Australia’s biggest energy retailer, Origin Energy, and Nissan Australia have joined forces to boost the uptake of electric vehicles in Australia. The agreement between the two industry giants – which we touched on here last month – was formalised and announced this morning, and establishes Origin as the preferred Electro Mobility Operator (EMO) for Nissan’s LEAF electric vehicle, which is scheduled to be introduced into the Australian car market in June this year.
The deal means that all commercial, fleet and residential purchasers of Nissan LEAF in Australia will be directed to Origin’s fully-installed charging equipment and services as a “one-stop solution,” including electricity management and advice. The companies say that they expect the partnership to redefine the EV customer purchasing and driving experience and help establish electric vehicles as a viable, convenient and more sustainable alternative to petrol-fuelled cars.
An Origin spokesperson told RenewEconomy that the partnership was about simplifying the process for those people and businesses who wanted to make the switch to EVs. She said that Origin had access to a national network of accredited installers, who could meets the needs of EV buyers, ranging from individual customers who would need charge-points installed at their homes, to businesses wishing to electrify their fleets, which would require a more complex system of charging points and networks.
Nissan told RenewEconomy it expected early uptake of its LEAF to come, initially, from private motorists: individual “early adopters,” from the inner urban market; people with a social conscience, looking to “change the equation;” or families looking to buy an EV as a second car.
This expected early focus on the domestic market makes a partnership with a big electricity retailer – and one with a clear lead in Australia’s green energy market – seem like a pretty smart move.
Certainly, Origin sees itself as a big future player in the EV infrastructure market. As Phil Craig, Origin’s executive general manager of corporate affairs, put it in an interview this morning: if in 10 years time the majority of Australian houses have an EV, then that’s a lot of charging infrastructure and new demand, “so it’s a natural for us to want to be in the space and lead.”
“It’ll be one of those things – like green energy 10 years ago, or solar a few years ago – it’ll be on an exponential curve,” said Craig. And with Origin’s retail customer reach, and its dominance in the green energy and rooftop solar markets, it’s in a good position to connect with potential EV buyers – not least of all in the domestic market (a trend that has already shown up in the various EV trials held by state governments, in which Origin customers were “over-represented,” according to Craig).
Origin also has plans to roll out its own public EV charging stations – although Craig says the charging point the power retailer has already installed in Glebe virtually acts a public station – and is also planning for “mass market rollout” of its Tendril home energy manager, which provides an in-home display that allows customers monitor, and be smarter about, their energy usage. The system would include personalised estimates of monthly electricity bills, the ability to control household consumption, communications over the web, mobile phone and home area networks, and links with smart appliances and, you guessed it, EVs. But for now, says Craig, Origin will start with providing LEAF customers with basic EV charging solutions.
Nissan spokesman Jeff Fisher agrees that it is difficult to predict how EV uptake in Australia will go. The LEAF will not be particularly cheap – $51,500, battery included – and there are no government rebates available to Australian EV buyers, unlike in many other countries.
Internationally, Nissan has sold around 25,000 LEAFs, says Fisher, with most sales being in the US and Japan. Not entirely surprisingly, California is the biggest market in the world for electric vehicles – a situation that is assisted by a US federal government rebate of around $US7-$8,000 per car, not to mention California’s separate initiative, announced last week, earmarking $US120 million for EV infrastructure installation.