Nissan Australia’s national manager for electrification and mobility has become the latest executive of a major global auto manufacturer to criticise state government proposals to tax electric vehicles, describing them as “problematic,” particularly in the almost complete absence of any policy incentives.
Speaking at the Australian launch of Nissan’s new Leaf and Leaf e+ all electric vehicles, Nissan’s Ben Warren said EV-specific road user charges such as the Victorian Labor government is set to introduce in July would actively discourage investment in the technology at a crucial time for the already lagging market.
“There is an argument that says road user charging on all transport is a fair and equitable way of taxing transport and recovering the funds to pay for roads, because at the end of the day we do need to pay for roads somehow,” Warren said at a press event in regional Victoria.
“But when we specifically target [it] towards an emerging technology that has a host of other benefits, that is problematic because it does have a negative impact on someone’s willingness to purchase an EV.
“It goes directly to the heart of the only source of positive return on investment, which is the running costs, and adds … also an extra administrative burden for the drivers as well,” he said.
“So, it puts barriers in place … really at the emergence of this technology that shouldn’t be [there]. And this of course is in the absence of any other supporting measures. …And that’s not great.”
Indeed it is not. As The Driven reported here, under Victoria’s 2.5c a kilometre road user charge, a second hand Nissan Leaf – now selling well below $A20,000 in the growing used car import market – would attract a charge of around $2.50 for every 100 kilometres travelled.
Even more worryingly, the driver of the used Nissan Leaf would wind up paying more than the owner of an $80,000 Lexus hybrid – $2.15 for every 100 kilometres travelled (five litres per 100kms fuel economy, at 42.3 cents a litre of fuel excise).
For Nissan, which has been mass producing the all-electric Leaf for a decade now, and as of last September had delivered 500,000 units worldwide, Australia represents a tiny and unfriendly market, which in 2020 accounted for just 1 per cent of its total Leaf sales.
The Japanese automaker will be hoping to turn that around with the arrival of the new Leaf, and the extended range Leaf e+, the latter of which will go some way to addressing Australia’s seemingly unshakeable range anxiety.
“We’re excited to bring the Leaf e+ here… into Australia and it certainly is a symbol of our optimism towards an electrified future for motoring enthusiasts and consumers alike,” said Nissan Australia CEO Stephen Lester at the launch.
“The real challenge right now, at the moment anyway, is the direction that the government is providing, or in general the lack of direction… to incentivise or to promote and motivate consumers to purchase electric vehicles.
“The important thing for all of us to remember is that this is not a war on petrol or fossil fuels, this is about what the future will have in terms of choice for consumers in Australia, going forward, and it’s really important that we work with the government closely to develop policy goals and objectives to help reach that… outcome,” Lester said.
“The reality is that we run the risk of having less choice in our market if we delay and fall further behind than we already are.”