Australian drivers are embracing electrified drivetrains, with new auto sales figures from Vfacts showing hybrid car sales continue to double compared to the same period in 2019.
The biggest increase is from the tripling of hybrid SUV sales compared to 12 months ago, which in turn led the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) to declare “green shoots” for the broader industry that is now in its 31st month of declining sales.
It was largely due to the big increase in hybrid sales that reduced the monthly decrease in overall sales to just 1.5% in October, compared to the same month a year ago.
But all-electric and plug-in hybrid (PHEV) sales also played a role, to a smaller extent – and notably it must not be forgotten that the quoted figures from Vfacts do not include sales of Tesla EV, as the Californian electric car maker does not report local sales figures to the industry body despite being a member of it.
For the first time, FCAI boss Tony Weber acknowledged the role that electric drivetrains are playing in the shift in sales patterns in Australia.
“Electrified vehicles also experienced a surge during the month, more than doubling in their total sales compared to October 2019. This shows that Australian consumers are willing to explore new drive train technologies,” Weber said.
The table below based on Vfacts figures shows firstly the passengeer car market, with a 25% increase in pure electric car sales, a 23.1% increase in hybrid passenger sales and a 61.7% increase in plug in hybrid (PHEV) sales.
Electric SUV sales saw a fractional increase at 0.5%, PHEV SUV sales recorded a 2.8% increase and, as in previous months, hybrid SUV sales jumped enormously.
The majority of hybrid sales belong to market leader Toyota’s RAV4 hybrid SUV, and overall the Japanese car makers expects its hybrid sales, which also include the Yaris hatch, Corolla hatch and sedan, Camry sedan, and three Prius variants, to account for more than one in five of its total sales numbers in 2020.
Electric and PHEV total numbers themselves are low – 779 electric cars and 619 PHEVs have been sold year-to-date according to the FCAI, but the picture looks a little different once Tesla estimates are added in.
Adding current year-to-date Tesla sales figures up to the third quarter sourced from shipped VINs, and electric passenger car sales are up 340% compared to 2019, while electric SUV sales are up 25.5%.
The last quarter of 2020 may not show quite the same surge in electric car sales, as the same months in 2019 saw a huge influx of Tesla Model 3s to meet a three-year wait since its order books opened.
A recent report from the Australasian Fleet Management Association (AFMA) shows that interest in electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, which can be recharged and have more potential for carbon emissions reduction that their non-pluggable stablemates, could be higher if there were more government support for adoption.
However, what is clear is that the Tesla Model 3 will continue to retain its leading role in the local EV market, despite shipping chaos due to Sydney port delays, as reported by The Driven today.
While estimates for Tesla vehicles shipped in October are pending, the distant second continues to be the Hyundai Kona Electric, which is now the subject of a recall to update battery management software to avoid possible fire incidents.
Hyundai has now sold more than 400 of the vehicles in Australia so far in 2020. It is followed by the Nissan Leaf, which will be introduced in a 62kWh format in 2021, with 313 vehicles sold.
Sitting at number four is the Hyundai Ioniq at 291 sales, while all other electric models follow in smaller numbers (we note that Mini Cooper SE sales numbers are pending and we will update this article as more information comes to hand).
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She has been writing about electric vehicles since 2018, and has a keen interest in the role that zero-emissions transport has to play in sustainability. She has participated in podcasts such as Download This Show with Marc Fennell and Shirtloads of Science with Karl Kruszelnicki and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum. Bridie also owns a Tesla Model 3 and has it available for hire on evee.com.au.