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Electric and plug-in hybrid car sales continue to make barely a dent in Australia compared to other mature markets, though product cycles clearly represent a caveat.

According to industry figures obtained by CarAdvice, trackable sales of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) or BEVs with a range-extender (REx) in Australia peaked at 294 units in 2015 before falling to 138 last year.

So far in 2017 they sit at 35, well below the levels seen between 2012-15. A number of brands such as Nissan and Volkswagen have committed to EV futures in Australia soon, but it won’t be this year.

nissan-leaf_charging

There’s one irritant in all this, however. Tesla does not submit its sales to the industry peak body that compiles all relevant car sales data, and refuses to comment on its numbers, leaving a large hole in the data.

The same downward trend exists with plug-in hybrids (PHEVs), sales of which have tumbled from about 940 in 2015 to about 560 last year. The YTD number for 2017 looks to be 155 units.

Naturally, a closer look reveals some reasons beyond lack of market hunger for fuelled cars.

2017 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

The Nissan Leaf and Holden Volt dominated the BEV and BEV-with-REx area in 2012 with 188 and 101 sales respectively, yet both are now gone from our market. The former is on hiatus ahead of the launch of a new generation, while the latter is no longer made in right-hand drive by GM.

The all-time record set in 2015 saw the Leaf claim 136 units, the Volt claim 8, and the BMW i3 claim 150 units to be market leader. This car declined in 2016 but has bounced slightly to 34 YTD this year as the updated i3 94 Ah version proliferates.

Yet as it stands, 34 of the 35 EVs sold in Australia this year were the BMW, with the only other unit being a Renault Kangoo ZE van on a fleet trial.

BMW 330e_2

Moving over to the PHEV market, the sale slide is largely attributable to the market hiatus of the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, which hit around 863 sales in 2014, 753 sales in 2015 and just 49 last year. An updated model has just launched and it will bounce back with a vengeance, but in its absence it gutted 90 per cent of the segment’s sales.

In lieu of the Outlander other models have helped, but not entirely picked up the slack.

Performers in 2016 included the BMW 330e (74), BMW X5 xDrive40e (60), Mercedes-Benz C350e (168), Mercedes-Benz GLE500e (40), Audi A3 e-tron (60) and Volvo XC90 T8 (72). The Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid managed 138 units between 2015-16, while the company holds about 16 pre-orders of the Panamera E-Hybrid already – impressive.

2016_mercedes_c350e_gle500e_s500e_01

Even with this clear caveat, the fact we have seen sales of EV and PHEVs go backwards as the proportional investment in greener vehicles grows exponentially around the globe, is of note.

As we have reported extensively, a wide array of car brands from Nissan/Renault, to BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen have called for the government to establish policies here such as those used throughout much of Europe, the US and Asia. Nissan recently said dealing with the Australian government was akin to “amateur hour”.

Policies include tax breaks, direct subsidies, dedicated driving lanes and publicly funded charging infrastructure, none of which Australia offers to any meaningful degree. The tone used here may just lay out our editorial stance on this position…

2017_porsche_panamera_e-hybrid_04

The fact that most BEV sales in Australia historically have been to private buyers or business fleets (vastly more the former than the latter), with only a minute share of sales going to government agencies, also tells a tale.

On the plus side, sales of conventional mild hybrids are actually doing okay, with 12,154 units selling last year. This was moderately higher that the numbers seen in 2013-15, but lower than 2012’s figure of 13,934 units.

By far the top-selling conventional hybrid in 2016 was the Toyota Camry (5891), ahead of the Corolla Hybrid (1118), Lexus NX (1087), Toyota Prius C (903), Lexus CT200h (901), Lexus RX (525) and Toyota Prius V (467). The most popular hybrid not from the Toyota group was the Nissan Pathfinder (179).

2016 Toyota Camry Atara SL Hybrid-12

 

 Australian EV or EV REx sales

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017 YTD

BMW i3

0

0

0

33

150

92

34

Holden Volt

0

80

101

58

8

0

0

Mitsubishi i-MiEV

30

95

0

0

0

0

0

Nissan Leaf

19

77

188

173

136

42

0

Renault Fluence

0

1

3

0

0

0

0

Renault Kangoo ZE

0

0

0

5

0

4

1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Australian PHEV sales 

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017 YTD

BMW i8

 

 

 

3

61

32

6

BMW 330e

 

 

 

 

 

74

28

BMW X5 xDrive40e

 

 

 

 

2

60

16

Mercedes-Benz C350e

 

 

 

 

8

168

54

Mercedes-Benz GLE500e

 

 

 

 

 

40

16

Audi A3 e-tron

 

 

 

 

60

60

8

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

 

 

 

863

753

49

1

Volvo XC90 T8

 

 

 

 

 

72

26

Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid

 

 

 

 3

 58

 77

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MORE: BMW demands Australian government end ’embarrassing silence’ on EV support
MORE: Nissan Australia: Dealing with government on future automotive tech like “amateur hour”
MORE: all electric vehicle stories




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