Matt Kean, the energy and environment minister in the NSW state Coalition government, has a new government car: A white Tesla Model 3 electric vehicle that makes Kean the first state or federal politician in Australia to sign up a Tesla as a government car.
Kean, the Liberal MP for Hornsby, reveals the recent purchase in an interview with RenewEconomy’s Energy Insiders podcast, saying the lease had expired on his Toyota Kluger, and the Tesla seemed to be an obvious replacement, delivering cost savings to the government as well as good environment outcomes.
And he loves to drive it!
“I’ve recently got the first ministerial EV anywhere in the country, not because of some attempt at virtue signalling, but because it’s a great car to drive, it’s the best car I’ve ever driven to be honest,” Kean told the Energy Insiders podcast.
“And guess what! It’s damn cheap? It’s fun? I’m told that it goes very fast. Not that I would know yet, but it is a great car to drive.”
Kean’s Model 3 is driven by a government fleet driver during the week, presumably to allow the minister to sit in the back seat and make all those important calls to the Premier, MPs, media and others. But Kean does get to take it home on the weekend.
“The running costs are virtually zero,” Kean says. “I’ve got a charger here at Parliament House, so we charge it up pretty quickly.
“I am the member for Hornsby in Sydney’s northern suburbs, so it’s about 40kms from the CBD. I think we can make three or four return trips on a single charge. So it’s great value for money. It’s good fun to drive. And I highly recommend that your listeners go and do a test drive.”
The minister’s Model 3 is a standard range plus version, rather than a performance model, which has even faster acceleration and longer range.
NSW government rules allow ministers and members to choose their own leased vehicle – but one of the parameters is that it must sit under the luxury car tax thresh-hold, currently $68,740 for petrol and diesel cars and $77,565 for electric vehicles.
The Model 3 SR Plus comes in at $73,900 before on road costs. But the performance version costs $97,425 before on roads, and so is captured by LCT and out of an MPs range, at least for the government cars.
The Toyota Kluger has a range of models ranging from $50,000 to $70,000, but with a fuel economy of between 9.1 and 9.5 litres per 100kms, it will have significantly higher running costs.
Analysis last year from ClimateWorks showed that many EV models – because of the cheap running costs and despite their higher ticket price – are already cheaper leasing options for business and government fleet owners. Kean demonstrates that the Tesla Model 3 also beats petrol cars in the same price range.
The Driven understands that this is the first Tesla Model 3, or any Tesla, to be purchased as a ministerial or MP car in Australia. Several police forces, such as Fremont, Los Angeles and Denver, use some Model S EVs, as does Luxembourg.
Others have used the Model X, including in Australia, where the Victoria police department has been testing a Model X as a highway patrol car. Apart from that, it is thought that a couple of local governments may also have leased Teslas, but The Driven could not confirm this.
NSW has recently increased its government fleet target to 30 per cent EVs, including 10 per cent “pure” electric.
“That’s a good thing,” Kean said. “The government is a huge buyer of these things, but we’re also making sure that our buildings are ready (for charging).
“So we’ve got a number of systems and processes and policies in place to encourage the uptake of EVs. But it all comes back to the single source of truth, and that is the need for cheap, reliable, clean energy, which is exactly why we’re transitioning our grid.”
As Michael Mazengarb reported earlier this year, the federal government fleet operator Comcar looked at Tesla options last year, before the release of the Model 3 in Australia, but chose not to put them through the full review.
The federal government finally opted for a fleet of new diesel-fuelled BMWs and hybrid Toyota Camry’s instead to replace the current fleet dominated by V8-engined Holden Caprice sedans.
The ACT government has a fleet of Nissan Leafs, and is taking delivery of 20 Hyundai Nexo hydrogen cars, but these are for use only for bureaucrats, and not for ministers, who drive their own cars. The ACT climate change minister Shane Rattenbury drives a Toyota Prius.
And, of course, New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern drives a Hyundai Ioniq fully electric car.