They’re good for the environment, come with swanky high-tech features and can take you from 0-100km in less than three seconds.
So why the slow uptake of electric vehicles (EVs) in Australia?
“The biggest deterrent is upfront cost,” says Ross De Rango, Chair of the Ai Group Member Reference Group for Electric Vehicles and Head of Energy and Infrastructure at the Electric Vehicle Council.
“The upfront purchase price of an EV is higher than the upfront purchase price of a petrol car.
“A pure battery electric vehicle, by its nature, is more expensive than the equivalent petrol vehicle because the battery is more expensive than the petrol engine.
“The petrol version doesn't need a large battery in it; the electric version does.
“In every market that has seen significant EV uptake, this has been addressed with subsidies to aid the uptake of the new technology. Individual states and territories in Australia are taking these sorts of steps, but we do a lot less than the rest of the OECD along these lines.
“The second issue is typically around access to easy charging. If you live in a stand-alone home with off street parking and you’re thinking about something like a Tesla with 500km of range, there is no issue for you in terms of access to EV charging at home.
“You’ll start every day with a full battery. It’s only those days where you’re doing more than 500km of driving that you may need to stop at a fast charger.”
Of course, at the upper end of the market, going electric is a no-brainer. As an example, in October Hyundai sold out their entire allotment of their new Ioniq 5 model in a little over two hours from launch – their website reportedly struggled to cope with demand. The challenge is the middle market and below.
“If you have $70,000 to spend on a car, no problem,” Mr De Rango said.
“For new car buyers at that level, it’s not difficult to convince people to consider an electric car. It’s the person who wants to buy a $40,000 family car, where their choices are a bit more limited, and the person in the second-hand market looking to spend $20,000 on a car that faces more of a barrier.”
Thankfully, there are several solutions.
“For cost-conscious, new-car buyers, today the middle ground is a plug-in hybrid, known as a PHEV,” Mr De Rango said.
“You’ve got a petrol engine in that vehicle, as well as an electrical inlet so you can still plug it into an electrical supply.
“You get about 50km of electric driving out of a PHEV, but if you’re going outside the city, the petrol engine is there to support you. These vehicles are slightly more expensive than their pure-petrol counterparts, but the difference is much smaller than the difference between petrol and pure battery EVs.
“PHEVs gives you an electric driving experience for about 80% of a typical driver’s needs, because most drivers do most of their kilometres around the city on relatively short trips.”
The other pathway to get cost-conscious consumers into EVs is via the second-hand market.
“This is where taking steps that are supportive of fleet uptake is really important,” Mr De Rango said.
“It is the fleet buyers of today who are creating the second-hand EV market in three to four years’ time. Roughly three times as many vehicles change hands on the second-hand market in Australia as are bought new each year.
“Creating a robust second-hand market for EVs will enable more drivers to afford an EV. It will also build confidence in resale values, which will help carmakers and fleet buyers bring more models to market and put more new EVs on the road.”
Thinking of an EV? Head to Electric Vehicle Council for tips, choices and advice.
Wendy Larter is the Senior Content Writer at Ai Group. She is a former journalist with more than 20 years’ experience as a reporter, features writer, contributor and sub-editor for newspapers and magazines including The Courier-Mail in Brisbane and Metro, News of the World, The Times and Elle in the UK.