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Mazda shuns Shorten's electric dreams

Mazda still sees plenty of life in the combustion engine by developing fuel efficiency further in engines like the SkyActiv-X

The Australian federal election is looming and electric vehicles have become a hot topic, but Mazda Australia says EVs don’t currently makes sense in Australia.

The EV debate heated up when Labor leader Bill Shorten announced his party wants 50 per cent of new car sales by 2030 to be electric vehicles.

That sparked a response from Prime Minister Scott Morrison that the opposition wants to “end the weekend”. The PM’s comment was in reference to the popularity of recreational diesel utes.

While many carmakers have jumped on the electric vehicle bandwagon Mazda has held back and continued to developed more efficient combustion petrol engines – including the new super-frugal Skyactiv-X engine which transitions between compression ignition and spark ignition.

Mazda doesn’t currently offer an EV in its range globally and the case for one in Australia isn’t a priority for the Japanese brand. 

Mazda Australia managing director Vinesh Bhindi says that until Australia’s electricity is produced through renewable resources then electric vehicles that run on electricity generated from coal-fired power stations is not the answer.

“The electric car is the easiest part of the whole equation and Mazda could have done exactly what some of the others are doing, but Mazda’s philosophy is very different,” Bhindi said.

“What is the objective to get EVs into market? Is it to reduce C02 in total? Some other countries have taken an early position, but the objectives are a little bit different. If they have cheap clean energy generation it makes obvious sense to accelerate EVs in the market.

“Look at Australia, we’re still only seeing a firm position on what clean energy is and the cost of it. The government and political parties are bringing a position out but they’re not really addressing the main issues.”

Labor leader Bill Shorten pointed to Norway where 58 per cent of all new cars sold in March were EVs as an example of what Australia should aim to achieve by 2030.

However, as Mazda Australia’s marketing director Alistair Doak points out Norway is an enormous producer of renewable energy.

“Norway’s electricity is produced from about 90 per cent hydropower and hydro is 40 grams of CO2 per kilometre (40g/km). So it makes total sense,” Doak says.

“If you fill up your car from electricity generated from brown coal in East Gippsland your emissions are 220g/km.”

In comparison the CO2 emissions from the Mazda3 small hatch with its 2.0-litre petrol engine are 146g/km.

According to statistics from the Australian Government’s Department of the Environment and Energy 83 per cent of the nation’s electricity was generated from non-renewable fuels from 2017-2018.  

Also helping sales of EVs in Norway are a host of zero emission incentives for buyers including: no purchase/import taxes; no annual road tax; no toll charges; free parking; bus lane access and an exception from 25 per cent VAT on purchase.

Australia currently offers no direct incentives for electric vehicle purchases.

Bhindi says while a Mazda electric vehicle will be launched in 2020, it might not come to Australia.

“Mazda Corporation has confirmed EVs for 2020,” he says.

“What that means for Australia, I think we’ll have to wait until we make a decision based on business case.”

In March, sales of electric vehicles accounted for 0.48 per cent of the total vehicles sold in the month. The top-three best-selling vehicles for March were all diesel utes with Toyota’s HiLux in top place, followed by Ford’s Ranger and Mitsubishi’s Triton.

What incentives would make you buy an electric vehicle? Tell us what you think in the comments below.