When it comes to EV support in terms of infrastructure we all know where Australia stands (hint: near the bottom). Sure, according to VFacts, and not including Tesla stats, less than 300 of the >1 million cars sold last year were EVs. But as we also know, an electrified future is inevitable.
Some manufacturers, like Jaguar with the i-Pace and Nissan with the Leaf, have stuck their neck out to bring more EVs to the market despite infrastructure woes. But Honda is instead planting its feet in the mud and shouting for better government support, or at least, a hard line on the future. Which is fair, and probably necessary.
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What this means is, Europe and Japan will get the lovable (or disappointing to some) Urban EV Concept that debuted at Geneva, and sadly, as it stands, we may not. “We would love to see it in Australia,” says Honda Australia Director Stephen Collins. “And we are working on assessing the viability of it here.” But don’t hold your breath, until infrastructure and direction develops into “a level of maturity to support greater expansion” Honda won’t be taking any wild chances.
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Honda is aiming for 25 per cent of their entire range in Australia to be electrified (either via hybrid or battery electric) by 2025. In Europe, however, the Japanese company says it will have an ambitious goal of only selling electrified cars by 2025, cementing the continent’s influence on the EV market. This means, globally, two-thirds of Honda’s new cars will be either hybrid, battery-powered hybrid, plug-in hybrid or a fuel cell vehicle.
“We sort of pioneered hybrids in Australia in many ways, with the original Insight,” says Honda Director Stephen Collins. “[Then] maybe three or four years ago, we basically quit all the hybrids and the reason we quit them, just to put it on the table, is that the market was so, so small ... it's still very small by the way and we'll get to that ... but we just couldn't make it in the local setup and we have a lot of other issues and priorities in our business so we've decided to focus on our core which was non-hybrids.”
This year, Honda will make a return to hybrid with the new Accord (not counting the Sport Hybrid in the NSX) “The reality is that today, the electric market [hybrid], is still about 1.5 per cent of the total sales. So it's still very small, but it's clearly going to grow,” he continued. “Acceptance is improving, so in a nutshell, Accord will be the first full model change to offer on hybrid again and we're looking at all full model changes in the future, whether we can provide a hybrid or an electric option.”
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The question remains whether Australia’s stagnancy of EV adoption comes down to an upcoming federal election, Collins says it’s likely. “It was progressing pretty accurately I would say, until six months ago, and then it all stopped,” he said. “In reality, it won't restart again until after the election. So, I think the car companies working through the FCAI think they've been pretty active in the last year and a half maybe in this space. The industry had been progressing well, then all plans were stopped and won't restart, maybe for another at least six or nine months.”
Unfortunately, the unknown is the worst thing for the car companies, he points out (not to mention those already in love with the Honda E Prototype…) “When we don't know what the targets are, what the timing is, it's very difficult for us to be planning, so all we call for, whether it's a Labour or Liberal government, is certainty on what's going to happen, what are the targets, and what do we need to do. At the moment, there's too much uncertainty. That's bad for anyone's business.”