Nissan CEO accuses Macfarlane of “kneeJerk” comments about EVs

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The CEO of Nissan Australia has responded forcefully to comments by Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane. “The future is here. It just needs to be switched on,” he said.

Source: Nissan
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The CEO of Nissan Australia, Richard Emery, recently let some interesting words fly in a rather forceful way concerning the Australian government’s substantial support of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles rather than electric vehicles (EVs) — and, in particular, concerning the industry minister Ian Macfarlane’s promotion of the Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell.

In response, the Australian government official was pretty blunt (if perhaps unconvincing) in his take on EVs — they’re ultimately dependent on fossil fuels (I don’t disagree with this myself)… so people should use hydrogen vehicles, which supposedly aren’t. Lmao. Well you had me at the start, but you lost me.

Source: Nissan
Source: Nissan

The specific words used sound a bit like something out of sales pitch, so they’re worth reprinting here imo:

“Some people say that solution lies in electric cars. I don’t drive an electric car. Some people say we will have enough fossil fuel to last us for centuries. I don’t agree with that either.”

“The reality is if you drive an electric car the chances are it’s being fuelled by fossil fuel-generated power; out of sight and perhaps out of mind but it’s not the solution. The ultimate solution surely is something that in the full cycle starts with water and ends with water and that to me is what this vehicle represents today; the next generation of environmentally friendly vehicles,” stated Australian Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane (as quoted by

Nice debate strategy I suppose, no doubt one that many people are convinced by. Too bad hydrogen vehicles are actually much less efficient (with regards to ultimate fossil fuel use) than EVs are, though. Fundamentally, HFCVs are much less likely to ever be free of their fossil fuel dependency, while EVs can be if you simply get your electricity from solar power (or wind, hydropower, geothermal energy…).

To be fair, I suppose that perhaps Macfarlane is hoping that some sort of breakthrough in the technology of hydrogen production will occur in the near future. “They’ll think of something” — that sort of thing. However, EVs have a lot going for them now, not in some imaginary future, and should be pushed accordingly. Imo.

The Nissan CEO responded in an interesting way to the comments, writing out a full press release even (posted below). Enjoy.

The future is here. It just needs to be switched on.

A statement from Richard Emery, Managing Director & CEO, Nissan Australia

The way governments treat the Australian automotive industry is frustrating. Time and again they fail to take the time to properly consult those who have the facts. And it’s especially annoying when governments make knee-jerk comments and short-term decisions.

Earlier this month I was surprised and concerned about comments by the Federal Government that question the role electric cars will play in Australia’s future motoring landscape. The Federal Minister for Industry and Science, Ian Macfarlane, who has suddenly expressed great support for the idea of hydrogen-powered cars after declaring they “could place Australia in a leadership role for the introduction of zero emission vehicles within the Asia Pacific rim,” has again shown a lack of understanding and appears to have not consulted with the wider automotive industry and his own government colleagues.

Consider this: On one hand, Minister Macfarlane talks of the need for tighter emissions targets for new vehicles, yet on the other he pulls the rug from under the future of zero-emissions electric cars in Australia. In the meantime, one of his Federal colleagues talks about the possible free importation of new and used vehicles from overseas, with the potential for negative impacts on road-user safety, consumer protection, and the environment from higher exhaust emissions. None of this makes sense.

Minister Macfarlane has said Australia has long been behind Europe and other countries when it comes to vehicle emissions standards. This is true. But the automotive industry has been leading the way here by importing ever-cleaner new cars for the Australian market.

The good news is that some of the best new vehicles that can help overcome this environmental challenge are already here. And with the right government support, I’m confident more will come.

Firstly, our company already has a zero-tailpipe-emissions vehicle solution in the Nissan LEAF, the world’s best-selling electric car, with more than 158,000 sold globally. It’s a five-seat hatchback and it’s a genuine zero-emissions car – it doesn’t have an exhaust pipe – and it’s been on sale here for almost three years. Nissan Australia even manufactures parts for its electric engine. It’s the ideal ‘green’ car, especially when you partner it with solar technology to power its battery recharger. As for the Nissan LEAF placing Australia in a leadership role for zero emission vehicles, it already does this in many parts of the world, including Europe, the USA and Japan. It could do it here, too. It just needs some government help, the same kind of assistance that governments in Europe, the USA and Japan provide.

The Nissan LEAF is a pioneering electric car. It’s the top-selling electric vehicle both globally and in Australia and continues fighting the challenge of being accepted by consumers. The two barriers to its local acceptance are the same two it has faced everywhere else in the world, and they aren’t marketing or so-called ‘range anxiety’: they are the lack of publicly available battery recharging infrastructure and the absence of government-driven incentives for consumers to buy a zero-emissions car. These two facilities are behind the success of electric vehicles in Europe, the USA and Japan. And we need them here.

Ever-tightening emissions regulations overseas have brought about the need for electric cars like the Nissan LEAF. Vehicles that have lower emissions, to the point of zero, are very much the future of car-making. It’s why we’ve remained committed to this important vehicle, despite the fact every Nissan LEAF sold in Australia costs our company significant money – they don’t make any profit. Yes, we want to sell more of them here. Our competitors want to do the same with their own models. But we can’t do this alone. The Australian government only has to help with two things, the same two things some of the world’s biggest economies have been doing for years:

– Give Australian buyers sufficient incentives to buy zero-emission vehicles, and;
– Help provide vehicle battery recharging infrastructure for the public to use.

Our Federal Government wants cleaner vehicles on our roads, ideally ones without exhaust emissions. And with relation to zero-emission vehicles, Minister MacFarlane has said: “what we’ve seen in the United States and Europe is that the consumer demand creates the opportunity”. He’s absolutely right. But the only way this will occur is with government input. The Nissan LEAF is sold in 43 markets on four continents and, frustratingly, Australia appears to be the only one without any significant government incentives for a consumer to buy a zero-emissions car. Minister MacFarlane can change this. But if it is a whole-of-government view that electric vehicles are not an option for Australia then we will need to seriously consider our position on the Nissan LEAF electric car.

Richard Emery
Managing Director & CEO
Nissan Australia

Lots of good points. Wonder if MacFarlene will respond.

Perhaps I’m wrong (evil?) for this, but I can’t help but be somewhat amused to see another ‘developed’ country with a political establishment as dysfunctional as that in the US.


Source: CleanTechnica. Reproduced with permission.

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  1. Neil_Copeland 4 years ago

    Options for Federal, State and local governments to encourage EV’s:
    Free parking in CBD’s, reduced registration fees, tightened emissions regulations, increased registration fees on higher emission cars (not number of cylinders as in SA, which is ridiculous), no stamp duty on EV’s.

    • Mags 4 years ago

      Yep, brilliant.

      I have a Prius C, and I have been really surprised to see how few people understand what a hybrid is. Most seem to think I have to plug it in, and I have to switch between petrol and electric manually. Not sure what Toyota have been doing with their advertising, but clearly not educating the public.

      Maybe the Australian sales people need a bit of education all round for these new generation vehicles.

      • Peter Thomson 4 years ago

        Yes, sales force eduction is important – some years ago now I had similar problems trying to test-drive a Prius as discussed for the Leaf today. If the sales force is not properly trained, they won’t try to sell the product.

        But one of the biggest issues with EV sales today is lack of charging infrastructure anywhere, which severely limits what you can and can’t do with an EV in Australia today. It’s a bit chicken and egg, needing Government support.

        • Mags 4 years ago

          I agree Peter, the infrastructure needs to be there. Not likely at the moment me thinks!!

          • Ronald Brakels 4 years ago

            More charging infrastructure would help, but is less important in Australia than many other countries thanks to our standard current being much more powerful than in Japan or the US. Australian current can easily fully charge a Leaf sized battery pack overnight, provided the vehicle can accept it. And a large number of people park their cars in home garages which makes it easy to plug them in. Also, the majority of privately owned cars are parked at home for most of the day which makes it easier to charge them using rooftop solar. And finally, if you’re caught short, you can always charge your car at my place. Just be sure to bring an extention cord.

          • Peter Campbell 4 years ago

            Fast-chargers along highways would be nice but a lot of cars never leave town and could be replaced with EVs now and would be charged almost entirely at home on ordinary power points. For those who have access to a petrol car or for two-car families, a city-range EV is perfectly practical and all the necessary infrastructure is in place. I charge at home from an ordinary powerpoint. For the last 6 years I have done nearly all my driving around town on renewables-sourced electricity. For trips out of town I take the petrol car and leave the EV with my adult daughter for her to use. For many households it would be easy to displace a great deal of petrol use with the existing infrastructure of ordinary power points to run that car that doesn’t need long range because it never leaves town.

          • Mags 4 years ago

            Very good point Peter, that a two car family can manage with one EV right away. (And the second car can be a hybrid too).

            We currently have two Prius’s, but when one goes, it will be replaced by an EV which will be used for all our local travel, which is most of our travel.

          • Peter Campbell 4 years ago

            The typical scenario for a two car family could be one smaller, lighter, 100% battery electric car for commuting and errands around town (eg. Mitsubishi iMiEV) and one plug-in hybrid, also for used fully electric when two cars are needed to go in opposite directions around town, but with the added petrol-based range for taking trips out of town. The plug-in hybrid could be an SUV-style like the Mitusbishi Outlander or sedan style like the Holden Volt. The 4WD PHEV Outlander would do for family camping trips just about anywhere. When at a formal camp ground you can plug in at a powered site. So, nearly all transport needs covered without any extra infrastructure required. Mostly on renewables and still cheaper to run with GreenPower than buying petrol.
            Or, get an EV and keep your existing petrol car. The latter would get less use left at home much of the time, so it will last for more years of mostly highway trips and pile on the kms less quickly.

          • Mags 4 years ago

            Very good Peter, I think between us here we can get this sorted!!!

        • Pedro 4 years ago

          There may be no government support for EV charging points and it may not be necessary in the end. Some progressive businesses have installed their own like Albany Solar in Albany WA. Have also noticed councils putting in a few here and there. At some point supermarkets and shopping centers will put them in to attract shoppers.

    • Peter Campbell 4 years ago

      Don’t get me wrong, a Prius is an efficient petrol car made more efficient than it otherwise would be by the inclusion of some electric bits. As far as that goes, that is a good thing. But that sort of hybrid that ultimately gets all its energy from petrol is not at all the same thing as a plug-in hybrid. A plug-in hybrid is a proper electric vehicle that can run on electricity from the wall for its shorter trips and the first part of longer trips with petrol back up for longer trips. Eg. Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. The point of EVs is that they are the ultimate multi-fuel vehicle. They can run on coal, nuclear, wind or solar. I have been running a battery electric car for 6 years on 100% renewables. My PV system provides about as much as we use for all our local transport and we buy greenpower to cover the rest of the household energy use.

  2. Antony Day 4 years ago

    While I agree with most of his email and admire the sentiment, Nissan’s dealers here in Perth haven’t exactly covered themselves in glory in terms of putting the effort in to sell the LEAF. Not cooperating with associations that promote EVs, despite being given access to loads of EV buyers for virtually no effort on their part, dismissive attitude by their salespeople regarding EV, trying to pass off older LEAFs as current, new models, all add up to a “we’d rather not be selling EVs” attitude. They are not the only ones but in my experience, but they are the worst of them.

    • Stephen Gloor 4 years ago

      The clincher for me to buy a Leaf would be the ability, like in Japan, to have the charger that allows the car to power a house and act as a storage battery. However of course that is not available in Australia and I just got glazed looks from the dealer in question. Even the sparky they sent around to check the electrics in my house had no idea.

      • Antony Day 4 years ago

        I have to say I initially thought this would be a idea but then the practicality of it started to occur to me – imagine your car is attached to the house , supplying power to cook the evening meal and you need to go down to the shops, or you go to work at around 7:45am and the rest of the household who stay still need power. Also, because the morning cooking depleted the battery, your car no longer has full range.
        The car is only attached to the house reliably without moving when you are asleep, therefore not needing the power it can provide.
        Better to have another battery to store power – it is duplication, admittedly, but , in my opinion, neccesary

  3. pathdownunder 4 years ago

    All good points, but my experience with Nissan here in Victoria is that they just aren’t that interested in selling LEAFs. I test-drove one a couple of months ago and left the dealer with some questions about which they needed to get back to me. They never contacted me. Not only that, but when I originally rang them to inquire about a test drive, they weren’t sure that they even had a LEAF and didn’t even know where it was. The dealer that I dealt with knew less about the car than I did!

    To be fair, I had a similar experience with Holden, but they actually managed to sell me a 2013 Volt demonstrator for not much more than the price of a LEAF and without the need to have an electrician install a charging point. Holden delivered the car to me with a full charge (great!), a full tank of petrol (not so good) and tyres so low on air that I got a warning message from the car on the way home from the dealer (Doh!).

    Yes, government incentives are important, but the dealers could do a whole lot more as well, if they were actually interested in selling EVs.

    • Rob G 4 years ago

      I’ve found the same response from Nissan dealers in Sydney. They say I can go to Cambelltown to get one and then turn around and say “How about another car?” My answer is “Sorry, I’m looking for a car of the future, not something from the past.”

      • Peter Campbell 4 years ago

        A friend bought a Nissan Leaf from dealer B who was interested to sell it after dealer A wasn’t interested. He is very happy with his car. I am happy with my 6-year old home converted Daihatsu charade and our 18month old Mitsubishi iMiEV. There are some good deals on these at the moment for the ex-lease first batch that came into the country.

        • Coley 4 years ago

          I’ve given up. Have tried for months now to get a test drive,the dealers just aren’t interested, even getting the Managing director of Nissan electric UK hasn’t helped, and if it’s this hard to even start looking at owning a leaf what levels of after sales support will there be?
          You contact the dealers and you are fobbed off, as has been stated on here,there is more money in ICE sales.
          Here in the U& we have the charging infrastructure and some pretty good financial incentives, but the unwillingness of the dealers and the zilch publicity has kept turnover low.

          • Peter Campbell 4 years ago

            Perhaps you can find a member of a local electric vehicle club who is happy to let you borrow theirs for a test? Then go and order one, whether the local Nissan dealer is keen or not, or order from further away.
            Here there have been Mitsubishi iMiEVs at good prices, but not necessarily locally, just one at a dealer here or there. Having one trailered to Canberra (where I am) was not much expense (for others; I got the last local one). Some of us who had one already were happy to let others try ours for the test drive so they would then be confident to buy from a dealer who might be 100s of Km away.

  4. Peter Thomson 4 years ago

    It ultimately doesn’t matter whether you are driving an EV or an HFCV – where the energy is being sourced to fuel them is the real issue.

    What concerns me most out of all of this is the apparent lack of understanding about this shown by Ian Macfarlane. The ‘full cycle of water-to-water’ that he talks about for is just the energy carrier for HFCV’s; the energy to split water into H2 and O2 in the first place comes from elsewhere, and can be fossil-derived or renewables derived the same as for EV’s. In fact if you are talking about the current energy situation (as he seems to be), industrial hydrogen today is generated from oil by steam reforming, as this is currently cheaper than elelctrolysis, so HFCV’s today are ultimately being powered by fossil fuels even more so than EV’s.

    This smacks more to me of the minister being shown some fuel cell technology under development in Australia, and sensing an opportunity to promote this over electric vehicles, where we have no domestic technology.

    • Mags 4 years ago

      It seems that most of the current government Ministers are poorly informed about their brief. This is just another area where they don’t understand the issues or solutions.

    • Alastair Leith 4 years ago

      It’s a simply a dealing tactic on Macfarlane’s part. Same as his enthusiasm for wave power. That’s not to criticise the potential and development of wave technology, it’s just to say it’s a very immature technology when compared to wind and various solar technologies.

  5. Bob Fearn 4 years ago

    “The reality is if you drive an electric car the chances are it’s being fuelled by fossil fuel-generated power.” Bullshit!! Any electric car driver can recharge their car from the free nuclear fusion plant that has been supplying us with more than 10,000 times the energy we need. This plant has been operating safely and without a failure for billions of years and will continue to do so for billions more.

    It is tragic that greedy people put making a few bucks before a eminently reasonable solution to this pending global disaster!!

  6. Chris Fraser 4 years ago

    Could it be Minister Macfarlane has suddenly fallen in love with some technology with a long term development path ? Sure that’ll improve the Government’s green credentials …

  7. john 4 years ago

    I remember ringing the Sales Manager of Nissan Australia and asking to be put down to buy the first Leaf models imported into Australia.
    His response ” What are you talking about we do not make a Leaf”
    I had to then inform him that yes in fact Nissan was making such a car.
    Needless to say some 18 months or so later I received an email.
    We are pleased to offer you a Leaf for only $52,000.
    I then replied that why would I pay $20,000 more that anyone else in the world for this car?
    I cancelled the order.
    You may notice that the cost has steadily gone down from those days.
    The reason dealers do not want to sell it is because there is no money to be made in servicing the vehicle.
    A dealer can sell you an ICE car at a loss but lock you into 5 years of service and make his money.
    I am not against EV at all in fact as a commute transport device it beats an ICE car on any count.
    If I was a young person there is only one way to go, buy an EV and you will be streets ahead money wise.

  8. Peter Campbell 4 years ago

    There are 7 MY2010 Mitsubishi iMiEVs on with about 20,000km and $16,000 as the asking price from dealers who could arrange trailering to wherever you are. These would have been from the batch that were leased for 3 years. There are also two MY2012 which have a couple of minor improvements. I bought one of these 18 months ago for $24,000 on the road and others sold for less so you should be able to get one of those for (say) $20,000.
    On the same site there are several new or nearly new Nissan leafs for $32,000 to $35,000.
    I’d save $10K and get the iMiEV.

  9. Martyn Summers 4 years ago

    I am currently doing all the calcs for the Nissan Leaf – Living in Hobart most of my driving is around the city and surrounding suburbs – range anxiety will not be a problem. In Tasmania, the PV feed In tariff is a rather low 6.106 cents / kWh. Therefore there is no incentive to feed back into the grid. So the problem is how best do I use my PV system? For me it will be an 8 – 10 kW PV array, a Nissan Leaf [read battery storage], and potentially a 10 kWh Li battery in the house. This addresses the low feed in tariff, there is PV solar to run the car [additional PV panels for the car are paid back with in 12 – 18 months] and my power bill goes away. Pay back is 6-7 years without the residential battery storage, 13-14 years with domestic battery storage [Car doesn’t feature in the payback period – I reason I have to have a car and have never tried to justify the family car based on pay back period].

    The point is there is no carbon / fossil fuel to power either my house or my car, my power bill goes away and in 6 – 14 years, depending on battery storage options, I am in front financially.

    The only problem I see is Minister MacFarlene’s stunning ignorance.

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