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Volt is 'go' for Oz as charging-point deal unveiled

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'Leccy Tech Following on from its antipodean appearance at the Australian International Motor Show in Sydney, the Chevy Holden Volt is coming to Oz. And Australian power company AGL is going to put in charging infrastructure.

We're a little saddened that the Outback may soon cease to reverberate to the bellow of V8-engined Holden Commodores, replaced by the whiffle and hum of the Volt, but such are the days we live in.

Holden Volt

Holden's Volt: not for Hoons

In related news, Australian power company AGL and finance group Macquarie Capital have signed an agreement with international operation Better Place to provide infrastructure support for environmentally friendly vehicles in Oz.

This makes God's Own Country the third nation after Denmark and Israel to buy into Better Place CEO Shai Agassi's - utopian? - dream of establishing networks of 'leccy charging stations and battery swapping facilities across the world.

Under the terms of the deal, the Au$1bn ($604m/£394m/€487m) to be raised by Macquarie will apparently result in between 200,000 and quarter of a million charging stations being created in Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney by 2012. Yes, that's between 200,000-250,000 in each city. They will be installed in homes, work places, car parks - in fact just about any place you can get your car within a cable's length of.

Each city will also get 150 switching stations where you pull up, have the attendant clean your windscreen, check the tyres and replace your battery pack.

The Australian tax payer will be backing the deal with Au$500m ($302m/£197m/€244m) from the Federal Green Car Innovation Fund. Assuming the basic idea is the same as the one Better Place is developing in Israel, this will result in the entire recharge infrastructure being owned and run by Better Place, with car owners having to 'subscribe' to get juice, though punters will also get subsidised cars though the agreement.

Better Place compare the model with mobile phone contracts, though in the UK at least you can go to 3, Vodafone, Orange, T-Mobile or O2 for a contract, or opt for PAYG. A better analogy would surely be having to have a contract with Shell to buy petrol, with Shell being the only company with petrol stations, or at least the only ones with pump nozzles that fit your car.

Brings a whole new meaning to the phrase “owning the road", no?

Of course, between the announcement last Thursday and today, the word's stock markets have fallen into the toilet again, so just how easy that 400 million quid will be to actually raise is anyone's guess.

Better Place green 'leccy

Better Place wants to power 'leccy cars greenly - except in France, perhaps...

One of Better Places' big ideas is that power for its system will be generated from sustainable sources. According to its web site, this means excess from wind turbine production in Denmark and an increase in solar capacity in Israel. No news on where the 'free' juice will be coming from in Oz though - sun and surf, we'd suggest.

Better Place is working with Renault-Nissan on the removable battery front, though of course any French 'leccy car infrastructure will be supplied by a far less comfy and woolly source of power: the good old nuclear reactor.

In May 2008, Agassi estimated that Renault-Nissan would be likely to invest between $500m and $1bn (£326-652m/€404-807m) in the idea of the swappable-battery electric car. Since then, Renault has been mentioned as a potential buyer for all or part of US car maker Chrysler but is also cutting back its Q4 car production by 20 per cent and idling its plants by up to two weeks as the global car industry goes into what some are calling meltdown.

Better Place also claims to be in involved in talks with 25 other countries about setting up 'leccy car infrastructure, as well as Mayor Gavin Newsom of San Francisco.

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