, Olivier Paturet, Nissan’s European head of Zero Emission Strategy expressed the company’s gratitude for the encouragement the EV industry has received there.
“We are very happy to see that the ambition of the Norwegian government has matched our own with strong support for the widespread introduction of electric vehicles. The Norwegian package of incentives is unsurpassed and the recharging infrastructure is established and accessible. We can see that Norway is leading the way with its proactive approach to encouraging its citizens to drive electric vehicles. We hope it will continue with the further development and upgrading of the charging infrastructure.”
With the Leaf set for launch down under in June, the company’s local spokesman, Jeff Fisher, told motoring.com.au the Norwegian experience is one EV makers can only dream of on these shores.
“Despite numerous representations to the current Federal Government, both via the automotive industry body and direct from Nissan Australia, there has been no attempt by the administration to address the mutual benefits of consumer or public incentives to encourage interest in (and sales of) EV’s in Australia,” he said.
“This is clearly out of step with other successful world markets and incongruent with the Government’s carbon tax proposals. Nevertheless, we believe the Leaf has a clear potential in Australia as a niche, second-vehicle and have adjusted our approach to suit.”
While the government schemes are helpful in promoting EV use in Europe, the most potent incentive lies in fuel prices, considerably higher than in Australia. On April 19, a litre of 95 RON petrol in Norway was €1.86 ($2.36) while a litre of diesel was €2.00 ($2.54).