Electric vehicles: should I buy an EV?

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While Australia's uptake of electric vehicles (EVs) still lags behind other countries, buyers have shown a desire for the technology, with combined sales of hybrid, plug-in hybrid and battery electric vehicles roughly doubling over each of the last two years.

As electric car prices fall and more model offerings join the market, buying an electric vehicle in Australia will become more mainstream. So, should your next vehicle purchase be an electric car? Here's some food for thought.

1. Electric vehicles cost less to run

In general, electric cars cost substantially less to run (per km) than petrol or diesel versions. In some instances, EVs can cost as little as one third per 100km compared to internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, according to a 2019 Federal Government report.

Plus, running costs will continue to reduce as technology improves. The report estimates that, over a 10-year period, the total cost of owning an EV will be $5,000 less compared to petrol vehicles by 2021, and $11,000 less by 2025. This translates to savings of approximately $1,700 a year by 2030.

    EV - charged from Solar  EV - charged from Grid  Petrol vehicle
Efficiency    15kWh/100km   15kWh/100km   9L/100km
Energy price   9c/kWh (solar feed-in rate)   18c/kWh (off-peak rate)   $1.50L
Driving cost   $1.35/100km   $2.70/100km   $13.50/100km
Comparison   10x cheaper than petrol   5x cheaper than petrol   Typical

2. EVs are better for the environment

Electric vehicles are less polluting than their ICE counterparts. As EV technology becomes more mainstream, they are likely to become even more efficient and sustainable.

Less pollution: By choosing to drive an EV, you are helping to reduce harmful air pollution from exhaust emissions. Battery electric vehicles have no exhaust emissions. Their emissions are primarily determined by the upstream emissions: that is, from the production and distribution of the energy used to charge them.

Renewable energy: Even if you are charging an EV from Australia’s coal dominated grid, the vehicle's carbon footprint is still smaller than an internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle's.

Additionally, an eco-conscious energy provider such as GreenPower can reduce an EV's carbon footprint even further.

Eco-friendly materials: There is a trend towards more eco-friendly production and materials for EVs. The Mazda MX-30 Electric's interior is made of recycled materials and bio-based materials.

The Nissan Leaf’s interior and bodywork are partly made out of green materials such as recycled water bottles, plastic bags, old car parts and even second hand home appliances.

3. The selection of vehicles is growing

The number of electric car makes and models in Australia is growing steadily, with more models due to join local showrooms this year. Whether you’re looking for something sleek or something to shuttle the family around, you’ll find a range of electric vehicles now available to suit different lifestyles.

4. The driving experience

One of the first things drivers notice when switching to an electric car is the quietness of the vehicle, which creates a far more comfortable, relaxing driving experience. All electric cars have instant torque, which means instant power. As soon as you hit the accelerator you’ll get a surge of speed from the car.

Batteries in EVs are often found in the floor of the car, which provides excellent balance and weight distribution. This means handling around corners and curves is effortless and reliable. The feeling of driving a powerful, comfortable, clean and quiet car is something to experience.

5. Convenient charging

Charging an EV at home is much like charging a mobile phone. You charge an EV by plugging in the charging cable to a home charging unit. Using a 7kW home charging port, most EVs can charge to full capacity in around 8 hours.

Fast chargers, which can be found in a number of public places will speed up the process, charging most cars to about 80% in under an hour. Here's a map of our NRMA fast charging network.

Other things to consider when buying an EV

How much an EV home charger costs

Despite many studies revealing that electric vehicles have a lower overall cost of ownership compared to ICE vehicle, keep in mind that a home EV charger installation, which costs around $1,000 is excluded in the total cost. At present, those without off-street parking will struggle to find a way to charge their EVs at home.

Where can I charge my EV?

There is an alternative to charging at home and/or work that is available to every EV owner: destination charging stations. These charging stations can be found at locations such as shopping centres, town centres, airports and even libraries.

While some of these charging stations are free to use, most form part of larger networks that require either a membership to use or operate on a pay-as-you-charge basis. It’s also important to keep in mind that you may encounter queues to use these chargers, with other EV drivers using them as well.

Different types of EVs

There are three main types of electric vehicles (EVs), classed by the degree that electricity is used as their energy source.

Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs)

HEVs are powered by both petrol and electricity. The electric energy is generated by the car’s own braking system to recharge the battery. This is called ‘regenerative braking’, a process where the electric motor helps to slow the vehicle and uses some of the energy normally converted to heat by the brakes.

Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs)

Also known as Extended-Range Electric Vehicles (EREVs), this type of EV is powered by both petrol and electricity. PHEVs can recharge the battery through both regenerative braking and ‘plugging-in’ to an external electrical charging outlet. In EREVs the petrol engine extends the range of the car by also recharging the battery as it gets low.

Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs)

BEVs are fully electric vehicles, meaning they are only powered by electricity and do not have a petrol engine, fuel tank or exhaust pipe. BEVs are also known as ‘plug-in’ EVs as they use an external electrical charging outlet to charge the battery. BEVs can also recharge their batteries through regenerative braking.

So... should I buy an EV?

Driving an EV is great fun and they produce less CO2 emissions. More chargers are being rolled out across the country and new vehicles are being added to the market. In fact, EV owners are in a much better position than pioneering ICE motorists from one hundred years ago, looking for the next waypoint where they could purchase petrol.

While relatively higher purchase prices and convenient home charging points might be stumbling blocks for some prospective buyers, the case for buying an EV is improving. Use our buying guide to understand which electric vehicle might suit you.

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