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Monday, September 26, 2011

Chief Minister won over by electric vehicle


Katy Gallagher's legs may have been trembling as she alighted from an impromptu spin in a two-door electric sports car, but she admitted she could get used to driving it.

The ACT Chief Minister was launching the Canberra International Electric Vehicle Festival yesterday, an event that has grown steadily in the three years since its inception, and now includes about 20 examples of the types of electronic cars that will soon be available in Australia.

The owner of the Tesla sports car she climbed out of, Jay McCormack, who is also the company's national sales and marketing manager, said many people would be driving electric cars within 10 years.

And, like mobile phones and flat-screen televisions, the market would simply adjust and the cars would become more affordable as the technology improved.

''The next generation car will be half the price - it's all based on battery technology,'' he said.

The Tesla Roadster Sport ran on 6831 lithium-ion batteries - the same as those used in laptops - and took about three hours to recharge.

But thanks to a deal struck between ActewAGL and electric car network Better Place Australia, Canberra will soon be the first place in Australia to have battery switch stations, where drivers can pull in, have the depleted battery removed, and replaced automatically and be back on the road within four minutes.

Better Place spokeswoman Felicity Glennie-Holmes said Canberra was the obvious entry point for the scheme.

''Canberra is designed for driving and many households have more than one vehicle,'' Ms Glennie-Holmes said.

The full commercial roll-out of the scheme was expected by the middle of next year, with a progressive national roll-out to continue in 2013.

Ms Gallagher said Canberra was also the only place in Australia that gave stamp duty exemption for electric vehicles, and that she expected to see more and more of them on the roads, especially once family-vehicles became available.

ACT Electric Vehicle Council chairman Ivan Slavich said it was only a matter of time before most car manufacturers had produced affordable electric models, as the continued use of fossil fuels became unfeasible.

''If they don't do it, they won't survive,'' he said.

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