Foot on the brake and press the start button which appears to have been taken from a TV remote. Nothing happens – so my instinct politely suggests I press the button again. I move my foot over to the accelerator instead and the car begins to move. Instinct is now yelling at me to yank the park brake on.
This is because for the past 120-odd years, a car that isn’t making any noise shouldn’t be moving – that meant you were about to bowl over a letter box.
But think about it. Paying $60-plus to pump the back of your car full of extremely-flammable liquid is a bit weird too. Especially seeing as most of it will go up in heat and smoke. And gears? Surely they’re a bit ‘Industrial Revolution’.
The fossil-fuel-powered internal-combustion engine is as efficient now as it will ever be. The relentless march of progress means that electric vehicles, or EVs, will be a big part of the future.
EVs will be cleaner, more efficient, more elegant, and not to mention quicker too, even if they are still a work in progress when it comes to responsibly sourcing elements for the batteries, then sourcing enough electricity to charge them and finally disposing of the old ones.
But here and now, there’s another pressing issue for many: How can I even buy one?
Yes, in the ACT, EVs are exempt from stamp duty – a perk that has not yet been extended to the second-hand market – and they are also given free registration for two years.
But there is no getting around the fact that a Toyota Corolla is $27,065 driveaway and the electric MG ZS is $43,990.
Sprouting off about how much the MG will save in running costs isn’t very helpful at this point.
The local government chose this moment to discuss the fact that the MG isn’t using any petrol and therefore paying no petrol tax and so maybe the owner should be charged a road-user tax.
But this suggestion was scuttled off into a large binder called Problems for Another Day, alongside such things as Sourcing Enough Electricity to Charge All the EVs. What they’ve done instead is bring out the Sustainable Household Scheme.
Canberrans can now receive $15,000 interest-free loans for such things as solar panels, batteries, efficient electrical appliances and zero-emission vehicles.
All of a sudden then, the MG ZS EV is the same price as a Corolla. And the money you would have poured into the fuel tank each week can be used to pay off a loan.
It gets better.
Rob Ogilvie and his wife founded Ion DNA in Fyshwick as Australia’s first electric transport dealership. He is also President of the Registered Automotive Workshop Scheme (RAWS), the leading national body for independent vehicle importers.
He explains that EV owners here like to hang onto their cars – very few are filtering through to the second-hand market. Meanwhile, over in Japan, registration becomes more expensive the older the car so the place is rife with EVs that nobody really wants.
Rob saw the opportunity and took it. The best of the cars are imported and all the paperwork is arranged for them to be registered locally. They’re then put up for sale as a cheaper entry ticket to the EV club.
Ion DNA currently have two Nissan Leaf models available and are about to become the first place in Australia to stock the Honda-e. Rob can help get you into a VW iD.3, Mini Cooper SE, Porsche Taycan, or Audi e-Tron too.
He lets me take the latest Leaf out for a spin – a 2017 40 kWh version. Battery health is at 91 per cent, there are just 38,930 km on the clock and because it’s from the Land of the Falling Snow, there’s even a heated steering wheel. All for $36,800 – or a good $8K less than new.
The whole experience is very simple and smooth. For instance, there’s a toggle marked “e-Pedal” – flick that on and the batteries are charged whenever I take my foot off the accelerator via a system called ‘regenerative braking’. But this also means I can drive with just the one pedal.
Now, if you’re a car enthusiast, you might mistake all of this for a dishwasher advertisement. But look at it this way – the Leaf would be just another dull hatchback without the electric drivetrain.
More than 60 per cent of all car enthusiasts are male and I don’t think I’m just speaking for myself when I say males are terribly excited by new gizmos and gadgets. That’s what this is.
Rob agrees that too many dismiss EVs as only for “greenies” – and he should know. As a former driver in the Australian Rally Championship and advanced driver trainer, he’s a massive petrolhead.
As far as I can make out, the real problem is that EVs don’t make any noise. I want a Star Wars pod-racer.
James Coleman - The RiotAct
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