Electric car owners stay upbeat
Julia McDonald, president of the Canberra Electric Vehicle Association, plugs in an electric vehicle for charging. Photo: Graham Tidy
The electric car can still rule Canberra's roads, enthusiasts believe, despite the setback to plans for a network of power points throughout the city.
The international company developing the network, Better Place, has announced that it is switching its strategic focus away from Australia, leaving the Canberra operation facing an uncertain future.
Electric car owner Julia McDonald, president of the Canberra Electric Vehicle Association, conceded the Better Place development was disappointing but said there were plenty of other options for Canberra motorists thinking of making the switch.
A Better Place recharge station. Photo: Shai Epstein
"It is a shame that we're not going to see a battery-swap station arrive any time soon," she said.
"But we still hope that it will come to Canberra.
''There are a quite a lot of recharging stations around Canberra and as far as electric vehicles go, you can recharge them at home.
"We in the association tend to say that we already have a basic electric car recharging network and it's called the electricity grid.
"The car has a range of about 100 kilometres so even if you lived in Tuggeranong, you could do all your driving around for one day, then come home and recharge at night."
The ACT government and electricity retailer Actew AGL, partners in the Better Place scheme, said they were confident that the full network of 16 charging stations in the capital would be delayed, not scrapped.
Better Place launched its Canberra network of recharging points for electric cars amid much fanfare in July 2011 with the ACT government, ActewAGL and Rock Development Group to build the infrastructure.
ActewAGL was also one of several investors to take part in Better Place's $25 million capital-raising exercise in 2009.
Canberra's dominant power retailer has a $60 million, 10-year deal with Better Place to supply electricity for the network.
But only 13 of the promised 16 recharging ports have materialised, despite a power giveaway deal announced last month.
But Ms McDonald is not deterred.
"I'm still optimistic because even if the Better Place network is delayed, it doesn't prevent people from buying electric vehicles," she said.
"There are a number of other companies who are playing in that electric vehicle charging space. It's actually quite competitive.
"Charge Point has recharging stations in the ACT and there's NRMA who have one down in Tuggeranong and they're developing Fast Charge facilities."
The Electric Car Association believes that sales of the vehicles have increased as more production models have come on to the market and between 30 and 40 of the cars are on Canberra's roads.