Got hybrid sticker shock? Just remember, it could always be worse

Even fans of electric and plug-in hybrid cars often complain about their high prices. Some can run into the high $30,000 dollar range. But Americans should remember it could be worse. A hybrid in Australia can run close to $50K.

Mark Clayton/The Christian Science Monitor
Austin native William Jones, M.D., pictured here in a September 2011 file photo, is a Nissan Leaf enthusiast; he even writes a blog called "I love my Leaf." While many Americans are less enthused about such hybrids due to their high prices, a similar model overseas can cost tens of thousands more.

One of the most frequent criticisms we hear of electric and plug-in hybrid cars is that they’re just too expensive. 

Take the 2012 Nissan Leaf, for example. Before government and state incentives, a base-level Leaf SV will set you back $35,200. Live in the right area however, and incentives can dramatically lower that cost

Still expensive? Then be grateful you don’t live in Australia, where Nissan’s plug-in hatchback is just about to go on sale for $51,500 AUD. At today’s exchange rate, that’s nearly $52,000 US.

As Inside EVs reports however, a high sticker cost isn’t the only issue facing would-be Leaf drivers in Australia. 

First of all, only 14 dealers in the whole country will be stocking the all-electric car

Then there’s the issue of charging.

On July 1, Australians will be forced to pay a carbon tax on the electricity they consume, presumably designed to lower grid demands and carbon emissions in a nation where air conditioning is a must-have. 

At 10 percent on all electricity consumed however, it will also have an impact on the cost of charging an electric car, further disincentivizing electric car purchase. 

Nissan isn’t alone in having high prices for its electric cars. 

When the Tesla finally got approval to sell its 2.5 Roadster in Australia at the start of 2011, it attracted a $205,022 US price tag, while an Australian 2012 Mitsubishi i will set you back an astonishing $49,445 US before delivery charges. 

Later this year, Australians will also get the chance to purchase the Chevrolet Volt (rebadged as a Holden) and Renault Fluence Z.E. as both cars enter the market. 

They too, will be priced at a premium of between 20 and 40 percent more than home market prices. 

Why the inflated prices? 

For a start, shipping costs are factored into the purchase price of Australian cars. And unlike the U.S., sales taxes of 10 percent are included in the sticker price.

But according to our very own Antipodean, Viknesh Vijayenthiran, many Australian cars are overpriced. 

“The regular 2012 Prius costs more than $35k on the road,” he told us. “We have high wages and high costs, so that leads to high prices. There’s an import duty of 5 percent too, though these have been coming down in recent years.”

Whatever the reason however, unless electric car prices drop dramatically, we can’t see them becoming a popular mode of transport in Australia.

Is there any good news from this story? 

Yes, if you indulge in a little schadenfreude once in a while.

Next time you moan about high electric car prices remember: at least you’re not THAT guy.

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