Turning a new Leaf in the push to electric cars

James Coleman 23 March 2021 46
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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46 Responses to Turning a new Leaf in the push to electric cars
Malcolm Street Malcolm Street 1:38 pm 25 Mar 21

Great to see this - EVs are coming regardless of the determination of our Federal Government to ignore/discourage them.

Malcolm Street Malcolm Street 1:31 pm 25 Mar 21

I have two major problems with the LEAF:

1. it uses CHaDEMO rather than CCS for its charger cable, which appears (outside Japan) to be going the way of Beta video tapes.

2. lack of active cooling on the battery. The effect is less on battery life than on sequential fast charging. I gather the first charge is fast, then for the next one the charge rate is slowed to reduce heating of the battery pack, and more for the subsequent charges. This makes the LEAF IMHO unsuitable for long trips that require more than one fast charge in a day.

That said it's fine for a car that's staying around Canberra and environs.

Robert Lang Robert Lang 12:29 pm 25 Mar 21

If you are interested in experiencing a drive in a Tesla and you live in Canberra, send me a message. I’m always happy to show people why EVs are better in almost every way than a fossil fuel car.

Marko Lehikoinen Marko Lehikoinen 9:35 pm 24 Mar 21

Will it tow 750kg of firewood, on rough dirt roads? No? Not interested thanks, this is Australia 🇦🇺

    Robert Lang Robert Lang 12:31 pm 25 Mar 21

    We take our model 3 to our place out of town every week. Muddy dirt roads no problems. Towing not yet, but soon. Heaps more torque than a dinosaur juice car.

    Malcolm Street Malcolm Street 1:00 pm 25 Mar 21

    And what proportion of ICE cars on the Australian market would be suitable for that?

    Marko Lehikoinen Marko Lehikoinen 7:18 pm 25 Mar 21

    Malcolm Street my diesel 4x4 does all the time. Till they have an electric equivalent that can be charged out bush, can go 700km on a full charge and carry a tonne of weight, not going to consider a green alternative.

Capital Retro Capital Retro 6:27 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.

Cary Elliot Johnson Cary Elliot Johnson 5:57 pm 24 Mar 21

I just learnt this weekend that super charge stations don't provide universal charging plugs. Seems a bit archaic much like the 10,000 mobile phone charging socket shapes

    Malcolm Street Malcolm Street 1:27 pm 25 Mar 21

    Cary Elliot Johnson - yes, its Tesla only at the moment. Partly offsets the high price of the cars - it's part of the deal.

    Cary Elliot Johnson Cary Elliot Johnson 1:46 pm 25 Mar 21

    Malcolm Street we couldn't find a single charging station in Tuggeranong for a Tesla. The one at Evo opposite Bunnings is not Tesla compliant either. 🤔

Maya123 Maya123 2:59 pm 24 Mar 21

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


(It’s only the first.)

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 4:02 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.

    Maya123 Maya123 5:39 pm 24 Mar 21

    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 Retro Capital Retro 6:25 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 Retro Capital Retro 11:45 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 Retro Capital Retro 12:19 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.

Phill Martin Phill Martin 5:11 pm 23 Mar 21

Are all the recharge stations powered by green-electricity or do they tap into the coal powered grid as well?

    Warwick Bradly Warwick Bradly 9:31 pm 23 Mar 21

    Phill Martin this has been debunked many times. Even if all our power came from coal, it would still be cleaner. But newsflash, it doesn’t. Better still, you only need a few kW if solar panels to cover average Ev use.

    Richard Nicholson Richard Nicholson 7:05 am 24 Mar 21

    Phill Martin I guess if your using solar panels then you will need to charge your car during the day and only drive it at night. Now that's a useful vehicle 👍

    Robert Lang Robert Lang 12:33 pm 25 Mar 21

    We charge on our own solar panels. On the rare occasion that we charge by the roadside, most states increasingly get their electricity from sustainable sources. ACT is 100% renewable. SA is close to 100%. Even charging from coal, EVs see STILL cleaner than fossil fuels cars.

    Malcolm Street Malcolm Street 1:26 pm 25 Mar 21

    Richard Nicholson - you're assuming that the car needs to be recharged in one go like refuelling an ICE car. However, with EVs given you can plug in anywhere you have far more options for part-charging.

    And anywhere in the ACT the electricity is 100% net renewable.

    Robert Lang Robert Lang 1:30 pm 25 Mar 21

    We charge our home Powerwall battery during the day from our solar panels. The car gets charged directly from the solar panels or from the Powerwall battery. Our model 3 has done 36,000km and almost all of it from our own solar panels.

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 3:15 pm 25 Mar 21

    Robert Lang Proving that electric cars are fine for urban areas, but what about thousands of kms away in the remote outback?

    Robert Lang Robert Lang 3:19 pm 25 Mar 21

    Julie Macklin sure, for the tiny % of the population that needs to drive 1000km per day, EV not the way to go at the moment. Charging infrastructure will improve. In the US and Europe, who are far ahead of us in infrastructure, you are never far from a charger.

    For the remaining 99.8% of the population that drives an average of 60km per day, EVs are better than fossil fuel cars.

    My EV does about 500km on a charge. We do Canberra to Sydney and Melbourne return with no problems.

    Robert Lang Robert Lang 3:20 pm 25 Mar 21

    Richard Nicholson Hi Richard! We charge our home Powerwall battery during the day from our solar panels. The car gets charged directly from the solar panels or from the Powerwall battery. Our model 3 has done 36,000km and almost all of it from our own solar panels. It IS a very useful car.

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 3:53 pm 25 Mar 21

    Robert Lang, It doesn't have to be every day. For those of us who only have one car, it needs to be able to do everything wanted of it. Even if most driving is urban (although I use buses too and when I worked I mainly rode my bike to work, so mostly I didn't need a car for work commuting), there are times that the car is wanted to drive to remote places and even off road (although being alone, I don't go too far off road). An electric car with a separate petrol motor would likely work. Say 50km range with the electric car for urban driving, and then switch to petrol when that runs out. For me the car would need to be at least AWD, with ground clearance and big enough to sleep in. I have a Subaru XV which works for me, so nothing smaller than that. I would like a 4WD, but they are too expensive...and big for me, because I don't want a big car for urban driving. (Photograph: This doesn't look a place for an electric car, at present. Maybe in the future, but not yet. And then there will likely be hydrogen cars, which are a better match for Australia.)

    Robert Lang Robert Lang 4:29 pm 25 Mar 21

    Julie Macklin I agree that EVs are not for all situations. But to argue against a sustainable form of transport because a minority of uses are not catered for is not helpful for the future. EVs are perfectly suited to the vast majority of Australian driving habits, and this transition should be encouraged rather than argued against.

    I am yet to be convinced that hydrogen is viable. It would require a much bigger infrastructure program than electricity (producing, transporting, distributing safely etc).

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 9:56 pm 25 Mar 21

    Robert Lang The first hydrogen car is about to be released. (https://www.caradvice.com.au/936437/2021-hyundai-nexo-local-specs-revealed-for-australias-first-hydrogen-powered-vehicle/

Maya123 Maya123 2:18 pm 23 Mar 21

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.

keek keek 12:46 pm 23 Mar 21

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.

Mark Wallin Mark Wallin 8:33 am 23 Mar 21

My only problem with the Nissan Leaf is the lack of a proper battery cooling system.


    Mark Wallin Mark Wallin 3:07 pm 25 Mar 21

    So... buy a car for $12k, with less than 90k on. Spend another $10k on it?

    Does that make sense?

    I’d switch to an EV if it made sense. The core issue with the Leaf, new one included is that it does not have a proper cooling system for the battery. If it did the battery would probably last a lot longer and not need replacing.

    And if, some how the finances work for you, there is no getting away from the fact that you have to replace a battery with another battery (incurring the environmental impacts of its manufacture) and then dispose of of recycle the old battery, again with more environmental impacts.

    All for want of decent R&D.

    Mark Wallin Mark Wallin 3:08 pm 25 Mar 21

    Malcolm Street don’t get me wrong, Nissan have made some great cars, I’ve got one in my garage, but the Leaf is not one of them.

rocca66 rocca66 9:42 pm 22 Mar 21

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.

Tim Thornley Tim Thornley 10:15 pm 20 Mar 21

Love my EV although it is not a Nissan

TimboinOz TimboinOz 4:17 pm 20 Mar 21

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!!!

dulynoted dulynoted 1:18 pm 20 Mar 21

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

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