Energy giant AGL has expanded its recently-launched electric vehicle subscription service to Brisbane residents, offering six different EV models for a minimum of $300 a week.
The service was launched in Melbourne and Sydney in September last year, marketed as an opportunity for customers to “experience the benefits of an EV without the commitment of ownership”.
“[W]e want to help to make these vehicles a viable option for our customers – EVs are no longer a pipe dream for Australian families and subscription is a real alternative to ownership,” said AGL’s head of future business and technology John Chambers, adding the initiative had already received 300 expressions of interest in Melbourne and Sydney.
The initiative is part of AGL’s multiple attempts to position itself as a champion of the low-carbon energy transition, even as it remains Australia’s biggest carbon emitter. Its collection of coal and gas plants across the country last year drove its annual scope 1 and 2 emissions to more than 43 million tonnes of CO2, 8 per cent of the national total.
The EV subscription service is not exactly cheap. For the cheapest models – including the Hyundai Ioniq and MG EZS – the cost is $299 a week. For a Tesla Model 3, it is $529. Nissan and Mitsubishi models are also available.
Customers must subscribe for a minimum of a month. That, combined with a sign-up fee of $800 plus a $150 cancellation fee before 6 months, means the minimum cost for the cheapest models is almost $2,2450, and just over $3,240 for the Tesla. The cost includes insurance, roadside assistance and a charging kit for home charging.
The vehicles are provided by subscription service Carbar and the charging equipment by JET Charge
While Australia’s charging infrastructure is well behind that of many comparable nations, AGL said the subscription service was viable in Queensland thanks to the state government’s “electric super highway”, a string of 31 fast-charging sites between Coolangatta on the Gold Coast and Cairns in the far north. Fast chargers can charge a battery to 80 per cent in around 40 minutes, depending on the model.
AGL is currently working with the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) on a program to explore how best to take advantage of low demand periods on the grid to charge electric vehicles. It is using customers of its Electric Vehicle Plan, an energy retail plan directed specifically at EV owners, to conduct the research. The number of EVs in Australia hit 20,000 late last year.
AGL is one of a growing number of high-emitted companies to commit to reaching net zero emissions by 2050, a target the federal government is yet to adopt but is reportedly edging towards. To achieve that goal, every car on the road would have to be either electric or hydrogen powered.
Current economics mean EVs are by far the more viable option. That means electricity generators like AGL need to be prepared for the profound and potentially rapid change in what the power they generate is used for, and when it is needed.
James Fernyhough is a reporter at RenewEconomy and The Driven. He has worked at The Australian Financial Review and the Financial Times, and is interested in all things related to climate change and the transition to a low-carbon economy.