Will Canberra become the electric vehicle capital of Australia?

electric cars in canberraMake no mistake, Australia is in the grips of a long love affair with cars. According to ABS data, we collectively own 13.5 million of them, and we purchase over 1.1 million every year. With the possible exception of the US, cars are an entrenched part of life like no other place on earth. And nowhere perhaps is this reliance on cars more apparent than right here in Canberra – with our city even being referred to on occasion as “a car city” as discussed by Dr Evan Franklin, Senior Lecturer and Research Fellow at the ANU Research School of Engineering, with research focus on renewable energy and battery storage, and their integration into the electricity system at The Age

The technology underpinning our love affair hasn’t really changed since we “started dating” some 100 years ago. We continue to rely on the internal combustion engine and the requisite network of oil refineries and filling stations to support our long-term, short- and long-distance relationships. Until now, that is.

Electric vehicles have been available commercially in Australia for some five or six years, chiefly via the traditional car producers Holden, Nissan and Mitsubishi. However, with ‘”sluggish” sales figures in Australia to date these EVs haven’t even managed to get into first gear yet. However, the steady rise of EVs globally is certainly underway, with four countries (the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the US) and now boasting EV sales at greater than 1 per cent of all new car sales.

In Australia, the last couple of years has seen the technology starting to gain traction and popularity, at least “on paper” if not yet on the road. I think we owe much to Elon Musk’s Tesla Motors for this, for their game-changing marketing strategy as opposed to any particular game-changing technology break-through: they grabbed everyone’s attention with their finely turned out Model S, a “high-performance luxury automobile” by any standards first … and, “oh did we mention it has some batteries” second.

Tesla’s move has certainly put EVs on everyone’s radar, even if not exactly in everyone’s price-range, and has been swiftly followed by the Model 3 at a far more modest price-point. Meanwhile, the traditional vehicle manufacturers are becoming more active in the same space. The Nissan Leaf is the recognised forerunner, but lately the more high-end manufacturers (BMW, Audi, Mercedes, Porsche) have all announced that they are working on similarly eye-catching, performance EVs with broader market appeal. You can expect therefore to experience a lot more “EV envy” in the years ahead. To read more from Dr Evan Franklin click here.

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