According to Evan Thornley, chief executive of Better Place Australia, 51 new models of plug-in electric cars are planned to on the world market by 2012.

Mr Thorley believes that the complete conversion to electric cars is inevitable. “We know how the movie ends. Battery prices are going down, petrol prices are going up – that tells you what’s going to happen. It’s just a question of how long that takes,” he said. “We think it will take between 20 and 25 years for the entire Australian fleet to transition from petrol to electric because it takes a while for things to transition.”

He also believes that there is an enormous opportunity for Australian car makers, with their experience in building large cars, to take a global leadership position in what is potentially the most profitable segment of the electric car market.

Australia will be the third country, after Israel and Denmark, in Better Place’s global rollout, with the first electric charging stations to open in Canberra late next year.

In other recent electric car developments:

  • Toyota has shown off a range of hydrogen fuel cell, electric and plug-in hybrid designs. Among the vehicles being presented is the tiny FT-EVII concept electric car, which is set to be launched as a small car in the US market in 2012. The company is also investing heavily in plug-in hybrid technology with the first 600 Prius Plug-in Hybrids already on the road as part of a leasing project.
    Toyota’s FTEV
    Toyota’s FTEV

  • Ford has announced that it will launch two full battery-electric vehicles, including the Transit Connect Electric light commercial vehicle, in 2011 followed by the Ford Focus Electric in 2012. Three more vehicles – two next-generation petrol hybrid-electric vehicles and a plug-in hybrid – will be introduced in 2013.
  • Audi has shown off its E-tron concept concept car, based on its A1 model. This range-extended plug-in electric hybrid reportedly gets 50 kilometres on a charge and 200 more with its range extender.
  • Tata has announced that its Nano will be launched in Europe next year with an electric version to follow in 2012. Tata says that the Nano EV will have a range of up to 160 kilometres and a 0-60 km/h acceleration of under 10 seconds.  The petrol Tata Nano is the least expensive production car in the world at 100,000 rupees (about $2,500). The European verion will be slightly larger and better equipped.
  • Tata will also be introducing a larger Indica Vista, which has a range of up to 200 kilometres “in all relevant markets”.
  • SEAT, Volkswagen’s Spanish subsidiary, has demonstrated an all-electric concept car and says that it is “working intensively” on both plug-in hybrid and all-electric cars.
  • Kia has demonstrated its Venga EV electric car which uses innovative lithium-ion-polymer (“LiPoly”) battery technology to achieve a range of 180 kilometres on a single charge with the ability to recharge to 80% capacity in just 20 minutes.
  • Malaysian car maker, Proton, has diaplayed three hybrid electric cars –  a 5-door, 4-seater hatchback EMAS, a hatchback “EMAS Country”, and a 3-door, 3+1 plus-seater EMAS3 designed for urban driving.
  • Mitsubishi became the first manufacturer to bring a ready-to-sell electric car to Australia when it landed two i-MiEV electric vehicles landed in Brisbane last week.

Despite all of these developments Nissan claims that, with its Leaf electric car, it will be the only manufacturer able to supply vehicles in volume through 2011.