The all-electric Kia e-Niro SUV, which is priced starting at €35,290 (around $A57,000 converted) in Europe and would sell alongside the Hyundai Kona Electric, is now unlikely to come to Australia due to the failure to introduce legislation to reduce carbon emissions.
Although prevalidation models have been spotted on Australian roads and a release date mooted to coincide with the Australian Tennis Open, which Kia sponsors, for early 2020, this was never confirmed.
Now, according to Kia Australia’s COO Damien Meredith, the e-Niro may never actually make it here.
The reason? Because Kia wants to bring its award-winning all-electric e-Niro to countries that have effective regulations to limit CO2 emissions already in place, which Australia does not.
“KMC policy is e-Niro goes to countries that have CO2 regulations and have legislation in place, that’s the issue with us in relation to getting e-Niro,” Meredith told Cars Guide.
Originally, it was understood that supply was the only issue for Kia’s delay of a release of the e-Niro in Australia, and that it was considering releasing the e-Soul ahead of the e-Niro instead.
But it is now understood that with a focus on getting electric cars to overseas markets with a focus on reducing emissions, an Australian release of the e-Soul is also now doubtful.
The only thing that may change Kia’s mind is if the Australian government gets it together to address the issue of climate change in constructive way, by introducing CO2 emissions legislation and fuel emissions standards to encourage automakers to bring more zero and low emissions models to Australian shores.
This has been successful overseas in jurisdictions such as Europe where car makers face big fines should they not meet a 95gm CO2/km average fleet emissions target by 2021.
As such, Kia has seen sales of the e-Niro along its hybrid and plug-in hybrid variants on the increase in Europe, where it has had a high uptake with almost 45,000 sold in the first 9 months of 2019.
Because of the uptick in demand for electrified models in markets such as Europe, the only other way Meredith can see the e-Niro making its way to Australia is if Kia ramps up production.
“If nothing changes (in terms of legislation) the only thing that can change is if production increases we’ve more of an opportunity to get it. The two-fold thing is, country legislation and supply,” he said.
It’s a message we’ve heard time and time again from the Australian arms of automakers: for as long as there is greater demand, and thus a reliable market for electric cars in overseas markets thanks to government support and EV uptake incentives, automaker will prioritise those countries over Australia.
The LNP government’s continuing failure to introduce fuel emissions standards – which was also called out last week by Labor’s Mark Butler and Hyundai government relations representative Scott Nargar – puts Australia further at risk from having any chance at all of achieving Paris emissions targets.
It’s also a loss for drivers, because Australia desperately needs model like the Kia e-Niro, which has a 64kWh and around 450km driving range, to provide a wider range of affordable, zero emissions vehicle options in the very limited Australian EV market.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles for two years. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.