Six Australians have already paid deposits for the Jaguar I-PACE electric SUV, even though the production version has yet to be unveiled and won’t go on sale in Australia until the middle of 2018.  Three of those orders belong to readers of Jaguar Magazine and have been placed on the Gold Coast in Queensland!

They also don’t know the full price they will be paying for Jaguar Land Rover’s first battery-electric vehicle, although they can expect no change from $120,000 before on-road costs.

That’s the figure JLRA managing director Matthew Wiesner nominated to as a “there or thereabouts” guide to the starting point for I-PACE pricing. That makes sense considering it will compete directly against the Tesla Model X, which starts at $122,810 but climbs beyond $200K for the top-spec P100D.

The I-PACE concept broke cover at the Los Angeles motor show last November and has since been spotted undergoing on-road testing.

While having interest so far out in the five-seat crossover with a claimed singe-charge range up to 500km is a positive, Wiesner made it clear JLRA was still very much in the planning stages for its arrival.

The company has hired a staffer from Tesla Motors Australia and established an internal six-member working committee in mid-2016 to work through the myriad issues related to launching an electric vehicle in Australia. The I-PACE will also be the first of a series of EVs from JLRA, as well as plug-in hybrids.

That committee has extensively researched the Tesla experience and one conclusion JLRA has already drawn is it is unlikely to offer free fast-charging to I-PACE buyers.

Tesla had offered free use of its fast-chargers to customers for life, but changed that to around 1600km for new buyers of Model S and Model X from last January. Free recharging was never part of the package for the forthcoming smaller and cheaper Model 3.

“They (Tesla) had issues with people just driving up to dealerships around the place and plugging in and doing all sorts of things which caused all sorts of challenges,” Wiesner explained.

“They ended up paying for everyone’s fuel and it might have been a nice introduction to launch the product but they can’t keep doing that otherwise they will have cars coming in and sitting around the place for way too long.”

Wiesner also confirmed I-PACE will be available through much of the JLRA dealer network because it is the first model in a sustained roll-out of alternate energy vehicles rather than an isolated one-off.

“There will be instances where dealers have to make an investment and it’s important for them to understand the longer term and make sure they understand it’s not just a short-term idea.

“It is very much about the first steps into what is going to be. In my view, it is another drivetrain we are introducing into the network; it’s not just the full-EV — eventually there will be plug-in hybrid and whatever else it might be.

“So you have to give it the uniqueness that it is due in regard to the technology, but you also have to be mindful that you don’t try and over dial it from that point because at the end of the day it’s another drivetrain amongst diesel, petrol and what have you.”

The natural competitiveness between rival dealers is also a factor Wiesner admitted.

“What do you do if you have a dealer in Brisbane and not on the Gold Coast yet there might be more activity on the Gold Coast? Quite frankly, trying to get dealers to co-operate and pass on their prospects who also buy other cars is not necessarily an easy thing to do.”

Issues JLRA’s EV committee is currently dealing with include the infrastructure and training the dealer network will require to handle the I-PACE; state and federal government policy on alternative energy vehicles; the development of charging networks around the country and the type of recharging kits that will be required at buyers’ homes.

“As we head into the next phase of this development [we need to make sure] that people actually have the confidence to go from here to there and stay overnight … and have the ability to be able to plug these things in and have the confidence to use these things in their normal everyday life.”

Wiesner also confirmed that JLRA was in discussion with its fellow luxury brands to reach an agreement on common plugs and other aspects of charging.

“We don’t want the crazy situation where BMW, us, Benz and Audi all have different charging plugs, or whatever it might be,” he said. “It’s good that everyone is talking.”