Market acceleration: electric vehicle update

Renault Master ZE

Around the world, the electric vehicle market has grown phenomenally in both sales figures and vehicle options since our last update barely six months ago— though not so much in Australia. Bryce Gaton outlines what to expect.

IN THIS article, I explore what to expect around the world and in Australia for electric vehicle (EV) and associated equipment releases and updates. I’ve also included some predictions on what we’ll see less of as some of the competing systems start to die away. Sadly, for most of the new releases around the world, I also give the automaker’s reasons for not yet bringing their EVs to Australia.

Cars and vans coming in 2017

Hailed as a game-changing lower-cost, high-range EV, the Chevrolet Bolt (an all-electric 5-seat/4-door hatch, with a real-world 350 km range on the US EPA test cycle and a pre-rebates US price equivalent to AU $48,000) is now rolling out to customers in California and six other US states, and will be available for order across all 50 US states by July this year.

Even international deliveries have commenced with the first Bolt delivery in Canada happening in January this year. It was also exhibited at the 2016 Paris motor show last September as the Opel Ampera-e, to go on sale in Europe sometime in 2017. Unfortunately, this first-generation Bolt will not be built in right-hand drive, so we will have to wait for the next generation Bolt before we might, possibly, see it in Australia.

Also at the 2016 Paris motor show, Renault announced a doubling of the range of its all-electric Zoe. Based on the Nissan Leaf and developed as part of the Renault–Nissan alliance, the Zoe was launched in 2013 with a real-world range of around 140 km. The Zoe has been the biggest selling EV in Europe since 2015, outselling its cousin the (now ageing) Leaf with its attractive styling and modern interior. With the doubling of the Zoe’s range to around 280 km, it should sell even more.

On our side of the world, the Zoe has even reached the shores of New Zealand. In August 2016 it was released there, but with an eye-watering driveaway price of around AU $71,500 (compared to AU $30,000 to $45,000 in England), I doubt they’ll sell many. Sadly for Australia, Renault still maintains they will not do much about selling EVs here until the government introduces incentives for them. Given the current Australian government’s approach to the auto industry, we are likely to be waiting a while.

On the topic of Renault, at the Brussels motor show in January this year, Renault made two major announcements. The first was an addition to their EV line-up with a 200 km (European test cycle, see box on EV ranges) battery range Master ZE. The Master is a 1.5 to 2 tonne van (a common-sized van used for local deliveries in Europe), so an EV Master makes a lot of sense there. The other announcement from Renault was an increase to the battery range of the smaller Kangoo ZE electric van to around 270 km (European test cycle). The Kangoo ZE is also listed as “will soon be available in Australia” on the Renault Australia website—as it has been now for well over a year.

Meanwhile Tesla (arguably the initiator of the other automakers’ recent rush to EVs!) has started deliveries of the Model X in Australia, with several seen on the roads here recently. And just around the corner is the production of the Model 3, slated to start production in July this year (and pre-production in February), with the first US deliveries planned for later in 2017.

Read the full article in ReNew 139.