Electric cars an 'attractive proposition' for Australia

Alan Kohler has an interview at the ABC with Better Place CEO Evan Thornley following the Victorian motoring association, RACV, committing $2 million to an investment in the company - Electric cars an 'attractive proposition' for Australia. The impact of electric cars on the local motor vehicle manufacturing industry is also discussed.

Evan Thornley how does the deal with RACV work, are they just buying a piece of Better Place?

EVAN THORNLEY, BETTER PLACE AUSTRALIA: Yeah, well it's a strategic partnership, the RACV obviously represents 2 million motorists in Victoria and they're very excited about the transition to electric vehicles so we'll be working with them in roadside assistance, we'll be working with them on a range of strategic projects but they are also putting their money where their mouth is and making an investment in the company.

ALAN KOHLER: How much do they get for $2 million?

EVAN THORNLEY: Oh, well we don't talk about valuation Alan but I think it's part of the wider trend that we are seeing. Obviously we've raised our first round in Australia, led by Lend Lease. ACTEW AGL, our utility partner in Canberra, is also an investor.

And that's part of what we are seeing globally. Better place globally has raised about $US700 million in the last two years through the middle of a global financial crisis. ...

ALAN KOHLER: What do you think the market in total is going to be in supplying electricity both batteries and so on to cars?

EVAN THORNLEY: We think it's somewhere between 10 and 20 per cent of the Australian car fleet by 2020 will be running on electric.

So that means probably a larger proportion of the petrol market because the cars that are most likely to be most attracted to going electric are the large ones, the people who drive around the outer suburbs of Australia in our large cities, they've got three, four, sometimes five, six thousand dollar petrol bills.

If you can replace that with a $1000 worth of renewable electricity and cover the capital cost of the battery then that's a pretty attractive financial proposition.

ALAN KOHLER: I suppose as a sidelight that's not great news for Australian manufacturing since most of the large cars are made here and it doesn't look like the electric cars will be made here?

EVAN THORNLEY: Well I hope that they will Alan, I think it's an enormous opportunity for the Australian car industry and the Auto Innovation Council which is a representative body of the whole industry recently put out a vision statement saying that they thought that Australia should be one of the world's leading producers of large, powerful, zero emissions vehicles.

I think they're right, it's what customers want in this country, it's what we know how to build, it's where the money is, there's much more margin in large cars than small cars and there's certainly much more money in the energy for large cars than small cars and I think there's still a global leadership position open in the large car market so we think that's - and obviously others think - that's a tremendous opportunity for the Australian car industry and I hope they take it up. ...

ALAN KOHLER: And when are you going to start rolling these things out, when are you going to start doing it?

EVAN THORNLEY: So we will be building the infrastructure (obviously there are car makers across the world making electric cars, we don't make cars we provide the infrastructure for the energy) we'll start in Canberra in late 2011, Canberra and southern New South Wales to do our first roll out and then we'll be rolling out throughout the country starting late 2012.

ALAN KOHLER: And will there be cars on the market here, electric cars?

EVAN THORNLEY: Absolutely. I think there's 51 models currently that are scheduled to be in production in terms of plug-in vehicles around the world by 2012.

Cross posted from Peak Energy.