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Four new electric cars are now available for Australia – as grey imports

The Driven, 01/09/20

Four more electric vehicles are now available to Australian drivers, including the longer range Nissan Leaf, the Kia e-Soul, the Fiat 500e and Peugeot E208.

The long range Nissan Leaf e+ with 62kWh battery has been available overseas but, to date, the Japanese car maker has only seen fit to introduce the shorter range version with a 40kWh battery.

A release of the Kia e-Soul electric urban car was expected in 2020 along with its stablemate, the e-Niro, but both have been delayed with Kia citing lack of government support for electric vehicles.

Neither the Fiat e500 nor the Peugeot E208 have been eyed for the Australian market before – presumably taking cues from the dismal sales record of the Renault Zoe, now pulled due to lack of government support, which they would compete against.

But now, all four vehicles will be available to Australian drivers.

There’s a small catch – they are only available via the Special & Enthusiasts Vehicle (SEV) scheme, otherwise known as “grey imports”, which allows the import of vehicles that have been passed over by local car maker arms.

The four vehicles were added in August to the SEV list, which is currently under interim arrangements until new laws are passed.

As flagged by The Driven in November 2019, a change to SEV scheme laws means that there is only a 3 month wait required instead of the previous 18 months from when a vehicle to launched to when it can be added to the register if a car maker chooses not to import it to Australia.

A similar grey import scheme has driven Nissan Leaf sales in New Zealand, which has a fifth of the population of Australia but around the same number of electric cars.

The auto industry in Australia argues there are issues in using the SEV scheme to bring in electric cars that are not otherwise available here, citing safety and battery warranty issues.

But a recent report from Evenergi highlighted that there is an opportunity in Australia for an organisation to overcome these hurdles by providing servicing agreements and battery warranties, and other related services, thereby accelerating the adoption of electric vehicles in Australia.

It is understood that there is at least one long range Nissan Leaf e+ already being imported into the country, for Canberra couple Shane and Karen Maher.