They want Canberra to make a commitment similar to the ones in many other countries, including the recent 5000 pound ($8200) incentive provided by the British government to buyers of plug-in electric cars.
The latest British commitment follows support deals in most European countries, from Spain-France-Italy to Sweden-Finland-Denmark. Converts to electric cars in the USA also get a tax break worth between $2500 and $7500 ($2765-8295), depending on the capacity of the battery.
"Pretty much everywhere else in the world is paying a subsidy. The government needs to look at a general subsidy. That is the only way you're going to get ordinary people into the cars," says David McCarthy of Mercedes-Benz Australia, which intends to have an electric Smart ForTwo in its lineup in 2011. "We'd like to think we can get the electric Smart next year, and Mercedes-Benz is also doing a test on an electric Vito van."
Mitsubishi is also pushing hard on the electric front with its iMiEV, as Nissan works towards local sales of the Leaf and Subaru crunches numbers on its plug-in Stella and BMW Group considers both the Mini-E and a plug-in 1 Series.
McCarthy says the Smart should be one of the first battery cars on Australian roads but Mercedes-Benz wants to see a commitment from government at all levels.
"The running costs on these cars are low, but they are expensive to buy. We don't have an indication yet on the price of the Smart, but it isn't going to be cheap so people do need some encouragement," he says.
Most of the planning electric cars will be in the $50,000-$60,000 range in Australia, even though most are tiny city runabouts and several contenders only have two seats. Mitsubishi is planning to join Mercedes in lobbying the Federal government, most likely through the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries.
"There is an electric vehicle working group in the FCAI, but I don't think the lobbying has started yet," McCarthy says.