Department officials have confirmed that they overlooked all-electric options to replace the government’s Comcar vehicle fleet, but delayed providing further details for why two models of Tesla were excluded from the initial shortlist.
Officials from the federal department of finance were queried by Australian Greens Janet Rice on the process to select the new fleet of Comcar vehicles, which overlooked all-electric models, including two models of Tesla, as first reported by The Driven.
Confusingly, the department’s officials confirmed during the Senate estimates hearing that they had test-driven two models of Tesla all-electric vehicles as part of the first stage ‘desktop’ assessment of 18 potential models.
The Teslas were the only models test-driven as part of this early assessment, but they were subsequently cut from the final shortlist of seven vehicles.
“There was test driving of a couple of cars in the first in the first stage, the Tesla models, it was the Model S and the Model X,” the Department of Finance official told Senate estimates.
The two Tesla models were overlooked in the second stage assessment, which considered the narrow list of seven potential vehicles, consisting of “a mix of sedans and SUVs from Hyundai, BMW, Toyota and Mercedes.”
The Comcar fleet serves as the dedicated vehicle fleet for federal parliamentarians, the Governor-General and senior federal judges. The fleet is managed by SgFleet, which manages the vehicles on behalf of the Australian government.
The current fleet consists of the V8 Holden Caprice, but the Department of Finance has announced that the BMW 6 Series GT sedan and a hybrid model of the Toyota Camry will replace the Holdens.
During the Senate estimates hearing, officials from the Department of Finance confirmed that they had considered all-electric models as part of the search for the new fleet of Comcar vehicles, including the Model S and the Model X.
The Tesla Model 3 was unavailable at the time when the initial shortlist of vehicles was selected.
While department officials were unable to provide details of how the two Tesla models performed in the assessment of potential Comcar vehicles during the estimates hearing, they undertook to release further information “on notice.”
Finance minister Mathias Cormann said that he was confident that the vehicles selected would help to reduce the environmental footprint of the fleet, describing the Toyota and BMW models as the “two most environmentally efficient.”
“Based on CO2 emissions, in grams per kilometre, they both come in at 125, which is the equal lowest and substantially lower than what the carbon footprint is of the current fleet,” Cormann said.
This is, however, substantially higher than the emissions footprints of the Tesla models, which both have zero tailpipe emissions, according to the government’s own Green Vehicle Guide.
The officials said that the vehicles had been compared on the basis of a ‘whole-of-lease’ assessment, which covered the purchase cost, the potential resale value, the cost of maintenance and the cost of fuels over the three-year lease.
“Based on that we chose several cars to actually run a more detailed trial and based on that trial, we did an assessment against the Australian Government Fleet Vehicle Policy and made a recommendation to government,” the Department of Finance official said.
They went on to say that all-electric models may be considered as part of a future fleet when the new lease agreement expires in three-years time.
“We are just about to roll out the new fleet now. The fleet will be leased for three years, and that’s the length of time that this fleet will operate for. In three years time, there’ll be a new process,” the official said.
The Comcar vehicles were selected in accordance with the Australian Government Fleet Vehicle Selection Policy, which included four cure assessment criteria; minimum five-star ANCAP safety rating, a vehicle being fit-for-purpose for fleet use, value for money and environmental considerations.
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, whose portfolio includes responsibility for the Comcar contract, revealed that he had personally chosen the colour of the new cars. The Comcars, which have traditionally been an all-white fleet, are set to switch to ‘dark grey’ with the new fleet.
“I take responsibility for that. Yes,” Cormann told Senate estimates. “The white colour, in my mind reflects a bit of a colonial past that we’ve moved on from and I think the colour chosen for the Comcars is a better reflection of a modern forward-looking Australia.”