Credit: Bridie Schmidt
Credit: Bridie Schmidt

Electric cars continue to experience unprecedented success in Australia, against a backdrop of continued declining sales petrol and diesel-fuelled vehicles.

The latest report from the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries reveal that sales of zero and low emissions vehicles have doubled in 2019 compared to year-to-date (YTD) figures from 2018.

According to the FCAI, some 1,839 EVs and PHEVs have been sold so far in 2019 compared to 887 in the same period in 2018, although it should be noted that these figures exclude sales from Tesla, likely to be boosted from this month with the first deliveries of the Model 3.

This comes as the overall market continues its remarkable decline, posting the 17th consecutive month of declining auto sales, with overall passenger vehicles dropping 16.7 per cent with 25,783 sales, and SUVs down 5.4 per cent with 39,040 sales, and light commercial vehicles down 8.6 per cent with 17,513 sales.

“There’s no doubt it is a very tough market at the moment,” FCAI chief executive Tony Weber said in a statement.

“Despite the best efforts of the industry, the decrease in sales continues. It is well known that Australia is one of the most competitive markets in the world, and with the current economic environment, it is also one of the most difficult markets in the world.”

But not for electric vehicle sales, which are picking up at a rate nearly as fast as carmakers can bring them into the country.

The figures, as noted in last month’s report by The Driven on July auto sales, show a trend in Australian buying decisions that has been predicted by several Roy Morgan reports.

It seems that many drivers are holding on to their petrol and diesel vehicles longer, waiting for an EV they can afford or want to buy. Some of them have now found them.

They are certainly less interested in buying new fossil fuel cars. Diesel vehicle sales are down 43 per cent and petrol sales are down 18 per cent year to date.

In contrast, sales of all-electric and PHEV private passenger vehicles in August 2019 quadrupled from sales same time last year (keeping in mind these figures do not include Tesla), and are up 56% from 2018 year to date.

Hybrids, including the new Toyota RAV4, recorded a 57% increase from the same time last year and an 80% increase YTD.

Sales of non-private EV and PHEV passenger vehicles also saw increased interest, up 130% from August 2018, although year to date this simply saw sales figures maintained with only a 4% increase.

These figures can be attributed to the arrival of a handful of electric, PHEV and hybrid vehicles in Australia in the past 12 months.

The sale of electric and PHEV SUVs showed the biggest increase, jumping five-fold in August and nearly five-fold in the year to date (518 vehicles) in the private sector, and more than doubling (from 297 to 710) in the non-private sector.

The increased offerings include the Jaguar I-Pace electric SUV, and the Hyundai Kona Electric crossover.

The number of hybrid SUV sales also more than tripled to 2,114 in non private nearly 7-fold in private to 3,091 for the year to date, thanks to the Toyota RAV4 which stunned the Japanese carmaker when sales of it outstripped its petrol equivalent two to one less than a month from its release.

In the meantime, the shift to EVs is likely to continue also, as myths about range anxiety and charging time continue to be busted, installation of charging infrastructure continues to spread, and more electric vehicles arrive on the Australian market with their presence on our roads making them the new normal.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that the jump in electric SUV sales was six-fold, not five-fold.

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