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The boss of BMW‘s local arm has pulled no punches in his estimation of the Australian government, declaring it has fallen far behind other developed countries when it comes to legislation and strategies regarding low-emissions vehicles.

Marc Werner, CEO for BMW Australia, said at the launch of the plug-in hybrid 530e iPerformance that the government has “stuck their collective heads in the sand”.

Our government is so far behind in their view of climate change,” he said. Australia has shocking emissions levels. Worse than what we would call non-industrialised, or third-world countries.”

The company’s local boss quoted the BMW Group’s global CEO, Harald Krueger, saying that to achieve sustainable mobility, there needs to be an effective combination of three key elements; customer, legislation and industrialisation.

Here in Australia we have the customer, and we have the industrialisation. All that’s missing is the legislation. That is critical for encouraging the uptake of LEVs (low-emissions vehicles),” Werner said.

“[We need] financial and non-financial incentives. Incentives that will put these low-emission vehicles within the reach of more Australians.”

Werner added that electrification of Australia’s vehicle fleet would bring numerous benefits, including less reliance on foreign oil imports, reductions in air and noise pollution, and better air quality which in turn should help with respiratory illnesses like asthma.

He said Australians need incentives – financial and non-financial – in order to put low-emissions vehicles within closer reach for buyers.

In the meantime, the company has taken it upon itself to still offer low-emissions vehicles in Australia, with its iPerformance and i ranges.

The company already has the 330e, 740e, and X5 xDrive40e in its iPerformance plug-in hybrid range – now bolstered by the arrival of the 530e – while the i3 EV and i8 hybrid sports car round out its current low-emissions offerings.

Mini, a part of the BMW Group, is also looking to introduce a plug-in hybrid version of the new Countryman crossover in Australia, though its introduction hasn’t been finalised yet.

Above: Nissan Leaf

It’s not the first time an automotive manufacturer has called on the Australian government to implement the legal and physical framework for electric and electrified vehicles. Last month, Nissan Australia’s CEO, Richard Emery, reaffirmed the Japanese company’s commitment to EVs, and also called on the government to provide more incentives to make electrified vehicles more attractive to Australians.

“I still remain convinced that the government needs to take more steps to encourage people to make that choice,” he said, “there’s only so much the manufacturers can do.”

“If the government is truly committed to CO2 reductions, then maybe they have a different look at how they approach electric cars and hybrids, in terms of taxation revenue and other matters that they can act on.”

The lack of legal framework and charging infrastructure across the country has made manufacturers hesitant to bring plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and electric vehicles (EV) to our market, namely including Germany’s Volkswagen.

In overseas markets, like Europe, Volkswagen offers PHEV models like the Golf GTE (above) and Passat GTE, along with the all-electric e-Golf. The facelifted Golf 7.5 GTE could make it to local showrooms sometime next year, though nothing is finalised at this point in time.

Volkswagen and its subsidiary brands; including luxury marque Audi, have also committed to bringing out 30 new electric or electrified model by 2025, and aims to have half of its annual global sales attributed to low-emissions vehicles by the same year.

Above: BMW i3

In the meantime, however, BMW is looking to partner with a renewable energy supplier to counteract concerns that Australia’s electricity is mainly generated from burning coal.

“The topic of EVs goes hand-in-hand with green energy and many people have a skeptical view of EVs in a country that generates such a large amount of its energy through brown coal,” Werner said.

“I can tell you BMW is currently in discussions with an energy supplier that is committed to extending the reach of renewable power within the Australian grid.”

REVIEW: 2017 BMW 530e iPerformance

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