More than a decade after the Australian International Motor Show was abandoned due to lack of interest, a leading showcase has returned to Melbourne without a petrol engine in sight.
Organisers believe the surging demand for electric vehicles in Australia can help revive showcase car shows – once a drawcard for petrol heads and car nerds, this fresh incarnation feels more like walking into an Apple store.
As sales teams drum up publicity, some prospective buyers edge past industry journalists surrounding the hybrid McLaren Artura – with its $400,000-plus price tag – and ABB’s formula E race car to find something a little more affordable.
One couple, Heather and Bruce Rowe, hope seeing the all models in one location will help them make a better informed decision about what to buy. Both feel a sense of urgency to protect the climate.
“We are running out of time and we have to do something,” Heather says. “These cars and the technology are here now and it’s better to have something you can use right now.”
The organisers of the Melbourne EV Show are so confident it’ll be a success that they’ve booked event space for the next eight years. It’s a gamble based largely on sales figures. In Australia, more electric vehicles were sold in the first half of 2023 than in all of the previous year.
One reason for that is more models are becoming available.
Polestar’s first SUV, the unreleased Polestar 3, is among those being showcased at the Melbourne event. Its 111kWh battery is said to produce a driving range of up to 610km for the standard model, which starts at $130,000.
At the Audi stand, there is a crowd around the new Q8 e-tron, which will go on sale at about $165,000 for the base model.
The manufacturer says the SUV boasts a 114kWh battery, which provides a driving range of up to 454km.
“We’ve got a huge commitment to electric vehicles in the next few years so this is really important for us to educate people and help them understand what the difference is between owning one and a typical ignition combustion engine car,” Audi Australia’s Claudia Muller says.
“It’s also nice to show off our new products as we’ve had so many holdups with chip shortages and logistics issues. It’s a chance to tell them more about our brand and where we are heading.”
For Corinne and Steve Cole, the increased supply has made the task of picking a car more difficult. They were drawn to some of the more affordable cars on display, including the Hyundai IONIQ 5 and Peugeot 308 PHEV.
“I feel there has been such an increase in the availability of electric models in the past two years, when there were really only a handful of models,” Steve says. “Now we’ve got about 50 and I don’t know whether that helps or hinders my decision – my brain is starting to hurt!”
Like Heather and Bruce, Corinne is also motivated by climate change and no longer wants to wait for technology to improve or for more public charging stations.
“For me this is really important because we are trying to do the right thing by the environment, Corinne says. “We’ve put solar and a battery on our house, so we’re trying to save money and the environment.”
The IONIQ 5 reportedly offers a driving range of up to 507km on a single charge of its 77.4kWh battery, priced at $70,000 up, while the 308 PHEV is a plug-in hybrid that’s slightly cheaper, starting at about $65,000 (both prices exclude on-road costs).
With an even smaller size (and price – from about $40,000, plus on-road costs), the Chinese-made GWM Ora is also on display. GWM is promoting the hatchback for city driving with its 310km range and 48kWh battery in the base model.
Nearby, a fluro yellow Fiat Abarth 500e hatchback is on public display for the first time in Australia.
Its 42kWh battery is said to deliver a range of up to 252km.
The show’s organiser, ABF events, says it is deliberately designed to capture the feeling of now abandoned shows, while focusing on the future of the industry.
“Australia is catching up now – the supply and demand factors are moving through, there’s more variety than there’s ever been – and we’ve been fortunate to have some really good [manufacturers] come on board,” the ABF Group chief executive, Ray Evans, says.
AAP contributed to this report