BMW is searching for subsidies to help make electric car ownership more attractive.
The German car maker will launch its first zero-emission vehicle at the end of this year with its radical i3 city car, and is currently in discussions with all levels of government to try and further reduce running costs.
The company’s local managing director, Phil Horton, told Drive during this week’s launch of the 2-Series Coupe in Tasmania that his team is attempting to negotiate a number of incentives – from a federal government rebate, lower registration fees through state governments, reduced parking fees through local governments and even free travel through privatised toll roads – to reward electric-car buyers.
“I find it strange there are no incentives for zero emissions cars [in Australia],” he told Drive.
“We’re now talking with all levels of government. We’ve started with the federal government… [and] our initial discussions have actually been more positive that I thought. We have gone very clearly on the environment side of things, where the people we’ve talked to are more aware and atune to the benefits of electric cars.”
BMW is not the first car maker to try and negotiate incentives for electric car ownership in Australia, as Mitsubishi and Nissan have both previously attempted to arrange reduced costs for their respective i-Miev and Leaf electric cars.
But Horton concedes the Coalition government “needs some good news around the environment” and that, considering the relatively small volume of electric cars sold in this country, a small token could generate a dose of good news that offsets the relatively small costs.
“They could make a big statement with this,” he said.
“The one thing that makes me optimistic is that, although we think it is the way forward, considering the small number of cars we will have over the next five years, whether it is the federal government, state government or local [government] there is some great PR to be gained for little cost.
“I would be absolutely delighted if, by the time the car arrives here at the end of the year, we had one token gesture at any of those levels towards zero emission cars. I think it would go a long way.”
Horton says the early reception to the i3 city car has been relatively positive, with 20 Australians already placing deposits on the carbon-bodied hatchback even though local pricing and specifications have yet to be locked down.
It is expected to finalise those details (with an anticipated price of around $60,000) and officially open orders within the next month, with the first cars due to arrive in showrooms around October.
It will be closely followed by the first of the diesel-electric i8 coupes, which BMW says it holds around 10 confirmed orders for in Australia even with an expected pricetag of around $300,000.
Both the i3 and i8 will be available through a selected network of BMW dealerships, initially only one each in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane with long-term plans to expand its reach to Adelaide and Perth.