THE federal government has ruled out offering incentives for electric cars, preferring to support existing oil-based technology.Consumer subsidies such as those offered by overseas governments are crucial to ensuring Australian buyers can access the limited supply of electric cars, car companies say.The first production electric car, Mitsubishi’s i-MiEV, which will arrive at the end of the year, is understood to cost about $70,000.The federal government instead believes the future of the car industry lies in the development of existing technology across petrol, diesel and LPG engines.”It’s not our intention to run programs to support any particular form of technology,” Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research Kim Carr said.”Over the next decade, the most rapid and cost-effective way of improving fuel economy and building more environmentally effective cars is to adapt technologies that are being deployed now.”The government will spend $1.3 billion over the next 10 years to increase production of cleaner, more efficient vehicles. But the money is going to manufacturers, such as Toyota, for the development of the hybrid Camry, rather than consumers in the form of rebates or tax incentives.Senator Carr said the decision would ensure Australia had a sustainable automotive industry that continued to produce Australian-made cars and employ more than 60,000 people.He said the government would not be investing in any infrastructure for electric cars, such as charging stations, and that the rising cost of electricity was a factor.Referring to a US National Research Council report, Senator Carr said the high cost of lithium-ion batteries limited charging stations. Electric cars will make up only 13 million of the 300 million cars in the US by 2030.”We want [to develop] Australian-made vehicles on Australian roads to the highest level we can,” Senator Carr said. ”The evidence at the moment suggests that the economics would have to improve dramatically for there to be a significant change in consumer preference.”Mitsubishi Australia head of corporate communications Lenore Fletcher said the company had high demand for the i-MiEV, mainly from large corporations.It expects to receive about 10 plug-in i-MiEV vehicles a month from October.The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries said electric car sales were unlikely to have an impact on the Australian market in the short term because they were still in the development phase.But the cars had a future in this country and the government needed to start doing more to attract car manufacturers to our shores.”It is important that in the Australian market we look to be part of that emerging trend as early as possible,” chief executive Andrew McKellar said.”Some of those incentives that are being implemented overseas are very substantial. If we are to secure supply in the Australian market in substantial numbers then we need a competitive policy and that needs to be evaluated.”Mr McKellar said incentives built demand which encouraged further investment in the development of technology and the battery.University of Technology Sydney researcher Chris Dunstan said electric cars offered health benefits in terms of local air pollution and, unless they were charged in Victoria, which used brown coal, they were no worse for the environment.Mr Dunstan, the research director at the university’s Institute for Sustainable Futures, said several major issues concerning electric cars were still to be addressed, including if owners would have to use green power and where and when they could charge their batteries.”We need to make sure we are thinking about the energy supply infrastructure and how we manage it. It goes back to not just having the technology right but the incentives also,” he said.Mr Dunstan said 100 per cent renewable power was cheaper than petrol and the price of batteries was coming down.”If Australia was to embrace this technology more, then there’s potential for us to be a significant player in what’s likely to be a multibillion-dollar industry in the next few years,” he said.Dr Peter Pudney, from the University of South Australia, said the more electric cars sold, the cheaper they would become.He is calling for a push towards renewable energy and the need for immediate action.He said incentives did not have to be financial but could be the introduction of low-emission parking spaces and traffic lanes.