Holden Australia and EV charging and infrastructure group Better Place Australia have joined forces to offer buyers of the Holden Volt – the (Detroit-made) Australian version of the hybrid EV known in the US as the Chevy Volt, or as the Opel Ampera in Europe – on-site charging systems that will source 100 per cent renewable energy and charge the car’s battery up to two hours faster.
The two companies announced the partnership on Tuesday morning at Holden’s Brighton dealership, just one week after the car maker announced it would be introducing the Volt into its range later this year. Holden said Better Place would be developing a number of membership packages for Volt customers, including the installation of a home/office “charge spot” unit, and zero emissions charging via the purchase of renewable energy or government-certified RECs.
And while the Volt’s 16.5-kWh lithium-ion battery pack can be fully recharged in around six hours (and for as little as $2.50) using a regular (240V 10A) household outlet – a feature unique to Volts – this time can be cut to under four hours with Better Place’s installation of a dedicated circuit with a maximum flow of 16A, allowing delivery of the green energy at a faster rate.
Better Place’s “complete service” charging system would also include remote monitoring, ongoing management and maintenance, and 24-hour customer care, the companies said.
Described by Holden as a long-range EV, the Volt’s battery pack and electric drive unit provide a pure electric range of up to 87km, while a 1.4 litre petrol engine extends this by maintaining a charge in the battery to power the wheels until it can be recharged, providing a total potential range of over 600km.
Both Holden and Better Place said they expected that the car’s hybrid capabilities would help eliminate the so-called “range anxiety” that many in the sector believe is stopping drivers from making the shift to EVs. But both parties also stressed that the focus remained on marketing the car’s potential zero emissions capabilities, when powered by 100 per cent renewable electricity.
“While the Volt is not restricted in range compared to other standard electric vehicles, we do expect that drivers will prefer to drive on battery only whenever possible,” said Holden’s director of Energy and Environment, Richard Marshall. “Customers who choose to install a Better Place Charge Spot can charge their Volt in under four (hours). This option is likely to be popular with fleets who want to run their Volts predominantly on the initial battery charge.” And with the energy supply being 100 per cent renewable, it is also likely to be a popular option with companies looking to reduce their carbon footprint.
Holden – which has been working closely with Better Place on the ground-up creation of an all-electric Commodore, recently trialled by the government fleet service COMCAR – says the Volt is on target to launch in Australia in the fourth quarter of this year, and that it is already taking pre-orders for the vehicles. Pricing for the Volt was last week confirmed at $59,990 RRP (plus dealer delivery charges and related taxes).
Better Place, which has traditionally focused on partnerships with all-electric vehicles, using its battery-switch technology, is keen to use this deal to show it is “technology agnostic” when it comes to EVs, and hopes that cars like the Volt will help boost their uptake in Australia.
“The partnership between Better Place and Holden means Volt drivers can choose an all-inclusive service that delivers complete peace of mind and makes driving an electric car easy, convenient and reliable,” said Better Place’s head of Strategy and Marketing, Ben Keneally.
Keneally told RenewEconomy that while Better Place did not see the Australian market as being particularly behind the pace of global EV uptake, the one area in which it was lagging was in government support, citing, in particular, the lack of any subsidies on offer for EV drivers.
In a recent Ernst & Young survey, a majority of industry analysts said they believed Europe would become the world’s first mass market for electric vehicles by 2022, and named government subsidies as one of the most important factors in driving EV uptake. In Europe, Opel executives last month said they believed the Ampera – which was named 2012 European Car of the Year – would hit its 2012 sales target of 10,000 units. The Volt has not done so well in the US, though, despite generous government subsidies.
In looks, the Holden Volt is not unlike the Holden Cruze – a sleek-looking four-door hatch. Performance-wise, Holden’s Energy and Environment Director Richard Marshall describes it as “spirited” – meaning it has some of torque that EVs are becoming known for, but there won’t be any company bragging about its 0-100km capabilities. The Volt also features regenerative breaking technology – including a gear selection option suited for stop-start driving in heavy traffic – which maximises energy capture and efficient driving.
And while the price for the Australian version is higher than the US base model, Holden says this is because they are only releasing one higher-end model in Australia, which boasts a 5-star safety rating (including eight air bags, front and rear parking sensors and a windscreen-mounted rear-view camera), touch-screen controls and colour LCD displays, and such fancy extras as leather trim, heated seats and a Bose sound system.