23 March 2021

Turning a new Leaf in the push to electric cars

| James Coleman
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The Ion DNA dealership in Fyshwick opened in 2018.

The Ion DNA dealership in Fyshwick opened in 2018. Photo: James Coleman.

Foot on the brake and press the start button which appears to have been taken from a TV remote. Nothing happens – so my instinct politely suggests I press the button again. I move my foot over to the accelerator instead and the car begins to move. Instinct is now yelling at me to yank the park brake on.

This is because for the past 120-odd years, a car that isn’t making any noise shouldn’t be moving – that meant you were about to bowl over a letter box.

But think about it. Paying $60-plus to pump the back of your car full of extremely-flammable liquid is a bit weird too. Especially seeing as most of it will go up in heat and smoke. And gears? Surely they’re a bit ‘Industrial Revolution’.

The fossil-fuel-powered internal-combustion engine is as efficient now as it will ever be. The relentless march of progress means that electric vehicles, or EVs, will be a big part of the future.

EVs will be cleaner, more efficient, more elegant, and not to mention quicker too, even if they are still a work in progress when it comes to responsibly sourcing elements for the batteries, then sourcing enough electricity to charge them and finally disposing of the old ones.

Not much different inside

Not much different inside. Well, except for the blue stitching and lack of a rev counter. Photo: Rob Ogilvie.

But here and now, there’s another pressing issue for many: How can I even buy one?

Yes, in the ACT, EVs are exempt from stamp duty – a perk that has not yet been extended to the second-hand market – and they are also given free registration for two years.

But there is no getting around the fact that a Toyota Corolla is $27,065 driveaway and the electric MG ZS is $43,990.

Sprouting off about how much the MG will save in running costs isn’t very helpful at this point.

The local government chose this moment to discuss the fact that the MG isn’t using any petrol and therefore paying no petrol tax and so maybe the owner should be charged a road-user tax.

But this suggestion was scuttled off into a large binder called Problems for Another Day, alongside such things as Sourcing Enough Electricity to Charge All the EVs. What they’ve done instead is bring out the Sustainable Household Scheme.

Canberrans can now receive $15,000 interest-free loans for such things as solar panels, batteries, efficient electrical appliances and zero-emission vehicles.

All of a sudden then, the MG ZS EV is the same price as a Corolla. And the money you would have poured into the fuel tank each week can be used to pay off a loan.

It gets better.


Welcome to the toy cupboard. Photo: James Coleman.

Rob Ogilvie and his wife founded Ion DNA in Fyshwick as Australia’s first electric transport dealership. He is also President of the Registered Automotive Workshop Scheme (RAWS), the leading national body for independent vehicle importers.

He explains that EV owners here like to hang onto their cars – very few are filtering through to the second-hand market. Meanwhile, over in Japan, registration becomes more expensive the older the car so the place is rife with EVs that nobody really wants.

Rob saw the opportunity and took it. The best of the cars are imported and all the paperwork is arranged for them to be registered locally. They’re then put up for sale as a cheaper entry ticket to the EV club.

Ion DNA currently have two Nissan Leaf models available and are about to become the first place in Australia to stock the Honda-e. Rob can help get you into a VW iD.3, Mini Cooper SE, Porsche Taycan, or Audi e-Tron too.


Not much to see here. Photo: Rob Ogilvie.

He lets me take the latest Leaf out for a spin – a 2017 40 kWh version. Battery health is at 91 per cent, there are just 38,930 km on the clock and because it’s from the Land of the Falling Snow, there’s even a heated steering wheel. All for $36,800 – or a good $8K less than new.

The whole experience is very simple and smooth. For instance, there’s a toggle marked “e-Pedal” – flick that on and the batteries are charged whenever I take my foot off the accelerator via a system called ‘regenerative braking’. But this also means I can drive with just the one pedal.

Now, if you’re a car enthusiast, you might mistake all of this for a dishwasher advertisement. But look at it this way – the Leaf would be just another dull hatchback without the electric drivetrain.

More than 60 per cent of all car enthusiasts are male and I don’t think I’m just speaking for myself when I say males are terribly excited by new gizmos and gadgets. That’s what this is.

Rob agrees that too many dismiss EVs as only for “greenies” – and he should know. As a former driver in the Australian Rally Championship and advanced driver trainer, he’s a massive petrolhead.

As far as I can make out, the real problem is that EVs don’t make any noise. I want a Star Wars pod-racer.

Electric vehicle

Photo: Rob Ogilvie.

2017 Nissan Leaf ZEI

  • $36,800
  • 38,930 km, 91 per cent battery health
  • 40 kWh electric motor, 147 kW/320 Nm
  • Front-wheel drive
  • 270 km range
  • Type 1 and CHAdeMO charging ports

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Capital Retro6:27 pm 24 Mar 21

Not that anyone seems to give a tinker’s cus but the power has been restored to the TV and communications facilities on Tuggeranong Hill this evening.

I’m surprised none of the media outlets was onto this.

Australia’s first hydrogen fuel cell vehicle is available to both private and business customers.


(It’s only the first.)

Capital Retro4:02 pm 24 Mar 21

“A tyre repair kit is offered in lieu of a space saving spare.”

The NRMA road side assistance people are going to be busy.

It’s not the only car brand that no longer supplies a spare tyre. Someone told me recently they didn’t buy the latest Subaru because it no long comes with a spare tyre. Not supplying a spare tyre in a large country like Australia should be illegal. Someone could drive to a remote place, get a flat tyre, have no phone coverage, and be in life threatening trouble.

Capital Retro6:25 pm 24 Mar 21

Great feedback there May123 which I agree entirely with.

I have an after market tyre repair kit for a large 4WD and I hope I never have to use it if the spare wheel gets punctured too. The average motorist would have no chance of repairing a puncture especially if an air pump is required. There are “mickey mouse” emergency inflation devices for emergency situations and it may be one of those in the Hyundai Nexo.

Sometimes a punctured tubeless tyre cannot be repaired – an expert is needed to make this assessment and there could be safety and insurance ramifications if it isn’t done correctly.

Where are the regulators and NRMA on this?

Capital Retro11:45 am 24 Mar 21

Too much reliance on solar power can cause a lot of problems as an IT service provider who uses a communications facility on Tuggeranong Hill reports:

“Identified – We have identified that some of our solar powered sites are not getting sufficient charge to the battery arrays, we are at this point hoping for some sunshine or an increase in charge rate to tide the sites over, clear weather is forecast for Wednesday.”

There is currently no grid power going to all the TV, radio etc. transmitters on Tuggeranong Hill due to a substation failure there and access for Evo Energy to fix it is impossible because the road has been washed away.

Imagine what will happen when the whole country is reliant on solar power and we have a long cloudy period or a once in a hundred year volcanic eruption like Krakatoa.

Capital Retro12:19 pm 24 Mar 21

“The 1883 Krakatoa eruption darkened the sky worldwide for years afterwards and produced spectacular sunsets throughout the world for many months. British artist William Ashcroft made thousands of colour sketches of the red sunsets halfway around the world from Krakatoa in the years after the eruption. The ash caused “such vivid red sunsets that fire engines were called out in New York, Poughkeepsie, and New Haven to quench the apparent conflagration.” This eruption also produced a Bishop’s Ring around the sun by day, and a volcanic purple light at twilight. In 2004, an astronomer proposed the idea that the red sky shown in Edvard Munch’s 1893 painting The Scream is also an accurate depiction of the sky over Norway after the eruption.”

Just saying.

I only have one car, and so it needs to be able to go everywhere you want it to. It isn’t only driven around towns. How about my last 6,000 plus km outback trip, or the 12,000km one before that. I can’t see an EV being capable of that. Towns are too far apart and not every road house is on the power grid.

I look forward to hydrogen.

Useless to me. Spend a lot of time off road, sometimes for several hundred KM at a time. No EV charging stations in the bush, but carrying extra diesel is easy.

pretty sure they have electricty in the bush……..

Really? You show me where there is electricity in uninhabited parts of the VIC high country.

You sound like your experiences are urban.

Take one example; the Barkly Homestead and roadhouse on the Barkly Hwy.

It’s 187kms next roadhouse (Three Ways) to the west and 260 kms to the next roadhouse in the east at Camooweal. Besides roadhouses, there is a gap between towns of about 520kms. This is the infrastructure you would encounter.

The car is likely to be laden down with, besides people, camping gear, spare tyre, water, food and then you could get a get a strong headwind, which must be allowed for.

I should mention here that the Barkly Homestead and roadhouse is not on the electricity grid and generates it’s power by a diesel generator. So, you want to re power your electric car (if it can even make it here) with diesel produced electricity. That is, if they have the power to spare. Otherwise it’s a drive of 447kms between the other roadhouses, again presuming they have the power to charge the electric car, and then presuming a heavily loaded electric car driving into a headwind could manage the distance.

Probably to much to expect our Gov will increase the registration fee for ev vehicles in order to ensure they pay an equivalant tax to cover road use.

We won’t be selling our 2015 2.5litre Subaru Forester until we have to, and it hasn’t gotten to 75,000 km yet.

Why? i) I understand ‘the maths of finance’.
ii) obviously we don’t drive much. iii) ? Yawwwwwwrrrnnn!!!

electric cars from china start at about $4000 usd (but there’d be a bunch of taxes and import fees on top of this)

ACT Govt has ruled out Road User chargers

Capital Retro10:16 pm 20 Mar 21

Will EVs in the ACT be exempt from “radar revenue”? That is the biggest “road user” charge at present.

only if you’re stupid enought to speed

Capital Retro7:47 am 24 Mar 21

I have seen a lot of Teslas speeding on the open roads. Does this mean their drivers are stupid?

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