Is Australia ever going to be a real electric vehicle (EV) country, or are we forever destined to sit on the fringes and continue to burn fossil fuel until such time as it becomes completely impossible to carry on?

It’s a debate that raises its head from time to time. Perhaps most notably when one or other political grouping promotes it merits, and the opposing forces then take the view that EVs are a plaything of Satan destined to destroy the Aussie lifestyle.

In reality we are highly urbanised nation

The fact that most Australians are highly urbanised folk who drive relatively short distances to work, school, the shops and grandma’s house is sometimes conveniently forgotten.

So too is the reality that most people who worry about ‘losing the Australian lifestyle’ seldom drive deep into the country areas or the heart of the Outback.

How many people do you know who opt to quickly shoot across the Nullabor by car from Adelaide to Perth to have a quick drink with a mate? Or drive from Darwin to Coober Pedy on the off-chance of getting a good deal on an opal?

Many factors are involved in the uptake of EVs

More widespread uptake of EVs – or not – depends on a range of factors include price, the prevailing environmental mood, confidence as to how cheap and easy they are to maintain, and appropriate roll-out of infrastructure.

There is also the reality that Australia is a small market in world terms when compared to the likes of Europe, North America, China and many Asian countries.

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And the small guys don’t get to make the rules with the big global auto manufacturers.

If a significant portion of the world market is going the UV route then Australia will simply have to follow suit, particularly when it comes to the smaller city-runabout vehicles.

Pressure in many countries to grow the EV market

In Europe the pressure is already there from governments and environmental groups, and there are emissions targets for companies to meet. So much so, that in some markets EV’s are being sold remarkably cheaply in order to meet these targets.

There’s also a lot of clever marketing going on of EVs in an effort to create sustained demand.

For example, how would you like it if someone gave you a free car to use for three years? Sound good? Even better yet, what if someone gave everyone in your community a free car for three years?

Every household in French village gets a free car

Renault Zoe electric car. Photo credit: Renault

It sounds too good to be true. But that’s precisely what has happened to the citizens of a French village named Appy, located around 680km from Paris.

Car manufacturer Renault has just given every household in Appy a new, free, Zoe electric car so that they can trundle around the rural Ariege region to their heart’s content.

But before you get too excited and start phoning Renault Australia with your own proposal for free cars, bear in mind that the total population of Appy is apparently 25 people.

So it isn’t quite like giving every household in, say, Canberra a free car for three years.

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So what makes Appy so special? According to Renault, the attraction is that it is one of the most isolated communities in France.

Project is to prove practicality of electric vehicles

This makes it ideal for a marketing project aimed at proving that, no matter where you live in the country, it’s practical to own an electric vehicle.

But one of the obstacles is the perceived short range of electric cars and the difficulty of keeping them charged in rural areas.

So, while city folk are increasingly fans of electric cars as city runabouts, those in country communities are less enthusiastic.

Renault will also learn how people use electric cars

“Appy residents will run the [cars] for three years, sharing their impressions and experiences with Renault in a first-time scheme that will likely inform and help understand the way customers interact with, and use, electric vehicles day to day,” Renault says.

“If the inhabitants of one of the country’s most isolated towns can adopt an electric way of life, it’ll prove that everyone can. That also means the myths around buying and running an electric car can be dispelled once and for all.”



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