BMW Australia sets the price of its i3 electric car at A$63,900 ($60,179) when it goes on sale Down Under later this year. But it wants the federal government, already averse to funding the now-dying domestic-vehicle manufacturing sector, to chip in A$10,000 ($9,417) toward the cost.
The German automaker says in a statement the i3 will be available in Australia in two iterations, as an all-electric vehicle and, for customers particularly conscious of range anxiety, with a range extender that pushes the price to A$69,900 ($65,824).
Performing the role of range extender is a 0.7L 2-cyl. gasoline engine making 36 hp mounted next to the electric motor above the rear axle. The engine drives a generator to maintain the charge of the lithium-ion battery at a constant level as soon as it dips below a certain value.
But News Corp Australia reports it is price anxiety that BMW Australia Managing Director Phil Horton is worried about. He says the automaker is talking with state and federal governments about lowering the i3’s price.
“Part of the issue that we have in Australia is there are so many layers of government,” he tells the news group. “But we’ve had initial meetings with federal government and those have been quite promising.
“Our aspiration in the fullness of time is that we would get something like they have in the U.K. or some other markets where you get either a straightforward A$10,000 subsidy because you’re buying an electric car, or…a waiver on some part of the on-road charges.”
Horton also suggests a waiver of road tolls for EVs.
“There are whole range of things that (governments) could do,” he says. “Whether or not they will do them is a different thing.”
Plans by Ford Australia to end manufacturing operations in 2016, followed the next year by GM Holden and Toyota Australia, have not blunted the federal government’s opposition to subsidizing those companies.
At the retail level, the BMW i3 will be following the Mitsubishi i-MiEV and Nissan Leaf EV down a rough road.
The i-MiEV has been withdrawn from Australian showrooms after slow sales and the Leaf is being discounted by almost A$20,000 ($18,834) to A$39,990 ($37,650).
But BMW tells News Corp it believes its EV will succeed because it will be available both as an all-electric vehicle and one with the range extender. “Without taking the arrogant overtones of it, we’re a premium brand, it’s a premium price for the car, but we think it’s a premium car,” Horton says.
The Australian market is more ready for EVs than probably before, he says, adding, “It would certainly help if we had more – and you hear this from all the manufacturers – assistance from government.”