We are encouraging questions from readers about electric vehicles, and charging, and whatever else you want to learn. So please send them through and we will get our experts to respond, and invite other people to contribute through the comments section.

Our latest question comes from Geoffrey, who asks:

What are the pros and cons of buying a 30kWh Leaf as an import from Japan? I assume there is no support from Nissan Australia and that it may be quite a financial risk to the purchaser. 

I was thinking with a lot of Japanese imports being sold on Car Sales such as the 30kWh Nissan Leaf and Nissan’s e-NV200 van about the pros and cons of purchasing a car that wasn’t originally destined for Australia. I for one am interested, but it seems risky. Love your website by the way.



Hi Geoffrey – you ask a question that is quite relevant to EV markets where EV models are in short supply. (Such as Australia). However, I would break your question into two aspects:

  • Is a second-hand import a viable alternative to buying a new or Australian delivered second-hand EV?
  • When will a model that does meet my size/shape/range/etc needs be offered by the major manufacturers here vs buying an imported overseas model now?

First-up – it has been a seemingly eternal frustration that the EV models offered overseas are not available here yet. The update of the original Nissan Leaf to a 30kWh battery was a good step forward, but they never came here.

The Renault Zoe has been available in Europe since 2013, yet was not brought here till late 2017 (and is still not offered here in the current, higher spec, versions available in Europe). The Nissan e-NV200 van based on the Leaf never came here either, nor did the Mitsubishi MiEV van based on the iMiEV. And so the list goes on.

However, when EV models never brought here become superseded overseas, they also become available for limited import to Australia – so it is understandable that if a model in an EV market segment not available here IS available from this source, they potentially become an attractive proposition!

BUT, grey imports (as these cars are called) have a number of drawbacks. They are definitely not supported by the manufacturers here and are heavily frowned upon by dealers – so good luck trying to ‘persuade’ a dealer to work on your car.

This means any work on them will need to be done by private workshops – of which there are very few in the EV space.

Grey imports also have region coded navigation systems that generally cannot be updated with a simple chip change, so you will be stuck with a car that constantly shows you travelling around Tokyo, London, or whatever country the vehicle originated from. It may also have issues with radio frequencies that may/may not match Australian ones. The vehicle may also have been crashed and repaired, etc, etc.

As a result – grey imports need a LOT of research on both the car AND the importer before committing to a purchase.

However, if you are prepared to put up with these drawbacks, at the right price these grey imports could stack-up as a viable option – especially if no similar EV version is available here, or likely to be in the near future. (eg a van or people mover).

On the other hand, if an EV of similar specs to the grey import was available – it would be worth examining the price differential to see if buying the grey import is really providing a saving. In the case of the 30kWh Leaf, there are viable options (both second-hand and new) available here.

Second-hand, you could look at the 2017/18 BMW i3 94Ah series. It has a 33kWh battery and a real-world range of around 200km (which is better than a 30kWh Leaf at 172km). A 2017 model one of those would set you back around $55,000 on-the-road.

New, you could pick-up a Renault Zoe with a 41kWh battery and real-world range of around 300km. (On-the-road pricing around $52,000), or a Hyundai Ioniq with a 28kWh battery and a real-world range of 200km – starting at just under $50,000.

All of these offer better driving ranges than the 30kWh Leaf, dealer support and a researchable history in the case of second-hand ones.

Good, low mileage second-hand grey import 30kWh Leafs are being offered at $35,000 (higher mileage/older ones are cheaper – but have more chance of battery degradation, damage repairs etc). I would definitely ask if the $15k price saving between a good grey import 30kWh Leaf over a new Ioniq, $18k over a new Zoe or $20k over the very recent second-hand BMW is really worth the risk?

The bottom line is that it has been a long time coming to have second-hand (or even new) EV options in Australia – but they are now happening. We currently have the Ioniq electric, the even bigger battery 120Ah BMW i3, Renault Kangoo ZE van, Jaguar I-Pace, Tesla models S and X all available to buy now.

Coming this year are the Kona Electric (due in weeks), the Tesla Model 3 mid-year (ish), the Leaf 2.ZERO (with a 40kWh battery) mid-year and the Kia e-Niro late this year.

So I would suggest you hold-on just a little longer and wait for these to become second-hand and move into your price bracket. I suggest this because increasing numbers of these will be bought by government and business, so in 2 – 4 years there will be a significant number coming onto the second-hand market.

Grey imports have a place, but they are very much ‘buyer beware’ and not for the average vehicle purchaser.

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