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by Daniel DeGasperi

Renault Australia has criticised the federal government for allowing Australia to be one of the last remaining first world countries without legislation to reduce the price of electric vehicles.

Managing director Justin Hocevar says the company cannot import the Renault Zoe (driven here) without assistance that would help bring down the price of its “zero emissions” small hatchback.

“Zoe is something that we are working on [but] it’s still a long way off,” explained Hocevar. “It’s something that would be contingent upon having some incentives in place.

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“Until we start to see some level of tariff break, duty concession or some form of incentive on electric vehicles, I don’t think any manufacturer is going to have success with electric vehicles in the Australian market.

“Seeing as Australia seems to be the last bastion of denial when it comes to doing anything to support electric vehicles [even though] it’s good enough for every other developed or developing nation in the world to support the commercialisation of zero emissions vehicle…

“But there’s no policy, not even the Greens have policy on electric vehicles…”

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Hocevar says that he could get the Zoe to market without incentives for “substantially less than a [Nissan] Leaf.

“We expect that Zoe would probably, depending on how the vehicle was specced, be somewhere in the low-to-mid 30s driveaway [without incentives],” Hocevar hypothesised.

He did however add that even at that price, which would make it the cheapest electric vehicle available on the Australian market, the size-smaller-than-a-Leaf Renault would not be necessarily seen as an attractive proposition.

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“I think that … the premium end of that vehicle’s size and segment is in the mid-to-high 20s [thousands], and I think if you wanted to compete and do some serious volume [you would need to be] probably within five to 10 per cent of that premium end. If that car [Zoe] was sub-$30,000 driveaway, I think there’s a place for it.”

For the Renault Zoe to be priced that way, however, incentives are required due to the high cost of lithium-ion batteries, predominently. While acknowledging that if the price of batteries fell the Zoe could become more price-competitive, Hocevar claimed that “there’s no scale to the [battery] business at this point” and therefore there isn’t the volume to force the price to drop.

Hocavar confirmed that Renault hasn’t teamed up with group bedfellow Nissan to badger the government to introduce EV legislation, however, saying that “it’s not easy to get anyone to focus on this as a [government] agenda item”.